The Guardian

Old Adam

★ ★ ★
"Classy and entertaining"

"It’s been nearly four years since Fay Hield’s last solo album, and she has spent much of that time working on an extensive digital archive of English songs, and performing some of them with The Full English band. She’s a folk scholar as well as a singer, and the new set offers an intriguingly varied selection of narrative songs that ‘help us explore rights and wrongs’. There are stories of witchcraft and betrayal, along with a charming Nineteenth Century attack on the judiciary system, an allegorical tale involving a hornet, beetle and woodpecker. Then there’s a sea shanty about Noah, and a romantic, folk-influenced weepie by Tom Waits. Her sturdy, no-nonsense vocals are backed by a distinguished band, several of whom played with The Full English, and include Bellowhead fiddler Sam Sweeney, along with ‘special guests’ Martin Simpson and Hield’s partner Jon Boden. Classy and entertaining.

Bright Young Folk

Old Adam

It’s a little under four years since Fay Hield released her last solo album, Orfeo. Since then she has been busy with The Full English project which, rightly, won a brace of statuettes at the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Now she’s back with a third solo album, Old Adam. It represents a considerable advance on her previous work.

For Old Adam, Hield has expanded the Hurricane Party to include percussionist Toby Kearney (The Emily Portman band) and bass player Ben Nicholls (Kings of the South Seas). These musicians together with Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and Roger Wilson (plus guests Jon Boden and Martin Simpson) create sounds and textures that, whilst being full of interest, are always at the service of Hield’s vocals.

This change in sound is apparent from the first track, Green Gravel. With drums and bass to the fore the song, text taken from Alice Gomm’s ’Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland’ with music by Hield, it is a strong opening number full of rhythm and life. As Hield’s excellent liner notes tell us, this album is made up of stories. You won’t find any insipid love songs here, these pieces explore what it is to be human.

Old Adam, says Hield, is where it all begins. Her version of the traditional song, set to music by Boden, uses as a chorus words attributed to the preacher John Ball, ’When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’ This lends the song a political edge not in the original text and is the perfect illustration of the way Hield makes a song all her own.

The album has its lighter moments. The cautionary tale of the Hornet and the Beetle is set to an original Morris tune whilst the nursery rhyme Katie Catch, a homely song that celebrates the quotidian, has an earworm of a chorus.

One of the constants of Fay Hield’s solo recordings has been the fiddle playing of Sam Sweeney. Although a mighty presence on all tracks here, he comes to the fore on the epic Jack Orion. Sweeney’s propulsive violin carries this classic tale of beguilement and deception and turns it into one of the highlights of the album.

Hield is not averse to including modern material as well as folk song. Her version of Tom Waits’ The Briar and the Rose has been in her live set for sometime now. The piece, which riffs on traditional themes, fits Hield’s voice to a tee and is exquisitely sung. It’s a fitting song with which to end the album (save for a beautifully played instrumental reprise of Old Adam).

Whether she is singing about Queen Eleanor’s Confession or a Hag in a Beck, Fay Hield’s love for these songs shines through. This finely crafted collection is sure to win her many new fans and is the first great record of 2016.

The Morning Star

Old Adam

SOMEHOW it’s been four years since Fay Hield’s last album but she hasn’t been idling. On the heels of the ambitious Full English project, which Hield oversaw, comes Old Adam (Soundpost Records). It’s her third record and easily her finest. The rich promise of its predecessors Looking Glass and Orfeo comes to full flower here in a set which highlights the range and depth of Hield’s talent, plus the encyclopaedic knowledge of folk you might expect from someone who by daytime is Dr Hield of Sheffield University’s music department. Traditional songs from the depths of the archives, delivered with full-blooded verve, rub shoulders with Rudyard Kipling and even Tom Waits. A stark cover of his The Briar and the Rose is a real show-stopper, as is Hield’s own leaping, bouncing tune to the traditional lyrics of Katie Catch. Hield may be the most versatile singer at work today, her richly expressive Yorkshire tones equally capable of adding a twinkle to a comic tale or wringing every drop of drama from a murder ballad. She’s well matched by fresh, lively work from her backing band the Hurricane Party, whose preposterously multitalented ranks are bolstered here by Martin Simpson and Hield’s partner Jon “Bellowhead” Boden. January’s a bit early to pick the best album of 2016, but if anyone wants to top Old Adam this year it will take something extraordinary.

