Ninebarrow (from the album A Pocket Full of Acorns available on Winding Track Records) (by Chris Wheatley)
It is easy to forget that musicians are members of the workforce, striving to pay the bills like the rest of us. For every Pop superstar there are thousands of equally talented (arguably more talented) artists making beautiful music for a more modest, yet highly appreciative audience. Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, who record as Ninebarrow, are two such creatives. Since taking the brave step of relinquishing their full-time jobs nigh on a decade ago, the duo, who hail from Dorset, England, have garnered widespread critical acclaim and produced some fine contemporary Folk music 'rooted in the landscape and history of the British Isles'. Their latest offering, A Pocket Full of Acorns, features a mix of originals and standards, with the duo joined by cellist Lee Mackenzie, John Parker on double bass, and percussionist Evan Carson.
“Come January” starts things off with deep, expressive piano over soft pulses of double bass notes. Ninebarrow's harmonized vocals are a delight, warm and affecting. The delicate, nuanced differences in their delivery weave together to create an alluring spell. Lyrically and sonically, Ninebarrow conjure up an emotional soundscape of pastoral beauty glimmering brightly under grey skies. With finger-picked strings, a gently-rolling tempo and more of that wondrous harmonizing, follower “Nestledown” further underlines the quality on display here. With barely perceptible touches, the band summon forth a dreamy, hazy cloud of music which evolves as organically, and with as much mesmerizing loveliness, as a time-lapse video of flowers bursting forth from the dirt.
‘Our music will always be inspired by the incredible landscape and history of our native Dorset’, state Ninebarrow, and this is never more apparent than on the breathtaking “Zunshine in the Winter”, one of two tracks inspired by the Victorian Dorset-dialect poet William Barnes. For those not acquainted with the locale, Dorset is an historic county on England's south coast, famed for its fossil-rich cliffs and natural beauty, sometimes rugged, often picturesque. It's a place where ancient lore seems to seep from the earth into the sky and “Zunshine in the Winter”, with its rolling organ, shimmering piano, and softly undulating vocals captures this perfectly. Companion piece, “Cry Unity”, in contrast, rattles and rolls with a real punch. Thumping drums and some strident playing, draw favourable comparisons to the Folk Rock of Robert Plant. It's a joy of a track, which showcases the versatility of these magnificent players.
The traditional “Hey John Barleycorn”, centred on the duo's vocals and underpinned by breathing organ, with slowly mounting percussion, is simply stunning. Two nautically-themed tracks take us out. “Farewell Shanty” is an acapella standout, which ably demonstrates the power and poise of the duo's vocals. The reference may be dated, but thoughts drift back to the classic doo-wop era and the majestic wonder of The Everly Brothers. Closer “Sailors All”, with softly-singing, echoing piano and a final immersion into those incredible vocal harmonies, is a lovely way to end this magnificent set.
It's small wonder that Ninebarrow have gained so much attention. This is heartfelt, deeply moving music, crafted by earnest musicians and preserving the best Folk traditions for modern times.
Listen and buy the music of Ninebarrow from AMAZON
More information is available on the Ninebarrow website