Release Date: Out Now
Prejudice is a terrible thing but when you overcome it you can find yourself in a brave new world. The prejudice of which I speak is when you receive an email about a male folk musician and think you know just how that album is going to pan out. Greg Hancock is the aforementioned musician and his new album, ‘The State of My Hair’, is so much more than your average folk album to the point that prescribing a genre almost seems fruitless. The album opens up with ‘My Mother (And the State of My Hair)’ and immediately the listener is transported in to a world that is not quite aligned with our own as instruments and beats stutter in to life, falling in to line like your footsteps on the way from your bed to the bathroom. When Hancock’s voice joins in, there’s an assured sense to its tone that is somewhere between Bill Bailey and Jake Morley due in no small part to the story-telling nature of the song. It’s a strong start.
‘Thunderbird Wine’ is up next and is a more chilled out affair with a countrified air and some forlorn lapsteel guitar courtesy of Cornish maestro Ashley Height adding a real sense of reminiscence to Hancock’s tale weaving. ‘Sarky Sally’ ripples and bubbles like county contemporaries Wildwood Kin in the most overtly folky tune so far, recounting a childhood acquaintance with a sharp and unrelenting wit. The PR notes that come with this release inform me that next track ‘Christopher’ includes the word ‘crap’ which probably doesn’t warrant a parental advisory note but the warmth of the guitar notes and the uplifting melody is borderline criminally heart-warming, so you have been warned.
There’s a touch of Jose Gonzalez about the guitars on ‘Odyssey FC’ but the folky jig of Kathryn Tremlett (of Velvet & Stone) on violin adds some urgency before ‘Three Men in a Pub’ sees Hancock get back to reminiscing about younger days spent whiling away hours in public houses – a noble pass time. ‘Four Spanish Words’ has a chilled, South of France, Jazz vibe while ‘One Weekend’ potentially discusses a problem those of more advanced years will recognise – recovering from a hangover takes longer the older you are. That said, there may be a deeper meaning I’m missing.
Greg Hancock is a master of storytelling, an integral part of folk music, but even beyond that, there is a warmth and creativity this music that sets it apart from other folk musicians releasing music in 2019. ‘Coffee & Cake’ is a prime example of the warmth with late night guitars serenading you and heartache in the lyrics while ‘A Cube of Space’ has a more lilting and arty energy with lament at its heart. The country sway of ‘The Way of These Things’ is a song full of goodbyes and ships passing in the night following a lifetime of wisdom learnt the hard way.
As we enter the home straight, there’s another language warning for the inclusion of ‘bastards’ in ‘Creases and Marks’ as Hancock’s rich, powerful vocal envelops a lifetime of physical changes that creep up on you; “I still get taken by surprise by all these little lines around my eyes, Fifty-fifty laughter and frowns from playing around with bastards and clowns” (if that line doesn’t resonate with you then come back to me in ten years – it will). ‘Bedtime Now’ closes the album out with an optimistic feel and more of that Hancock warmth augmented by that Height lapsteel playing. This album is one of warmth, subdued beauty and the kind of creativity that comes from taking real care over something. I’m sure success would be welcomed by Greg Hancock, but I feel just making the album was probably a cathartic experience so anything else is a bonus – for all of us.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/Greg.Hancock.Music/
21st March – Tremayne Hall, Falmouth
22nd March – St Paul’s Church, Starcross
23rd March – Hawthorns Hotel, Glastonbury
25th March – The View, Milton Keynes
28th March – The Prince Albert, Stroud
6th April – Holbeton Village Hall, Holbeton
12th April – City Arms, Wells
9th May – Farmers Arms, Penzance
18th May – Claypath Delicatessen, Druham
25th May – Black Dyke Mills Heritage, Queensbury
5th October – Venezia, Exeter