‘Esteesee’ by Ange Hardy – taking poetry, lyric and music somewhere essentially wonderful

(August 24, 2015)

There’s a tendency for ‘concept albums’ to have a short life, they stand a few ‘repeats’ but as their originality fades, the story once told, often becomes tedious in the re-telling. Then along comes the powerful ‘Esteesee’, the fourth studio album from folk singer and composer par excellence Ange Hardy. Although more of a project than a concept, its songs draw inspiration from the life, experiences, anecdotes, relationships and work of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who disliked his name so much he would write it phonetically as ‘Esteesee’). In many ways ‘Esteesee’ departs from the intensely personal and sometimes autobiographical songs of her previous landmark albums ‘Barefoot Folk’ and esteecee ange hardy 001‘Lament of the Black Sheep’ to an observational place that takes a blend of poetry, lyric and music somewhere essentially wonderful … and in doing so makes ‘Esteesee’ a powerful piece of work.

To lovers of Ange’s work, the musical ground is familiar yet different, marrying written fragments, extracts of verse and complete poems with her striking voice and outstanding ability to entrance the listener with lyric and music. Coleridge was a mercurial character suffering anxiety and depression augmented by poor health and a chronic opium addiction. Ange takes the listener through narrative songs that observe his changing life - the sorrowing story of ‘The Foster Mother’s Tale’, the exploration of the lighter ‘My Captain’ and the hope of ‘William Frend’, before the harrowing ‘Curse of a Dead Man’s Eye’ returns to the dark side once more. The delicious interpretation of ‘Friends Of Three’ creates a dream-quality song that takes the listener deeper into Coleridge’s confused world, while her ability to touch the human condition forges the profound pain of ‘Epitaph On An Infant’ and the heartrending ‘Mother You Will Rue Me’, given an added edge by Steve Knightley’s vocals. And if ‘Kubla Khan’ has ever experienced a better delivery with Ange’s evocative arrangement and Tamsin Rosewell’s expressive reading then you’ll have to go a long way to hear it.

With ‘Esteesee’, Ange Hardy delivers an outstanding album, and along the way, changes forever the jaded view of the concept album. Although not given to awarding star ratings as such, this work deserves a definite five-star rating, no question. And to complete the ‘concept’ there’s an inlay booklet with lyrics and luscious photographs

‘Esteesee’ releases on 23 September 2015 with the album’s launch concert at Halsway Manor on 4th October.

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Review Tim Carroll

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