Mojo

Old Adam

★ ★ ★ ★
"One of folk music's most pre-eminent modern voices"

Fay Hield is one of folk music's most pre-eminent modern voices and this confident, traditional album underlies her current lofty status.It helps, of course, to have the outstanding Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Roger Wilson, Ben Nicholls, Toby Kearney, Jon Boden and Martin Simpson backing her, but her gift for unearthing colourful material and then delivering it with both swagger and soul is compelling.

NE:MM

Old Adam

"I could just imagine myself in a pub having a right old knees up."

Let’s be honest here, I am becoming a fan of the alt-folk genre so I thought I would give Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party’s ‘Old Adam’ new release a try, and on the first few listens I began to wonder what I’d let myself in for, as this is REAL folk music to my ears.

As a ‘newbie’ to this genre and listening to the opening track ‘Green Gravel’ I could just imagine myself in a pub having a right old knees up. It is such an energetic opener and Fay’s vocals are very distinctively folk in the direct no-nonsense manner in which she delivers her lyrics.

Perhaps it’s due to my limited experience of the folk genre that my reference points are often in the pop genre with which I’m more familiar, but the opening of ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ nods in the direction of The Corrs, though the song develops along more traditional lines (please hard-core folk fans don’t hate me).

The album is generally lively and up-tempo but there are also a few quieter moments and it’s one of those, ‘Willow Glen’ that is the outstanding song on the album for me. I am unsure if this is because my ears find the slower pace and moodier atmosphere more familiar, or perhaps because the lyrics are sung in such a heart-felt way. Either way, Fay performs it so beautifully that I could loop this track endlessly.

‘Go From My Window’ is another stand out and mixes a contemporary feel with an original folk sound, not unlike our own The Unthanks do so well. I guess the distinctive vocal a-capella style opening is what identifies it as a folk song, matching the expected stereotype. The song certainly develops a rockier edge that recalls Clannad’s ‘Closer To Your Heart’ at least in feel. ‘ Anchor Song’ opens with a guitar strum that reminds me of a 1990s track performed by a duo called Johnson. I would be surprised if anyone has actually heard of them but there I go again with my obscure pop references! Anchor Song would have made for a nice ending to this album, as besides the guitar strum it encompasses in one song all of the ingredients that make Old Adam a great folk introduction to a new listener like myself. It builds beautifully before climaxing suddenly. It feels like a musical ‘full stop’.

It is wasn’t to be the closer then the way to follow it would be with something completely different and that is what ‘The Briar and the Rose’ represents; a vocally harmonious and delicately woozy lullaby. I can imagine The Briar And The Rose being a good closer to a live set, leaving an audience calmed from earlier exertions, departing a concert hall with a contented heart and a warm glow.

Dancing About Architecture

Old Adam

"Taking traditional music into the future"

It’s a great time to come to folk music. After years of being regarded as music for a pipe smoking, Fair Isle sweater sporting type, probably named Brian and then the ghastly indie-folk experiments of the likes of Mumford and the Whale in the back rooms of hipster toast restaurants in Dalston, it is back where it should be. Folk music is acceptable, cool even, rising in popularity and doing well just by ignoring all the fashion fusions and hype and embracing its own traditions. And Fay Hield is more than a small part of that resurgence.

Stalwart of the folk set via The Full English album and touring super group, Old Adam is her third solo album and contains a wealth of wonderfully traditional songs delivered in the most naturalistic and organic fashion with only the modern production values providing any chronological reference point.

Taking a raft of traditional tunes with more recent reference points such as Maddy Prior, Jon Boden (who appears on the album) or Vaughn Williams, Fay explores the genres rich heritage from the well known such as Raggle Taggle Gypsy to the less obvious but no less striking.

