18 months after their acclaimed debut EP, The North Farm Sessions, Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell finally release their debut album Kite. Modern music-making allows artists to throw-up ideas on-line ten minutes after they were recorded, but on first listen it is clear that this is talent that has been nurtured, with songs crafted over time.
Delicate, haunting and heartbreaking are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the music of Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell. After meeting at Newcastle University 6 years ago, they formed an unlikely alliance – unlikely because Jonny with his bittersweet kitchen-sink dramas, shows sympathy with American storytellers like Dylan and Tom Waits, while Lucy’s traditional folkie upbringing and vocal style couldn’t be more English. Their six-track EP entitled ‘The North Farm Sessions’ received 4 stars from The Guardian and Q, BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 6 airplay, and sold heavily on tour supports with The Unthanks and Bellowhead, and at summer festivals including Green Man, End of the Road and Cambridge.
It speaks volumes about the quality and quantity of their song-writing that non of the EP tracks feature on debut album ‘Kite’. There is continuity however, in Kearney and Farrell’s relationship with Adrian McNally, pianist, producer and arranger for The Unthanks. Like the EP, Kite was recorded at the farmhouse home of McNally and wife Rachel Unthank. Jonny and Lucy dedicate the album to Rachel and Adrian’s son George, who was born in the last month of making the album. “We rate them so highly, it just feels like a responsibility and a pleasure to do whatever we can for them,” says McNally, who wrote the string arrangements on the album as well as producing it. “What they have is magical and ought to take them much further than we could ever hope!”
Kearney and Farrell’s link to The Unthanks is almost misleading, in that Kearney’s song-writing is as informed and decorated by the disciplines of jazz and blues as it is folk. Songs like Green Leaved Trees and Swing Low almost sound like standards. If they do have something in common with The Unthanks, it’s a theatrical approach to storytelling; musical settings that we are invited to peer into. Kite is consequently a highly diverse musical kaleidoscope; as contextually varied as it is traditionally thematic, continuing with the convention of folk story- telling and it’s favoured subjects of love, loss and allegory, but also showing a great spare and contemporary style that will appeal to fans of peers such as Bon Iver, Villagers and Low Anthem.
Lyrics such as ‘She was an evil child, we knew it well, we took her down the carousel and left her spinning round’ in ‘Just Like The Old Days’ show a darkly comedic side to Kearney’s song-writing in an allegory about the motive of control. It is impossible to avoid an emotional response to songs like ‘Winter Got Lost’ and ‘Swing Low’ and similarly as hard to avoid dancing around the room to ‘Stand Up Show’; a radio hit in waiting. ‘Call Yourself A Friend Of Mine’ combines Davey Graham-esque guitar skills with alt-folk stylings, while the traditional songs ‘Down in Adairsville’ and ‘Peggy Gordon’ show Lucy Farrell’s voice to be nothing short of stunning and a serious asset to English folk music.
Jonny Kearney explains the meaning behind the album title: “Kite was just a word in one of the songs (from ‘I Write This Note’) but it came to be a metaphor for the feeling of turbulence and lack of control that runs through most of the songs. Some of us find the lack of control we have over our brief moment on earth to be distressing and depressing, but another way to see it is, this moment may be brief but can still be one of outstanding beauty. Kite is a sort of attempt at taming or harnessing that overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by chaos, and trying make out of it something beautiful.”
Touches of eccentricity come from local talent including Chris Hibbard (trombone), Paul Ruddick (sax and clarinet) and Kearney’s old schoolmate and probably England’s finest fiddle player, Peter Tickell (Peatbog Fairies, Sting, Kathryn Tickell Band). While much of the record retains the quiet but prickly intimacy of Jonny’s and Lucy’s live duo performances, McNally occasionally uses Unthanks band mates to add colour and texture to the storytelling, Chris Price adding ukelele, Dean Ravera double bass, and McNally himself playing piano on the traditional Peggy Gordon and Lucy Farrell’s one self-penned contribution to the album, Winter Got Lost.
Kite will be available exclusively from their live album tour, starting Sept 22nd, before it’s commercial retail release on the day of their final show, Oct 10th.
Hares on the Mountain
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Songs for a Sweetheart
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Kite: The debut album tour
22 BURY The Met 0161 7612216 www.themet.biz
23 LONDON Bishopsgate Institute 0207 2544097 www.vortexjazz.co.uk
(with Martin Simpson and Alasdair Roberts)
24 CAMBRIDGE The Junction 01223 511511 www.junction.co.uk
25 BRISTOL The Folk House www.ashkeysmusic.com
26 COLCHESTER Arts Centre 01206 500900 www.colchesterartscentre.com
28 LONDON The Union Chapel Bar http://www.wegottickets.com/
(headline London date)
29 READING South Street Arts Centre 0118 9606060 www.readingarts.com/
30 DILWYN, HEREFORD The Cedar Hall 01544 318089
01 EDINBURGH Pleasance Bar 0871 220 0260
02 NEWCASTLE Live Theatre 0191 2321232 www.live.org.uk
07 GUILDFORD Folk Club 01483 871443 www.musicinstitutefolkclub.com
08 SHEFFIELD Lantern Theatre http://www.wegottickets.com/
09 HEBDEN BRIDGE Trades Club 01422 845265 http://thetradesclub.com
10 STOCKTON Folk Club www.stocktonfolk.org.uk