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Reviews

★★★★★

'Immaculate'

EFDSS Magazine

★★★★★

'Stunning'

Maverick Magazine

★★★★★

'An absolute joy'

The Morning Star

★★★★★

'Simply remarkable'

Folk & Tumble

★★★★

'The pair sing as one voice, in super-tight harmony'

The Guardian

★★★★

'Beautiful'

The Telegraph

★★★★

'Spellbinding'

Northern Sky Magazine

★★★★

'Exquisite'

R2 Magazine

★★★★

'Excellence in writing, performing & creativity'

Spiral Earth

Mark Radcliffe

'Like two halves of one voice'

Seth Lakeman

'A fantastic duo!'

Mike Harding

'A stellar performance'

Kate Rusby

'Absolutely amazing!'

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'Perfectly timed and beautifully formed'

Spiral Earth

The new album from Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere marks an interesting stage in their journey as Ninebarrow. The enforced isolation of lockdown has encouraged self reflection for many of us, whether by purpose or not. Jon and Jay had a stark realisation of the carbon footprint that their touring was responsible for – a realisation aided by a nerdy determination to work it all out with spreadsheets!

Rather than acknowledging the fact and moving solemnly on, they planted 1,000 trees in a field in Dorset. As a reparation to the land that they love it is a wise and touching move, for these guys, that is totally in character.

 

So A Pocket Full Of Acorns really sounds like an album born of reflection and introspection, the acorn of the title song tying neatly into their own nascent woodland. It comes from the story of Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Lord Nelson’s second-in-command at the Battle of Trafalgar, who carried acorns in his pocket to plant when out walking. His aim was to ensure wood for the warships of future generations. He knew that the oak was a finite resource, even though the seeds he planted wouldn’t be mature until he was long gone, yet he knew it was important to do so. For the duo, “The story really touched us. The notion of using one’s time on earth to help secure a future for those who come after us seems to have been lost in modern times.”

Their signature harmonies cast a net around the listener, gently lulling you into their world. As a reflection of the world we are living in right now it is pretty spot on, a sense of melancholy infuses the album, a sense of being caught in a liminal state between worlds. Don’t get me wrong, melancholy is delicious when it is done well, and Ninebarrow do it just right.

In this barren time for live gigs, the album has taken on a new significance. We are almost bound to listen to it alone, whether at home or accompanied through headphones on a walk. An intimate companion in bleak times – A Pocket Full Of Acorns is perfectly timed and beautifully formed.

Iain Hazlewood

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'This is a superb record, which is a demonstration of two musicians at their very best.' 

Northern Sky

I really shouldn’t be surprised at the quality of this album, having heard all the duo’s back catalogue and having caught one or two of their festival sets over the last few years, but in a strange way I am.  This is a superb record, which is a demonstration of two musicians at their very best.  The fourth album by Dorset’s Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, otherwise known as Ninebarrow, is released in exceptional times, yet the quality of the arrangements and the delivery is exceptional.  “Under the Fence”, a derivative of the traditional “Cold Haily Windy Night” is both dramatic and atmospheric as it draws our attention to not only the duo’s dove-tailed voices and instrumental prowess, but also to their hand picked collaborators, Evan Carson on percussion, Lee Mackenzie on cello and John Parker on double bass.  If “Come January” had been released in 1970, it would probably have been considered for Simon and Garfunkel’s final studio album, to sit comfortably alongside Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “The Boxer”, if that’s not being over complimentary.  Jon and Jay have a similar vocal communication, which is never taken for granted.  The assurance of the voices on the opening song is followed by a more fragile vocal that introduces “Nestledown”, which is both affecting and tender, evoking the fragility of the Dartford Warbler, which the song is a tribute to.  The well known “John Barleycorn” is treated to a fine unaccompanied intro, which with the assistance of Jon’s reed organ, maintains a hymnal quality throughout.  To top it all, Jon and Jay include a restrained shanty towards the end, “Farewell Shanty”, which will no doubt please those relishing in the sudden enthusiasm for such things, followed by “Sailor’s All”, which brings this remarkable album to a fine conclusion. 

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'Strong songs with great melodies - a very classy album' 

★★★★

R2 Magazine

The fourth album by Ninebarrow: Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere - is another high quality collection inspired by nature and the Dorset landscape. Their magical harmonies and sensitive use of guitar and reed organ are supported by the excellent Ninebarrow Band: Lee
N4ackenz e (cello), John Parker (double bass) and Evan Carson (percussion).

A Pocket Full of Acorns is packed full of fine songs, five of which were written by Jon and Jay. Particularly strong are 'Under The Fence', a poignant rewrite of 'Cold Hailey Rainy Night' for helpless migrants, and 'A Pocket Full Of Acorns' tells of Admiral Nelson's second-in-command, who spread acorns wherever he could to grow more oaks for ship building: a still relevant greening message.

Two songs are inspired by Dorset poet William Barnes, with words translated from the local dialect into English and new tunes. 'Hey John Barleycorn' and 'Farewell Shanty' are nice versions of well I known traditional songs. Final track ‘Sailors All', from the pen of Ewen
Carruthers via Mike Silver carries the sentiment that we're a in this together. 


This is a lovely parting shot to a very classy album, in which strong songs with great melodies are given the benefit of Mark Tucker's peerless production. 
 

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'This is a perfectly lovely album, perfect and lovely in every note, full of close harmonies that shine and meld into one beautifully haunting voice.'

EDS Magazine (The EFDSS)

There is more to say about that title than it being just the album's title. Dorset duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere are planting The Ninebarrow Woodland, which is intended to offset the environmental impact of their touring (see page 10 for more about this); a 'pocket full of acorns', planted in home soil, much as these songs have been planted to grow on this album.


This is a perfectly lovely album, perfect and lovely in every note, full of close harmonies that shine and meld into one beautifully haunting voice.

 

The personal and musical alchemy here goes deep and is fully on show in the three opening numbers, all originals: Come January, Nestledown and Under The Fence. The first song is typical, heart-bruising prettiness wrapped around a core of melancholy. The title track was inspired by the life of Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, who carried acorns whenever he went, planting seeds as he rambled. Zunshine In Winter, drawn from the writing of Dorset dialect poet William Barnes, is another delight.

 

Cellist Lee Mackenzie, double bassist John Parker and percussionist Evan Carson add further layers to the Ninebarrow soundscape.


Julian Cole

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'If I was asked to vote for my favourite record so far this year, I’d vote for this. Their outstanding harmonies, high production values, poetic lyricism, and magical instrumentalism are simply remarkable.'

★★★★★

Folk/Tumble

If there was a prize for the most beautifully packaged album, I’d vote for this. If I was asked to vote for my favourite record so far this year, I’d vote for this. With its accompanying song book, artistic photography, and artwork, you could be mistaken for thinking that it belies the quality of the product – but Ninebarrow’s 'A Pocket Full Of Acorns' is pure quality.

Their harmonies are utterly exquisite – not since listening to Simon and Garfunkel records as a child have I heard harmony as classy as this. What strange alchemy is this? Another reviewer described them as two halves of one voice, and it’s uncanny – that’s precisely what it is – as if two soul friends met and made music.

This is my first introduction to Ninebarrow – the Dorset duo John Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. This is the fourth album by the former GP and teacher, turned full-time musicians. 2020 was not the year the duo had planned, but they took the time to perfect their craft. Mellow, warm, reflective, steeped in the natural landscape of their native Dorset and surrounds, this is English folk at its firmest roots.

Their outstanding harmonies, high production values, poetic lyricism, and magical instrumentalism are simply remarkable. The opening track ‘Come January’ just captured my heart, while ‘Nestledown’ is a sad, mournful lyrical ballad lamenting the endangered Dartford Warbler.

This 11 track album is a combination of mainly original tracks and traditional English folk songs such as ‘Hey John Barleycorn’. With poetic references, inspirations, and true folk hero stories as muse, their creativity is fired and forced intelligently and intricately – with multi-instrumentalists Jon and Jay filling every space with the richest textures and hues.

‘Zunshine In The Winter’ really sums up the soft, still, dying light of a December day. Beautiful work altogether. The title track ‘A Pocket Full Of Acorns’, in true folk style, is based on an inspirational true story about Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood – Nelson’s second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar. The ships in the time of the Napoleonic Wars were built from mighty oaks and Collingwood was concerned that forests were being depleted. He took to carrying acorns in his pockets, planting the seeds in suitable places as he went about his business. Such foresight as we struggle to protect the planet for future generations.

Their love of nature, rambling, the stark and wild nature of the lesser cultivated English countryside is their muse, with the occasional hark to the Morris tunes and traditional melodies, to sea shanties and rolling waves.

‘A Pocket Full Of Acorns’ comes highly recommended. This one’s a keeper for sure – but if you wish to hear them “live” – there’s  special streamed launch show planned for Saturday 13th March 2021. Full details on www.ninebarrow.co.uk.

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'With A Pocket Full of Acorns, Ninebarrow have once again produced a spell-binding album'

Bright Young Folk

Dorset duo Ninebarrow have always been interested in promoting green culture, and their fourth album A Pocket Full of Acorns is another step in this direction. Coming from one of the greenest counties of Britain, they have gathered a number of traditional songs and original material, mostly concerning nature, all arranged in their idiosyncratically meticulous style.

The title for this work was inspired by the story of Horace Nelson’s vice-admiral, Sir Cuthbert Collingwood, who used to carry acorns in his pocket to plant trees in every favourable place in order to offset the loss of native woodlands caused by the construction of new war ships. The title track, perhaps the most striking among the eleven on this album, is the perfect example of how Ninebarrow manage to portray the beauty of their native land while expressing their thoughts on contemporary themes.

The album opens with two tracks, namely Come January and Nestledown, which immediately introduce the delicate and mature sound this duo showcases on this release. Under the Fence is a song denouncing the indifference towards the tragedies of mass migrations displayed by institutions around the world.

But this is not the only protest song on A Pocket Full of Acorns. Cry Unity, by far the most energetic track on this album, is a song against overdevelopment and the illogical and damaging proliferation of buildings that risks to suffocate nature all around the world.

Gentle and multi-layered arrangements on piano, guitar, tenor mandola and harmonium set the stage for heartfelt renditions of old material such as the Elizabethan classic Hey John Barleycorn and the evergreen Farewell Shanty, or for modern songs such as Teignmouth and the evocative Sailors All, which closes the album in a lyrical way.

Even the subtle harmonies their voices produce are worth praising as they incorporate elements from a variety of other acoustic music genres. Just like the settings, they transport the listener through dainty soundscapes suspended between the redolent beauty of their region and a mature awareness of our place in a fragile environment.

With A Pocket Full of Acorns, Ninebarrow have once again produced a spell-binding album and promoted an agreeable vision for a greener future, a project they are actively pursuing with the creation of the new forest they are planting in North Dorset to offset the carbon footprint they have left with their touring activity over the years.

Michele Mele

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'They really do go the extra acres in everything they do. Ninebarrow are a class act, they treat their fans like their friends, and richly deserve the love and affection they receive in response. This is an album that expresses the passion that they have for life and the care they exude for the natural world. From small acorns, they have grown into mighty oaks.'

Folk Radio UK

 

Dorset duo Ninebarrow delight once again with their fourth full-length album, a classy collection that plays to their strengths: heartfelt original songs, traditional folk and fine covers. And, of course, their ‘to-die-for’ harmonies that soar them among the top flight of contemporary British folk acts.

Back in April 2016, I interviewed Jon Whitley (vocals, ukulele, tenor and octave mandola, piano and reed organ) and James LaBouchardiere (vocals and reed organ) for Folk Radio. Apart from being jolly nice and very talented chaps, they also had big dreams. Their musical ambitions and early success prompted them to quit their day jobs and pursue recording and performing full-time. ‘In a perfect world we’d love to do lots of gigs,’ said James. And that’s what they did… until the perfect world came to a sudden lockdown early last year.

But they seized opportunity out of the crisis and set about staging some of the most sophisticated and inventive online gigs around. By doing so, they managed to keep their fanbase entertained and engaged whilst picking up a few more ‘Barrow Bods’ on the way.

And to consolidate this success, they have released possibly their strongest, definitely their most ambitious album to date. Last year should have seen the launch of the Ninebarrow band – another ambition they excitedly told me about five years ago – expanding their lineup to include Lee Mackenzie on cello, John Parker on double bass and Evan Carson on percussion. The tour wasn’t to be but the band’s talents add an extra sparkle to many of the tracks on A Pocket Full of Acorns.

The standout band lineup track, Cry Unity, comes three-quarters of the way in. It’s a rollicking stomp, a call to arms based on a William Barnes poem, but adapted for our troubled current times. It certainly has more grit than much of Ninebarrow’s earlier material and presents a welcome new direction. Something to look forward to when the band tour finally happens…

But there is also much to enjoy from the classic Ninebarrow approach: tasteful and evocative musical arrangements topped off with gorgeous harmonies. A standout for me was Nestledown, it’s a song about the turning of the seasons, inspired by the life of the Dartford Warbler. James takes lead vocals and it’s an opportunity for him to shine, backed by Jon’s evocative mandola plucking and vocals.

Like all of Ninebarrow’s albums, the standard CD version only offers part of the picture. To accompany the album is a lavish 32-page Songbook (available separately). Not only does it include stunning photos to illustrate each song, but also full lyrics and insights into the stories and creative process.

Under The Fence is sure to become a Ninebarrow classic. It weaves the traditional Cold, Haily, Windy Night with the contemporary issue of Syrian migrants seeking refuge from brutal conflict in their home country. The Songbook reveals the origins of the song, formed when the pair watched a documentary about life in a refugee camp in Calais.

The title track is a beautiful song both in its construction and intent. It was inspired by the story of Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood (Lord Nelson’s right-hand man in the Napoleonic wars) who lamented the loss of oak trees cut down to build the British fleet. So Collingwood took to carrying acorns with him in his pocket to plant and replenish the stock.

But it’s not just a song of historical interest, the story challenged the duo to consider how they could offset their touring carbon footprint. And alongside creating the song, Jon and James are planting (even as I write this review) a three-acre field of saplings in Dorset, including 500 oaks alongside hundreds of other native trees.

The Ninebarrow Woodland tells you everything you need to know about these remarkable human beings. They really do go the extra acres in everything they do. Ninebarrow are a class act, they treat their fans like their friends, and richly deserve the love and affection they receive in response. This is an album that expresses the passion that they have for life and the care they exude for the natural world. From small acorns, they have grown into mighty oaks.

A Pocket Full of Acorns is released today (5th March) on the Winding Track label on (CD and DL format), available from the Ninebarrow website www.ninebarrow.co.uk

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'A Pocket Full Of Acorns, is a real almanac of an album, a mash up of history, geography and nature and still manages to find time to reflect the human condition. If that sounds a lot for an album to carry, it is, but Ninebarrow do it so well.' Fatea Magazine

Like the arrival of spring and hearing the first cuckoo of the year, there is always a sense of anticipation around a new Ninebarrow album and "A Pocket Full Of Acorn" is no exception. Like the year, starts with "January" and makes its way to a farewell, the "Farewell Shanty" and then an encore in the delightful "Sailors All".

As with its predecessors, "A Pocket Full Of Acorns" comes with it's own songbook, but unlike its predecessors its also going to plant a thousand tree wood in Jon (Whitley) and James' (LaBouchardiere) home county of Dorset, not only paying off the carbon debt, but also recognising the inspiration the land and people have been in Ninebarrow's music and after which they are named.

Most of the songs and all the arrangements come from within the band, making sure that where a piece has inspired, the inspiration is captured and not copied, adopted into the Ninebarrow way rather than simply covered. It also means that where the narrative drops into dialect, such as on "Zunshine In The Winter" it feels spot on, rather than twee.

Joining Jon and Jay on "A Pocket Full Of Acorns", is regular contributor Lee Mackenzie and his cello Godfrey, percussionist Evan Carson and bass maestro John Parker. I was lucky enough to catch that line up not long before lockdown one so can attest as to the loss that the cancelation of that tour was, because they sounded stunning. Fortunately through the desk work of Matt Taylor, they really have managed to capture that sound and spirit on the album. Whilst on the subject of credits, also a nod towards Jon's sister Sarah, who delivers the album artwork.

The band sound gives this album a feel of evolution, appropriate from the county that gave the world the theory. There's noticeably less reed organ across the album with more deeper, resonant songs, that give the vocal harmonies more drive to contrast against the more trademark numbers it works fantastically well, at times this is a real foot tapper of an album.

