Dick’s Picks: This week Dick has chosen this seldom-seen slice of vintage British folk from Rosemary Hardman, if you’re a fan of Anne Briggs, Vashti Bunyan, The Trees, Jackie Whitren, Brigitte St. John et al, read on….this may well be exactly what the folk doctor ordered….
Rosemary Hardman – who, what, why, where?
Born in Manchester in 1945 Hardman learnt guitar from an early age and by 1965 was a regular performer on the folk circuit in and around Manchester, after several years organising gigs she made her recording debut in 1968 with ‘Queen Of Hearts’ on the Folk Heritage label; a mixture of traditional songs served up with a few self-penned originals.
After teaming up with guitarist Bob Axford her direction shifted slightly, out went the slightly ‘hey-nonny-nonny’ folk originals and in came a more noticeably austere sound, at this time she signed to the super collectable Trailer label, an offshoot of Leader Records run by Bill Leader, these tiny imprints put out many seminal folk albums between 1969-1978, including Dick Gaughan, Nic Jones and Martin Simpson – Hardman was in good company.
So, what’s the album like?
Although featuring a stellar cast of Brit-folkies and multi-instrumentalists, including June Tabor and Barry Dransfield (yes the same Barry whose 1972 Polydor album goes for big bucks) the first track ‘Firebird’ begins the album in a quiet, reflective mood and is as much an example of ‘70s singer songwriter material as it is folk with a capital ‘F’, it’s a beautiful song too.
The rest of the album continues in this vein, a winning mixture of contemplative song with a trad-folk influence . Although featuring a number of guest musicians, much of their contributions are kept decidedly low key, with just Bob Axford’s and Chris Thompson’s subtle guitar work being the most prominent. Throughout the album the main focus is Hardman’s voice (and why not it’s incredible), which is at turns both subtle and powerful (sometimes in the same song), it’s only on the rousing ‘The Fiddler Man’ that the bass and drums are pulled out and the band play on in full swing, contrast this with the final track, ‘Rondeau’, a two minute beauty which features just Hardman’s solo voice with some understated piano courtesy of Bob Axford – a true beaut.
You can find the full details for this album here