Edgelarks fly in on the tailwind of BBC award winning duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. The pair’s new project takes the roots of their previous work, from the traditional musics of the British Isles to Indian classical slide guitar to the stomping roots party of Phil’s beatbox harmonica; adds a strong stem of original writing; and runs wilder with each repeat play.
The pair began their musical journey together living in a small caravan in the hills near Exmouth, Devon. Phil had just returned, Chaturangui in tow, from studying slide guitar in India with the master musician Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. Phil and Hannah then met playing in alt-roots outfit The Roots Union, travelling from festival to festival, tent to tent, wandering the highways, byways, and old forgotten pathways of these islands. They followed in the footsteps of the ancient troubadour tradition, picking up tunes, songs and stories along the way. Spotted busking on the seafront at Sidmouth Folk Festival by champion of independent music Steve Knightley, they soon found themselves touring nationally, supporting the likes of Show of Hands and Seth Lakeman, and eventually winning the prestigious Best Duo award at the 2014 BBC Folk Awards.
Extensive international touring followed, from Japan to South Africa, Canada to Australia. Collaborations saw them team up with Peter Knight (ex Steeleye Span) to form the Gigspanner Big Band; and join Show of Hands as part of their Wake the Union band for a very special show at the Royal Albert Hall on Easter Sunday 2017.
From recording their first album, Singing the Bones, at home in their living room in the dead of night, they have gone on to produce three more records, each time refining the process and honing their production skills – Mynd, Live in Calstock, and Watershed (which garnered them a second nomination for Best Duo at the BBC Folk Awards in 2016).
Edgelarks, which is both their new band name and their fourth studio album, is their most innovative work to date. John Elliott (The Little Unsaid) joins Phil on production duties, bringing a palette of new textures – from the stillness of a muted piano contemplation to a grizzled Moog beat. Recorded in May 2017 at Cube Studios in Cornwall, songs burnished by tradition fly off down contemporary paths. Edgelarks – to sing about the margins – is an album about transitional spaces. Liminal places, people and times, the straddling of boundaries and thresholds; crossroads and borderlands; travellers and refugees; dusk and dawn. The pause between an old way and a new. The idea that, despite often being places of marginalisation, these are also places of change – and therefore places of hope. That, when social norms break down, when you are between two established worlds, there is a chance for new perspectives. That in the end, we have far more in common than things that divide us, because we are all liminal – we are all standing on the threshold of tomorrow. We are all just passing through.
Subtle, atmospheric… Bravely original ★★★★
Keen, curious and concerned intellects are at work here. Hannah Martin is an enthralling singer; Phillip Henry plays all manner of guitars and the harmonica, terrifically.
Top of the World album ★★★★★
Rich and complex – there is something of June Tabor about Hannah’s vocal performance – a voice that is strong and flexible and which, coupled with Phillip’s instrumental virtuosity, suggests we’re hearing stars of the future ★★★★
This duo has a combination of virtuosity, intensity and charisma that merits a slot on much bigger stages
An imaginative and innovative album – songs that linger in the memory held together by the fine musicianship of Henry and Martin. Strong and original – an unusual treat ★★★★