And what a band she brings to the album. Featuring some of the same faces as The Full English (Sam Sweeney, Martin Simpson, Rob Harbron, Ben Nicholls) The Hurricane Party are an A-list of folk musicians, a band who explore the music without dominating, who add depth without losing the traditional feel, who understand restraint as well as flourish.

Folk fans will find much to fall in love with here, especially those who favour the traditional sounds given a slight make over (a la Kate Rusby) but it also has broader appeal and that is the art of taking traditional music into the future.

Folking.com

Old Adam

"an excellent album by any standards"

Fay Hield’s third solo album is all traditional except when it isn’t. That is, except when the tune is by Hield herself and/or Jon Boden or the song is written by Rudyard Kipling and Peter Bellamy or Tom Waits. Although not given full billing on the front cover, The Hurricane Party – Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Roger Wilson, Ben Nicholls and Toby Kearney – are back alongside the aforementioned Mr Boden and Martin Simpson. Fay is scrupulous about crediting her sources and I do worry when those sources are singers I grew up listening to.

The opening track, ‘Green Gravel’, is described as a playground song although there is a misery about it that isn’t very childish but that mood is quickly dispelled by the jolly ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and ‘Katie Catch’. The title track is a non-Biblical account of the life of the first man, told as though the expulsion from Eden didn’t happen – it is said of Eve that “her neighbours she ne’er scandalised” and she is described as “the jewel of woman found”. Yeah, right.

The best version of ‘Queen Eleanor’s Confession’ I ever heard was by Rosemary Hardman and the version by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, which Fay uses here, ignored the melodrama and inherent comedy of the song. Rosemary recorded the song nearly fifty years ago and perhaps sensibilities have changed but I always found Tim and Maddy a bit po-faced about the story as is Fay. ‘The Hornet And The Beetle’ makes a serious point and ‘Jack Orion’ is a famous tale of what? – not quite cuckolding although we can suppose that the countess is married so it’s probably adultery. Whatever, it’s a ribald tale but with murder in the final verse. Tom Waits’ ‘The Briar And The Rose’ seems an odd choice at first glance coming, as it does, from one his more difficult albums, The Black Rider, but strip away the preconceptions and you can see the traditional themes woven into the story.

Needless to say the arrangements are beautifully judged often casting a new light on a song and ‘Go From My Window’ is a perfect example. It can be a real dirge but the banjo and up-front percussion give it pace and the key changes in ‘Anchor Song’ seem to enable Fay to get through it in record time. Leaving aside personal preferences this is an excellent album by any standards.

Songlines

Orfeo

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Powerful material, Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party rise to its challenges and serve it well."

Sunday Times

The Full English

"A formidable group of performers… peer into a world of Edwardian innocence"

fRoots

Looking Glass

It’s 10 years since Topic Records signed a new artist, inevitably attracting a fanfare of curiosity for this solo debut, particularly given her name isn’t Carthy or Waterson. Not that Yorkshire’s Fay Hield has been plucked from complete obscurity, having served her apprenticeship in a duo with Damien Barber and nearly five years with the unaccompanied Witches of Elswick, which produced two albums. She’s been consumed since then by motherhood while working on a PhD, but the break might not have done her any harm, allowing her unusually raw and hard-edged approach – she’s what Topic boss Tony Engle calls “a real singer” – to evolve and develop a style that’s distinctively her own. Her charged vocal indiscipline may occasionally invoke the name of Anne Briggs but otherwise she’s strikingly individual and Topic may be right in its assertion that it has discovered a rarefied talent.

