Orfeo is the impressive second album from Fay Hield, accompanied here by The Hurricane Party, a party that just happens to draw musicians from the elite of the English folk music establishment. Joining the party is the guitar-wizardry of Martin Simpson, the accordions and concertinas of Andy Cutting and Rob Harbron, the various bowed strings of Bellowhead’s Sam Sweeney, and the multi-instrumental talents of the formidable Bellowhead frontman, Jon Boden. Between them, they certainly furnish Orfeo with bold and genuinely compelling arrangements, ensuring an attraction that could reach out well beyond the loyal folk audience.
Hield herself maintains a degree of authenticity throughout Orfeo. Singing with a poise and gravitas that breathes life into the characterful lyrics of Orfeo, she delivers a performance that is at all times compassionate, regularly exhibiting dramatic vivaciousness, and at other times a more subdued and fragile charm.
Starting with a crescendo of fiddle and accordion, Hield launches into a robust serving of “The Lover’s Ghost,” a playful telling of a stolen last night between a grieving gent and the ghost of his sweetheart. A more charming and conventional tale of romance is encountered on “The Weavers Daughter,” offering the prettiest song of the album, with its winsome tale of old-fashioned chivalry and innocence, delivered with an affectionate and heartfelt vocal.
Valiant and tragic heroes of old seem to receive the most colourful treatment. The ebullient pace of “The Wicked Serpent” allows Hield to really attack the lyrics, with the accompanying holler of male vocals lending real brawn to the repeated carousal that marks the climax of each verse. Packed in to just over seven gripping minutes are the twenty-six verses of “Sir Orfeo,” from where the album draws its name, and which yields the most wondrous imagery where nature combines with the forces of a more otherworldly variety.
The album closes with a disarming lullaby, “Naughty Baby,” that would surely scare the living daylights out of any child, not just with its somewhat gruesome lyrics, but the eerie, austere interpretation delivered here.
The insightful sleeve notes make it clear that Orfeo is much more than a mere spectacle of entertainment, revealing the extensive research and understanding that has informed the selection of material. Orfeo therefore serves to honour the many singers, collectors, and performers whose legacy Hield seeks to uphold, illuminating long-forgotten tales, whilst simultaneously reinvigorating a few mythical characters of legendary renown.
This hearty, full-bodied release embodies a substance and breadth that is likely to garner much acclaim, and must surely confirm Hield as the Maddy Prior or June Tabor for a new generation of folk connoisseurs.
Review by: Mike Wilson
Golden Ticket Giveaway
Closing Date Wednesday 23rd May 10:00am
We have six tickets to attend the Orfeo Album Launch Party!
Thursday 31st May, 2012 starts at 6:30pm (London, nr Goodge St.)
Fay Hield will be performing songs from Orfeo with the Hurricane Party – Jon Boden | Sam Sweeney | Rob Habron | Andy Cutting
To enter email us: alex [at] folkradio.co.uk with Orfeo in the subject heading along with your name. The email must reach us before the closing date: Wednesday 23rd May 10:00am
Winners will be notfied by email along with location.
Fay Hield Trio
24th May 2012 Bury, The Met
25th May 2012 Private House Concert
26th May 2012 South Petherton, The David Hall
28th May 2012 Wiveliscombe, Congregational Church
29th May 2012 Winchester, The Railway
1st June 2012 Stroud, The Prince Albert
2nd June 2012 Shrewbury , The Hive
3rd June 2012 Southwell, The Gate to Southwell Festival
9th June 2012 Trelawnyd, Memorial Hall
Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party
8th June 2012 Cheltenham, Wychwood Festival
17th June 2012 Walton-on-Trent, The Big Session Festival
22nd July 2012 Trowbridge, Village Pump Folk Festival
28th July 2012 – 29th July 2012 Cambridge, Cambridge Folk Festival
7th August 2012 Sidmouth, Sidmouth Folk Week
18th August 2012 Devon, Beautiful Days
25th August 2012 Somerleyton Estate, Suffolk
26th August 2012 Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Folk Festival
There will be an Orfeo Tour late in the year in October.
Orfeo is released on Topic Records 28 May 2012
Photo credit: David angel