David Kidman: FATEA
Devonbird is (essentially) a vehicle for the original songs of Devon-based songwriter Kathryn Bird, who is aided in her endeavours by fellow band members Sophia Colkin (violin) and Rob Wheaton (guitar, vocals). Together, with the help of expert producer Mark Tucker, they conjure a rich tapestry of sound that belies the seemingly restricted instrumental complement
The overall sound and approach owes much to early-'70s prog-folk and/or folk-rock, and the clear enthusiasm with which the musicians play is both commendable and infectious. Kath's voice is exactly right for the songs and their subject-matter (primarily local legends, history and folklore), her tone and inflection lending further credence to her careful enunciation. Other than on its distinctly Albion-esque title song, the album's title theme is best celebrated on Greenwood Tree (which is succeeded by a joyous stomping fiddle tune, Jenny Wren, written by Sophia), while the ethereal Dead Kings Land (a sure disc highlight in my book) was inspired by contemplation of Stonehenge and its satellite monuments and Star People tells of the cosmic "guardian angels" who have saved the fates of adventurers down the ages.
Mary tells the tale of Kath's grandmother, who we learn had worked for folksong collector Barine-Gould, and Rain Dance also explores a Dartmoor connection - in this case the local witches. The heartfelt yearning of Rose powerfully depicts the eternal folksong plight of the lady waiting eternally for her lover to return. The disc's closer, Rebecca Downing's Lament, sets words from a broadside by T. Brice that might've been penned by a woman condemned to death in Exeter in 1782, although it might be argued that the medley of two traditional jigs that precedes it might have made for a more overtly rousing finisher (in the style of Devonbird's stage act maybe).
The packaging of the disc is eye-catching and attractive, but IMHO it would have been even more useful to have included lyrics within. Sadly I can't comment on any progression from Devonbird's first album Hangman's Daughter (2013), having not heard it, but Turning Of The Year boasts a level of confidence and accomplishment that one might see in an outfit with several albums under its belt, and on the evidence of this album alone their producer Mark clearly has the exact measure of the band's music and a firm handle on Kathy's artistic vision.
Bradnich Folk Club
The vibrant and original trio Devonbird are making a return visit to Bradninch Folk Club on Tuesday 16 January. They will be playing some songs from their new cd White Stag which they recorded in December. Their performance will be a mix of original, epic songs which rise up on Katheryn’s amazing vocals to soar over the wonders and horrors of stories set in south west of England and interspersed with lively English traditional tunes to get you kicking up a dance. If you don’t know Devonbird they are: Kathryn Bird vocals and whistle, Sophia Colkin on violin and Andy Clarke stringed instruments and vocals
Bracknell Folk Club
“Kath’s songs had so absorbed the character of traditional folk music that it was difficult to spot the joins”
Phil The Quill Music Critic
“This band is one to watch in 2017 – with highly acclaimed album and new single and a lively stage presence, be sure to see more of them in the future they are certainly making waves in the UK folk scene and beyond’.