THE Dorset-based folk duo Ninebarrow – Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere – release their new album, The Waters and the Wild, at Poole’s Lighthouse on Saturday 21st April.
Jon and Jay became friends at school in Poole more than 20 years ago. They moved away to study and to qualify, Jon as a primary school teacher and Jay as a general practitioner. When their work bought them back to Poole, they continued to develop their love of listening to and making folk music.
Their growing success enabled them to decide, early in 2017, to give up the “day jobs” and embark on a full-time career in music.
Local and national response to their concerts and their albums, both from fans and the music press, quickly convinced them they’d made the right decision. Within six months Jon and Jay were nominated for the coveted Horizon award for the best emerging act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Now The Waters and the Wild, named for a poem by WB Yates, brings a new collection of work. At the launch Ninebarrow will be accompanied by cello and double bass.
On a quick listen, I was immediately impressed by the Simon and Garfunkel harmonies, but a second and third playing reveals deeper and darker roots.
Their songs are inspired and rooted in the landscape and history of the British Isles.
All the songs but one have either lyrics or tunes by one or both Ninebarrows. The exception is the final track, John Kirkpatrick’s Sing a Full Song, which they first heard when supporting John at the Lyme Folk Weekend two years ago.
Gather It In is first mentioned in The Bridport News in 1874, a song of harvesting that evolved from All of a Row. Jon and Jay have written a new melody and made the song into a catalogue of traditional harvesting.
Tim Laycock’s tune Row On accompanies a song that Jon has known since childhood, sung by his father Bob. It was found in a journal kept by a crewmember of the whaling ship The Three Brothers.
The haunting title track is all about human children being taken by fairies (long before the days of Harry Potter.)
The varied album begins with The Hour of the Blackbird, a celebration of spring, when male blackbirds sing out loud to mark their territories.
Halsewell, a song about the wreck of the ship off Winspit on 6th January 1786, follows. When a blizzard hit, 168 souls were lost, and 88 men managed to escape and scale the cliffs in what is Dorset’s worst shipping disaster, and captured in this moving ballad.
The South Dorset Ridgeway inspired Overthrown, in which Jay and Jon look at the ancient landscape of their county.
There’s a lively version of the oft-repeated tale of a man who is facing the gallows and only the love of a good woman can save him. Ninebarrow nods to their favourite other version, by Spiers and Boden, in the Prickle-eye Bush.
And more besides.
The Waters & The Wild is released on Friday 20th April, a must for Ninebarrow fans and an exciting find for those who have yet to discover their skills and harmonies.
The musicians include Barney Morse-Brown, who has created the string arrangements, percussionist Evan Carson, and cellist Lee Cuff.
For more information on the Poole gig, telephone 01202 280000 or visit the website, www.lighthousepoole.co.uk