Tuesday, 9 May 2017

HARBOTTLE & JONAS – ALBUM REVIEW

Harbottle & Jonas – Anna is a Dancer 
Harbottle & Jonas - Anna is a Dancer


Release Date: 26th May 2017

Despite sounding like Victorian money lenders, Harbottle & Jonas (David and Freya respectively) are actually a superb folk duo based in Totnes but with at least one heart still in the North-East. This new album from the pair opens with an ode to ‘Northumberland’ that begins with a country-esque guitar twang that puts me in mind of Brother & Bones before those gorgeous vocal harmonies seep in. The beast awakens part way through this song and the thumping drums mix with a medley of melodies to create the perfect vehicle for the words of poet Wilfred Gibson. Next up is the perky, nay downright lively folk romp of ‘My Boy Jack’ which gives life to the prose of Rudyard Kipling as the melodies bounce around and you can almost picture bestockinged folk skipping round a fire as the vocals are delivered with pin-point precision and energy.

On ‘Song for Jonas’, Harbottle and Jonas steer close to Mumford and Sons territory such is the soft, delicate opening that builds in to a triumphant, chest beating, life affirming piece that will work well live, I have no doubt. If Harbottle’s ‘Song for Jonas’ is Mumford then Jonas’ tune ‘When the Devil Holds’ is the Laura Marling of this piece but with more than a hint of Joanna Newsome about it. The jangling banjo warns of what is to come but when the full band join in this is a thing of natural force and beauty. “Oh, Grimsby is a pleasant town as any man may find” sings David Harbottle improbably at the beginning of ‘The North Sea Ground’ before settling in to a massively enjoyable folk romp that should have crowds singing along to the call and response of “wake up Johnny”, blissfully unaware that they’re singing the poetry of early 20th Century poet Cicely Fox Smith.

Jonas & Harbottle
‘Gaudete!’ is based on a 16th Century Christmas carol and you can hear the years of history peeling away as the squeeze-box and Jonas’ gorgeous vocal welcome you in to their sparsely decorated cottage to share in some mead and warm your hands by the fire. Album title track ‘Anna is a Dancer’ is well chosen as is probably my favourite on this album with the lyric “She’s a miracle, time and time again” bringing a lump to the throat and tear sting to my eyes with every listen. The piano, acoustic guitar and violin intermingle perfectly to create something both intimate and expansive which is full of simple, pure beauty.

The eight-track album comes to a close with the Harbottle composed ‘Mother’ which is a gorgeous song and hopefully makes Ma Harbottle very proud as her son sings “Flesh and blood, brick and bone, I fill my heart, I feel my soul”. As an album, this is impressive on so many levels; for one there is absolutely no fat on these eight tracks with each note and lyric placed lovingly and carefully in to the songs. On another level, the way original songs sit so comfortably alongside musical adaptations of prose and poetry. And on yet another level, you have two musicians creating music that could have been written at any point over the past 400 years but they still manage to keep it feeling superbly contemporary. Bravo Harbottle and Jonas, bravo indeed.


Live Dates:

13th May – Bayard’s Cove Fort, Dartmouth (Afternoon)
13th May – Sloping Deck Restaurant, Dartmouth (Evening)
14th May – Lostfest, Lostwithiel (Morning)
14th May – The Longstore, Charlestown (Afternoon
19th May – Cantina, Paignton
20th May – King’s Arms, Georgeham
26th May – The Seven Stars, Totnes
28th July – The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

30th November – The Blue Man, Brighton

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