Make no mistake, "A Pocket Full Of Acorns", is a real almanac of an album, a mash up of history, geography and nature and still manages to find time to reflect the human condition. If that sounds a lot for an album to carry, it is, but Ninebarrow do it so well.

Neil King

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'This album is likely to be seen as their best to date, no mean feat given the strength of their previous three albums. A folk album of the year, and indeed any year' Get Ready To Rock

★★★★½

Named after Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck hills of Dorset, one of England’s most southern counties, Ninebarrow is a duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. Joined by Lee MacKenzie (cello), John Parker (double bass) and Evan Carson (percussion). The album will be released on their website on March 5th 2021.


This is an album of sensitive songs, sumptuous harmonies, and restrained accompaniment principally on keyboards and various strings. Féted by the great and good of the UK folk scene, garnering accolades from Kate Rusby and Mike Harding, each citing the duo’s way with words and their ability to write new songs in old idioms.  The title track a Pocket Full of Acorns was inspired by the realization that their touring had created a huge carbon footprint. To counter this they were given a 3-acre field to plant up as a future forest. Carrying a pocket full of acorns is a long tradition, planting then randomly, ensuring that there will be life-giving oaks in the world. Zunshine in Winter, a dialect poem set to music, speaks of hope of a coming spring. Hey John Barleycorn is the eternal story of the triumph of the little everyman against the odds of time, told in simple tale of ale, where the rise of the smallest grain becomes a lifesaver, which it certainly was before water was fit to drink. Their native Dorset is a place of ports and of embarkation, the longing for the dream beyond the limpid horizon, haunting those who tread the paths above the chalky cliffs of Purbeck Limestone. Aptly Ninebarrow include two sea songs here, an a-capella Sailor’s Farewell Shanty and an accompanied Sailor’s All, which says we are all sailors until we find our own safe harbour.


For Ninebarrow’s new folk songs tell it like it is, their mastery of metaphor and music, their awareness of their own places and their impact not only on the souls of their fans but on the planet itself makes this music that is very 2021.


Seán Laffey

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'Their mastery of metaphor and music, their awareness of their own places and their impact not only on the souls of their fans but on the planet itself makes this music that is very 2021.' Irish Music Magazine

Named after Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck hills of Dorset, one of England’s most southern counties, Ninebarrow is a duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. Joined by Lee MacKenzie (cello), John Parker (double bass) and Evan Carson (percussion). The album will be released on their website on March 5th 2021.


This is an album of sensitive songs, sumptuous harmonies, and restrained accompaniment principally on keyboards and various strings. Féted by the great and good of the UK folk scene, garnering accolades from Kate Rusby and Mike Harding, each citing the duo’s way with words and their ability to write new songs in old idioms.  The title track a Pocket Full of Acorns was inspired by the realization that their touring had created a huge carbon footprint. To counter this they were given a 3-acre field to plant up as a future forest. Carrying a pocket full of acorns is a long tradition, planting then randomly, ensuring that there will be life-giving oaks in the world. Zunshine in Winter, a dialect poem set to music, speaks of hope of a coming spring. Hey John Barleycorn is the eternal story of the triumph of the little everyman against the odds of time, told in simple tale of ale, where the rise of the smallest grain becomes a lifesaver, which it certainly was before water was fit to drink. Their native Dorset is a place of ports and of embarkation, the longing for the dream beyond the limpid horizon, haunting those who tread the paths above the chalky cliffs of Purbeck Limestone. Aptly Ninebarrow include two sea songs here, an a-capella Sailor’s Farewell Shanty and an accompanied Sailor’s All, which says we are all sailors until we find our own safe harbour.


For Ninebarrow’s new folk songs tell it like it is, their mastery of metaphor and music, their awareness of their own places and their impact not only on the souls of their fans but on the planet itself makes this music that is very 2021.


Seán Laffey

 

A POCKET FULL OF ACORNS ALBUM REVIEW

'What underlies everything they do is an amazing attention to detail. Although it's early days I can't see it not being in my top 10 albums of the year come next December' Shire Folk

On a recent BBC2 Folk Show, Mark Radliffe said Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardière, aka Ninebarrow, had possibly gained more followers and fans in lockdown than if they had played a whole summer of gigs and festivals. This may seem a strange statement, but I think Mark is correct.

 

Not content with playing a few songs in front of their bookcase, they turned their living room in Poole into a folk club, playing two 45-minute sets with a 20-minute interval (annoyingly there was no raffle!). Then they did an outdoor festival gig on a farm in the pouring rain just to give the full festival effect. Their next gig was recorded in a local church with enough candles to run the national grid for several days. And to top it off there was a full band gig at the Lighthouse Centre in Poole. Add to this they have been writing their second book of Dorset walks, offering a framing service for Jay’s wonderful photos and producing a calendar of Dorset pictures, which I have next to my desk as I write this (I did buy it I might add; there was no bribery involved!). Sadly their Dorset-based musical/walking holidays that were arranged for the summer had to be cancelled, but as you can see, the duo have been very busy.

 

What underlies everything they do is an amazing attention to detail. Ask any promoter who has booked them and their sound checks are done with the utmost care and precision tailored with great thought for the venue they are in. All this spills over into the recording of A Pocketful of Acorns, their fourth album release.

 

I suppose you could say it follows a similar pattern to the other three in that there are songs about Dorset, its landscape and its folklore, along with others about the seasons and their love of walking. There are the perfect harmonies and the use of their two reed organs (named Oliver Reed and Wheezy Anna). Some of the songs are again based on the poems, verses or ideas of the poet William Barnes. However, just like that other excellent duo Show of Hands, they are not afraid to experiment and try new things. There is certainly more of Jon’s piano across the whole album, but the major change here is the introduction of the ‘Ninebarrow Band’.

 

Adding their considerable talents to the album are Lee McKenzie (cello), John Parker (double bass) and Evan Carson (percussion). It’s a well-known fact in folk music that if you don't have either Evan Carson or Boo Hewerdine playing on your album you are liable to be arrested by the folk police! The ‘band’ come together brilliantly on ‘Cry Unity’, which is another song that started life as a verse in an anthology of William Barnes’s poetry.

 

The pace of the album varies with each track and the title track, ‘A Pocketful of Acorns’, is a beautiful ballad and a version of ‘Hey John Barleycorn’ is sure to become a favourite sing-along song in their live act. The best track for me is ‘Under the Fence’. Using the tune and some of the lyrics of ‘Cold Haily Windy Night’, the song tells of the plight of refugees in the camps in Calais trying to get ‘under the fence’ to start the perilous journey to England. It’s a very clever piece of writing.

 

As always, the cover artwork by Jon’s sister Sarah is superb and my version came with a fully illustrated songbook full of Jay’s pictures of Dorset – again, attention to detail.

 

This album, which comes out on 5 March, will be played a lot in the Hobbs household in 2021. Although it’s early days I can’t see it not being in my top ten albums of the year come next December.

Graham Hobbs

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 

THE WATERS & THE WILD | ‘The dignified title song flames with a tight fury’

The New Internationalist

Ninebarrow are Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, who root their third album, The Waters and the Wild (Winding Track), in the landscape of southwest England. But, far from parochial, the dignified title song makes links between the folklore of vengeful fairies and the death of Syrian refugee alan Kurdi. The song flames with a tight fury.

LIVE REVIEW | 'Ninebarrow whisked the audience away to a special place of folklore, fun and incredible music'

The Bournemouth Echo

The Barrington Theatre

13th October 2017

THERE'S a warmth on stage tonight that goes far beyond the heat of the stage lighting. Dorset folk duo Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere are the most genial of hosts, who whisked the Barrington Theatre audience away to a special place of folklore, fun and incredible music.

Since 2012, they have released two award-winning albums and done the kind of grassroots touring that takes in quaint village halls, festivals and not often visited communities. It’s this thoughtful decision to take the path not often trod that has resulted in the loyal Ninebarrow following. The audience mouth the words to lyrics, clap in unison and beam with happiness throughout the show. It feels like a family and that’s because it is.

Ninebarrow are storytellers in the truest form of traditional folk music. They weave narratives with their own musical take on local history and the landscape. The song Halsewell, with its lyrics about a famous Dorset shipwreck is explained by Jon before its performance. He acknowledges their research included a book on the subject by Dorset author Phillip Browne (also in the audience).