Her vocals certainly aren’t what anyone would call pretty – which may be a stumbling block to wider popularity in an age of honey throated whimpering – but admirably fits the brooding darkness of most of her chosen material. The ubiquitous Sam Sweeney adds bountiful fiddle and viola, there’s sparing percussion from Keith Angel on Two Brothers, Jess Arrowsmith adds backing vocals ona couple of tracks and Hield’s partner Jon Boden fills in the other gaps on fiddle , concertina and guitar to add light and shade. Yet the adornment is still sparse and this remains an uncompromising album of old-fashioned folk values that sounds like it could have been made at any time over the past 40 years. She’s also gone the extra mile unearthing material, which is mostly traditional, yet remains broadly unfamiliar. Even well-known ballads like two Brothers and Banks of the Nile vary from the norm, while she’s hunted through little-known collections to unearth some serious material, which includes the despairing Little Yellow Roses, sung with barely controlled emotion over the forbidding strains of Sweeney’s nyckelharpa, an instrument Sweeney also uses to profound effect on Sheepcrook and Black Dog, another track exuding formidable doom. Light listening it aint, though there’s a fun element too – albeit slightly twisted – to tracks like the nursery rhyme Mad Family as well as The Huntsman and King Henry, which closes the album in a king of manic joy, Hannah James clog dancing and all. It’s an album of real depth and substance, Hield showing her full worth on a superb delivery of the title track – one of Bellamy’s lesser known Kipling efforts – and The Shepherd’s Daughter, a magnificent advertisement for the unfashionable art of unaccompanied singing. In the end its all about telling stories… and Fay Hield does it with considerable character.

fRoots

Orfeo

"Her previous album Looking Glass was good, but Orfeo knocks it into a cocked hat."

The Independent

Old Adam

★ ★ ★ ★
"Open and Honest"

Save for a Tom Waits song in the traditional mode, Old Adam comprises old folk material in spruced-up new arrangements, offering a kaleidoscopic view of storytelling through the centuries. Fay Hield’s singing throughout is open and honest, delivering the stories unencumbered by needless ornament or moralising. The most familiar are probably “Raggle Taggle Gypsy” and “Jack Orion”, twin tales of sexual deception where carefree carelessness is conveyed by sprightly banjo-picking and dervish fiddling, respectively. But the oldest and most intriguing is “The Hag In The Beck”, an enchantment tale of spooky circularity set to the eerie squeak and drone of fiddles. By contrast, the drolly philosophical title-track describes Adam’s life as free from worry or fear, but wonders where, without danger and temptation, lies his nobility?

fRoots

Old Adam

★ ★ ★ ★
"Hield’s third solo album and by a distance her best."

You can dress things up all you like with fancy pants arrangements, mad rhythms, the best musicians in the land, state of the art production and twirly vocals, but when it comes to traditional song, it’s ultimately all about stories. Funnily enough, Andy Bell’s production is pretty state of the art and Hield’s Hurricane Party does feature some of the best musicians in the land (Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Roger Wilson, Ben Nicholls, Toby Kearney, not to mention Jon Boden and Martin Simpson pitching in too) who are not averse to the odd fancy pants arrangement. And she even throws in the odd twirly vocal.

But above all, Fay Hield recognises the importance of narrative and allows nothing to get in the way of it here. She also has the happy knack of finding songs dripping in juicy storylines. Often they are little-known but even when she tackles something familiar (Raggle Taggle Gypsy) she invests it with fresh urgency (and at certain flashpoints sounding remarkably like Maddy Prior). Driven by Sweeney’s Swarb-eque fiddle, she even makes her own striking mark on Jack Orion, the jaunty tale of bravado and daring-do indelibly associated (and probably mostly written by) Bert Lloyd.

Freshness is the key – the old folk club chorus classic Long Time Ago whips along with fearless abandon, Katie Catch is merrily uplifting and Willow Glen is delivered with a genteel simplicity that is craftily seductive. She knows exactly how to milk the drama, too, from the court shenanigans simmering under the surface of Queen Eleanor’s Confession and indeed the slightly curious title track which ruminates on a more innocent age at the beginning of time (“Old Adam was the first man formed that everybody knows/He never paid his tailors bill because he wore no clothes”).

She bravely enters into Tabor territory with a commendable Go From My Window and re-visits Kipling-Bellamy on the intriguing bass-led Anchor Song, although these are dwarfed by a moving version of Tom Waits’ The Briar & The Rose. It’s not a million miles from Niamh Parsons’ memorable version from another era, but its sensitivity is compelling… and it’s a natural encore when they play live.

Hield’s third solo album and by a distance her best.

