Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin are bringing a fresh new sound to folk music with their debut album Singing the Bones, whilst they are not declaring it as such, they make it clear that they do not plough the same furrow and that the folk tradition is there to also be given new life as they are sung back by future generations.
Stories of the bone people occur in the myths and legends of cultures from all over the world. Although the details may vary, the story is always the same – scattered bones are collected, gathered together, and sung back into life again. Something that was almost lost to the world is preserved.
Many see the folk tradition in this light – as a preservation of the past. But in the archetypal stories, singing over the bones requires that the singer breathe their soul over the collected fragments. So in this singing, as in resurrecting folk music, something new is also added. The tracks of this album are the fragments we have collected together, whether they tell stories of home and family, myths, legends, or the bones of the land. We hope to sing the ghosts of the past into the present.
Both Phillip and Hannah are talented musicians, Phillip masters the dobro, lap steel, slide guitar and harmonica. His slide and dobro playing is unlike anything I’ve heard in a while, whilst enshrined in the delta blues it also has a rootsy and eastern sound which gives the songs on the album an earthly connected feel. Hannah plays banjo, fiddle, accordion and they both sing. There is a chemistry to their playing which is both uplifting and captivating. Hannah has a beautiful voice that can work ballads as well as the high lonesome sound of the appalchians. She shows this off well on Courting is a Pleasure which they learnt from the repertoire of Nic Jones. The subtleness of the dobro and lap steel creates a sparseness that provides a perfect atmosphere for Hannanh’s voice, perfect!
Hannah is also an accomplished songwriter, penning several songs on the album. Some are inspired by historical events such as Lulle Me Beyond Thee which is based on The Great Storm of 1866 which devastated the fishing port of Brixham. Whilst Three Witches, which pays homage to Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards who were the last to be hung for witchcraft in England (The Bideford Witch Trials – 1682).
Both Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin are very connected to the land, it’s history and people which helps, I believe, to remain both sincere and original in their re-interpretations. Seperation of Soul & Body demonstrates this well when Phillip puts his dobro through its paces on a 300 year old Irish harp tune written by Turlough O’Carolan.
For their finale Phillip sings a live version of The Boy That Wouldn’t Hoe Corn, a well known Union Station classic, a nice surprise to a great album. Every track on the album is exceptional in its own way and it’s both refreshing and a joy to hear such original interpretation of folk music from two young and very talented artists. You’d be crazy not to book them for your club or festival!
Listen to whole album:
Phillip also has a solo album out called Live In The Living Room. Here’s a flavour of his harmonica and beat boxing: