With three previously self released albums under their belt Suntrap are hardly newcomers to the folk scene. They have now signed to Fellside for their fourth album titled Unravelling which brings a new spark and innovation to their music.
Suntrap are Mary Wilson (voice, violin), Paul Hoad (voice, guitar, harmonica, kick drum), Debbie Chalmers (violin, viola, voice) and Sara Byers (voice, accordion, guitar, whistles, bohdran). They were formed in 1996 by Mary and Sara after meeting at Cecil Sharp House, to be later joined by Paul. They managed to get a number of Folk Club bookings and their debut album, Long Winter Coat, was released in 1999. In 2002 they were joined by fiddler Nicola Hillary, initially as maternity cover for Mary, but who then stayed on as a permanent member. These things happen.
They have always had a progressive folk sound, probably a perception brought about by their fusion of influences: from English song tradition and American roots. Paul has a great voice with a clear Appalachian inspiration at times. Sara, Mary and nicola are no exception and tend to harmonise and blend together.
Unravelling features a great mix of song from English and American repertoires. Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby will be familiar to many from the soundtrack to O’ Brother Where Art Thou, as sung by Emmylou Harris, Alison Kraus and Gillian Welch, but Paul’s version sounds darker, maybe not intentionally, but enough to have me looking again at the meaning of the lyrics and tracking down an early version from Alan Lomax: Popular Songbook by Mrs Sidney Lee Carter (that had a slightly eerie feel to it as well).
There are some other surprises on the album including a cover of Gold Dust Woman a Stevie Nicks classic that featured on Fleetwood Mac’s best-selling album Rumours, as well as one of my all time favourites: The Snow it melts the Soonest which has been covered by many but Dick Gaughan is probably the most memorable, Sting certainly isn’t. The album is rich in variety and colour and is their best work to date, they also make it sound quite effortless, a reflection maybe on their matured musical relationship.
28th November: The Old Ship Inn, Lowdham
5th December: Hitchin Folk Club, Hitchin, Herts