The Rocker

Old Adam

"a cracker of a folk album"

So buy this instead. Because it is a cracker of a folk album. The third solo album from Ms Hield, following on from The Full English project, this is chock full of sparkling performances allied to some great songs.

You can well understand why she has so many award nominations under her belt, as she tackles material from the seventeenth century right through to the modern day. Which takes us from the outstanding ‘The Hag in the Beck’ to the dull as ditchwater Tom Waits tune ‘The Briar and the Rose’. But that’s just about the only stumble on an excellent record.

The highlights for me were ‘Green Gravel’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, but you’d be hard pushed to pick favourites here. The arrangements and performances from her band, The Hurricane Party, are exemplary, which is no surprise with the likes of Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney in fine form, alongside guest of the calibre of Martin Simpson.

It’s due out early in 2016, but don’t be surprised if you’re still playing it at year’s end.

Festival Photo

Old Adam

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Definitely check this out"

The songs range from the modern - "Briar and the rose" is a Tom Waits song, to the ancient - "The hag in the beck" dates back to the 1600s

It's a great album - a traditional English folk sound and Fay's distinctive vocals sound great - nice and clear so you can focus on the lyrics. The songs range from the soft and slow to more lively and upbeat, and the album has been well arranged so the pace is constantly changing which helps make each track stand out from the one that precedes it."

It's a really good album and fans of English folk music should definitely check this out.

Folk Words

Old Adam

"profoundly natural and organic...an outstanding folk album"

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

There’s something profoundly natural and organic about ‘Old Adam’ from Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party, due for release in January 2016. This album lives, pulses and breathes with a being of its own, a presence brought out through its ‘living’ collection of traditional songs rewoven in refreshing, original configurations. The mix runs through the compelling ‘Green Gravel’, through the combination of lyrics blended into ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and the scintillating ‘Katie Catch’ to a supremely heartfelt version of ‘Old Adam’.

Throughout the album, Fay’s utterly distinctive and meaningful vocals give the songs a level of authenticity not always present when old songs receive original treatments. The musical variations course through complex to modest. Listen to the medieval-edged narrative of ‘Queen Eleanor's Confession’, involving tales like ‘The Hornet And The Beetle’ and ‘Jack Orion’ and a vibrant take on ‘Long Time Ago’.

This is an outstanding folk album, it’s everything the English tradition needs and it’s quite simply something to play and play again. ‘Old Adam’ is released on 12 February 2016 on Soundpost Records.

Playing alongside Fay Hield on ‘Old Adam’ are Sam Sweeney (fiddle) Rob Harbron (concertina) Roger Wilson (guitar, fiddle) Toby Kearney (percussion) and Ben Nichols (bass) with special guests Jon Boden (guitar fiddle) and Martin Simpson Guitar).


Flying Shoes

Old Adam

Pure-voiced, Fay Hield is an outstanding exponent when it comes to delivering beautiful folk ballads. Supported by her band, The Hurricane Party Hield has in Sam Sweeney (fiddle, viola, cello, nyckelharpa, vocals), Rob Harbron English concertina, fiddle, vocals) and Roger Wilson (fiddle, guitar, mandolin, vocals) plus Ben Nicholls and Toby Kearney and special guests Jon Boden, (guitar, fiddle) and Martin Simpson (guitar) as good as one could wish for group of musicians accompany her.

Folk traditionalists can’t help but love Hield and the album (her third), so pure her vocals and likewise diction. While other than Rudyard Kipling’s “Anchor Song” and Tom Waits’ “The Briar And The Rose” of the 14-tracks are traditional Hield and Boden have placed their own mark on the melodies. One of which, title-track “Old Adam” has the honour of appearing twice, as Hield draws on two variations. The second of which is both abbreviated and instrumental.

Among the finest efforts you have such varied offerings as “Katie Catch”, lilting ode “The Hornet And The Beetle” slow measured ballads “Old Adam”, “Queen Eleanor’s Confession” and the direct, upright bass, percussion, concertina aided “Green Gravel”.

