Edgelarks (Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin) found themselves halfway through their spring tour when COVID-19 shutdown the world. They hurried home to Devon, feeling despondent, and unsure how they would make ends meet while unable to gig. However, as the days passed they began to realise that they were in the privileged position of having been given the gift of time. Ironically, a life spent on the road playing music leaves little time for practising, writing, or recording anything new. So they sat down and began to play.
But what to play? On the bookshelf sat stacks of old music, songs earmarked here and there during previous research bouts. Hannah and Phil realised they had never released a record of entirely traditional music before, and now, feeling their musical identity shaken by the turmoil, seemed like a perfect time to connect to these roots.
The starting point was clear. Hannah had been aware of the song Henry Martin for several years, and as a song collected locally on Dartmoor by Baring Gould, connecting the duo’s names, it had to be explored. A rip roaring tale of adventure on the high seas is given a driving edge by Henry’s sensational lap steel playing, while Martin’s vocal glides through the complexities of the tune.
Henry Martin becomes Edgelarks’ sixth studio album, their first of entirely traditional material. It celebrates that mighty survivor, the tradition itself. The world might feel like it is ending; but you need a song to sing for every occasion, and there the tradition can help you. They navigate this difficult time for musicians by reaffirming their identity, and pushing new musical boundaries. With no access to professional studios, Henry engineered, edited, and mixed the entire record. They deliberately kept to the more uplifting end of the folk song canon, because this is an album about overcoming difficulties. An album about not giving up; not stopping playing, even in the face of disaster. This is an album that looks back, to hundreds of years of music making in these islands – but that also looks forward, to a time when we can overcome the distance that separates us, and raise our voices together once more in song.
“Subtle, atmospheric… Bravely original” – Robin Denselow, The Guardian ****
“Keen, curious and concerned intellects are at work here. Hannah Martin is an enthralling singer; Phillip Henry plays all manner of guitars and the harmonica, terrifically.” – Julian May, Songlines ***** Top of the World album
“Rich and complex – there is something of June Tabor about Hannah’s vocal performance – a voice that is strong and flexible and which, coupled with Phillip’s instrumental virtuosity, suggests we’re hearing stars of the future” – Dai Jeffries, R2 ****