It’s this immediate connection to their material, which makes Ninebarrow all the more compelling. In fact, Dorset arts organisation Artsreach even commissioned the band to write the song Overthrown, which was aimed at raising awareness of the Dorset Ridgeway On stage, the talented duo both sing together and seamlessly move from two harmoniums, an electric piano, mandola and ukulele. Joining them for the live show is cellist Lee Cuff from fellow Dorset folk band Kadia.

Lee has been heavily involved in the Ninebarrow sound in the studio and his beautiful playing adds another touching dimension. As Jon tells the audience. “Lee makes a lot of songs possible that we don’t often play live and he’s given us so much with his arrangements. We’re used to it being the two of us and at times Lee has also been like a marriage counsellor,” he joked.

The show came in two halves and proved to be a thoroughly rewarding evening from some of the brightest home-grown talents on the folk scene. Tickets are now on sale at the Lighthouse theatre in Poole for the launch night of their third album in April and I’d highly recommend it.

Patrick Gough

Bournemouth Echo

LIVE REVIEW | 'There are very few musicians or bands that inspire such affection from their audiences'

FATEA Magazine

The Barrington Theatre

13th October 2017

Ninebarrow (Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere) are a duo who are certainly attracting attention, as a host of nominations including the 2017 Horizon Award will testify. With an easy manner and beautifully balanced harmonies they produce music that is gentle of the ear and soothes the soul, even if the topics of their songs can explore the darker and sadder sides of human nature.

Friday 13th turned out to be anything other than unlucky for them as they chose this day to launch an UK tour of over 50 dates, stretching out to next April, on home territory in Dorset. The not quite sell out audience gave Ninebarrow a warm and genuine welcome and the first half got underway with "Gather It In", a harvest home song suitable for the time of year, before they were joined by Lee Cuff , from another excellent Dorset band Kadia. His cello accompaniment, used as a condiment rather than a sauce, underlined and gave depth to the music whilst allowing the duo to maintain their own sound.

This is what Ninebarrow do so well. They tie people to the landscape in a way that shows we are transitory and although we may leave our monuments behind the landscape will outlive them all. Ninebarrow will also go further back, to a time when different gods were worshipped. "The Sea" is a story of some of the last Roman soldiers garrisoned in Britannia, in a hill fort that was probably old when they arrived, and hoping they can get home as the Empire collapses around them. "Overthrown" goes back even further, to the settlers on the Ridgeway path whose monuments and settlements have been reclaimed by nature. These settings give their songs a timeless quality and remind present day listeners we are just part of a chain which stretches both back and forward.

The evening was a mix of both old a new songs, the new ones proving to be a good addition to their repertoire. The themes remain constant, inspired by their native landscapes and sounds and the audience loved it. "The Hour of the Blackbird" was particularly effective for its simple charm and evocation of nature. Charm is a word that is very applicable to Ninebarrow and there are very few musicians or bands that inspire such affection from their audiences.

As mentioned earlier the duo are embarking on an extensive tour over the coming months, details can be found on either their website or facebook page and you should go to at least one if you get the chance. It will be, on this evidence, an uplifting and very welcoming experience. Also to look forward is a new album, "The Waters and The Wild", which will be officially launched at another home concert in Poole on the 21st April 2018. My ticket is already booked.

Words & photos: Tony Birch

Read the full review here

LIVE REVIEW | 'You can why this highly talented duo earns affection and respect wherever they go'

EDS Magazine (The EFDSS)

Thorganby Village Hall
Sunday 28 May 2017

ThorganbyFolk is a new venture and the organisers should pat themselves on the back for booking this inspirational Dorset folk duo.

Their lovely second album Releasing the Leaves resonates with immaculate close-harmony vocals, beautifully simple instrumentation and great performances. As good contemporary folk musicians, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere respect the genre's traditions while also spinning something new from something old. This is such strong music, heartfelt and emotional, full of life and murderous gloom.

NInebarrow mix their own material with traditional songs and kicked off a top-notch evening with their take on Dark Eyed Sailor. Other songs included Weave Her A Garland, Blood On The Hillside and Three Ravens - the last being one of the good, dark songs that Ninebarrow love to sing. Also from that album is the emotional swell of Coming Home, a song written by Jon's father, Bob Whitley - a driving force behind this duo. 

Jon and Jay hold the stage with consummate musical skill and plenty of playful banter, chatting and joking around the grisly subject matter.

The duo switches between instruments including two harmoniums, an electric piano, mandola and ukulele to have a stab at a few. And not forgetting those soaring harmonies, you can why this highly talented duo earns affection and respect wherever they go.

Julian Cole

LIVE REVIEW | 'Constantly compelling...undeniably impressive'

Northern Sky Magazine

Thorganby Village Hall
Sunday 28 May 2017

Arriving in Thorganby this evening provided the perfect preface to tonight's concert by English folk duo Ninebarrow. The picturesque little village, nestled in the North Yorkshire countryside, welcomes its visitors with such quintessentially English features as an old country pub, a twelfth century church tower, twitching St George's flag and traditional red telephone box which, rather splendidly, has been turned into a tiny library. The roadsides and gardens were glowing with the colours of late Spring, tempting this fan to recall the lyrics to Ninebarrow's Weave Her a Garland with its "roses and lilies and daffadowndillies", a song that would soon inspire a singalong at the village hall. Indeed, at a time when England and Englishness is being hijacked for questionable political reasons, it is both refreshing and encouraging to spend an evening proudly entangled in the roots of this country's delicious heritage and folklore. And there are few more suitable musicians to provide the soundtrack to such an evening than Ninebarrow.

Hailing from Dorset and steeped in local lore, Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere delivered two note-perfect sets this evening, both infused with charismatic stage patter and captivating introductions to songs that explored the rich history and mythology of this land, most of which cherry picked from their two albums, WHILE THE BLACKTHORN BURNS and RELEASING THE LEAVES. The large audience that packed out the village hall was easily absorbed by such songs as For A Time, which told the heart wrenching tale of the 1943 compulsory purchase order placed upon Tyneham on the Dorset coast and Halsewell, a new song about the ill-fated East Indiaman ship that was wrecked off the Isle of Purbeck in 1876. And whilst history provided the subject matter for some of tonight's finest performances, the remainder of the two sets was imbued with the many enchanting curiosities of English folklore.

Like musical archaeologists, Ninebarrow have an impeccable knack of reaching deep into the soil of their subject matter to reveal glimmering treasures from the past. In doing so, they awaken the ghosts of this country's most ancient beliefs, revelling, as Jon admits, in a penchant for the darker side of the English folk tradition. Summer Fires opened the second set with its flickering scenes of ritual bonfire leaping whilst The Waters and The Wild summoned the fairy folk from their barrows via the immortal lines of WB Yeats's The Stolen Child. Perhaps the most evocative of all, however, were the exquisitely dark Blood on the Hillside, a song inspired by a sighting of seven crows at Corfe Castle and featuring lines from that well known traditional nursery rhyme One For Sorrow, and its sister song which further traversed the volatile terrain of the sixteenth century witch trials.

Whilst countless artists have visited the well of folklore for their music, few have succeeded in imparting such tales with the perpetual seduction of Ninebarrow. This is no doubt due to the musicianship that this constantly compelling duo deliver. The stage may be strewn with harmoniums, ukuleles, mandolas and a plethora of gizmos and gadgets to amplify, sustain and loop their instruments, but Ninebarrow's approach remains delicately subtle throughout. Their dexterity is undeniably impressive, especially during Jon’s occasional bouts of looping, but the duo's gentle control over their music means that each performance refuses to stumble towards flamboyance. Such sensitivity is mirrored in Jon's honey-sweet vocals and the emotive vibrato of Jay's softly elegant harmonies. 

Heartfelt thanks must be extended to the organisers at Thorganby Folk. This relatively young folk club is set to serve up further delights this year with The Rheingans Sisters on October 14th and O'Hooley & Tidow on December 22nd.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky

http://www.northernskymag.com/reviews/live-reviews/ninebarrow

LIVE REVIEW | 'You can always expect an excellent show from this duo'

Fatea Magazine

Ninebarrow were on great form, fresh from their Radio 2 Folk Show live session in the distant north in Salford the day before. They were relaxed and very comfortable on stage...You can always expect an excellent show from this duo, but somehow today there seemed to be an extra layer of exuberance to their performance.

