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Askew Sisters

Venue: Square and Compass
Town: Worth Matravers, Dorset
Date: 31/03/19

On a bright and breezy day in the Purbecks, walkers gathered in the sunshine at the Square and Compass whilst more visitors jostled to find themselves a seat in the homely wood-panelled lounge ready for some quality live music in an intimate setting.

Suddenly the bustle and chatter fell away as pulsing melodeon and the deep ringing of plucked cello strings hushed the room. The Askew Sisters leapt straight in to their opening set with a polished live rendition of ‘I wandered by the Brookside’ from their latest recording, ‘Enclosure’. The arrangement conveyed the same gentle stillness as the slightly otherworldly lyrics.

Hazel’s melodeons filled the space with rich, reedy soundscapes, creating immersive and often dreamlike textures that pulled listeners deeper in to the stories woven through the songs. The cello had a similar effect, often dominating the space with sonorous low chords and driving bass rhythms. Emily showcased this early on with a rousing reading of ‘Goose and Common’.

Part of the joy of seeing the sisters live was the chance to hear them share some of the stories behind the songs, and as they’re touring their upcoming release, ‘Enclosure’, we heard about the inspiration behind the album and the tracks that made it to the final recording. Without giving too much away, the theme of the enclosures act made its presence felt more than once, perhaps most poignantly in the instrumental piece, ‘The Wounded Hussar’ from John Clare’s manuscript.

Punctuating songs that danced between joy and tragedy as only folk can, the duo played a lively and expertly executed round of tunes with a healthy smattering of 3/2 hornpipes, drawing on old manuscripts for inspiration, whilst also showcasing a self-penned tune, ‘Heady Days’ written by Emily. the tunes were delivered with life and humour and obvious enjoyment.

Whilst the album is a phenomenal stand alone achievement, the added value of the stories and insights that accompany the live performance are a priceless addition. I can’t recommend highly enough taking every opportunity to see the duo as part of this tour.

Words: Leonardo MacKenzie

Photos: Jo Elkington

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