‘Warning Bells’ from Hannah Sanders(March 29, 2013)
This is simply lovely, no debate, no argument. ‘Warning Bells’ from Hannah Sanders is a carefully crafted compilation of songs that includes three traditional ballads, a Richard Thompson cover and one self-penned original. Admittedly, describing these songs as ‘lovely’ may be considered strange as they range across dark folk ballad themes - murder, incest, betrayal, ghostly visitation and damnation - the delight is derived from listening to Hannah’s voice.
Known to many through singing with her family group, The Dunns and in a duo with Liz Simmons, and now returned to the UK from her sojourn in America, Hannah calls ‘Warning Bells’ her ‘American legacy’ with songs that: “explore life’s big risks ... accompanied by ‘warning bells’, that niggling feeling that even when life is good it could quickly turn bad.” And that’s a pretty accurate appraisal of what this EP offers. One ‘traditional’, to which Hannah adds her own characteristic delivery, is the Canadian/ English ballad, ‘Canadeeio’ - girl goes to sea disguised as a sailor, is threatened with deliberate drowning but is finally saved by the captain; all staple folk fare.
The other ‘traditionals’ are ‘Lucy Wan’, a classic incest and murder ballad known in numerous forms and by many other names, and ‘The Cruel Mother’ who kills her illegitimate children only to be damned by their returning spirits. Again, many variants exist, possibly ‘Fine Flowers of the Valley’ the most well known - throughout Hannah gives both songs dimension and feeling. As you would expect, Hannah adds a pure lilting quality to her take on ‘Strange Affair’, Thompson’s sorrowful observation of loss and solitude in old age.
Perhaps the most disturbing song is ‘Beware of the Kids’. Possibly this is more distressing because unlike traditional songs it’s unsettling tale of violence is based on contemporary and disgustingly true events - the Edlington Attack of 2009, when two brothers robbed, tortured and tried to murder two young boys. Once more, Hannah’s delivery ensures it strikes home.
This is an EP that’s worth every penny of the asking price, so buy it here: hannahsandersfolk.com
Reviewer: Tim Carroll