Emily Portman Trio
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Emily Portman Trio

Rugby, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

Rugby, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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Portman's ability to weave new songs from old yarns, unveiled on her 2010 debut The Glamoury, is maintained with verve on this follow-up. Again the Northumberland-based singer mixes antique folk with myth and touches of magical realism, as in Hinge of the Year – inspired by Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus – a new year's tale with "vodka, wine and blood in the gutters" Portman's ethereal vocals work well enough alone but are best showcased by the cello and viola accompaniments of Sleeping Beauty and Ash Girl, both reminders that faerie land can be a dark and brooding realm. Marvelous. - Observer


Emily Portman is such a worry. Such an amiable, cheery personality…such seriously weird, disturbed songs. If you thought her debut solo album The Glamoury was a bit, you know, away with the fairies, then it’s got nothing on Hatchling. While maintaining a beatific smile and that lovely crystalline vocal approach, she surrounds herself with musicians clearly in tune with her rarified wavelength (Alasdair Roberts, Lucy Deakin, Jonny Kearney and Will Schrimshaw joining regular co-conspirators Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton), and delves even deeper into the enchanting and often dark underbelly of folklore…or indeed weirdlore, to use the term currently being bandied around with some enthusiasm.

Bizarre and wonderful variations of the Adam and Eve story (old Mother Eve), tales of mermaids and chiming bells (Sunken Bells), more mermaids and mad dreams in the story of a lost sea captain (Jack)… listening to it for the fist time in the car I found myself driving slower and slower and eventually had to pull over to listen properly when I realized the siren blast shaking me out of the reverie of Sleeping Beauty was in fact the horns of irate fellow motorists. I mean, when confronted by an opening line like “I break my finger just to see three drops of blood that tell me I’m not sleeping’(Sleeping Beauty) you are instantly hooked and compelled to listen intently to the rest of it.
The pace is slow and deliberate and entirely unsuitable for casual listening and more power to Emily for having the courage and character to stick uncompromisingly to what remains a pretty unique mode of interpreting and moulding the tradition into a highly original songwriting configuration. No thigh-slapping choruses here…
If that makes it sound impenetrable it’s not meant to. Far from it, the deceptive beauty of the singing and arrangements beckon you invitingly and Scorching Sun, a duet with the redoubtable Alasdair Roberts, is utterly gorgeous. On the relatively jaunty opening strains of Hinge of the Year, with it’s graphic depiction of a lurid New Year’s Eve on the tiles, you even begin to imagine she’s changed course and gone for a more singer-songwriter approach…but then Rachel Newton’s Angelic Harp offset by slightly more sinister effects and backing vocals and the lyrics take on a more unworldly turn.
Along with the disquieting Ash Girl, that song is inspired by surrealist writer Anglea Carter, whose vivid tales clearly connect with the rampant Portman imagination, which is fired into further realms of excess by traditional balladry, myths, magic and storytelling, often couched in the disconcertingly soothing cloak of the lullaby. There’s an eerily magnificent duet with Lucy Farrell on the madrigal Silver Swan, while more sublime harmonies decorate the unaccompanied When you’re Weary, the token ‘happy song.
And while the overall mood may appear stark there’s a quiet fervour going on in some of the arrangements with a mix of concertina, harp, cello and fiddle creating it’s own vivid atmosphere – almost zanily captivating on Old Mother Eve – with some unexpected banjo leading us into Sunken Bells.
Hatchling entices us further into the strange universe of Portmanland. It’s a journey worth taking.
Colin Irwin
- FROOTS


Emily Portman is such a worry. Such an amiable, cheery personality…such seriously weird, disturbed songs. If you thought her debut solo album The Glamoury was a bit, you know, away with the fairies, then it’s got nothing on Hatchling. While maintaining a beatific smile and that lovely crystalline vocal approach, she surrounds herself with musicians clearly in tune with her rarified wavelength (Alasdair Roberts, Lucy Deakin, Jonny Kearney and Will Schrimshaw joining regular co-conspirators Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton), and delves even deeper into the enchanting and often dark underbelly of folklore…or indeed weirdlore, to use the term currently being bandied around with some enthusiasm.

