As we take our frosty first steps through 2017, looking back on a great year for folk and acoustic music (if little else), there are plenty of familiar big hitters to look forward to in the coming months – Eliza Carthy, Bella Hardy, Alasdair Roberts. But it’s satisfying to showcase some emerging talent too, to assure us the future is in safe hands…
Hannah Ashcroft is a singer/songwriter now based in Manchester having recently returned from a two-year trip around Asia and Australia. Her debut EP, The Quiet Kind, doesn’t audibly demonstrate evidence of her international excursions, but it does display the confidence of a seasoned traveller who has learnt her craft on the road.
The five tracks are firmly rooted in the folk-acoustic traditions of the likes of Nick Drake, John Martyn and Joni Mitchell. Underpinning all the songs is Hannah’s assured finger-picking guitar style with sympathetic accompaniment, and some fine melodies.
Her gorgeous vocals have a contemporary vibe – fans of Beth Gibbons, Laura Marling and Maz O’Connor will find much to enjoy here. The EP opens with the mysterious Tourists, which sets the scene for the rest of the release. Hannah describes the CD as exploring ‘themes of mythology, humanity and superstition’. Her lyrics and imagery are enigmatic but intriguing enough to invite repeat listens.
Tourists starts slowly then guitars, fiddle, bass and drums build to an instrumental coda that has echoes of the more experimental edge of mid-70s Fairport (albeit all acoustic here). The second track, Win Your Favour is very much in the vibe of the aforementioned Marling, with another assured vocal from Hannah.
The third track, Neptune, is the most overtly folky in the traditional sense, built from Hannah’s intricate acoustic guitar picking. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics draw on seafaring imagery, but the titular ‘Neptune’ is clearly a metaphor for someone or something. Hannah’s not telling, but she is drawing us in…
The title track sounds like a rebuff to a former lover, and it would certainly make hard listening for whoever it is directed towards: ‘Love is a union forced in time/ An age-old illusion and a parasite.’ (Forgive the mondegreen, Hannah, if I’ve misheard, but I don’t have a lyric sheet…) Particularly pleasing is the atmospheric fiddle playing here, which avoids any folk-rock clichés and greatly enhances the track.
A Word To The Wise concludes the EP on a wistful note, with – unless I’m mistaken – just Hannah’s voice and guitar. It’s a fitting way to end the short selection, showcasing her burgeoning talent in the raw. It’s a melancholy tune, elevated by Hannah’s guitar flourishes which offer an optimistic contrast to the mournful vocals.
While The Quiet Kind EP maintains a consistent and satisfying vibe, at only five tracks, it left me wanting to hear more from Hannah Ashcroft. Let’s hope she is planning a full album to come, and paying just £4 to download the EP from Bandcamp would be a great way to encourage her to do so…
Order The Quiet Kind via Bandcamp here: hannahashcroft.bandcamp.com
Find out more here: www.hannahashcroft.co.uk
Photo Credit: Charlie Atkin Photography