ALBUM REVIEW – LIVING TRADITION

Arts Council and Crowd Funded, this album presents music composed, arranged and performed by singer, musician and dancer Hannah James at performances of her live show, Jigdoll.
Themed around her absorptive experiences as a peripatetic performer, passionate about the connective synergies between sound and movement, inured to travelling with a ‘tool box’ of tricks and reliance on the common kindness of strangers, the music also has an emphatic and rooted sylvan soul. This well befits the rhythmic percussive qualities of clog dancing on wooden boards and connection with the customary character of the hand carved jigdoll, her metaphorical show persona.
The compositions reflectively draw on personal life experiences, musical collaborations and manuscripts in the Full English Archive. Their instrumental mainstay is Hannah’s accordion, generally sparingly used but atmospheric and powerfully rhythmic, sometimes heftily so. In addition to sung words she uses a lot of layered ‘diddling’ (vocally rendered tunes as a sort of ‘mouth music’ or, perhaps, folk scat) and some yodelling, interwoven with her percussive dance patterns underpinning the pieces.
Book-ended with soothing lullabies, faintly charged with a slightly sinister edge, songs about woodmanship and woodworking skills are rich with respect for nature and its rejuvenative cycles (the delightful Coppicing Song, for example) and mythic lore (such as The Carpenter’s unsettlingly merry song accompaniment to his manufacture of a cradle for the “little white soul”under the wood-pigeon’s wing). Cleverly onomatopoeic and alliterative song content (Clog Song) also notably exemplifies her respectful balance of authenticity and originality.

Kevin T. Ward

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