Not an April Fool spoof; it really is time for another piece of magic from Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage.
Release Date: 1st April 2022
Lable: Topic Records
Format: digital / CD
There can’t be many finer sights than Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage huddled in intimate proximity around a microphone delicately playing through Ribbons And Bows, smiling knowingly at one another in the knowledge they’re creating something magical.
Seduced by their debut, Before The Sun, totally smitten by Awake (I called it “redefining the sublime” on another music blog at the time), the expectations are solidly in place for Ink Of The Rosy Morning. Ben and Hannah might find themselves safe in th knowledge that they’re preaching to the converted; not just another bandwagon jumper on the backs of the mainline music press and the broadsheets. Once more, they come calling with a refined delicacy and of two souls totally in tune.
And so, faced with a sampling of folk songs from Britain and North America, the duo stand like two colossi across the great oceanic divide to provide what comes naturally to them. A gestation over the past couple of difficult years that saw the duo taking the simple path of “Nothing pre-arranged. No grand scheme. No pre-production. No demos,” and with no thought of releasing anything, these ten songs have a natural and fragile beauty about them.
It might sound like we’re doing Ben & Hannah a disservice by referring to that simplicity but there can’t be a greater advert for the maxim that less is more in showcasing their music. In their own words, the “power in simplicity.” And like those every songs, in typically humble and understated fashion, we hear the duo declare how “Having known the songs for so long, you just play them.”
The album teaser (and it’s hard still not to call a single – in the old sense), A Winter’s Night, is a traditional ballad and heralds what is an undeniably intimate record. A breathy count in and we’re up close, personal and in the room with Hannah and Ben and a hypnotic tumble of the guitar as the two voices inhabit the song. It’s then left for Hannah to feature on Polly O Polly accompanied by some smart acoustic bluesy runs. A song – like Lovely Joan – passed on and sung in the good old oral tradition and ending on a faded (and slightly triumphant) “yee-hah!“
When First I Came To Caledonia gives a chance for the Savage world weary tones to take centre stage. Not only does the song offer up the album title, but it’s given a stately reading as a yearning love song with mentions in dispatches for the qualities of making good tea. An album highlight already? Could be, judging by the overuse of the repeat function. Three songs in and we’re buzzing and while talking of sweet spots, while Sweet Nightingale might be seen as “either very saccharine or done as bawdy pub singalongs,” the claim that “we took a different angle altogether,” is fully played out in a gorgeous lilt of meticulous picking.
The latter is typical of the manner in which the duo inhabit the songs, making them fresh and making them their own. Listen to how Hannah suddenly breaks free of the harmony before falling back into line. Proper gorge. You can also play spot the join as the trad and noto-so-trad bleed into one another. Their own A Life A Lie blends in seamlessly, sonically and in the construction and exquisite delivery, while Hannah’s own highlight is arguably the ballad Earl Richard; the beauty of her performance gliding over the dark tale that’s by some mournful guitar phrases. The sobriety comes full circle with River Don’t Run, another most subtle tour de force with its backstory rooted in a slum area of hidden London. Another Savage measured delivery before the voices join n the chorus.
The promo photos could have us declaring them “out, standing in their field.” Peerless and faultless; Ink Of The Rosy Morning is a pure joy to listen to. In the triptych of albums, it’s arguably their most rounded and compete set. Confirmation of what we really knew all along. Another imperious record of class and beauty from Hannah and Ben.
Here’s False True Love:
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