Jon joked a couple of times during their set that he suffers from 'instrument acquisition syndrome', and indeed, every time I see them play there seems to be another instrument on stage. The latest is a new harmonium, with 70s styling and double reeds, which sat beside their trusty old blue-cased 'Wheesiana'. Add to that piano, ukulele, mandola, octave mandola, stomp box and a substantial pedal board and there was plenty of scope for instrumental variety. But as always, the key strength of this pair is their beautiful vocal harmonies and their connection to and the inspiration they draw from their home county of Dorset.

They opened with three cheerful and upbeat numbers...But then the mood turned to more traditional folk themes as the subject matters shifted to death and misery. A gallows theme ran through the rest of the set, touched with elements of superstitious folklore and the supernatural. Standout songs included Blood on the Hillside with its extended piano introduction, which got a cheer from the audience as it was introduced, as their set built to an epic rendition of Prickle Eye Bush.

Throughout their set the audience joined in enthusiastically with some great harmonies...And who knew that Jon does a mean Monty Python style old lady impression too, with his between song chat regaling us with tales of past audience members picking them up on points of historical accuracy in their songs!

By Kitty Chandrilla

Read the full review here

LIVE REVIEW | 'If Dorset were a cathedral, Ninebarrow would be its choristers'

Traditional Music and Song in Baston

Another year starts, another grey January sneaks towards a close and there is much need for an uplifting evening of classy singing and exquisite playing. Enter Ninebarrow (named after the area around Nine Barrow Down and Corfe Castle), a Dorset-based duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. Although fairly new to me their reputation goes before them. They have already produced an EP and two full albums, 'While the Blackthorn Burns' and 'Releasing the Leaves'. Large numbers of stars are liberally smattered alongside the reviews of both their recordings and live performances and they are touted as one of those up-and-coming acts ‘not to be missed’. No pressure then!

Jon and Jay play keyboard, mandola, harmonium and ukulele. During one song they even play a duet on the harmonium (surely a Baston first). The stage is stark – no microphones or attendant wires, no stage clutter and on many of the songs we just hear nothing more than two clear, soaring entwined voices. This ‘naked singing’ is a brave approach. I fear that a few of the more hard-of-hearing in the audience might find difficulty catching everything but, having asked around during the interval, this didn’t see too much of a problem.

Ninebarrow’s songs are a mixture of the originally-adapted traditional and the traditional-sounding original. Each song is crafted with care and perfectly suits their lilting and high-lonesome voices. Jon and Jay are obviously hugely influenced by their physical surroundings, none more so than on their songs commissioned by Artsreach Dorset, inspired by the South Dorset Ridgeway and designed to raise awareness of the rich archaeological heritage of the area. Add to these original songs adaptations of the familiar Lord Exmouth, Prickle Eye Bush and you have an enchanting evening of melody. The duo are not afraid to give us new songs, proof indeed that they are keen to keep their set updated and fresh.

Jon’s keyboard playing is like the trickling stream running down the hillside and the harmonium playing has a smidgeon of Tom Waits in there somewhere. Carrying on the analogies their singing has wisps of Simon & Garfunkel and, to my ear at least, similarities to the American Everly Brothers sound-alikes The Cactus Blossoms. Their songs are rooted in places, events and landscapes, gentler and more subtle than neighbouring south-westerner Seth Lakeman. Favourite songs? Really hard to choose but perhaps Coming Home, Three Raven and Summer Fires for me.

Jon and Jay are yet two more examples of up and coming performers to look out for and I would highly recommend them to those who want to spend an evening in an atmosphere of calm, relaxed tranquillity. If you want to learn more about them have a look at their high quality website – full of information, sounds and photos.

There was a time when Jon worked as a primary school teacher and Jay as a GP but nearly a year ago they both decided to leave their ‘proper jobs’ and pursue lives as full-time professional musicians. Some might consider this to be foolhardy and a tad risky but, judging from tonight’s accomplished performance, teaching and general practice will be a couple of members light for many years to come. If Dorset were a cathedral, Ninebarrow would be its choristers.

Toby Wood

LIVE REVIEW | Most definitely young stars of the future.

Folk Life Magazine

LIVE REVIEW

Helland Village Hall, November 19th 2016

Went to a Helland Village gig last night to see the multi-award-winning duo Ninebarrow who are impressing audiences across the country with their close harmony singing invoking rural imageries, along with playing and interchanging on keyboard, mandola, harmonium and ukulele - painting the vivid landscapes of their native Dorset. Jon Whitley and Jay La Bouchardiere are most definitely young stars of the future. Check them out!

Mike Walford

LIVE REVIEW | Exquisite harmonies, fine instrumental playing and beautifully crafted songs are Ninebarrow’s hallmark.

Clayhidon.org.uk

LIVE REVIEW

Cadeleigh Parish Hall, November 11th 2016

Villages in Action brought the folk duo Ninebarrow to Clayhidon on 9 November and once again proved their worth as talent spotters as well as rural arts promoters.

Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere treated a near-capacity crowd in the parish hall to an evening full of variety.

One minute they were giving us the purest traditional unaccompanied folk singing. Moments later they were sounding like a passionate foot stomping Seth Lakeman, and when that ended they  had scarcely drawn breath before they were singing a gentle folk/rock ballad  in the style of Simon and Garfunkel.

Exquisite harmonies, fine instrumental playing and beautifully crafted songs are Ninebarrow’s hallmark. They take their name from a hill near their Dorset home and many of their songs are inspired by the landscape and history of their beloved county.

Their subjects included the human stories behind a burial chamber on the Dorset Ridgeway, an execution on Hangman’s Hill, the Civil War siege of Corfe Castle, and the wartime confiscation of the village of Tyneham by the Government.

It wasn’t all their own work.  They sang a song by Jon’s folk singer dad, about a sailor on Magellan’s great voyage, and another based on the logbook of a whaler. Their rollicking version of the old ballad Bold Sir Rylas a Hunting Went will stick in the memory. And they did a marvellous high-speed unaccompanied cover of the June Tabor classic, While Gamekeepers Lie Asleeping.

This proved to be a highly successful evening for the hall. Despite having to pay all the £566 in ticket sales to Villages in Action, the event made a £435 contribution to hall funds, through bar and food sales and the raffle.

Gareth Weekes

LIVE REVIEW | One of the most impressive new acts on the folk scene.

What's Afoot Magazine

LIVE REVIEW

Bow Village Hall, September 23rd 2016

Those who made it to Bow on September 23rd experienced something very special. Ninebarrow are a duo from Dorset, Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere, blessed with beautiful voices which blend together in spine-chilling harmonies in performances of traditional and self-penned songs, many rooted in the landscape, history and archaeology of their native county. Jon is also a skilled player of ukulele, mandola and piano: these instruments, plus the subtle drone of a reed organ, weave magical accompaniment to many of their songs. Two of my favourites were Winter King, based on the tradition (now hopefully extinct) of the hunting of the wren on Boxing Day, and Coming Home, writen by Jon’s father Bob Whitley, a veteran of the Dorset folk scene and the reason why Jon and Jay became folk musicians and singers. Traditional songs such as Dark-Eyed Sailor, Bold Sir Rilus and a chilling version of Three Ravens were also highlights of their set. Their engaging presences, haunting songs and beautiful harmonies made this an evening to remember. Ninebarrow are now recognised as one of the most impressive new acts on the folk scene and there will be other opportunities to hear them this autumn as part of the Villages in Action programme. So don’t miss them!

Nicola King

★★★★★ 'Immaculate'

EFDSS Magazine

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

What an immaculate affair this is – beautifully performed and recorded with simple directness. Ninebarrow are a Dorset-based folk duo blessed with the loveliest vocal harmonies, as Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere weave their voices into something very special. The playing is first-rate too, with Jay’s reed organ adding an enchanting depth to some numbers. Stand-out tracks? Oh, that would be all of them in truth, although if pushed to choose, two songs merit higher mention. They are opener The Pinner, written in celebration of a Dorset tradition of women putting pins in the central pillar of a church in hope of winning luck and love; and the emotional Coming Home, written by Jon’s father, Bob Whitley, a respected Dorset folk singer, and here performed with a sense of longing that brings a lump to the throat. Also very lovely indeed in the closing track, Dark Eyed Sailor, almost a cappella, with a tremble of reed organ backing. Available for £5 is a smart and informative songbook which adds to the listening pleasure.

 

JULIAN COLE

★★★★★ 'Stunning'

Maverick Magazine

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

Highly coveted duo, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere have released their second album amid ringing endorsements from luminaries like Mike Harding, Seth Lakeman and Kate Rusby.

