Ben Walker and Kirsty Merryn present Life and the Land
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BBC Folk Award winner Ben Walker joins forces with highly acclaimed singer and pianist Kirsty Merryn to create a fresh take on a tradition ripe for rediscovery.
Life and the Land is a celebration of England’s harvest tradition, reimagining songs born out of our agricultural past. Focusing on songs from rural England found in local archives and EFDSS collections, Ben and Kirsty are breathing new life into long-lost songs of the land; innovative composers and performers bringing eclectic influences from across the musical spectrum – from classical to jazz to electronica – as well as deep roots in traditional music. Both consummate musicians, contrasting and complementary styles combine to create a timeless sound, with Ben’s guitars and mandolin providing a perfect frame for Kirsty’s piano, harp and silver voice.
As Ben says ‘This project was born over a pint in the pub one September.
We were talking about how it sometimes feels like we’re more and more disconnected from the land we live on, the food we eat, the people around us. We both wanted to explore how people have sung about their relationship with the seasons, with work, and with each other. It’s a huge pleasure to share this project with Kirsty, she’s got a real love for the tradition but doesn’t only look back; she’s a fantastic interpreter of song.’
Kirsty adds ‘Traditional English songs carry so much history within them and really tell us where we came from. There’s a rich and beautiful tradition of celebrating the harvest, the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and struggle. We wanted to recreate that idea of a harvest festival, the sheer joy of abundance, of a job well done. Life and the Land was always meant to be about celebrating the fruits of a year’s struggle – I’m not sure we realised quite how apt that was going to be!
It was frustrating not to be able to tour in 2020, we’re so looking forward to playing these songs for people. It’ll be worth the wait!’
Ben Walker was recently hailed as ‘one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world right now’ by Total Guitar magazine and ‘a great guitarist, composer and producer’ by Mark Radcliffe on the BBC Folk Show. With his work sought out from punk to Proms, from Rough Trade to the Royal Shakespeare Company, his passion is putting old jewels in new settings.
A BBC Folk Award winner with more than fifty albums under his belt as a producer and player, Ben released his own album Echo last year to universal critical acclaim. Reviewers called it ‘a profound statement connecting past and present’ (fRoots), ‘ambitious, distinctive and brilliantly achieved’ (Songlines) ‘exceptional’ (Folk Radio UK) and simply ‘stunning’ (The Guardian).
Kirsty Merryn launched her debut album She & I in 2017 whilst supporting folk behemoths Show of Hands on their extensive UK Cathedrals tour. The album gained fantastic reviews and extensive airplay, with reviewers dubbing Kirsty ‘destined to be a big star’ (Sunday Express). One of her tracks features on Show of Hands’ new studio album Battlefield Dancefloor. Earlier this year her much anticipated follow-up album, Our Bright Night was chosen as the Guardian’s Folk Album of the Month with Folk Radio UK welcoming her ‘haunting…emotional and musical depth…musical craftsmanship and her articulacy of the heart.’
Ben and Kirsty will be touring Life and the Land and releasing a limited edition EP in 2021