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Hannah James Hannah James
Album: Jigdoll
Label: RootBeat
Tracks: 14

An exciting new project created by Hannah James, known in folk circles as singer and musician through her associations with Kefuffle, the duo with Sam Sweeney and as a member of Lady Maisery. Those bands may spring immediately to mind, yet she's an individual who has always combined a similar talent for creative dance. She's talked about blurring the lines between the different disciplines, so inspired by the life of a travelling musician / a travelling player, her new album encompasses the romantic ideal with the more mundane and sometimes frightening.

'Jigdoll' comes as an album of music, songs and footwork which are taken as a record of the Jigdoll solo show. A show which uses her freshly composed music and stage techniques to present a piece of work based round percussive dance. Essentially this is 'Jigdoll - the album'. Hannah's also spoken of the music she's written not being 'folk' in the strongest sense although she's pieced together odds and ends including words lifted from the Full English archive and the dance remains rooted in the traditional although again, she's deconstructed and come up with new rhythms…even clog dancing in bare feet is in there.

The album brings together a massive range of musical styles and influences which have shaped Hannah James thus far. Clogs, carpenters, coppicing, yodelling, lullabies and jigs are all explored through delicate and understated arrangements - the sort of sparse quality which is The Unthanks trademark. The album isn't afraid to challenge; a haunting 'Treasures' - "we all live in boxes" - questions the attitudes towards the refugee crisis, developing into a swirl of fiddle and drumming and clapping rhythms while 'The Carpenter' is built around a set of words from the Full English written about the sadness following the loss of innocent life. Closer to home, 'Tuulikki's Tune' is a gentle warm piece written for her accordion buddy Tuulikki Bartosik and 'Karen's' for musical mentor Karen Tweed, the latter a real mixture of rhythms of feet, voices and instruments.

Appropriately bookended by a couple of dreamy lullabies which both usher in and ease out the album, the appetite for the live interpretation of 'Jigdoll' is truly whetted. An album and a show where we get to appreciate a different side to Hannah James - one which is a pleasantly unexpected treat. Her fusion of the old and the new on 'Jigdoll' she describes as "not so much as the piece de resistance, more the start of a new chapter." Whatever solo direction she takes in the future, 'Jigdoll' is an piece of work destined to be to be regarded as something of a groundbreaking and highly original stepping stone.

Mike Ainscoe