‘While the Blackthorn Burns’ from Ninebarrow - a landmark folk album of its time(March 25, 2014)
The essential spirit of folk music has an enduring resilience that persists through the roots of tradition to the flowerings of innovation, growing stronger with every new propagation from both. To truly understand that statement listen to ‘While the Blackthorn Burns’ from Dorset-based duo Ninebarrow. And should you ever worry about the future of our folk heritage, this album will allay all fears.
Aside from an entrancing web of vocal harmonies and an abundant intermingling of finely crafted compositions, Ninebarrow deliver involving narratives rooted in this nation’s history. Organic is an oft-used term in folk music, in this case it’s accurate. The album is a living, breathing whole. Produced with a delicate touch that allows the music and voices to tell their tales, it feels as though this duo are sitting in the room with you, sharing their meaningful narratives and making them relevant to you.
Each song offers its own characteristic tale, many from their home county and its surroundings others from wherever influence arrives. From a despairing tale of the last Romans in Britain told in ‘The Sea’ and the pagan Mid-Summer celebrations of ‘Summer Fires’ through the Civil War heroics of ‘Siege’ to the promise of a New Forest spring in‘Birdsong’, the stories are brought to life by Ninebarrow. If ever a melody belied the content of the song ‘The Weeds’ must be a classic example, and with its jaunty tune and despondent lyrics this must be a live session favourite.
Ninebarrow are Jon Whitley (ukulele, tenor mandola, harmonium, piano, vocals) and Jay Labouchardiere (vocals) and apart from a couple of adaptations and one traditional, they’re responsible for all writing and arrangement. Alongside them on selected tracks on ‘While the Blackthorn Burns’ are the talents of Lee Cuff (cello) Jane Bridges (viola) and Bob Burke (mandocello). The album comes with a strikingly artworked cover, by Sarah Whitley, and I’m pleased to confirm there’s also a downloadable songbook complete with lyrics, notes and some stunning photographs.
Driven by their interpretation of stories, places and events, Whitley and Labouchardiere have delivered an album destined to become a landmark folk album of its time.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll