Published on March 5th, 2015 | by Mike Ainscoe0
ANGE HARDY Live at Blackshaw’s Cafe Bar, Stockport – 27/2/15
If Kate Rusby is The Barnsley Nightingale, then surely Ange Hardy demands a similar moniker – The West Country Warbler or Somerset Sparrow doesn’t scan or sit quite as comfortably, so perhaps The Kate Rusby of the West Country might have to suffice. I digress. For her first touring trip north of her native Somerset, it was only right that the occasion should have an apt title. So after a stop off in Stafford, the ‘up and right’ tour called in on Stockport and local radio studio Pure FM.
Long time supporter Rick Stuart, of Roots & Fusion fame, unveiled the first of the ‘playing out’ gigs for the year by inviting Ange to Blackshaw’s in the town centre, killing two birds with one stone so to speak with the usual R&F session to follow (the podcast is available here http://podcast.pureradio.org.uk/ ).
The setting was particularly appropriate with the historic Blackshaw Bakers and Confectioners name, first established in the area over 150 years ago, being privy to a performance of a set of not yet timeless songs, but definitely songs with a similar history and story behind them.
With Rick busy taping ‘sold out’ signs to the windows, and soundmen Rob and Aaron wrestling with the acoustics generated by large glass windows, the turnout was quite impressive, not least with a ‘royal visit’ from Pure’s Paul Holloway, two thirds of the Sonic Bandwagon team, plus loyal SB listener Mike Willacy and his daughter swelling the ranks among those taking the chance to catch Ange’s first appearance in the area.
Last year’s ‘Lament of the Black Sheep’ album (FATEA’s album of the year in fact) seems to have lifted Ange’s profile into the folk stratosphere, opening many doors if not floodgates. The Folk Award nomination and album of the year endorsements have become quite the norm. By her own admittance she’s a recent convert to the folk genre, and yet she has the confidence to boldly open up with an unaccompanied traditional, ‘She Moves Through The Fair’. Her voice is set strong yet delicate, while any pindroppers in the audience would have had a field day sat amongst the audience in reverentially respectful stillness.
Performing with loops on a pedal board, which wouldn’t have been out of place at the feet of a denim and leather clad rock axeman, all add to the atmospherics with echoing vocal and guitar adding depth and richness to the sound. Being a folk gig, the obligatory audience participation for ‘The Woolgatherer’ gave Opeth tattooed Sonic Bandwagoneer Andy Barnes the sadly unfulfilled opportunity to punch the air whilst chanting the “wool gathering” chorus. A much anticipated evening highlight passed with the cherry picking of songs from ‘Lament’ and ‘Bare Foot Folk’ added to the bonus of hearing some new material based around a song project based around the life and work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – the intriguingly title ‘esteecee’ venture. Giving a live workout to songs such as ‘The Foster Mother’s Tale ‘ before committing them to tape for posterity can’t do any harm, and judging by what was on offer at Blackshaws, the follow up to ‘Lament’ is not going to disappoint.
For a Friday night in a town centre, aside a few colossal but well timed (ie, between songs) bottle bin collections, even Stockport’s Market Place surrendered and afforded the environment which her performance deserved. Any locals may have noticed a particularly shiny new star in the sky that night, not the 22:15 from Paris on its descent into Ringway, but Ange Hardy as she headed up (and right) and hopefully back round again following her path of destiny.
Written By Mike Ainscoe
Photos By Amy Ainscoe