Rising Folk is an ongoing showcase for some of the UK’s best emerging folk artists which takes place in the warm intimate space of St George’s Glass Studio. It gives audiences the ideal opportunity to learn more about some the singers who will be gracing larger stages in the next few years.
Tonight’s affair started with a Q&A session with Lizzy Hardingham and the curator of the series, the tireless advocate for folk music in Bristol, Ant Miles. Having learnt that Hardingham’s influences all lead back to the Sandy Denny led version of Fairport Convention,while mixing in Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, she then confounded expectations by starting her set with an unaccompanied sea shanty ‘Rolling Down to Old Maui’ and then picking up her guitar for her take on ‘When I Walked Out One May Morning’, which she calls ‘Fisher Child’.
Folk music is producing some great female singer songwriters now but few have the intense, soulful voice of Lizzy Hardingham. She also knows how to use light and shade in her voice better than many current singer, notably on one of her best songs ‘Harvester of Gold’. Having talked at length about ‘How Did We Get Here?’ her recent album which explores the relationship between music and mental health, she played several songs from it. The Joni influence was apparent on ‘5 Lonely Voices’, as well as on ‘The Road‘ which featured some excellent bass playing from her guest for the evening, Jonny Wickam, and which had a flavour of ‘Don Juan’ era Mitchell to it. She produced a Shrutibox to add drones to ‘I Could Have Loved You’.
Paring back the recorded version’s string arrangement on ‘They Will’ produced a still effective tune which again featured Wickam’s fine bass playing. He seems as at home with a bow as plucking the strings which went a long way to filling out the sound. She coaxed some participation from the audience on ‘Along The Santa Fe Trail’ and on the closing song, ‘Singing Together’ which also closes the album ‘How Did We Get Here?’ Towards the end of her set, she played her “lockdown anthem,” ‘2 Metres Away‘ and ’Jumping Waves’, before her set closer, the aforementioned ‘Singing Together’, which is a joyful hopeful way to round out any show.
Taking British folk music and doing something new with it is a challenge. Lizzy Hardingham blends traditional tunes with her own writing and a particularly English performance with flashes of Laurel Canyon in both her singing and guitar playing. That adds up to something different to what is being delivered by other artists. She more than deserves to be highlighted as one of our rising folk singers and with new EPs promised this year and a trip to Canada to play, we can only look forward to what happens next.