Bizarre and wonderful variations of the Adam and Eve story (old Mother Eve), tales of mermaids and chiming bells (Sunken Bells), more mermaids and mad dreams in the story of a lost sea captain (Jack)… listening to it for the fist time in the car I found myself driving slower and slower and eventually had to pull over to listen properly when I realized the siren blast shaking me out of the reverie of Sleeping Beauty was in fact the horns of irate fellow motorists. I mean, when confronted by an opening line like “I break my finger just to see three drops of blood that tell me I’m not sleeping’(Sleeping Beauty) you are instantly hooked and compelled to listen intently to the rest of it.
The pace is slow and deliberate and entirely unsuitable for casual listening and more power to Emily for having the courage and character to stick uncompromisingly to what remains a pretty unique mode of interpreting and moulding the tradition into a highly original songwriting configuration. No thigh-slapping choruses here…
If that makes it sound impenetrable it’s not meant to. Far from it, the deceptive beauty of the singing and arrangements beckon you invitingly and Scorching Sun, a duet with the redoubtable Alasdair Roberts, is utterly gorgeous. On the relatively jaunty opening strains of Hinge of the Year, with it’s graphic depiction of a lurid New Year’s Eve on the tiles, you even begin to imagine she’s changed course and gone for a more singer-songwriter approach…but then Rachel Newton’s Angelic Harp offset by slightly more sinister effects and backing vocals and the lyrics take on a more unworldly turn.
Along with the disquieting Ash Girl, that song is inspired by surrealist writer Anglea Carter, whose vivid tales clearly connect with the rampant Portman imagination, which is fired into further realms of excess by traditional balladry, myths, magic and storytelling, often couched in the disconcertingly soothing cloak of the lullaby. There’s an eerily magnificent duet with Lucy Farrell on the madrigal Silver Swan, while more sublime harmonies decorate the unaccompanied When you’re Weary, the token ‘happy song.
And while the overall mood may appear stark there’s a quiet fervour going on in some of the arrangements with a mix of concertina, harp, cello and fiddle creating it’s own vivid atmosphere – almost zanily captivating on Old Mother Eve – with some unexpected banjo leading us into Sunken Bells.
Hatchling entices us further into the strange universe of Portmanland. It’s a journey worth taking.
Colin Irwin
- FROOTS


Songlines ****
Witchcraft and wondrousness on fanciful follow –up
Emily Portman’s debut album, The Glamoury, launched a distinctive voice and songwriter on the 21st Century folk scene, and Hatchling continues on much the same path, with intricate, poetic songwriting mixed with the unstable elements of the folk tradition: the teeth, horn and hair of myth, magic and ritual that fill her work. A fine EP, Hinge of the Year, appeared in January, and it’s title-track is one of the numerous highlights on this strange and wild album. Hatchling is an image-rich carnival of metamorphosis and metaphor. It plays with song forms ranging from lullabies to wassails, but with a sense of innovation rather than cleaving to tradition. Portman is joined by Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton on vocals, while other guests include Alasdair Roberts, Jonny Kearney and cellist Lucy Deakin. There are touches of programming and percussion from Will Schrimshaw. He also produces, and the layering of sounds, instruments and voices through Hatchling’s 13 songs is intricate and detailed. Portman plays banjo and ukulele, and they fit her writing and voice very well. The title track draws on the myth of Leda and Zeus; ‘Old mother Eve’ comes from the possibly fabricated folklore of Somerset writer Ruth Tongue, and her 1968 book The Chime Child. ‘Silver Swan’, a lovely duet between Emily Portman and Lucy Farrell, is an early 17th century madrigal, while ‘Scorching Sun’ has Alasdair Roberts at the sharp end of Harmony vocalizing on an adaptation of an Italian lullaby. Exploritory, experimental, fiercly poetic and with great musical intelligence, this promises to be one of the year’s most distinctive folk releases.
Tim Cumming.
- Songlines



Everything from eighteenth-century broadsides to Leda and the Swan to Angela Carter’s Nights At The Circus to an Orlando Gibbons madrigal (rendered as a whispered duet) tumbles into the mix, and what comes out is an eccentric folk album, eerie as the murmurs of a ghost. Portman’s own banjo and ukulele are softened by strings, making this less a set of songs than an entire looking-glass world. - Financial Times


See Link for full article - Culture Magazine


Intricate, entrancing second album from English folk songstress
Portman’s 2010 debut, The Glamoury, set the bar high, but Hatchling follows on seamlessly, another bundle of ancient folk and modern magical realism, though more musically varied. “Hinge of the Year” is a tale of “vodka, wine and blood in the gutters” set to cellos and harp, a saw wailing eerily behind. Banjos cluck on “Hatchlings” and ‘Sunken Bells”, while “Sleeping Beauty” has a poised, semi-classical arrangement. Portman keeps her vocals spare and haunting, adding kindred spirit Alasdair Roberts to “Scorching Sun”, and the mix of lullabies, madrigals, mermaids and nightingales casts a powerful spell.
- Uncut


