Thursday, 23 March 2017

OKA VANGA

CD Review

Dance of the Copper Trail


One remarkable thing about the music of Oka Vanga is that it’s not like listening to an album, it’s more akin to reading a book because Angela Meyer and William Cox are such good storytellers. Their previous disc and EP are testament to that.

Angela Meyer and William Cox
Once again Dance of the Copper Trail is based around folklore, tales, myth and the journey of life. Opening with The Wicken Tree, straight away you are thrown into a world of myth, magic and mystery. The duo creates the suitable mood with their music and the lovely clear voice of Meyer.

This gives way to a real toe tapper which crosses the borders of bluegrass, jug band and Celtfolk.
Capercaille has the pleasing up and down melody with Meyer’s gentle voice really pleasing on the ear and where Cox takes it out with speed and you can almost see Luke and Bo Duke being chased by the sheriff.

Ashes to the Wind, with its deep meaning about motherhood, has a real brooding melody and even Meyer’s voice takes on a slightly harsher, raspier tone with Patsy Reid’s fiddle adding a strong and almost broken undertone.

Meyer takes a brave step by recording She Moves Through The fair. It’s well-known and well-recorded staple of many female singers. This makes it all the more difficult to bring a new slant on it but she manages admirably.

She takes her singing higher up the scale and over the simple chords of Cox’s strings and Reid’s gentle fiddle playing. This makes it a seamless combination where it takes you a while to realise what a familiar tune it is.

With Don’t Let The Clouds Roll In the duo go back to their beginnings as an acoustic duo with a very personal instrumental track. The lack of words on the gentle but complex tune is a good thing here because it keeps it open for the listener.

Anne Bonny by Jun-Sik Ahn 
The Devil’s Tide is a “tribute” to the fiery Irish pirate Annie Bonnie (Anne Bonny). There is undoubtedly a brooding admiration for the Cork woman in Meyer’s travelling and face-paced tune. The throbbing guitar of Cox provides the percussion to push it along with once again Reid providing the musical gems on the fiddle.

The duo slow things down for the thoughtful and languorous Song of the River where Meyer’s voice is hypnotic almost siren-like and at times she seems to mirror sunlight dancing on the moving water.

Cox, dusting off his mandolin skills, adds a shimmering strand like the ripples of the water and Reid’s gentle undertone on the fiddle gives this a really lazy, sunny day feel where you almost drift into a gentle sleep, providing it’s not by a willow tree.

Although a separate track Rose of the Hill seems almost a segue as the transition is almost seamless. A lovely traditional tale of lovers being torn apart set around the coal mining industry is sung by Meyer in a seemingly matter of fact way. Her gentle, almost hushed tones add a real softness yet depth to the tale.

Meyer has a fantastic voice and the travelling beat of My Sweet Guitar carriers her along as she seems to jump in and out of the tune, slapping down her lyrics wherever she chooses. There is a strong jazz/bluesy feel to it.

There is also a playful and sexually sultry element to her singing which is given and throbbing beat by Oliver Copeland slapping the double bass.

Out of the Fire is another personal song with Meyer relating it to a point of disillusionment in her life and you get a slight undertone of anger in her performance.

The guitar playing, at times, comes across with a feeling of anxiety and it’s the mandolin of Cox which seems to earth things for her.

The new album
The final track, This Train, is Meyer’s version of a traditional gospel song. It sounds remarkably like Little Walter’s My Babe however, Oka Vanga’s version never seems to get let off the leash.

The guitar gets into the limelight but Meyer’s trembling voice always seems to be somewhat reserved to where you expect the big ending but it never comes.

Oka Vanga is an incredibly talented duo. The combination of Meyer’s voice, which has the quality, clarity and strength of a fine, single malt and Cox’s skill on his strings produces some absolutely magical songs and music which open hidden worlds and new adventures to all who listen to them.
They are storytellers who illustrate their tales with wonderful music.

Dance of the Copper trail is released on March 31 by Crazy Bird Records

You can catch the duo live on April 2 at Readifolkclub,  the Community Hall, Watlington House, 44 Watlington Street, Reading. RG1 4RJ. Show starts 8pm and entry is £6. Unfortunately the gig on the following night, April 3, at Devizes Folk Club is SOLD OUT. On April 4 they play Bradford upon Avon Folk Club at the cellar bar of the The Swan Hotel, 1 Church Street, Bradford on Avon. BA151LN. Show starts 8pm and there is no entry fee but a voluntary contribution is asked for. On April 6 you can hear them live on BBC Somerset at 10am. You can catch them at Shammick Acoustic  at The Pack O' Cards, High Street, Combe Martin, North Devon on April 8. Tickets are £7 in advance or £8 on the door and if you are a member then tickets are £7 and £6 respectively. Then on April 12 they will perform at Bradninch Acoustic Club held at The Baptist Hall is in Millway, Bradninch (next to the Guildhall). Please note the venue has no parking facilities. Show starts 7.45pm and tickets are £4. Then again you can hear them live on the radio through BBC Kent at 9pm