All of a sudden it seems like it's all change for Bella Hardy. From the excitement of the Folk Singer Of The Year award in 2014 and the seemingly endless number of projects in which she was involved, 2015 has taken on a different slant altogether.
There's the album. 'With The Dawn' took a different angle by forsaking traditional song and presenting a folk styled set of songs based on her experiences over a period of time which was both revealing and refreshing. Musically, it also took a different tack, with all sorts of irreverent and original avenues being explored.
Then there's the band - the 'With The Dawn' band superseding the more familiar and melodramatic sounding Midnight Watch. Producer and leading light behind the album, Ben Seal is out on tour providing his expert touch to the musical palette and there's a drum kit too! Not that it gets much thrashing; more of a gentle working alongside the additional keyboards. Of course, main foil Anna Massie plays a big part in the live show, her knowledge of tunings, keys and gaffa tape particularly helpful in times when requests are taken and when microphones become separated from their instruments.
Most of all, there's the look. When she walks on stage the new image, call it what you will, is most striking. For dedicated followers of fashion, the long locks which had been trimmed to something in a tousled above the shoulder style for the album cover have now been cultivated into a fashionably chic blonde swept across the face look. A very modern young woman.
The music itself was not surprisingly dominated, both in content and in status, by the new material. Peppering the 'With The Dawn' songs with a prime selection of the back catalogue which could easily been 'the best of Bella Hardy' and the request for 'Labyrinth'. For particular highlights, the subtle and refined (not that the rest of the gig wasn't) performance of 'Hatfield' from her involvement in the Elizabethan Session venture was a stunner. Playing mainly plucked notes on her fiddle her cross her midriff, it's a rare treat when she picks up a bow and gets her instrument on her shoulder.
Despite being a 'go to' musician when the likes of the EFDSS are putting out tenders for various projects it's great to see Bella Hardy back doing her own thing and not only that, doing it with some style and aplomb - a rare thing in folk music.
Words & Pic:Mike Ainscoe
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