“The Hag In The Beck” is an old (1600s) Yorkshire dialect poem put to music and as with “Anchor Song” it too fits the bill. But for me the finest of them all vies between popular piece “Raggle Taggle Gypsy” and Waits’ “The Briar And The Rose” with the likes of “Long Time Ago” not far behind it. Such are the inspired and effective instrumental arrangements you can easily be drawn to them before the lyrics and if possible be distracted, momentarily from Hield's erstwhile vocal efforts.

R2

Old Adam

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"confidently throws its hat into the awards ring"

Though its four years since her remarkable Orfeo album, Fay Hield’s been keeping a high profile with the Full English project. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that Old Adam falls well within the ‘eagerly awaited’ category. As one would hope and expect, it fully lives up to expectations.

The album consists of a baker’s dozen (plus a reprise) of narrative tracks, with Hield’s strong and expressive vocals front and centre. They are stories of love, lust, justice and injustice; the timeless themes that get to the heart of what it is to be human – and a social human, at that – in all its seriousness and folly. In covering this spectrum, there’s a nice balance between the familiar and songs that are less so. So there’s ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and ‘The Briar and the Rose’ alongside ‘Green Gravel’ and Willow Glen’.

Backed up by Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Roger Wilson, Ben Nicholls and Toby Kearney, the arrangements and playing are, of course, spot on, from cinematically epic title track to the courtly ‘Queen Eleanor’s Confession’ and the atmospheric drama of ‘Go From my Window’, not to mention some real playfulness elsewhere.

Though the year’s still young, this confidently throws its hat into the awards ring.

Telegraph

The Full English

★ ★ ★ ★
"The great folk collectors honoured in The Full English would be singing rather than spinning in their graves at this fine album."

The Guardian

The Full English

★ ★ ★ ★

A hundred years ago, if you’d wanted to hear a genuine English folk song you’d have had to find a farmer or labourer or village elder who happened to know one. Now all you need is a Wi-Fi connection – thanks to the Full English, a £50,000 lottery-funded project to create a digital archive of source materials freely available online.

Singer and folk scholar Fay Hield was commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society to create new arrangements from the archive; and what began as a promise to perform a few numbers at the launch party turned into an album and tour by a collective of folk-world A-listers including Martin Simpson on guitar, Seth Lakeman on fiddle and Bellowhead’s Sam Sweeney on seemingly everything including the splendidly arcane nickelharpa, a Scandinavian cross between a typewriter and a violin.

Some of the song collectors were every bit as colourful as the music they preserved. Martin Simpson mused on the sheer improbability that the eccentric Australian composer Percy Grainger should have displayed his athleticism while staying in a north Lincolnshire stately home by hurling a cricket ball from the front lawn, running through the building and catching it at the back. “You don’t get that with Bartók” he observed. In the interest of variety, not all the songs were drawn from the archive. Fay Hield’s plangent version of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s arrangement of Linden Lea was a fine example of a classical composer who borrowed freely from the folk tradition receiving payment in his own coin. And it was surprising to discover that the archaic refrain Fol the day-o love is sweet-o/Seeds are blooming underneath our feet-o has been freshly written for the project by the fiddler Nancy Kerr, for whom the seven-piece ensemble laid down a compelling beat-o.

Seth Lakeman showed a special affinity for the dark, broadside ballads collected by Frank Kidson. Stand by your Guns was a rousing, self-motivational piece originally sung on the decks of an 18th-century man-o-war; Portrait of my Wife (the wife being dead of course) had the lowering, sombre beauty of an angry sky. Bassist Ben Nicholls switched to concertina for a saucy shanty comparing the hospitality of Spanish girls to their less forthcoming English counterparts. Even with the full English on offer, there’s always someone who prefers a Continental.

BBC Radio 2

Hurricane Party

This is quite spectacularly beautiful I thought when I heard this again and I’m not sure I listened carefully enough when they were actually doing it [live at Cambridge] and I felt quite ashamed of myself really but you can’t hear everything in detail and so it’s wonderful to revisit this: *Play’s ‘The Lover’s Ghost’* Well, I really love that because it is so beautiful and yet there’s a bit of edge and menace and mystery to it.