Life on the Edge
EDGELARKS All Saints Wokingham
PHILLIP Henry and Hannah
Martin – now Edgelarks – came to All Saints for the third time to promote their fourth album, supported by John Elliott (of The Little Unsaid). Elliott co-produced the record with Henry and joined Edgelarks for four songs, providing distinctive piano and synth samples.
Edgelarks continue to astound with their musical dexterity: there was a Shruti box (think tuneful drone sounds), Chatturangui (think Indian sitar mixed with dulcimer), Hawaiian slide guitar played with a paintbrush (seriously) plus the usual interplay of banjo, fiddle, Dobro, viola and harmonica. I counted at least nine new songs, interspersed with staples such as ‘Silbury Hill’ and ‘The Nailmakers Strike (part II)’. This is an album about liminality – ‘thin places’ where borders and margins merge, places of hope and change where outcasts are welcome.
‘Estren’ (Cornish for stranger) saw Henry demonstrate dazzling slide guitar and ‘Yarls’ Wood’, the Bedfordshire detention centre for women refugees, saw Edgelarks almost morph into jazz, with spontaneous interplay that only comes from years of practice. Henry then announced a ‘gospel song’ - “This is the right place to play it” – and produced classic beatbox harmonica.
‘Undelivered’ charted the discovery of a 300 year-old Dutch trunk full of letters that were never collected, one written by a women made pregnant by a rich merchant begging for help: “you came with the sun/you left with the rain’. Martin’s ghost-like vocals, with words slurring into one another, float over richly textured, haunting melodies. On ‘Caravans’ she celebrates their Exmouth base: “Small, disused caravans/ filled with guitars/ who needs walls/ when all you want is to look at the stars?”
Edgelarks offer songs that will ‘write themselves across your heart like braille’ (to nick an Elliott lyric). Simply magical.