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© Ninebarrow 2020

Reviews

 ★★★★★

'An absolute joy'

 

The Morning Star

 ★★★★★

'Stunning'

 

Maverick Magazine

 ★★★★★

'Immaculate'

 

EFDSS Magazine

   ★★★★

'Beautiful'

 

The Telegraph

★★★★

'Excellence in writing, performing, musicianship, recording and creativity'

 

Spiral Earth

   ★★★★

'Exquisite'

 

R2 Magazine

   ★★★★

'Spellbinding'

 

Northern Sky Magazine

'A rather lovely thing...like two halves of one voice'

 

Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2 Folk Show

'Amid the brightest stars in the folk firmament'

Fatea Magazine

'Perfection'

 

Suzi Klein, BBC Radio 3

'Making a big impression!'

 

Iain Anderson, BBC Radio Scotland

'Absolutely amazing!'

 

 

Kate Rusby

'Folk music at its very best'

 

 

Liverpool Sound and Vision

'A stellar performance'

 

 

Mike Harding

'A fantastic duo!'

 

Seth Lakeman

'I am sure they will become a major force in English folk music'​

 

Shire Folk Magazine

'Beautiful harmonies, engaging performances, and songwriting perfectly capturing the modern traditional idiom'​

 

Phil Henry & Hannah Martin

'A landmark folk album of its time.'​

 

folkwords.com

''The Everly Brothers of British folk' doesn’t even get close to describing them, but it’s a start - you would need to add inventiveness, boldness, presence and tons of charisma.'​

 

George Papavgeris

'Great depth...superb... wonderful and varied.'​

 

The Living Tradition Magazine

'One of the highlights of Chippenham Festival for me was being on the same concert with “Ninebarrow”...I would endorse them in a heartbeat to any folk club or festival organiser.'​

 

Sara Grey

'A place of lyricism, longing and masterly songwriting.'

 

Rick Pearson, Evening Standard Music Critic

'If they play anywhere near you, see them, if you are a booker for a club, don't hesitate.'​

 

Fatea Magazine

'Absolutely incredible!'​

 

Joe Broughton, Urban Folk Quartet

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THE WATERS & THE WILD | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  ‘The third album...is another immaculate outing'

EDS Magazine

Three strikes and not out. The third album from Dorset duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere is another immaculate outing. Folk music in their hands, and their perfectly fitting voices sounds both as old as time and as modern as the minute. 

This is their most lavish album yet, again with producer Mark Tucker at the dials. As always with Ninebarrow, the songs are darkly poignant, lush and sensitive and rarely less than uplifting.

The album opens with a lovely hymn to the territorial birdlife in Hour of the Blackbird, followed by a nautical disaster tale, Halsewell, that recalls the sinking of a ship off the Dorset coast in 1786. The mood lifts with the Prickle-eye Bush, their take on an inspirational favourite, while other delights include While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping and Hwome, a setting of the Dorset dialect poet William Barnes. 

It all ends with John Kirkpatrick's Sing a Full Song, beautifully done - and Ninebarrow have sung a few of those in their time. 

Julian Cole

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  ‘An absolute joy - every single song is a gem’

The Morning Star

This release by Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, who comprise the Dorset duo Ninebarrow, is an absolute joy. Every single song is a gem. From the joyous, ephemeral hymn to nature The Hour of the Blackbird, through to the suspense of the epic drama on the tragic sinking of the Halsewell East Indiaman in 1786 with the loss of 169 lives, to the civil war gallows ballad Thirteen Turns, narrated by a popular local healer who sees the very people who sought her help come to see her hang, every offering is crafted with the utmost care and musical intelligence.

The Water and the Wild is a pensive and compassionate, if otherworldly, interpretation of child disappearances. All are delivered with vocal harmonies that would be the envy of Simon and Garfunkel and are immersed in masterly instrumentation which, sumptuous throughout, is varied and rich yet endearingly down to earth. Touring now.

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ★ ★ ★ ★ ‘A duo that is clearly going places’

R2 Magazine

The third album by Dorset duo Ninebarrow, aka Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, is in fact the first time they have gone for a full 'studio album' rather than self-producing. And it's a classy piece of work — songs, arrangements and performances are of a consistently high quality, showcasing a duo that is clearly going places.

