Ninebarrow – A Pocketful Of Acorns: Album Review

Ninebarrow craft another exquisite collection of music inspired by nature.

Release date: 5th March 2021

Label: Winding Track

Format: CD / DL

Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere do for Dorset what Seth Lakeman does for Dartmoor. All three should be awarded grants for outstanding musical contributions in the promotion of areas of natural beauty.

Their fourth album (and another that comes with the almost expected, intricately assembled, highly informative and beautifully photographed songbook) is another box of delights. Jon and Jay are joined by cellist Lee Mackenzie, John Parker on double bass, with Evan Carson adding percussion. The aim has been to create something sonically different from what’s gone before. Suffice to say though, that A Pocketful Of Acorns doesn’t fall too far from the Ninebarrow tree.

The duo has continued to enhance its reputation for creating fine and meticulously crafted music. Indeed the care they put into the full package is a testament to their commitment to the full Ninebarrow experience. There’s more to Ninebarrow than an album of music. Having said that, once the needle drops (or the digital equivalent) you can be sure that you’re never more than a few breaths away from a subtle or sublime juncture as they wend their way along a carefully planned path.

Every note seems considered and measured. The gentle picking and wash of percussion adds the depth and spacious feel to Nestledown and the manner in which they pay tribute to their Dorset roots using the William Barnes poem on Zunshine In The Winter. A touching and reflective theme given a subtle treatment. Whilst the balnce is weighted towards the wonder of nature, the duo tackles contemporary issues with a touch of melancholy and questioning. The juxtaposition of the traditional Cold Haily Windy Night with their observations on migration leads to Under The Fence. Powerful in its simplicity.

And talking (as we did) of Seth Lakeman, Cry Unity is very Lakeman-esque. Shorn of driving fiddle, the thud of percussion brings its own strength. In fact, the vocal versus instrumental balancing act makes me think Cry Unity is their own Black Dog/Hearts & Minds. The call to arms theme (again tweaked from William Barnes) might even bear some relation to the Lakeman Riflemen Of War. Or maybe not. Whatever, love this one!

Having namechecked the mighty Seth and the mighty Zep, surely someone somewhere must have drawn an analogy with Simon & Garfunkel (but without the squabbling)? We’ll park that one there for the time being…

So, raise a glass and give thanks to the fact that Jon and Jay haven’t taken the retraining option suggested by some of the powers that be. Going back to teaching and GP-ing would be a loss to the world of music. The duo is in the process of leaving a lasting legacy which is apt given their philosophy on A Pocketful Of Acorns.

And around the music, there’s the creation of the Ninebarrow Woodland where a socially distanced working party will plant 1000 native English trees and 200 shrubs near Gillingham. I guess that’s what you’d call putting something back. A notion that fits neatly with the album’s title track which is based round the story of Vice-Admiral Collingwood (Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar) who planted acorn seeds wherever he went rambling in fear of forest depletion.

There is also a streamed album launch show on Saturday 13th March with details to follow on the website.

Check out the album trailer here:

Ninebarrow online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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