Northern Folk with a difference

Harp and a Monkey

Harp and a Monkey

First published in What's on: Music by , Features Writer

EVEN before their self-titled album, Harp and a Monkey, the portents were encouraging for the wacky Ramsbottom trio, who have emerged as a growing force on the folk and festival circuit.

Championed by Steve Lamacq and Mike Harding, the DJs are among the band’s army of flag-wavers, and the electro-folk storytellers top the bill at the Grand’s first Acoustic Village of 2013 in Clitheroe tonight “We’d been in different bands for a decade, playing indie and pop, and we’d become disillusioned with the scene,” said lead singer Martin Purdy.

“We had to do something to re-ignite our musical passion, so we bought instruments none of us had ever played before — viola, a harp, a banjo, melodica, glockenspiel and an accordion. The sound of Harp and a Monkey was born.

“That was five years ago, and now we pack our gear into the boot of a battered Volkswagen Polo, and travel the land playing festivals and gigs.

“The other day I heard somebody on the radio say that we are an Incredible String Band for the 21st century or Elbow for ramblers and that made me laugh.”

And what a sound it is: a massive mash-up of banjo-driven electronica, mad mixes and spooky vocals.

And ask them about their influences they are as likely to cite Ordnance Survey Maps and Bellowhead as they are Bert Jansch or Bellowhead.

“We write about what goes on around us and where we live,” added Martin.

“A lot of music is very narcissistic, but we tell stories through our music and celebrate the North with a passion.

“It is our observations on life, spending summer in the park as a kid, or winter walks on the moors.

“We are all very proud of the fact that we’ve never played anywhere and not been invited back.”

With bags of critical acclaim for their debut album, they also collected some sparkling reviews for their contribution to last year’s Weirdlore compilation, showcasing Britain’s most promising alternative folk artists.

“We call our music folktronica,” added Martin.

“One of our songs, Katy’s Twinkly Band, is about Rawtenstall Fair, while Soldier’s Song, celebrates the life of Harry Patch, the last British survivor of the World War One trenches before his death in 2009.”

The Beat Based Conserve from Clitheroe provide the support act, plus local folksters Panjenix.

The Grand’s events manager Matt Evans said: “Previously, we’ve held Acoustic Village once every three months, but from tonight it will be a monthly slot on the last Friday of every month.

“There’s a lot of really good acoustic talent and tonight’s visit of Harp and a Monkey should be a special gig.”

Meanwhile, The Grand welcomes back one of last year’s most popular shows with the return of Buddy Holly’s Winter Dance Party on February 1.

For details of all shows, contact the box office on 01200 421599

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