From the outset, the trademark Ninebarrow sound featuring outstanding vocal harmonies and gentle acoustic accompaniment is augmented by Barney Morse-Brown's sympathetic strings arrangement that also appears on other songs. Perhaps the best example is the title track, which contrasts the fairy world of W.B. Yeats's 'The Stolen Child' with the horrors faced by refugee children today.

It's gorgeous, but heartbreaking.

Elsewhere, 'Prickle Eye Bush' pays homage to Spiers & Boden while adding loads of bounce, and 'Sing A Full Song' is John Kirkpatrick's song of heartbreak and parting, with a mournful cello keeping it sombre. Two unaccompanied songs illustrate the fine harmonies — 'Whilst Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping' is based on June Tabor's version, while 'Row On' is a fabulous song made by Tim Laycock.

The Waters & The Wild is a lovely album, and the quality runs right through to a beautiful songbook, with lyrics, background, and fabulous photography and which is available for free download.

Ian Croft

LIVE REVIEW | 'One of the best folk gigs I have seen'

Southill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, 4th May 2018

South Hill Park is a lovely venue on the outskirts of Bracknell and tonight’s gig was in the cellar bar, perfect for a folk gig. Before Ninebarrow we had Edward Naismith who performed a short set and his vocals and lyrics recalled John Martyn, plus a little of Richard Thompson in the vocals at times. He didn’t have any CD’s available which was a shame as he impressed a few listeners this evening.

Ninebarrow are a duo consisting of Jon Whitley (vocals, mandola, harmonium , piano) and Jay LaBouchardiere (vocals, harmonium), who have been gaining rave reviews from the likes of Mark Radcliffe and they have just released their enjoyable new album ‘The Waters Wild’, which I highly recommend.

Opening the first half of their set with ‘Weave Her A Garland’ you can tell from the off it is going to be a good gig, as both Jon and Jay are so in tune to each other’s vocals that seem to merge seamlessly into one at times throughout the course of the evening. Next up ‘Hour Of The Blackbird’ kept a spring like theme going, again the musicianship and singing were impressive.

The scene setting before each song is a vital piece of their set, plus it allows both of them to ad lib and connect with their audience. ‘Siege’ is a fascinating tale of how Lady Banks managed to hold off in the besieged Corfe castle for twenty months during the English Civil War with just five soldiers! She only gave in to the Parliamentarians after being betrayed by one of her men. ‘Blood On The Hillside’ cleverly integrates the nursery rhyme about magpies into the chorus, although the Ninebarrow version is based on crows and they said this causes much debate at gigs when they perform it. ‘Prickle Eye Bush’ (covered by many artists including Led Zeppelin as ‘The Gallows Pole’) rounded off the first half of their set.

Being from Dorset Ninebarrow like to celebrate the folk lore and history of the area and ‘Hwome’ starts off the second part of the evening. ‘Halsewell’ is a moving song recalling Dorset’s worst shipping disaster and both Jon and Jay really put their all into each song. The unaccompanied ‘Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ does remind me of Simon & Garfunkel, simply because both are spot on with the harmonies and the power of their singing is enough to grab the listener’s attention. ‘The Weeds’ rounds off the evening in style, an up-tempo tune although the subject matter about a man who loses everything by letting the love of his life slip through this fingers, is not as jolly!

A superb night of folk music, which with Ninebarrow’s chilled/mellow sound has the ability to appeal beyond the folk world. The only downside was they were not playing at a larger room at South Hall Park as their music deserves a wider audience. One of the best folk gigs I have seen.

Review by Jason Ritchie

www.getreadytorock.me.uk

LIVE REVIEW | 'Carving a significant mark as a vibrant purveyor of the traditional tale and song'

Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford, 27th April 2018

Ninebarrow is a Dorset-based folk duo providing a blast of fresh air across the national scene. From the acclaimed status of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Horizon nominee, the pairing of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere is carving a significant mark as a vibrant purveyor of the traditional tale and song. Not content with dwelling on the past, their music fully embraces the surroundings of the present and intuitively takes a bold step into the future. Utilising the triple instrumental approach of harmonium, multiple strings and piano, the soundtrack sways within the mood of the songs, accomplished yet not overpowering the sparkling vocal content. This evening was a case of the folklore of Dorset spreading its wings to the outer limits of the West Midlands to extol the virtues of the seasons, the landscape, the history and fantasy. All served with occasional dashes of staple folk sides.

