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37 f A

nother of the most striking tracks is Yarrow Mill, a lovely, gentle song written as a memorial to Phil’s recently deceased grandfather, Alban Henry. “He was extremely quiet. He didn’t say much but he smiled a lot and that was the imprint he left. He lived a really hard, industrial life working in a cotton mill in Lancashire and it’s just a celebration of him and my grandmother. Simple people. Until he got ill they’d never spent a night apart in 50 years.”

Their distinctively individual approach sets them well apart from all the other acts and, with not a folk degree course badge between them, they regard themselves as something of outsiders, even though Hannah grew up with traditional music. “I grew up going to folk sessions and helped run one every week in Brixham so I knew a lot about folk songs and was surrounded by them. My parents played a lot of the American folk stuff – Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, so I did come from a folkie world.”

Yet she sings with a flowing freedom that appears to owe little to the folk tradition. “I love Eliza Carthy’s singing. And Joni Mitchell, though they are poles apart. I like it when someone’s singing com- municates something. When they do it with conviction and it sounds truthful rather than just someone with a beautiful voice. I like Bob Dylan’s singing and he’s not someone many would cite as having a great singing voice.”

And your primary influences as a fiddle player? “Nancy Kerr and

Eliza Carthy. Someone gave me a CD of them when I was quite young. English fiddle style is a debatable term but I like that direct way of playing and since playing with Phil I’ve learned a few Ameri- can-style techniques, chordal stuff. Peter Knight has always been one of my absolute heroes. Not that I can play like him but I love his approach to improvisation and his lack of fear in trying new things – that’s something I’d always wanted to emulate. Maybe that comes through in our approach to writing.”

Virtuoso Lancastrian Phillip Henry, however, and no mean beatboxer too, was brought up on Tamla Motown and knew little of folk song. “I was originally a guitarist and got to play bottleneck slide guitar on acoustic guitar through listening to Robert Johnson and Son House and people like that. But I reached a limit to what I could do with bottleneck – it’s a little bit clumsy in terms of playing melodic passages. At Sidmouth I met a guy who offered me a dobro for half price.

“I’d modified an acoustic guitar and laid it flat and raised the action up and played around with lap slide techniques. I’d started lis- tening to Indian classical music too. It was working well on the acoustic guitar but this guy offered me a dobro and I took him up on it and fell in love with the sound of the dobro straight away. It had a real soulful quality to it with its own inbuilt reverb and resonator. So playing the top string melodies it really comes alive and I find acous- tic guitar now sounds pretty dry in comparison.

“I’ve listened a lot to Jerry Douglas too. That live concert with Alison Krauss & Union Station where he does the long dobro intro and I thought ‘Yeah, I’m going to try a bit of that.’ We’ve been doing that song The Boy That Wouldn’t Hoe Corn ever since.”

His fascination with Indian music spilled into several months in India studying under the tutelage of Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya.

“I wanted to improve my musicality. The way they teach music there is very holistic. You have to be a really rounded musician and think and sing everything you play. It connects everything from with- in you. Coming from a school education in Chorley there were a lot of gaps musically I had to fill in. They have a complete system of music teaching there which I found very valuable.

“I came back and did a lot of solo performing as an instrumen- talist, but I do like playing with songwriters and I needed to find a way of using that technical ability, but not just for the technical gui- tar crowd, I wanted to bring it into the more mainstream world of songwriting. I do like instrumental music but it’s not a world I want to inhabit all the time.”

He’s planning to make an instrumental album… but Hannah

says he’s been talking about that for years. So what next for our deadly duo? “A day off would be nice!”


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