New Myths for Old
A powerful contemporary approach to the traditional ballad, from which she fashions a vivid and poetic set of original songs, makes Emily Portman’s album debut an arresting experience. The singer and concertina player was one third of harmony group The Devil’s Interval, and has already established herself as a significant new interpreter of the English folk tradition.
She calls her compositions ‘ new stories with old bones, old stories with new skins’ and the song notes she supplies summersault you into a magical realm of more animal-tyo-human crossovers than a mythologists library. She relocates the sirens of classical myth to modern day Tyneside – with the help of beguilingly close three-part female harmonies – while, on a different song, a woman waiting for a bus sprouts bird feathers. The one traditional ballad here is the darkly magical Two Sisters. In the song, one sister is drowned by another and when her body floats ashore an instrument is fashioned from her bones and blond hair – a harp that plays itself and tells a story of her murder. Now there’s something you don’t see on CSI NY. With lyrical inspirations including Clarrissa Pinkola Estes and Angela Carter The Glamoury leads you into another world that’s rich and strange, haunted by Portman’s lyrical and beautiful voice, and some supple instrumental textures and arrangements from guest musicians including viola player Lucy Farrell, Harpist Rachel Newton, Gabriel Waite on cello and Bellowhead’s fiddler Rachael McShane.' **** Tim Cumming Songlines
- Tim Cumming


'Although this is indeed if we're going to be pedantic about it, Emily Portman's debut album, she wont be a new name to anyone who has been keeping a weather ear upon the folk scene in recent years. Coming to prominence with the precociously talented harmonies of The Devil's Interval and their work with folk royalty Waterson:Carthy before moving on to the impressive arrangements of Rubus, Portman's vocals have been consistently beguiling for more years than you'd expect of one so young.
The revelation on this album, though, is that all save for an appropriately skeletal harp-accompanied 'Two Sisters' are self-penned originals. And what songs they are, growing like ivy from English folk tales and Ballads, with tangling vocal harmonies from Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton and superb instrumentation from the likes of Rubus cohorts David Newey and Christi Andropolis, and Bellowhead's Rachael McShane.
Like frost on a spider's web, the songs are intricate, beautiful and brittle, entrancing with an undertone of sinister melancholy. The result, as promised by the album's title, is utter enchantment. When Viviane trapped Merlin, I expect her songs sounded something like this. There are many worse ends.' *****
Oz Hardwick Rock & Reel.
- Oz Hardwick


‘The Glamoury is a beguiling album, weaving harmony-laden, chant like vocals with beautiful harp playing, all underplayed by droning- double-stopped viola. It’s first impact is as a very pretty slice of neo-folk (Portman write all the songs herself), but a closer listen to the lyrics reveals a dark, other-worldly theme. There is a slightly menacing, sometimes spiritual edge to these songs, and the themes – magic, transformation, death, even cannibalism – remind me more of Grimm’s fairytales than anything else. This darkness draws you into Portman’s fascinating personal work, it lodged itself in my mind and wont leave! Fantastic stuff.’ Sam Wise Acoustic Magazine - Sam Wise


Folk enchantress spins 12 eldritch fairytales
'A bewitching collection from one of the new British folk scene's most beguiling presences. Portman's concertina couples with strings, harp and guitar in seductive arrangements, while her deceptively innocent voice self-harmonises lyrics soaked in folk tales, myths and disturbing dreams (check "Little Longing", a lullaby to a sawdust baby). "Tongue-Tied", "Three Gold Hairs" and "Mossy Coat" draw magical energy from the streets and seascapes of her Newcastle hometown, while the strange dischords of "Stick Stock" are needle pricks against a malevolent stepmother.' **** Rob Young UNCUT.
- Rob Young


Northumberland-based Emily Portman calls this debut "old stories with new skin", a neat way to describe how she recasts antique folk and myth into stunning shapes. Her voice is bright and larkish but her tales are drawn from the darker realms of faerie, where human bones are made into harps and "selkies" shed their seal skins to become human. Her "Sirens", though, wander the streets of modern-day Tyneside, and she likewise furnishes folk melodies like "Two Sisters" with inventive arrangements using twinkling harp, brooding cello and chiming vocal parts. A remarkable and original debut.
- Neil Spencer, Observer


Northumberland-based Emily Portman calls this debut "old stories with new skin", a neat way to describe how she recasts antique folk and myth into stunning shapes. Her voice is bright and larkish but her tales are drawn from the darker realms of faerie, where human bones are made into harps and "selkies" shed their seal skins to become human. Her "Sirens", though, wander the streets of modern-day Tyneside, and she likewise furnishes folk melodies like "Two Sisters" with inventive arrangements using twinkling harp, brooding cello and chiming vocal parts. A remarkable and original debut.
- Neil Spencer, Observer


