The ballad tradition of the British Isles is often noted for its dark-hearted lyrics – tales of false-hearted love, cruel seas, death and treachery. But from this raw place, beautiful music is often born.
Reflecting these beautiful, bleak and leftfield elements in contemporary folk music, Kings Place hosts Outlandish Nights from 27 – 29 March 2014, a mini-series co-curated by acclaimed songwriters Alasdair Roberts and Emily Portman.
Both musicians are noted for their eloquent and literary take on song-writing, inspired by tradition. Outlandish Nights brings them together in a unique and “mouth-watering collaboration.”
On Thursday, 27 March, critically-acclaimed Scottish singer Alasdair Roberts and his band come together to perform Hirta Songs for the first time since it was recorded: Roberts with his distinctive Caledonian tenor and unique open-tuned fingerstyle guitar, backed by the sensitive and nuanced playing of regular accompanists Rafe Fitzpatrick (fiddle), Stevie Jones (upright bass) and Tom Crossley (drums). Featuring the fruits of his recent collaboration with fellow Scottish artist, the poet Robin Robertson, Hirta Songs is a graceful and emotionally stirring suite of poems and songs concerning the remarkable story of St Kilda, a now-uninhabited archipelago off the west coast of Scotland. With lyrics by Robertson and Gaelic-influenced music by Roberts, Hirta Songs engagingly explores the lives, landscape, folklore and history of St Kilda. In addition, Robin Robertson will read from his own extensive body of poetical work, including his most recent collection Hill of Doors (Picador), for which he has been shortlisted for the 2013 TS Eliot Prize. Read our Interview with Alasdair here.
It all adds up to a wonderful record that does the job of building up the unique setting for its story, an album that very specifically has its place. The skill is the way that the songs and robin’s poems and lyrics create a mental landscape that is all but tangible. This may be one of Alasdair’s boldest collaborations and may well also be one of his best. Find out what the man himself thinks as we have a full and extensive interview in the bag and ready to bring you at the end of the week. Simon Holland, Folk Radio UK
On Friday, 28 March, the dark-hearted ballad tradition of these isles is explored by the “mouth-watering collaboration” The Furrow Collective – the combined talents of Emily Portman Trio with Alasdair Roberts – as the singers air lesser-known gems from their traditional canon with an eclectic backing of harp, guitar, viola, concertina, banjo, musical saw and rousing harmonies. With a bold, improvisatory approach, their common focus is to capture the raw edges and fleeting magic of ballads, with storytelling taking centre stage. Their February 2014 released CD At Out Next Meeting is garnering widespread critical acclaim (read our review).
It is the skill of the performance that brings out the best in old songs and allows the universality of their themes to come to the fore, and there are few more skilled artists working in folk music now than the four that have combined to make At Our Next Meeting one of the finest collaborative albums of the past few years. Thomas Blake, Folk Radio UK
Support comes from Marry Waterson whose acutely-observed vignettes of everyday life, love and loss tap the rich seam of creativity and poetry which courses through her veins. Daughter of the much-missed singer and writer Lal Waterson, her mother’s influence is tangible – vocally mesmerising and lyrically profound. Folk Radio UK recently premièred Marry’s video for I’d Rather be Tending my Sheep which she made for Th Furrow Collective:
A late session from Moulettes on Friday, 28 March rounds the evening off with leftfield lost and found acoustic sounds.
On Saturday, 29 March, Emily Portman’s own award-winning songwriting takes centre stage – playing with the tension between the magical and the everyday; creating a netherworld that lies a layer beneath the northern cityscapes of Emily’s home. The winsome harmonies and subtle instrumental textures of the trio belie a darker underbelly.
Support comes from the captivating songstress Mary Hampton, who etches out old songs from the silent archives of the traditional canon, and winches up new songs from her imagination.
Also joining Emily’s trio on the bill is storyteller Debs Newbold who effortlessly brings together the ancient and the urban, the poetic and the irreverent, the epic and the everyday in her charismatic performances.
Listen to the Kings Place Podcast for the event below which features interviews and more:
Tickets and more details here