Across a brace of sets in the homely settings of a hired social club, Jon in particular continually fought the fluctuating temperature settings that played havoc with the strings, including the bouzouki and ukulele. The harmonium (or more descriptively referred as the chord organ) proved less temperamental and was primarily the domain of Jay, although a priceless moment just before the interval saw both musicians attempt, and pull off, a duet, on one.

 

Where the duet tendencies did regularly flourish was in the song department. The harmonies were bright, vivacious and evocative. Showing a vocal prowess seized upon and acting as the perfect vessel to portray the magnitude of the song. The latter probably defines Ninebarrow as they set out using every depth of their literate craft to polish the art of introducing and executing the intrinsic song.

 

Apart from a couple of folk club standards, the prime focus of the performance was the material that has formed the recently released album THE WATERS AND THE WILD. This record primarily packs with original content, seasoned with a couple of interpretative efforts. ‘Prickle-Eye Bush’. ‘Gather It In’ and ‘Overthrown’ were among the picks from the new record. This album will gather momentum in the folk world over time. It is not really a recording designed for immediate grasping and it will be markedly helped by Jon and Jay’s extensive touring to strip it down up close and personal before re-building the worthy content.Two of the evening’s outstanding moments were songs from a previous album, WHILE THE BLACKTHORN BURNS. ‘Siege’ was a heroic tale of English Civil War resistance, while ‘Weeds’ launched into a maybe mythical, or not, future where the land submerges human existence. Other subjects dealt with in the songs ranged from the Jurassic archaeological landscape of Dorset and the county’s nautical heritage to acknowledging the importance of seasonal events and mythical hierarchies in the natural world. Of course, it would not be a folk gig without the obligatory death, gore and murder. Song #4 seemed a long wait but the pair more than made up for it by the end.

 

Although by folk standards Ninebarrow are in their formative years, they appear to have perfected the ageless streak needed to survive and flourish on an informed scene. This youthful zest acts as a conduit that re-invigorates a traditional stance. Almost theatrical in motion, Jon and Jay are easing into generational standard bearing mode and look every inch the accomplished performers in this responsible guise. 

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ★ ★ ★ ★ 'Excellence in writing, performing, musicianship, recording and creativity'

Spiral Earth

Ninebarrow is the Dorset based duo of Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere, and The Waters and the Wild is their third album. It shares many things in common with their previous work, not least an impressive excellence in writing, performing, musicianship, recording and creativity – These guys don’t seem to have ever had any rough edges, nor do they seem to accept anything but perfection in their work. In fact they candidly admit that they are a ‘pain in the arse to work with’ when they thank producer Mark Tucker in the sleeve credits.

The album comes with a gorgeous little songbook (illustrated beautifully by Jon’s sister Sarah Whitley), which contains lyrics alongside origin stories for each song. This is where you really get to understand the Ninebarrow story, which to a large degree is the story of 21st Century English folk music (dare I say ‘Millennial Folk’? Better not…). They turn their gaze to the natural world, not as a part and parcel of it as the folk singers of old were were, but from where we stand now, aware that we are complicit in changing the world around us.

‘Overthrown‘ imagines a stretch of the Dorset Ridgeway in the future ‘when humans are no longer masters of this landscape’. The human scars on the landscape are ‘overthrown by grass and flower’ in this delightful song, gently powerful as it showcases their incredible harmonies.

The Waters The Wild is also an ode to the beauty of Dorset and the sense of home, or ‘Hwome‘ where they take a poem by the Dorset poet William Barnes written in the Dorset dialect and set it to music.

Can an album be an antidote to the madness of the modern world? I think it probably can, especially when it is made with as much love and reverence as this.

