The Hedge Schools – Music From a Sacred Place

So around twelve months ago, I stopped writing reviews on this blog.

It wasn’t a conscious decision at first; when asked why, I casually tossed out reasons like ”I have a lot going on at work” or “ all my spare time is taken up with running”. But as time went by, I gradually acknowledged that these were just lame excuses, and the real reason I stopped was more deep seated.

Trying to express how music makes you feel is difficult at the best of times.

But for me, right now, writing reviews, sharing a love and enthusiasm for a band or artist feels like a waste of time. The concept of a four hundred word review seems outdated, antiquated. The average music fan can now access music in seconds and make their own instant judgement.

It would be hard to argue a case that the changes introduced by streaming services like Spotify don’t benefit the music consumer. Music is available at our fingertips, instantly accessible, as much of it as you want. Cheap, convenient, in your ears 24/7 if that’s your bag.

But here’s the rub. Convenience and accessibility comes at a price.

Never before has music seemed so devoid of worth.

Like there is no real value attached to the art and craft that went into making it. It is symptomatic of a wider malaise. Live music venues are shutting down, music retail outlets have all but disappeared and even iconic guitar manufacturers Gibson are facing possible bankruptcy. The once all powerful music press has been decimated. Musicians are struggling more than ever to make a living doing what they love.

It is all pointing to a change on our relationship with music; what was once an endless source of inspiration, an ideal for living, has become just another entertaining distraction. The art, craft and love we once associated with making music is disappearing.

Hedge Schools

Photo: Julie Bienvenu

Which brings me rather circuitously to the reason I am writing this. In 2015, the Hedge Schools released an album called ‘At the End of a Winding Day’. It was an album that screamed of (in the quietest possible way) those values of art, of craft, of love that are slowly being eroded and will more than likely eventually disappear completely.  The meticulous attention to detail to everything from the beautiful artwork to those long, lingering spaces between every musical note marked ‘At the End of a Winding Day’ out as an album to be cherished.

In May, the Hedge Schools release the long awaited follow up to that record; ‘Magnificent Birds’ is another beautifully crafted, contemplative collection of songs. Pat Barrett writes about love, loss and life’s endless ebb and flow; it’s another truly special record, and music to the ears of this middle-aged cynic, who is willing to admit a yearning for a return to a time when music meant as much as it obviously does to Pat and Joe Chester, who once again contributes handsomely to this album.

As a musician and producer, Joe is an integral part of the Hedge Schools sound, with cellist Vyvienne Long adding a gorgeous melancholy flourish to this wonderful album.

Everything on this record comes from a place of real love, of devotion to the art of expressing yourself through a gift, a calling. It feels like music from a sacred place.

I will leave you with one request; give this record a chance; let it seep in, and if you feel it, if it captures your heart, pay it forward. Tell someone else about it. Because we need to cherish the values, the beauty at the heart of this music in a world where those values are rapidly disappearing.

Paul Page

‘Magnificent Birds’ is released on 5th May 2018.

Further details: The Hedge Schools