Do you remember the 60's and 70's when folk music was all about fair maidens with long hair romping around yonder willow tree, and stepping out as day was dawning? Well Brighton-based duo Hickory Signals clearly do as this second EP from multi-instrumentalists Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti demonstrates.
Here the duo are joined by Ian Carter, Tom Pryor, Scott Smith and Debs Stacey to flesh out the sound, which it has to be said is like stepping back into a bygone age, both in terms of musicality and atmosphere. The trappings of the modern lyricist are markedly absent and the whole collection of tunes has that 'retro-folk' feel stamped large across its grooves. Hickory Signals are nothing if not anachronistic - and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way.
Laura Ward does indeed have a lovely voice, and she uses that in typically traditional folk fashion - almost a slightly more melodious Maddy Prior style, that dominates the EP from start to finish. This is obviously one of the duo's strengths and it's easy to see why the vocals are placed centre stage high up in the mix. Sometimes, as on "Bows and Arrows", the accompanying instrumentation does get a little buried in the mix, but again maybe that is a conscious decision.
Of the three original songs on the EP, "Here I Am" is the standout. Ward and Ronchetti move (only very slightly) out of their comfort zone and speed things up a little and throw in some jazzy strings and banjo to good effect to complement the effortless lead vocal. And being completely honest I think this is where the duos future strength will lie, and not in the re-interpretation of traditional material that is often leaden and uninspiring, and where it is so easy to fall into the trap of cliché.
For lovers of (Trad.Arr).
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