The best kind of folk music plays an odd trick. It faces backwards and forwards at the same time. EDGELARKS play the best kind of folk music.

The last time Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin played at the folk club they were two supremely talented musicians with four Christian names between them. Today they have racked up yet another BBC Folk Awards nomination, toured the world, collaborated with everyone and changed their name. And Edgelarks seems fitting. A voice of heartbreaking beauty standing at the margins. A yearning that looks to horizons, somewhere out there. She has the heartbreaking voice, they have their eyes on the widest, most distant horizon.

Because, you see, Edgelarks deal in the huge. For a mere duo they create a multi-layered, many faceted noise. Banjo, fiddle, Indian slide guitar, dobro, harmonica, stomps, drones and some sort of folkish beatboxing swirl about them. Worlds are created. Great vista sweep before them. They have their eyes fixed firmly in the distance but they are tethered to right here. The opening song of the night demonstrates this in the best possible way. Silbury Hill is an old song about an ancient piece of Albion but it oozes contemporary folk charm.

Hannah Martin's voice is exquisite. It is a rich, deep thing that tells a tale with glorious simplicity. You could listen to her sing forever and never tire of it. She is the perfect counterpoint to Phillip Henry's remarkable musical virtuosity. A seemingly unassuming Lancastrian, he becomes possessed by the spirit of wild invention once he picks up an instrument, any instrument; playing a slide guitar with a paintbrush one minute, imitating a train with his harmonica the next. He is the one that gives her travelling narratives their wings.

Early on they tell us what they think of our current European political situation and it's easy to see why they believe "Brexit is b*****ks". For anyone that wants to explore the world as they do, insularity is anathema. Whether using the American Jay as metaphor on Song of the Jay, an Australian tour as the marker for their place in the world, as on Signposts, or setting 300 year old Dutch letters free on Undelivered, they constantly roam. Americana and English folk song jostle and tussle, sometimes in the same song.

Before all of this wide-screen soundscapery, IONA LANE treats us to a short set of Joni-flecked indie folk. The five tracks were lovely, simple and acoustic but the highlight was yet another song that transported the Frenchay faithful to a different place. Her version of the traditional The Loch Tay Boat Song stopped time. Scots to its very bones and seriously beautiful. An utter treat.

So, songs that look backward and forwards. Songs that remind you of the widest horizons. Songs to sing on the edges of our world. Edgelarks play the best sort of folk music.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Chris Dobson

They may be going under a new name, but February’s guests at Downend Folk Club are familiar faces to the area’s music-lovers.

Perhaps fed up with MC’s struggling over their four first names, PHILLIP HENRY & HANNAH MARTIN have re-branded themselves as EDGELARKS to tour their new album of the same name. But there is absolutely no change to the sheer quality of their music, which saw 190 enthusiastic fans packed into Christ Church Downend when they last visited the club in April 2015.

The pair began their musical journey together living in a small caravan in the hills near Exmouth, Devon. Phil had just returned, Chaturangui in tow, from studying slide guitar in India with the master musician Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. Phillip and Hannah then met playing in alt-roots outfit The Roots Union, travelling from festival to festival, tent to tent, wandering the highways, byways, and old forgotten pathways of these islands. They followed in the footsteps of the ancient troubadour tradition, picking up tunes, songs and stories along the way. Spotted busking on the seafront at Sidmouth Folk Festival by champion of independent music Steve Knightley, they soon found themselves touring nationally, supporting the likes of Show of Hands and Seth Lakeman, and eventually winning the prestigious Best Duo award at the 2014 BBC Folk Awards.

Their new album, Edgelarks, blends British traditional music with Indian classical slide guitar, stomping beatbox and harmonica to blistering effect. The eponymous new album has the pair’s strong stem of original writing running throughout, and runs wilder with every play.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be the highly-rated IONA LANE, a singer, musician and songwriter from North West England.

Over the past four years, Iona has been building up a repertoire of original and interpretive covers to perform at live gigs. She has released three EPs over this time: Dry Stone Walls (December 2015); Solace (February 2017); and Pockets (September 2017).

Tickets for the event, which takes place at the club’s home regular home of Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 16th February 2018, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE and cost £13 in advance (£11 for members) or £15 on the door.

Given that this duo had almost 200 people at their first visit to the club and Frenchay Village Hall can only hold 120, booking early is strongly-recommended!

There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based brewery GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will also be a raffle. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket as part of our drive to be more ecologicaly aware.

For further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“We’ve been trying to get him to Downend Folk Club since we started in 2014”, the MC tells the jam-packed main room at Frenchay Village Hall… and the very moment BLAIR DUNLOP starts playing, it’s easy to see why the club have pursued him for almost four years.

Immediately, one is struck by the dexterity displayed in his guitar playing. He plays the same guitar all night, not needing to resort to a banjo or a ukulele for variety. His slender fingers fly effortlessly over the fretboard and stretch to reach chords that make them look twice as long as they are. This is a musician who has learned and honed his skill to a remarkably high standard. It remains a pleasure that we get to see such talent on our own South Gloucestershire doorstep.

And yet, his talent on the guitar may not be the thing that people go home talking about, because Blair Dunlop is a songwriter. I mean, a real songwriter. A storyteller capable engaging the audience to the point that they feel personally-invested.

Whether a tale of a spark of friendship formed in an Italian castle (Castello), dreams of owning a Porsche (356… “I’d hoped that someone from Porsche would be listening and take pity on me but it hasn’t happened”) or clever analogies about food and life (Spices), Blair skilfully weaves his tales. Clad in skinny jeans, a floral shirt, oversized glasses and hair piled in an untidy mess on top of his head, he cuts a slight figure, even on the small stage at Frenchay Village Hall. But his songs pack a punch the size of a mountain. 

It’s packed in the room, and warm. The gig sold out well over a week in advance, and even then one suspects that Downend Folk Club squeezed in every single person that they could. We’re told that there was also a waiting list and that plenty of people that wanted tickets didn’t get them. It doesn’t come as a surprise; Blair Dunlop is made for the big stage.

But there’s still room for a couple of surprises on this tiny stage. First of all, Blair is joined by the renowned Australian singer-songwriter JACK CARTY for an acoustic cover of the Radiohead classic Let Down, while support act KITTY MACFARLANE also snuck back on for a joint encore with Blair, a version of her song Wrecking Days

Speaking of Kitty, she opened the evening with a beautiful set of five songs which displayed her increasing maturity as a songwriter and her ever-breathtaking voice. Her closing song, Avona and the Giant, is perhaps her best yet. Surely it’s only a matter of time before she headlines an evening in her own right. 

But this evening rightly belongs to Blair Dunlop. Four years in the making… but this gig was absolutely worth the wait.