Album & Single Reviews

Published on April 17th, 2018 | by Mike Ainscoe


Ninebarrow: The Waters & The Wild – album review



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.



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About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.

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