 

Jon and Jay display a love of their home county, landscape, history and British folklore, mixed with an appreciation for folk tradition. Jay's organ playing provides a background 'wash' while Jon's octave and tenor mandola picks a route through these vignettes. Multi-instrumentalist Jon also contributes organ, ukulele and piano. The instruments are never intrusive, more a backdrop, while string arrangements along with lee Cuff's cello, double bassis Joe Limburn and Luke Selby's percussion add subtle colour.

 

However, it is the combination of Jon and Jay's lovely harmonies and storytelling abilities that draw the listener in. The 11 tracks combine originals with the duo's take on traditional material like 'Back and Sides and 'Lord Exmouth. That the materials blend so well is a testament to their skills. The CD is accompanied by a beautful songbook which tells the stories of these songs. This is clearly a labour of love, which considerably to the release...there is much to admire here.

 

★★★★ 'Exquisite'

R2 Magazine

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

Causing a storm in the folk world since their emergence in 2013, the Dorset duo look set to create more waves with this, their second album. All the original songs have been inspired by their home county in one way or another. An impressive thirty-two-page songbook accompanying the CD includes photographs of the places behind the songs.

            The lost village of Tyneham, commandeered by the MOD, (‘For A Time’), the archaeological heritage of the South Dorset Ridgeway (‘To The Stones’), and an imagined murder mystery on the Purbeck Hills (‘Blood On The Hillside’) are all fodder for Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere’s songwriting.

            Beyond that, they feature ‘Coming Home’ a song about Magellan by Jon’s father, Bob, a massive influence and a folk singer-songwriter in his own right. From the tradition they include ‘Lord Exmouth’, and put a tune to lyrics from Alfred Williams’ collection, ‘Weave Her A Garland’.

            The musical accompaniment on Releasing the Leaves’ is subtle, both members contributing reed organ, and Jon additionally providing piano, mandolas and ukulele. Guests Lee Cuff, Joe Limburn and Luke Selby nicely compliment their sound. The secret sauce, however, comes in the form of the pair’s exquisite harmonies: apt, appealing and pitch-perfect.

 

Colin Bailey

★★★★ 'Releasing the Leaves is another example of how strong British folk is at the moment.'

The Telegraph

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

There's genuine British folk music charm to what Dorset-based Jon Whitley (vocals, organ, ukulele, tenor, octave mandola, piano) and Jay LaBouchardiere (vocals, reed organ) are producing under the name Ninebarrow. Whether it's beautiful harmonies on the traditional Three Ravens; or the ingenuity of The Pinner, their own song about a pin-maker who leaves precious trinkets at a 13th-century chapel near Worth Matravers. Releasing the Leaves is another example of how strong British folk is at the moment. The album comes with a gorgeous songbook, which is also available online. ★★★★☆

★★★★ 'Ninebarrow are certain to become a recognised force in English folk music'

Northern Sky Magazine

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

Dorset based duo Ninebarrow bounced onto the national folk scene in 2014 with their highly acclaimed debut album WHILE THE BLACKTHORN BURNS which demonstrated their refreshingly new and innovative take on the folk tradition. Their second album RELEASING THE LEAVES sees Jon Whitley and James LaBouchardiere further developing their exquisite pitch-perfect harmonies and instrumental arrangements employing a plethora of musical instruments including reed organ, ukulele, tenor and octave mandola and enhanced by the duo's beautiful string arrangements, delivered by Lee Cuff on cello and Joe Limburn on double bass. This is an album of various shades, from stripped back simplicity to spellbinding complexity, dark corners to refreshing optimism. The eleven tracks embrace all that the duo is about, including their love of landscape, history and British folklore. On the strength of their first two releases, Ninebarrow are certain to become a recognised force in English folk music. Watch this space.

★★★★

This fabulous album is absolutely bound to figure in the year-end best-of awards.

Folk and Roots

This is one of those records that you might initially be in danger of underestimating. At first hearing it gently beguiles, but then, almost before you know it, sneaks up on you and ends up absorbing your senses completely. But you could be forgiven for not knowing Ninebarrow, so I’ll need to tell you that it’s a Dorset-based duo comprising Jon Whitley and James LaBouchardière, who perform a fairly even-handed mixture of self-penned songs and good solid traditional material (Dark-eyed Sailor, Lord Exmouth, Three Ravens, Back And Sides), the latter always emerging fresh-minted in sparkling and innovative arrangements. Dark-eyed Sailor weaves its melody around a reedy drone, whereas Three Ravens receives a keen a cappella reading. The duo’s own songwriting is nothing short of brilliant. It chiefly concerns their native region and its folklore and heritage; the tale of The Pinner was directly inspired by a visit to a coastal chapel, while For A Time powerfully imagines a fictional encounter between a visitor to Tyneham village and one of its old residents, which instigates a gloomy commentary on the value and fragility of peace. To The Stones takes its inspiration from a Neolithic long barrow above Abbotsbury, and finds a family gaining spiritual strength and support from this ancient monument, while Blood On The Hillside (cunningly placed after Three Ravens!) tells of seven crows perched menacingly in a bleak tree in the Purbeck Hills, a sight which sets one’s imagination running wild (scary!). Silent Prayer harks back to, and provides a kind of counterpart to, the song Knightwood on Ninebarrow’s previous album While The Blackthorn Burns. And there’s a special treat here too, in the form of Coming Home, written by Jon’s dad Bob, a well-respected folk singer and songwriter in his own right: it voices the anxious thoughts of the wife of a sailor on Magellan’s 1519 voyage. Strictly performance-wise, Ninebarrow’s special gift is that of their singing voices, which blend together fantastically in a superbly coordinated and wholly natural, nigh symbiotic sibling-style uncannily reminiscent of the Everlys or Simon & Garfunkel (check out To The Stones and Silent Prayer for starters), a spellbinding pindrop display that intuitively interchanges between unison and harmony mode. As a result (albeit not exclusively for this reason), Ninebarrow’s performances invariably (and tangibly) glisten with freshness, a quality accentuated by the absolutely immaculate recording (a Mark Tucker production), which faithfully captures every last detail and nuance without being dry and clinical. The effect is extremely piquant, and attention-grabbing in its own way without needing to shout or strive for effect. Similarly, there’s a captivating instrumental virtuosity in the carefully pointed settings; many involve the characteristic timbre of reed organ, a deliciously wheezy rustic drone, while Jon provides the delicate plucked textures of tenor or octave mandola and ukulele, or else (on a couple of songs) piano. Additionally, four tracks feature a gorgeous, intense (and yet understated) string arrangement by cellist Lee Cuff, while a few others employ subtle and deft double bass (Joe Limburn) or percussion (Luke Selby). All in all, Releasing The Leaves is a truly exquisite listening experience. But the presentation of the album is also an object-lesson, for it’s accompanied by a magnificent 32-page songbook, a veritable work of art which features photographs of the places that inspired songs as well as full lyrics and background stories; the songbook is available in-print or for free in digital form via the band’s website. This fabulous album is absolutely bound to figure in the year-end best-of awards.

 

www.ninebarrow.co.uk

David Kidman

 

A very fine album which absolutely lives up to expectations

Bright Young Folk

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

With glowing testimonials from the likes of Mike Harding and Seth Lakeman, Dorset-based Ninebarrow have really established themselves at the forefront of the English folk scene since the release of their debut album, While the Blackthorn Burns, two years ago. Their new release, Releasing the Leaves, has been very hotly anticipated.

The album begins with a song entirely characteristic of their style. The Pinner is a ballad telling the unusual tale of a woman who believes that making the perfect pin will allow her to be granted her heart’s desire. As with all the duo’s songs, the centrepiece is Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere’s luscious vocal harmonies, which tug at the heart strings throughout this album.

There are some faster numbers, such as For a Time and Back & Sides, which falls back on the traditional folk favourite of beer for its material, but the beautiful harmonies are retained, and they remain equally effective.

The highlights are definitely the ballads, however, with the traditional Weave Her a Garland and originals Blood on the Hillside, a variation on the age-old rhyme about the seven ravens, and Silent Prayer being particularly gorgeous.

Another high point is Coming Home, which was written by Whitley’s father Bob, himself a well-respected Dorset folk singer and songwriter. Another beautiful ballad, it is written from the perspective of the wife of a member of Magellan’s crew during his circumnavigation.