Iain Hazlewood

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ★ ★ ★ ★ ‘Topical, traditional and just excellent folk music…bound to garner them further awards and accolades’

Maverick Magazine

Topical, traditional and just excellent folk music. This third album from Ninebarrow, the talented folk duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere who were BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Nominees in 2017, is bound to garner them further awards and accolades. The pair plough through the rich loam of traditional folk music with particular attention paid to their native Dorset and THE WATERS AND THE WILD finds their fine vocals and harmonising backed by fuller arrangements than on their previous albums.

Much like the Unthanks, Whitley and Labouchardiere, friends since childhood, were schooled in traditional folk from an early age. In this case it was Whitley’s father who was the tutor, a singer himself who ran a folk club and played his albums to the boys – one of the songs here, Prickle-eye bush they first heard on a 2005 Folk Awards album.

While their voices are well displayed on the a capella ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ the real joy of the album is in songs such as ‘Thirteen Turns’, an ominous tale of a village healer hanged by villagers on a witch hunt, and the mystical title song which takes WB Yeates’ poem ‘The Stolen Child’ as its starting point. Interestingly, while both songs are soaked in the mists of time the pair point out the similarities to modern day witch hunts and the plight of refugee children. Elsewhere they celebrate nature; the opening song, ‘The Hour of the Blackbird’, inspired by folklore regarding our avian friends and the turns of the seasons, while ‘Halsewell’, with reed organ creaking like a ship’s timbers, is a forceful portrait of an 18th Century shipwreck.

Whether over a simple guitar accompaniment as on ‘Hwome’ (sic), a delightful setting of a poem by Dorset poet William Barnes or bringing in a band arrangement as on the harvest celebration song, ‘Gather it In’, Ninebarrow add a breath of fresh air to the traditional folk scene.

Paul Kerr

THE WATERS & THE WILD | 'A masterful album that fully sets the duo amid the brightest stars in the folk firmament'

Fatea Magazine

Former Horizon Award nominees, Dorset duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere take their nom de music from Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck Hills, their past two albums duly earning them awards and nominations on this very site. They seem assured of figuring prominently in the next round too with this terrific collection of lyrical and musical light and shade and songs that often draw deeply on their home county heritage.

Produced by Mark Tucker, it's a mix of self-penned and traditional numbers, getting underway with three of the former, starting with the pastoral simplicity of the fingerpicked waltzer 'The Hour of the Blackbird', a number which draws on the tradition of songs about the changing seasons. The mood shifts dramatically with a booming bass drum, reed organ, upright bass and bodhran underpinning 'Halsewell', a song detailing Dorset's worst shipping disaster when, in 1786, having lost its masts in a storm, the titular East Indiaman ship was driven on to the rocks at the Isle of Purbeck with the loss of all but 74 of its 240-strong crew.

The gentle 'Overthrown' rings the changes again, Whitley on piano and Barney Morse-Brown providing the string arrangement for a song envisioning the future of the landscape, no longer subject to man's impact inspired by the chalk downland of South Dorset Ridgeway and commissioned as part of Dorset Artsreach's Land of Bone and Stone project.

Featuring backing vocals by The Teacups and handclap percussion, the first of the traditional numbers arrives with a folk staple, wheezing reed organ setting the scene for a lively but spare arrangement reading of 'Prickle-eye Bush', a number variously known as 'The Gallows Pole', 'Prickly Bush' and, in its original gender incarnation, 'The Maid Freed From The Gallows', and one of the songs that got the pair into folk music in the first place. Continuing to plough the traditional furrow, 'While Gamekeepers Like Sleeping' is a hare poaching song, sometimes known as 'Hares in the Plantation', sung a capella and taking its time signature cue from the version by June Tabor.

Drawing directly on Dorset heritage, introduced by plucked strings, 'Hwome' is a mandola-based setting of 'Comen Hwome' , a poem by William Barnes celebrating the simple joys of walking home through the local countryside, reed organ and drums joining in for the outro.

They return to their own material for the rhythmically heady , bodhran bolstered 'Thirteen Turns', another gallows-set song, here about the hanging of a healer accused of witchcraft, set in the 17th century but, as they say in the superb songbook that can be purchased separately, with pertinent associations to modern hate crimes.

