Folk singer Nick Hart stands in front of a grey garage door drinking a cup of tea from a china mug. He is promoting his album, 'Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs'

Nick Hart, Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs – a review

Rachel Wilkinson reviews 'Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs' and finds a musical jack-of-all-trades, master of so much.

Release Date
29 April 2022
Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs
Nick Hart ventures away from his more minimalist style, decorating some of the tracks on his new album with a myriad of instruments he got to know better during lockdown. The result is an album that Rachel Wilkinson could listen to on repeat all day, everyday.
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Nick Hart is a frequent visitor to the TradFolk parish – you’ll find plenty about the man and the music in this in-depth article, a review of his recent recording of ‘Dives and Lazarus’ (which also appears on this latest album), and an episode of The Old Songs Podcast in which he discusses the same song with Jon Wilks. All worth revisiting if you’d like a refresh on the answer to, ‘What’s the deal with Nick Hart?’.

My introduction to him was in something of an unconventional order. Firstly as the chap with the unusual instruments, as a theatrical musician, then to this album of Ten English Folk Songs, and then backwards through his earlier releases, Nine English Folk Songs and Eight English Folk Songs. He’s something of a jack-of-all-trades, but is most definitely not a master of none.

Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs is a wonderful example of what can be created when one is afforded the luxury of time (as long as one also happens to be Nick Hart, I suppose). Recorded in his newly kitted-out spare bedroom/studio when lockdowns prevented much else, the resulting album is a meander through 10 songs, some more unusual than others, all delivered in Hart’s inimitable style.

Like a good chef with no recipe, his arrangements offer as much, or as little, as is needed to bring each song to life, and they’re all the better for it. There’s no set instrumentation, just one man looking into a room full of instruments and deciding what sound world to create. Some are much closer to Nick Hart’s signature ‘as live’ style, while others feature strings (plucked and bowed), percussion, woodwind, and more. Let’s be honest, having the artistic ability to choose between so many different instruments, as well as the artistic licence to select on exactly which track you’d like to play the spoons must be liberating.

It’s always good to flip over a new album and discover that it doesn’t contain too many tracks you’ve recently heard elsewhere. I was especially pleased to find three carols being given an outing, proving once again that they’re really not just for Christmas. Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security about how much jollity you might be about to encounter though. Like all the best folk albums, there’s a good amount of misery and death – all the classics and more besides: a shipwreck, incest, murder, drownings, a gallows confession. Even after the beautiful pastoral imagery and romantic gestures of Lemany, I’m pretty certain the parents interfere and it’s another victory for unrequited love

For me, the album’s pièce de résistance is its final track. There is already a simple, contemplative beauty to Our Captain Calls, with its hymn-like melody and chordal accompaniment (indeed, the tune was borrowed by Vaughan Williams for his liturgical setting of Bunyan’s ‘To Be A Pilgrim’), but the real moment of genius is its pairing here with another well-known hymn tune, ‘Thaxted’. Most recognisable as ‘Jupiter’ from Holst’s Planets suite, its stirring melody echoes the final verse’s anticipation of those flowing fountains and everlasting joy. I could listen to it all day. Rewind. Repeat.

Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs is out on April 29th and can be ordered from the artist’s website shop.