Overall, Releasing the Leaves is a very fine album which absolutely lives up to expectations and ensures we will be awaiting the next helping from this talented duo with just as much excitement.

A stunning second album by Ninebarrow, a beautiful reminder of just what English Folk can offer.

Liverpool Sound and Vision

Rating 8.5/10

 

 

To be considered as sounding warm, inviting or even welcoming is to some a death knell, the sound of pleasantries made to be engaging, yet despite the wary nature of such social niceties, to use warm, musically demonstrative and even tender when talking about Dorset’s Ninebarrow is not to be friendly, to add Dorset charm to the world of literature, instead it is to be seen as graceful, elegant and stylish; for in Ninebarrow’s Releasing The Leaves lays the foundation stone of the next generation of Folk music at its very best.

 

English Folk music may once have been looked upon with suspicion in some quarters, the talent for drawing upon the very fabric of nature perhaps seen as quaint, not in keeping with the industrial spark or the post war bleakness and subsequent boom that followed, however from out of the post 20th Century frigidity and frostiness towards the genre, so much beauty has been able to transcend the barrier between possible audience and artist that what comes across is much more than a delight, it is powerful and telling.

 

In Ninebarrow, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere offer great insight to a world sometimes overlooked, often ignored and worse, taken for granted, a world of haunting melody, of sensational harmony and most of all, a world which typifies looking through the illusion and seeing a truth yet to be explored, it is with a greater sense of urgency and pleasure when such a truth is presented.

 

In tracks such as Lord Exmouth, Weave Her A Garland, the superb Three Ravens and Blood On The Hillside, Ninebarrow not only present a subtle truth, they relish in the opportunity to be able to show it to the listening audience, like the finest hand crafted work of art, it delights in being appreciated, that this is no mass produced mealy mouthed moment of musical sculpture is to be admired. This is the type of experience that sits on a shelf in a gallery, security guards and C.C.T.V. monitoring its safety and all from behind a velvet rope; the only difference is that this moment of artist history is to be touched and made contact with in every way possible.

 

A stunning second album by Ninebarrow, a beautiful reminder of just what English Folk can offer.

 

Ian D. Hall

Superb arrangements and musical subtlety.

Sonic Bandwagon

NINEBARROW – ‘RELEASING THE LEAVES’

 

Ninebarrow label

 

Their first album took FATEA’s 2014 debut album of the year amongst many other accolades and nominations as well as getting the thumbs up from Seth Lakeman and Mike Harding. The Dorest duo of Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere

 

String arrangements, mainly through Lee Cuff’s cello, plus the occasional depth from Joe Limburn’s double bass gives an ever so regal classical coating to several of the numbers. A pair of voices which in combination are soft and easy to listen to – not dissimilar from Jim Moray – and the combination of original and traditional sourced material blends well enough that it’s difficult to spot the joins. Variety and refinement are becoming trademarks of the Ninebarrow sound.

 

They turn in a fantastic job on the handful of traditional songs – the drones behind ‘Lord Exmouth’ and ‘Dark Eyed Sailor’ (inspired by Olivia Chaney and for once a happy ending) allowing the words and stories to come through bold and clear. Of the self penned material,  ‘Blood On The Hillside’ brings a traditional feel to a contemporary song, and like the other originals on the album, has a strong Dorset connection in its origins – walks to the pub across open landscapes or local traditions.

 

In a package which shows that care and attention reap the rewards, you not only get the colourfully decorated digipack with the CD, but also a lovely slightly larger format 32 page printed songbook (also in digital from as with the online first album songbook) containing lyrics, photographs and stories behind the songs. Great for those who’s failing eyesight struggles with the minute print of the regular CD booklets.

 

THE FIVE WORD REVIEW: Superb arrangements and musical subtlety

A highly assured achievement on all levels...richly deploying their exquisitely symbiotic harmonising skills.

The Living Tradition

The second album from duo Jon Whitley (ukulele, tenor/octave mandola, reed organ, piano, vocals) and Jay LaBouchardiere (vocals, reed organ) is a highly assured achievement on all levels and is certain further to enhance their national profile.

 

The five original songs, five arrangements of traditional material and piece by inspirational support Bob Whitley (Jon’s dad) are primarily either drawn directly from, or to some degree deliberately associated with, the folklore and iconic places of their beloved Dorset, correlations reinforced by an impressive series of lyric linked photographic images in a sumptuous 32 page songbook and the distinctively expressive modern artwork of Sarah Whitley. 

 

Emphatically focused on the vocal communication of their selected songs, again richly deploying their exquisitely symbiotic harmonising skills, instrumental support is carefully orchestrated for scene setting and dynamic detail, so as gently to enrich the listener’s emotional engagement in the stories, with subtly supportive guest accompanists adding some cello, double bass and (discreet) drums. 

 

Pleasingly poetic original songs recognising the power and wisdom held in the stones of a Neolitihic long barrow on the South Dorset Ridgeway and musings on the “secret never to be told”, involving shape-shifting in a murder of corvine creatures (Blood On The Hillside), typify both an ardent topophilia and mythopoeic spirit and sensibilities. Traditional songs tell of relationships severed and tested by nautical voyaging, floral love garlands and jolly ale indulgence, comfortably balancing joy and sadness, and there’s a duly dark rendition of Three Ravens from Child Ballad 26.

 

www.ninebarrow.co.uk

Kevin T. Ward

A very tasty album indeed...thoroughly beguiling.

Stirrings Magazine

Ninebarrow

Releasing The Leaves Album Review

 

The third album by the Dorset duo Ninebarrow arrived on our doormat a few weeks ago. Its gaily-hued cover caught our editor’s eye, and the disc found its way into the CD player in short time. I played it a couple of times and was quietly impressed...it’s a very tasty album indeed.

 

Ninebarrow are Jon Whitley and James LaBouchardiere. Jon W sings and plays mandola and ukulele, James Lab sings and both take turns in coaxing languorous, summery chords out of a reed organ – what looks (and sounds) like a more robust version of the infamous Bontempi chord organ popular in the late Sixties and favoured by the likes of Bowie and Bolan. The combination of mando/uke and organ is a very distinctive one; likewise the chaps’ two voices melt into each other in a way that may well remind you of Simon and Garfunkel, or – to look a bit closer to home – Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly of Tir na nÓg. Sometimes they’re singing in unison, sometimes in harmony, often flitting between the two modes. It’s not an approach that you hear all that often – two male voices shadowing each other – and to my ears, it works really well.

 

The songs here are a combination of trad and the duo’s own compositions (with one by Jon’s dad Bob Whitley). I reckon they do an equally good job on both. The original stuff is firmly rooted in the Dorset landscape and its folklife. The trad selections are mostly well-known…but J & J breath a gently glowing life into the. Lord Exmouth is one I hadn't heard before and I'm pleased to make its aquaintance. 

 

The sound Ninebarrow make is not one of sharp corners and abrasive surface – Stick In The Wheel they ain’t – but I find it thoroughly beguiling. So will you, I fancy.

 

Raymond Greenoaken

They have built another a folk milestone

www.folkwords.com

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

Folk duo Ninebarrow have in relatively a short time become renowned for their faultless vocal harmonies and intricate musicality, they’ve also gained a reputation for crafting involving narratives sourced from their native Dorset and this nation’s wider history. Their storytelling craft is once more demonstrated on their second album ‘Releasing the Leaves’ with songs wrapped around tales that reflect landscape, people and legends.

 

‘Releasing the Leaves’ offers typically high-quality Ninebarrow original songs ... from a woman striving for artisan perfection in ‘The Pinner’, through the loss of Twyneham Village recorded in ‘For A Time’, to a child’s introduction to the wonders of The Ridgeway with ‘To the Stones’. There is an equal number of Ninebarrow-arranged traditionals ... the homage to the calibre of a great British naval officer, Admiral Edward Pellew with ‘Lord Exmouth’, that equally effusive tribute to British beer ‘Back & Sides’ and the darkest of dark renditions of ‘Three Ravens’.

 

‘Releasing the Leaves’ is a softly appealing piece of work that engages your attention start to finish and it’s a fair bet the last two tracks, their interpretation of Bob Whitley’s (Dad) moving ‘Coming Home’ and the strikingly delivered, ‘Dark Eyed Sailor’ will remain with you for some time. Throughout, there’s the superb detail we have come to expect from Ninebarrow, an attention to the minutiae of their calling that means they have built another a folk milestone.

