When we were invited to Phillip and Hannah’s concert at the South Devon Arts Centre in Totnes it was described as a ‘launch party’ and the event really had a party atmosphere. The venue was packed with friends, relatives and fans, generating a very warm and supportive feel.
These two young people are rather extraordinary musicians. Phillip plays guitar, slide guitar and harmonica, and makes good use of a beatbox. He re-built his harmonica to increase the range of chords. He uses a Dobro for slide guitar work. Dobros have been around since the 1920s. They are acoustic guitars with a large metal disc under the bridge to increase resonance. They are usually played sitting down with the guitar flat across the knees, but Phillip contrives to play his while standing.
Hannah plays fiddle, viola and banjo, and writes the songs. They both have strong voices that project Hannah’s moving lyrics.
Phillip has studied in India under the guidance of one of India’s most famous musicians and they have both spent time in the States.
Their career is moving quickly. They have taken mainstage slots at the major folk festivals and toured with Show of Hands, culminating in a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. In 2012 alone they made 33 festival appearances and were awarded an Arts Council funded tour. This year the public voted them ‘Best Duo’ at the national Spiral Awards. In addition to bookings around the UK they have bookings in four European countries.
Tracks from their last album, ‘Singing the Bones’, were played on national radio with folk stalwart, Mike Harding, a big fan.
However, I think their new album, ‘Mynd’ is better – in fact, it’s absolutely stunning. All of their influences (folk, country, blues, jazz, Indian) make themselves obvious. It’s a really rich mixture of their interpretations of some traditional songs, new songs written by Hannah, plus a version of the James Taylor song ‘Close your eyes’.
I particularly like ‘Song for Caroline Herschel’ that commemorates the life of the German woman who overcame sadness and adversity to become the first woman to receive a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, and ‘Last Broadcast’, dedicated to the memory of journalist Marie Colvin, killed in Syria during 2012.
One of the songs tells the story of Miss Ellen Willmott, an Edwardian lady who was a keen gardener. When she visited friends if she spotted a gap in their flower borders she would secretly sprinkle seeds of her favourite plant in the hope that, long after her visit, the seeds would germinate and her friends would be reminded of her. As a nice touch our copy of the new cd was accompanied by some of Miss Willmott’s seeds in a plain white packet. I’ve planted the seeds and so far managed to resist the temptation of using the internet to tell me what to expect, so whatever plant the lady liked, it will be a surprise and remind me of her and this excellent album.
In case you are wondering, mynd is an Old English word meaning memories.