Place is often important in folk music; Dorset and Ninebarrow are a case in point. Named after a down in the Purbeck hills, the duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere draw inspiration from the county’s beauty and history. This fourth album intertwines originals that hymn Dorset’s hills, the work of Victorian poet William Barnes and a pair of sea shanties (la mode du jour in young circles). The pair sing as one voice, in super-tight harmony, backing themselves with guitars, wheezing reed organ and a slightly past-it piano, augmented by cello, bass and percussion.
Lyrical in outlook, strong on melody, it proves a mostly judicious mix. Come January, Nestledown and Under the Fence burst with the love of nature in all weathers (the pair are keen ramblers), and there’s a similar charm to Barnes’s Zunshine in the Winter with its John Clare-like couplets. Tradition is never far away – in Hey John Barleycorn and Cold, Haily, Windy Night and Padstow’s Shanty – but folded into a contemporary sound that only comes adrift on the clumsy, full-band Cry Unity. The album’s title isn’t mere whimsy – the pair are planting 1,000 native English trees, insluitend 500 oaks, to offset their carbon footprint from touring. Bravo.