WINNERS of 2014’s BBC Radio Two Folk Award for Best Duo, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, who have come a long way since busking on a seafront, will be performing in Corsham on February 16.
In 2009, Phillip, one of the UK’s finest slide guitarists and harmonica players, moved into a tent in south Devon. He had just returned from studying Indian classical guitar in Calcutta with world expert Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. He had his tent, his car, and a five-year plan to earn a living through his music.
Playing in alt-folk outfit The Roots Union, he met Devonian fiddle-singer Hannah Martin, and the pair instantly recognised a very powerful musical connection.
When the band ended, they continued as a duo, playing all over the country, from Glastonbury Festival to busking sessions on the seafront at Sidmouth Folk Week.
It was during one of these busking stints that they were spotted in an encounter with Steve Knightley (Show Of Hands) that now goes down in folk legend.
Recognising the potential of Henry and Martin’s partnership, Knightley invited them to accompany Show Of Hands on a nationwide tour, culminating with a show at the Royal Albert Hall at Easter 2012.
The pair’s first album, Singing The Bones, was released in 2011 to warm praise.
“I was completely knocked out by this duo… just a terrific album… absolutely great, wonderful” – BBC Radio Two
Constant touring followed, including an Arts Council funded tour of south west arts centres in autumn 2012. The duo went on to win “Best Folk Act” at the 2012 South West Music Awards, and began 2013 by being voted “Best Duo” by the public at the Spiral Awards. Their second studio album, Mynd, was released to great acclaim in September 2013, appearing in end of year best-ofs for The Guardian, The Telegraph, fRoots Critics Poll, Mark Radcliffe’s Radio Two Top Ten, and Songlines.
They were voted Best Duo at the Radio Two Folk Awards almost exactly five years since Phillip sat in his tent and made his five-year plan.
The last two years have been their busiest to date. They recorded a concert, Live In Calstock, to make a record of their sound during these initial years; the resulting album once again went down a storm with the critics, “utterly inspired and magnificent” (Spiral Earth). They were honoured with the opening slot at Cambridge Folk Festival’s 50th anniversary. They toured with folk legend Seth Lakeman. They attended Folk Alliance in Kansas City, and played in South Africa, France, Norway, Japan, The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.
Last year saw the pair further their international reach, with an extensive tour of Australia throughout the spring; and a high profile appearance at Canada’s Vancouver Island Music
Festival in the summer.
Whilst continuing to tour as a duo, they have also taken part in various collaborations, including Steve Knightley’s Wake the Union band, and Peter Knight’s (ex-Steeleye Span) Gigspanner Big Band. With the Gigspanner line-up, they are
set for a prestigious appearance at Cropredy’s 50th anniversary in August 2017.
Spring 2017 sees Henry and Martin hitting the road with a brand new show. One of the most exciting live acts on the circuit, spanning a range from tearjerking ballads to Phil’s
party-starting beatbox harmonica, the pair effortlessly bring together genres as diverse as Indian classical music, the blues, and the traditional musics of the British Isles.
With a new project and album, Edgelarks, planned for the autumn, expect sneak previews as well as old favourites.
Tickets for the show at the Pounds Arts Centre, Corsham, on Thursday, February 18, can be booked here