Those Electro-folk-storytellers and FRUK favourites Harp and a Monkey are all set to release their new album ‘All Life is Here‘ on 24th March. The album features songs about cuckolded molecatchers, a lone English oak tree that grows at Gallipoli, care in the community and medieval pilgrims.
You will be hearing a lot more about the album very soon as it will feature as one of our Albums of the Month but before that we decided to kick things off a bit different. We asked the band to put together a mix that would represent their very broad influences.
On their song Choices
Chad VanGaalen – Molten Light
This is just a really interesting and surreal take on the whole murder ballad format. We love his voice and idiosyncratic approach – if you listen to a full album of Chad’s stuff it makes Sufjan Stevens seem tame. Check out the video to this song as well on Youtube, it’s fantastic!
The Oldham Tinkers – Peterloo
Where we come from the Battle of St Peter’s Field, or Peterloo, is treated with genuine reverence. While the song is a bit of a staple in North Manchester, it, like the whole story, is surprisingly little known on a national level. (We will leave those of you who don’t know about it to tap into Wikipedia.) This take by The Oldham Tinkers is our favourite recorded version of a really great piece of narrative songwriting.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – From The Colonies
We really struggled to choose a single Penguin Cafe song, as so many of the recordings of the original orchestra are hugely inspiring. It’s about their sense of melody and the sheer exuberance of their performances. They created a whole genre of their own.
Harry Boardman – Same Shuttle & Betty Reedhook
Harry is a bit of a forgotten man in most folk circles and yet he played a major role in the folk revival in Lancashire in the Sixties and Seventies. There is something really honest and unadorned about his delivery that appeals to us. It’s about unrequited love and revenge – anyone for a shuttle to the back of the head!
Sinead O’Connor – He Moved Through The Fair
Love her or hate her, everything that Sinead does she does with conviction and passion. We love her – and we love this beautiful take on a traditional song. She deserves to be taken more seriously as a folk interpreter.
Bjork – Virus
Bjork is a genuine one-off, she accepts no boundaries and this track seems to capture that spirit perfectly. The whole idea of creating an analogy out of love and a virus is genius. You’ve got to love her and her box of bleeps and glitches.
Amiina – Hilli
We do enjoy our Scandinavian electro-folk-experimentation, and Amiina have long been favourites on the in-car stereo on the way back from gigs in the wee hours. This track captures their individuality and general oddness – bowed saws and electronica? Yes please.
Ewan Maccoll – My Old Man
The godfather of northern folk! We actually toyed with doing a version of this on the new album, but opted for The Manchester Angel instead. What a voice and presence – he really inhabits his performances and drags you into the story. This is brilliant.
Spiro – The Altrincham Reel
You can’t beat a bit of quality instrumentalism and these are our present favourites. Their playing is really free, loose and lilting. Some people who are really gifted technically lack that human touch, but not Spiro. Catch em live if you can.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – The Road
This is a really simple instrumental but it hits the emotional spot. Sometimes you only need a handful of notes to create something truly haunting. It’s a beautiful bit of music.
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle – Somehow The Wonder of Life Prevails
This is from what we reckon was the album of 2013 (Perils from the Sea). Kozelek has always been a brilliant storyteller from his early days with the Red House Painters, but this is special. He has the ability to pick on the smallest of details to paint really touching and uplifting pictures of ordinary life. It’s great to hear his storytelling put to a different backdrop to his normal acoustic guitar, with the electronics of Jimmy LaValle.
About the Band
The band consists of Martin Purdy (vocals, glockenspiel, accordion, harmonica and keyboards), Simon Jones (harp, guitar, viola) and Andy Smith (banjo, melodica, guitar and programming). They explain: “The idea for Harp and a Monkey came about by accident – we’d got bored of writing the same type of songs so we decided to challenge ourselves for a bit of fun and all go out and buy at least one instrument that we had never played before. We thought that it would simplify what we did and lead to some interesting results, and we reckon it worked. We also wanted to follow the folk tradition of telling short stories, which is how we come to be writing about family trips out to the seaside, the Spanish Civil War, cheated brides and the importance of making a good cup of tea.”
Order All Life is Here via the Harp and a Monkey Shop: www.harpandamonkey.com