The title track takes its inspiration from W B Yeats' poem 'The Stolen Child', from which the lyrics are partly adapted, and affords a more positive view of child-abducting faerie-folk than on 'Mother!' their debut album's offering on the subject, as, written at the peak of the refugee crisis, it envisions the child being rescued from "the rubble's kiss Upon her shoeless feet", the indignity of queuing for handouts and "the blossom of explosions As the dust obscures the sun."

Another unaccompanied number, the optimistic 'Row On' features the traditional lyrics set to a tune by Dorset musician Tim Laycock and leads into the last of the original material, 'Gather It In', an adaptation of the words to harvest home song 'All Of A Row' from the Roud collection set to their own buoyant tune arranged for reed organ and bodhran. It all concludes on an emotionally piercing note with a cover of John Kirkpatrick's Sing A Full Song', the poignant story of a couple's last moments together, the duo's magnificent harmonies vocals adorned only by churchy reed organ and Lee Cuff on cello, providing the dying fall, the perfect end to a masterful album that fully sets the duo amid the brightest stars in the folk firmament.

Mike Davies

THE WATERS & THE WILD | 'Another abundantly assured and distinctively crafted achievement'

The Living Tradition

This third album from distinguished Dorset duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere is another abundantly assured and distinctively crafted achievement. Recording here under the sound engineering mastery of Mark Tucker, and so producing an acutely sensory ‘in the room’ hi-fi clarity and presence, they have also significantly extended their musical palette by embracing the skills of Barney Morse-Brown (string arrangements), The Teacups (fiddle quartet), Spencer Couzens (piano), Lee Cuff (cello), Evan Carson (percussion) and Joe Limburn (double bass).


Another luxurious and artistic pictorial ‘songbook’ accompanies the release with provenantial detail on their combination of mainly original song tales and traditional sourced material inspired by nature and its seasons, landscape and the genius loci, and folkloric customs and traditions presented with a keenly sensitive focus on the enduring and contemporary relevance of scrutinising our own local history.


Spanning a spectrum from a cappella pieces, through gentle and spacious pastoral musical arrangements (filmic in quality at times) to richly layered songs (such as Halsewell, about the plight of the crew of an 18th century East Indiaman that ran aground in a raging blizzard near Winspit, and Thirteen Turns, an imagined late 17th century tale of atrocity following a community’s scapegoating of a village healer) with dramatic and atmospheric charge aplenty, which realise the opportunities for more fully sophisticated soundscapes using the strings and extended instrumentation. Their sumptuously soulful harmonies are again impressive throughout as are further instances of their fine lyrical flair; “patchwork drapes the barrow downs a quilt bestowed on time”, for example, in Dorset Artsreach commissioned piece Overthrown about the South Dorset Ridgeway.


Kevin T. Ward

THE WATERS & THE WILD | 'Enthralling, captivating, and an ultimately triumphant album.'

Folkwords.com

There’s no more perplexity that Dorset-based duo, Ninebarrow produce outstanding folk music. It’s no longer extraordinary they deliver outstanding musicianship, gently crafted instrumentation, scintillating harmonies and wholly engrossing songs. There’s no expression of amazement because the combination of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere has proved beyond doubt that it now stands at the forefront of English folk. Their latest album ‘The Waters & the Wild demonstrates their continued development as both composers and musicians ... and it’s their best yet.

With ‘‘The Waters & the Wild’ they return with a selection of engaging material ... original songs focused on folklore and tales from their native region, inventive interpretations of tradition, translating the inspiration of poetry into song, and all the while creating stunning imagery through inspired narrative. From the immediate rustic engagement of ‘The Hour of the Blackbird’through the darkness of an avoidable shipping disaster recorded in ‘Halswell’ to their future-celebration of nature’s reclamation of the South Dorset Ridgeway in ‘Overthrown’ when human impact is just a memory. Perfectly balanced, inventive takes on the many versioned ‘Prickle-eye Bush’ and ‘While Gamekeeper’s Lie Sleeping’ follow, before they expand imagination to employ the words of Dorset-dialect poet William Barnes to create ‘Hwome’ and visit the fairy-world of W.B. Yeats for the haunting title track ‘The Waters and the Wild’.

