Bella Hardy: Eternal Spring
Noe Records – June 2017
Since winning the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Singer of the Year in 2014, Bella Hardy has cemented a reputation as one of the hardest-working and most-travelled singer-songwriters on the circuit.
Recently ensconced in Tennessee soaking up the vibe for an album of new material due out shortly, earlier this year Bella released this limited edition (of 500) CD album based upon research and writing she undertook as British Council and PRS for Music Foundation Musician in Residence in Yunnan Province, China in late 2015. The album was completed and recorded live on Bella’s return to Yunnan in May 2017, in Kunming, the ‘Eternal Spring’ of the title.
The album’s twelve tracks certainly reflect collectively what most listeners would recognise as Chinese musical styles and themes, notably the distinctive sound of the guzheng, a multi-stringed zither, beautifully played here throughout by Daixiao.
Bella’s angelic vocal tone is ideally suited to this ethereal material, whether on her original lyrics or the classic Chinese poems of the Shijing, written from 11BC to 7 BC and said to have been compiled by Confucious, several of which she has adapted and set to music here. ‘Guan Guan’ is a particularly fine example of these. When reciting either the Shijing poems or indeed her own excellent original poetry, sometimes set to music or to recorded audio from her travels, Bella’s slightly flattened Derbyshire vowels are a joy to this northern ear.
She also brings her deep-rooted domestic folk influences to bear on the material too, and her fiddle playing on ‘(Six of the) Ten Flowers’ for example lends the traditional Yunnan song a distinctly British feel. I already knew from reading her blogs and writings that Bella had totally immersed herself in the region during her time in Yunnan, but if I hadn’t known that, it is immediately obvious from the record. Throughout there is a sense of joy, of a journey of which every minute, every second, contributed to a learning of knowledge, a soaking up of history and culture, and of friends made, musical and otherwise.
This is by no means a typical Bella Hardy album. Some may find it less than accessible, others, like me, will embrace it and adore the fusion of cultures, traditions and musical styles that she has achieved in this frankly beautiful recording.
Bella Hardy tours the UK in October and November, and all dates, along with a full account of her journey through Yunnan, including lyrics, poems photographs and a travel blog, can be found on her website at http://www.bellahardy.com Limited numbers of Eternal Spring are also still available to order there at the time of writing.
Order Eternal Spring: https://bellahardy.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-spring