 

Ninebarrow are Jon Whitley (vocals, ukulele, tenor and octave mandola, reed organ, piano) and Jay Labouchardiere (vocals, reed organ) joining them on selected tracks are Joe Limburn (double bass) Lee Cuff (cello) and Luke Selby (drums). The album’s lyrics are available in a 32-page songbook, which reveals the stories behind the songs plus a selection of story-linked photographs, and again Sarah Whitley (Big Sis) provides some classic Ninebarrow album artwork. 

Thoughfully constructed songs...meticulous instrumentation.

Acoustic Magazine

'Releasing the Leaves' Album review

 

Steeped in the folklore of their native Dorset, reed organ player Jay LaBouchardiere and multi-intstrumentalist Jon Whitley make up Ninebarrow. No effort has been spared in the production of this album, which comes with a gorgous booklet explaining the provenance of the songs. The music is of an equally high standard - thoughtfully constructed songs telling stories of lost villages, dark eyed sailors and grieving lovers, brought to life by harmonies in that light Simon and Garfunkel mould, and meticulous instrumentation. Highpoints include the traditional song 'Lord Exmouth, a stirring nautical tale set to a droning organ, and the dark 'Three Ravens'.

Ninebarrow  are quickly rising up the folk music ladder and this album will help them climb a few more rungs to the top

Shirefolk Magazine

'Releasing the Leaves' Album Review

 

This is the second album from Dorset-based duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardière, known as Ninebarrow. Their first album, While the Blackthorn Burns, was very well received, winning Best Debut Album of 2014 award from FATEA magazine. This album follows much the same pattern as the first, being a mix of traditional and self-penned tracks largely based on stories set in Dorset and its landscape and history. The production is much improved on this album, giving much more warmth and depth to the songs. So top marks to Mark Tucker who did the mastering and to Jon and Jay for the overall sound.

 

Jon and Jay harmonise well and the use of the reed organ and piano gives them their distinctive sound. My favourite track of the eleven is ‘Blood on the Hillside’, a song about crows, murder and witches – all the ingredients of a classic folk song. Jon’s father Bob is a well-known Dorset folk singer and songwriter, and they cover one of his songs entitled ‘Coming Home’. Of the traditional tracks on offer there are fine versions of ‘Dark Eyed Sailor’, Lord Exmouth 

and ‘Three Ravens’.

 

The album comes with a substantial, free, downloadable booklet (£5 if you want the print version), which contains the lyrics, stories and some lovely photos linked to the songs. I wish more bands would do this. In my opinion Ninebarrow are quickly rising up the folk music ladder and this album will help them climb a few more rungs up to the top. 

 

www.ninebarrow.co.uk

 

Graham Hobbs

 

 

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

Fatea Magazine

I've been lucky enough to see Ninebarrow on a number of occasions, most recently when they supported Dave Swarbrick on part of his national tour and have seen the impact they have on audiences with their carefully observed songs that not only take account of the history of England, but also its geography. Add in a few personal interest songs and a bit of folklore and you really have a very fecund brew to conjure with.

 

A small reed organ gives a number of songs a sound that they could almost trademark, it's certainly one of the things that makes them distinctive as well as one of the fastest rising duos in the country and the impact they were making in the Allendale only emphasised the reasons for their growing reputation. If they play anywhere near you, see them, if you are a booker for a club, don't hesitate.

 

Ninebarrow, were the perfect end to two days of Folk 21 Showcases, check out the performers if they are near you, get onto their websites and get hold of their recordings. The Folk and acoustic scene is strong and vibrant, but it needs you to get out there and support it.

 

Read the full review of the Folk 21 Showcases @ http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/

The Everly Brothers of British folk doesn’t even get close!

George Papavgeris says:

'Jon and Jay’s material (both traditional and original) transports and their energy transfixes the listener. But it is their voices that transcend, with a closeness usually only matched by siblings and harmony lines that only seem natural because they are so well-thought through. 

 

“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.'

They will become a major force in English Folk Music

Shire Folk Magazine says:

This is as good a debut album as I have heard for some time and I feel sure it will feature in my top 10 albums of the year. However, I do feel there is even better to come from them in years to come. I would not be surprised to see them work with one of the many fine producers around like Stu Hanna or one of the Lakeman brothers. I am sure they will become a major force in English Folk Music.

A landmark folk album of its time

Tim Carroll, Folkwords.com says:

...should you ever worry about the future of our folk heritage, this album will allay all fears...Aside from an entrancing web of vocal harmonies and an abundant intermingling of finely crafted compositions, Ninebarrow deliver involving narratives rooted in this nation’s history. Organic is an oft-used term in folk music, in this case it’s accurate. The album is a living, breathing whole. Produced with a delicate touch that allows the music and voices to tell their tales, it feels as though this duo are sitting in the room with you, sharing their meaningful narratives and making them relevant to you...Driven by their interpretation of stories, places and events, Whitley and Labouchardiere have delivered an album destined to become a landmark folk album of its time.

 

Read the full review of 'While the Blackthorn Burns' at Folkwords.com

A place of lyricism, longing and masterly songwriting.

Rick Pearson, Evening Standard Music Critic says:

In their close harmonies and rural imagery, Ninebarrow occupy the middle ground between Simon & Garfunkel and Seth Lakeman: a place of lyricism, longing and masterly songwriting.

The live harmonies were simply the best I have ever heard

rock-regeneration.co.uk says:

To be honest it was quite an experience to hear these guys performing within these intimate surroundings. The live harmonies were simply the best I have ever heard with each song giving me Goosebumps and that feeling in your stomach that you had just heard something really special.

 

Read the full review from Dave Chinery here

Totally unique

Sara Grey

'One of the highlights of Chippenham Festival for me was being on the same concert with “Ninebarrow”. Jon and Jay were totally unique…they had such an exquisite blend of harmonies that it was almost impossible to tell who was singing which part.

 

Their accompaniments were sensitive, never intrusive……they left plenty of room for the song. They have some beautifully written material mixed with sensitive arrangements of old songs. What particularly impressed me was that they were not trying to be as innovative as possible….the music and songs seemed to flow freely and naturally from them without clutter and without being too stylized.

 

I would endorse them in a heartbeat to any folk club or festival organiser!'

Their set just sparkled with quality

Fatea Magazine says

From the off it became obvious that Ninebarrow were very much in their element, not just because they had a sell out audience behind them, but because their set just sparkled with quality. There is just so much strength in their material, not only the songs they've penned themselves, but also the way they arrange traditional songs...Kadia's Lee Cuff was called to the stage for a couple of numbers to reprise the contribution that he made to the album and other guests on the recording were duly name checked, Ninebarrow, are a band that are generous with their praise, but when you've got an album as strong as "While The Blackthorn Burns" you can afford to be, particularly when you can deliver it so vividly in the live arena. To paraphrase a Roman reference, 'They came, they played, they conquered' and we enjoyed every minute.

 

Read the full review of the 'While the Blackthorn Burns' Album Launch @ Poole Lighthouse here

Characterful...precisely crafted...impressive vocal harmonies

fRoots Magazine

Dorset-based Jon Whitley and James LaBouchardiere deliver a characterful set of precisely-crafted, self-penned songs that are reflective yet life-affirming and passionately influenced by history and tradition. Their impressive vocal harmonies are gently but firmly supported.

Ninebarrow have carved a melodic map across the English landscape

Folk Radio UK says:

For contemporary musicians, working in the folk idiom often involves navigating a succession of forks in the road: new or old, now or then, here or there, tradition or innovation. With While the Blackthorn Burns, Ninebarrow have carved a melodic map across the English landscape, offering up a collection of catchy songs honed and homed in landscapes from Dorset to the Lake District. From the rich vocal harmonies and shifting textures of ‘The Sea’ to the mesmeric, almost ritual incantations of ‘Summer Fires’, these are up to date songs echoing with the voices of singers past.

 

Read Folk Radio UK's full review here

"While The Blackthorn Burns" is an exceptional album

Fatea Magazine says:

"While The Blackthorn Burns" is an exceptional album, it's full of character. It's an album that reflects how life often is, highs and lows providing their own inspirations and whilst it does reach back, it defines its self of the here and now and is totally wonderful for it.

 

Read the full review of 'While the Blackthorn Burns' at Fatea-records.com

Stunning