​‘The Waters & the Wild’ from Ninebarrow releases on 20 April ... to describe it as a triumph is no exaggeration, because it is an enthralling, captivating, and an ultimately triumphant album.

Tim Carol

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ‘Their best album yet.’

Shire Folk Magazine

Here we have what is often termed ‘the difficult third album’ from Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, aka Ninebarrow. The first two albums and their excellent live performances have led to several awards and to them being nominated for the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Best Emerging Artist). So, is there progression with this offering?

 

The songs are once again largely based on stories, history, poems and landscapes from their native Dorset, and feature their fine close harmony singing and the distinctive use of the reed organ. What is different here is the enlistment of far more guest musicians, which gives the whole album a much deeper and richer sound. Barney Morse-Brown was wisely chosen to arrange the string section and Kadia’s Lee Cuff adds his cello (named Godfrey!) to this mix. Joe Limburn plays double bass, which sounds superb on the classic track ‘Prickle-Eye Bush’ and Evan Carson adds his percussion skills, as he does on nearly every album I review! For the first time we have backing singers, with The Teacups helping out on ‘Row On’, a  song Jon learn from his father.

Like their other albums, much thought and effort has gone into the packaging with jon’s sister Sarah producing the artwork on the sleeve and the very useful booklet of lyrics and background to the tracks.

Mark Tucker, who mastered Ninebarrow’s second album, Releasing the Leaves, is let loose to mix, record, master and produce this album and he has done a wonderful job. The third album may be difficult, but Ninebarrow have conquered it with their best album yet.

THE WATERS & THE WILD | 'A career milestone’

fRoots Magazine

The third album from Dorset-based Ninebarrow (Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardière) follows the pattern of its predecessors, wherein Ninebarrow thoughtfully interpolate, within a sequence of original songs largely embracing their native region’s folklore and heritage, individual adaptations of poetical works and a helping of traditional song. The former category includes the almost cinematic Overthrown(examining man’s impact on the South Dorset Ridgeway’s chalk downland) and the dramatic Thirteen Turns(sequel to Blood On The Hillside from the duo’s Releasing The Leavesalbum). Their ingenuity in poetic adaptation comes to the fore on the album’s title track, which tellingly contrasts the fairy world of Yeats’ poem The Stolen Childwith the depressing reality of the situation of modernday refugee children, its poignancy accentuated by the Vaughan Williams-pastoral tonality of its musical setting. There’s also an honest setting of William Barnes’ dialect poem Hwome, and Gather It Inis a joyous variant of harvest-home-themed All In A Row.

The Waters And The Wild also sports high production values (Mark Tucker at the helm) and the now-firmly-established Ninebarrow ‘house standards’ of vocal and instrumental performance and attractive presentation (the accompanying booklet contains full lyrics and back stories and beautiful artwork by Jon’s sister Sarah).

Several tracks also feature a lush string arrangement by Barney Morse-Brown, in collaboration with Lee Cuff, while others include deft double bass (Joe Limburn) or bodhrán (Evan Carson). The Teacups contribute and arrange backing vocals to two songs – a softspoken take on Row On (Tim Laycock’s setting of a text found in an 1864 ship’s log), and traditional favourite Prickle Eye Bush.

The Waters And The Wild is likely to be seen as something of a career milestone for Jon and Jay, for it both consolidates the Ninebarrow identity and marks a further benchmark in terms of confidence.

 

ninebarrow.co.uk

 

David Kidman

THE WATERS & THE WILD | 'A record packed with a richness and finesse that confirms the evolution of Ninebarrow and the precision they bring to their craft.'

Sonic Bandwagon

Nominees for last year’s Best Emerging Act at the Folk Awards, the duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere continue to fulfil their promise with another charming collection. They go the extra mile too by following up the splendid job on ‘Releasing The Leaves’, lovely artwork that follows a similar theme and topped off in a beautifully presented songbook, also packed with background info and some inspired photography (particularly the promo shots done in a small attic room of a rundown location according to the guys when we caught up at the 2017 English Folk Expo).

