Published on April 17th, 2018 | by Mike Ainscoe0
Ninebarrow: The Waters & The Wild – album review
THE WATERS & THE WILD
Nominees for last year’s Best Emerging Act at the Folk Awards, the duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere continue to fulfil their promise with another charming collection. They go the extra mile too by following up the splendid job on ‘Releasing The Leaves’, lovely artwork that follows a similar theme and topped off in a beautifully presented songbook, also packed with background info and some inspired photography (particularly the promo shots done in a small attic room of a rundown location according to the guys when we caught up at the 2017 English Folk Expo).
Eleven lovingly produced songs capture what’s become their trademark sound, one that would surely sooth even the most savage of beasts and soundtrack an idyllic meander down a winding track on a country morn, or even as the title of the opening track, the Hour Of The Blackbird. The sweeping waves of strings and gentle plucking are only missing a touch of birdsong and a gentle draught of fresh air. Aside from the delicacy of the musical arrangements, the two voices also come perfectly in tune when they go head to head, most notably on ‘Row On’.
Now it wouldn’t be music from the deep South West of England without a shipwreck story. The ominous tolling rhythm giving way to a driving tale held together with a drone that underlies the narrative of Dorset’s worst shipping disaster, the sinking of the Halsewell in 1786. A song that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lakeman setlist, all rubbery bass and air of faint menace and a theme explored again in the fuller arrangement of ‘Thirteen Turns’. The latter is carried on an array of tumbling notes and sees the duo follow up ‘Blood On The Hillside’ from ‘Releasing The Leaves’ cast a spell with a tale of giving way to mistrust and suspicion.
A jaunty ‘Prickle Eye Bush’, including some massed harmonies from The Teacups and ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ may be the most familiar of the material to regular folk listeners, but the sublime title track combined with a choice album closer provides an evocative final flourish. Combining their own words with W.B.Yeats ‘The Stolen Child’, ‘The Waters & The Wild’ draws parallels with modern day refugee perspective; the fairy world of the imagination and the vivid reality.
Things come to pass with a super version of John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Sing A Full Song’ – last heard here on the album of the same name Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston – the mournful cello in a cameo from Lee Cuff conjuring up a rare darkness; although maybe more of a dusk. It rounds off a record packed with a richness and finesse that confirms the evolution of Ninebarrow and the precision they bring to their craft.