To many people the phrase ‘folk music’ conjures up images of bearded men wearing arran sweaters singing songs about young maidens and their lusty swains. However, in the 21st century folk has spread it’s wings and grown – it has become contemporaneous with modern life with less harking back to medieval times – it even gets played on mainstream radio (bloody Mumford & Sons!).
This, the fourth, LP from Stephen Cracknell’s collective manages to still summon the spirit of a more pastoral England whilst sounding ‘now’. It follows a geographical journey along the ancient Harrow Way, part of the Old Way, supposedly the oldest road in England. Modernity, doing what it does best, has reduced it to an almost virtual road, much of it now covered by newer roads and paths. Cracknell utilises field recordings, found sounds and snippets of documentaries to great effect and to counterpoint washes of instrumentation (cries of “you’ll burn…..that’s what will happen” from an old voice in the opening moments set the tone nicely).
The drones and beats give this LP a modern feel, albeit crackly and dusty while horns, occasional strings and piano pieces lend it a more traditional feel.In all On The Chalk is a beautiful, inventive trip into the past, although probably more akin to Julian House’s The Focus Group than to the Unthanks. Get it, listen to it and love it!