Eleven lovingly produced songs capture what’s become their trademark sound, one  that would surely sooth even the most  savage of beasts and soundtrack an idyllic meander down a winding track on a country morn, or even as the title of the opening track, the Hour Of The Blackbird. The sweeping waves of strings and gentle plucking are only  missing a touch of birdsong and a gentle draught  of fresh air. Aside from the delicacy of the musical arrangements, the two voices also come perfectly in tune when they go head to head, most notably on ‘Row On’.

Now it wouldn’t be music from the deep South West of England without a shipwreck story. The ominous tolling rhythm giving way to a driving tale held together with a drone that underlies the narrative of Dorset’s worst shipping disaster, the sinking of the Halsewell in 1786. A song that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lakeman setlist, all rubbery bass and air of faint  menace and a theme explored again in the fuller arrangement of  ‘Thirteen Turns’. The latter is carried on an  array of tumbling notes and sees the duo follow up ‘Blood On The Hillside’ from ‘Releasing The Leaves’ cast a spell with a tale of giving way to  mistrust and suspicion.

A jaunty ‘Prickle Eye Bush’, including some massed harmonies from The Teacups  and ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ may be the most familiar of the material to regular folk listeners, but the sublime title track combined with a choice album closer provides an evocative  final flourish. Combining their own words with W.B.Yeats  ‘The Stolen Child’, ‘The Waters & The Wild’ draws parallels with modern day refugee perspective; the fairy world of the imagination and the vivid reality.

Things come to pass with a super version of John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Sing A Full Song’ – last heard here on the album of the same name Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston – the mournful  cello in a cameo from Lee Cuff conjuring up a rare darkness; although maybe more of a dusk. It rounds off a record packed with a richness and finesse  that confirms the evolution of Ninebarrow and the precision they bring to their craft.

Mike Ainscoe

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ‘Carefully crafted beauty that should see them gather in many more fans.’

Northern Sky Magazine

To say Ninebarrow is something of a cottage industry is to underestimate them. Whether it's selling CDs, songbooks, t-shirts or greeting cards, their website reveals them to be busy bees. Whilst, of course, good commercial sense is no indication of the quality of their music, positive comments abound from the likes of Mike Harding and Kate Rusby as well as a nomination in the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. It seemed like it was time to get the music microscope out and peer through the lens at their latest record, The Waters & The Wild.

Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere are Ninebarrow and they hail from Dorset which probably accounts for the pastoral feel to their music. Theirs is a close harmony vocal that decorates a mix of self-compositions and traditional songs. The Waters & The Wild arrives with its owns songbook if you should choose to flash a little more cash. Both are immaculately packaged and presented with an attention to detail in their art that may surprise you. 

Whilst production on earlier records has been handled by the duo, The Waters & The Wild has been produced by Mark Tucker whose skills have been in demand with everyone from Show of Hands to Fairport Convention. It’s an excellent production giving clarity to their mix of reed organ, ukulele, tenor and octave mandola, piano, viola, cello, double bass and assorted percussion. 

A nod of respect should go to Barney Morse-Brown's string arrangements too. The mournful cello on the closing Sing a Full Song is a treat in itself and draws out the tenderness from this John Kirkpatrick song. Elsewhere, the well read duo draw their lyrics from poems such as on the title track which takes W.B.Yeats' The Stolen Child as its inspiration. The Dorset dialect poet, William Barnes, is adapted for Hwome with its delicate plucked strings making for a simple but effective introduction to the song. It's a song that is symptomatic of that earlier pastoral comment as is Gather It In where the reed organ is to the fore. 

That's not to say that the duo don't have a darker side as you'll find when you encounter the hanging on Thirteen Turns. However, their music is gentle even when the lyrics bring a disturbing element to the song. As a further example, take their version of the traditional song, Prickle-Eye Bush, which has less of an edge to it than that from Spiers and Boden. It's pretty and appealing but, perhaps, not necessarily for those who want some grit in their oyster. That warning aside, Ninebarrow’s new record has a carefully crafted beauty that should see them gather in many more fans. Expect more plaudits to follow.

Steve Henderson
Northern Sky