Hello and welcome to my Sunday Review. Thanks for joining me. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, stumble upon engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music. This is my chance to bring you carefully curated reviews of all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday.
If it’s folk, or independent, or about wildlife, nature or Orkney, I may love it, and so may you.
Feather – Edgelarks
Edgelarks are Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry. They were clearly a duo in need of a band name, given they share four first names. Feather is their latest collection of beautiful, sensitive songs, creatively presented and immaculately recorded. Inspired by The Seasons by Nick Groom, Findings by Kathleen Jamie (reviewed in Sunday Review 11) and Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, it’s eleven songs of plaintive voice and acoustic accompaniment.
If you heard Edgelarks live then bought the CD, as I did, you’d be thrilled at how well their live sound has been translated into a recording. If you bought the CD and then saw them, you’d be amazed at how exactly they’re able to reproduce their recording so faithfully. There are just two instruments and two voices, with the occasional bit of foot percussion tapped in, or a touch of harmonica on a neck-brace. They really are a two-person band.
Here’s a touch of harmonica on Wander:
If you were tempted to think that Edgelarks make folk music, then it might shock you to know their songs are full of hope, joy and celebration. I couldn’t find a single murder ballad in this collection. Feather is full of the sensations engendered by engaging with the natural world, whether it’s finding a feather in the middle of a stone circle in Feather, or hauling up finds from the tideline in What We Save From the Tide, or lighting fires and harvesting vegetables in Growing. All are skilfully translated into metaphors about the human condition.
If you’ve not heard Hannah and Phillip before I urge you to get Feather by Edgelarks. Yes, it does contain banjo music.
Pony Congo – Vicente Paredes
Apart from the title on the front page, and the publishing details on the back page, there are no words in Pony Congo. It doesn’t need any. Through a careful sequence of jarring juxtapositions, it perfectly highlights the two extremes of childhood experienced in different countries.
Pitting the Spain Ponies Championship against images from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the book is an uncomfortable view. It’s a direct challenge to our European culture, to see young people working, carrying goods, chopping firewood and living while hungry and in poverty. It’s not subtle.
It’s the photobook equivalent of a parent telling their child to eat up their dinner because there are starving children in Africa who would be grateful for it.
It’s a book which will make you think, “what are we doing to our children?” And then, I hope, “what are we doing to other people’s children?”
Pony Congo – Vicente Paredes
Edition of 750 copies.
Place: Bilbao (Spain)
Publisher: This Book is True
Size: 16 x 24 cm
I’ve spent several years working as a volunteer for a children’s charity and get to see report after report into poverty in childhood, malnutrition and lack of social mobility. Pony Congo is a brilliant, creative way of saying so much. You might find it too much. It still needs to be said.
Pony Congo is available in a softcover edition of 750 copies design by Natalia Troitiño. It makes for uncomfortable viewing. No words are needed.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more reviews of things you might adore next Sunday. In the meantime, I wish you a great week. Keep safe, everyone.