From her sublime partnership with Lauren McCormick to the close harmony thrills of The Devil’s Interval to the eerier intrigue of Rubus, Emily Portman finally releases her debut solo album. Given her track record so far you wouldn’t expect a simple collection of jolly songs and here indeed is a darkly engrossing thematic concept usefully explained on the sleeve as “a collection of new songs with old bones, old stories with new skin, drawn from folk tales, ballads, dreams and real life”.
Surrounded by brooding layers of strings involving the likes of Lucy Farrell on viola, Rachel Newton on harp, Gabriel Waite on cello and Rachael McShane on fiddle and cello, Portman embraces the magical elements of folk song and intricately melds them into an impressively challenging and at times quite daring suite of songs tackling unworldly topics.
Galloping along with mounting urgency, Bones & Feathers is a detailed narrative about a woman seemingly going about her daily routine, waiting to catch a bus who suddenly transforms herself into a ‘birdwoman’; Fine Silica hauntingly relates the love of a woman living underwater for the half-human daughter she leaves on dry land; Grey Stone sheds yet more light on the underwater life of the seal woman; and, leaping out of the speakers in a frankly scary blast of vocalised ‘rat-a-tat-tats’, Pretty Skin conveys the inner thoughts of a dead witch. Bouncy poppery-folkery this isn’t. And that’s before we even reach the final trilogy of Sirens – all weirdly mournful harmonies and a disquieting evocation of different worlds colliding – leading into a nimble harp arrangement of one of the most bewitchingly evil ballads of them all, Two Sisters; before closing with the unaccompanied Three Gold Hairs, with its strange theme of death and rebirth.
At the end you feel you either need a lie-down or a session down the pub singing Cum On Feel The Noize (but probably not Martin Carthy’s version), but the ultimate conclusion must be that this is a remarkable work by a singer and writer so totally consumed by folk song and storytelling that she’s moved to interpret and reposition it in such a boldly individual fashion. It’s not light and it’s easy to lose patience with a style that offers only rare glimpses of brightness, but Portman is an accomplished singer and this helps enormously in the assimilation of her complex, rampantly imaginative ideas. An album, certainly that merits major respect. - Colin Irwin, fROOTS


Emily Portman's album is a collection of her own songs all based on traditional stories or myths and moulded into something very rare and exciting by Emily's writing and by her voice and musicianship.

'Sirens' for example is based on the classical myths of sirens luring sailors onto the rocks but is set in the streets of modern day Newcastle where the sirens have "wheels instead of wings." 'Tongue Tied' tells the story of the girl who must remain silent and shed no tears for seven years in order to free her brothers who have been turned into birds while 'Fine Silica' is a re-working of the Silkie legend.

Glamoury is a form of magical enchantment and those that are thus afflicted for good or evil can see through into the other world (sometimes called Fairyland). But please don't think there is anything remotely twee about this CD, there are no little people here flitting round the flowers on diaphanous wings, this is the raw stuff of the great ballads ¬ the tunes are as rooted in the tradition as a hawthorn in an old hedge bank and the writing is masterly.
- Mike Harding - Blog


From her sublime partnership with Lauren McCormick to the close harmony thrills of The Devil’s Interval to the eerier intrigue of Rubus, Emily Portman finally releases her debut solo album. Given her track record so far you wouldn’t expect a simple collection of jolly songs and here indeed is a darkly engrossing thematic concept usefully explained on the sleeve as “a collection of new songs with old bones, old stories with new skin, drawn from folk tales, ballads, dreams and real life”.
Surrounded by brooding layers of strings involving the likes of Lucy Farrell on viola, Rachel Newton on harp, Gabriel Waite on cello and Rachael McShane on fiddle and cello, Portman embraces the magical elements of folk song and intricately melds them into an impressively challenging and at times quite daring suite of songs tackling unworldly topics.
Galloping along with mounting urgency, Bones & Feathers is a detailed narrative about a woman seemingly going about her daily routine, waiting to catch a bus who suddenly transforms herself into a ‘birdwoman’; Fine Silica hauntingly relates the love of a woman living underwater for the half-human daughter she leaves on dry land; Grey Stone sheds yet more light on the underwater life of the seal woman; and, leaping out of the speakers in a frankly scary blast of vocalised ‘rat-a-tat-tats’, Pretty Skin conveys the inner thoughts of a dead witch. Bouncy poppery-folkery this isn’t. And that’s before we even reach the final trilogy of Sirens – all weirdly mournful harmonies and a disquieting evocation of different worlds colliding – leading into a nimble harp arrangement of one of the most bewitchingly evil ballads of them all, Two Sisters; before closing with the unaccompanied Three Gold Hairs, with its strange theme of death and rebirth.
At the end you feel you either need a lie-down or a session down the pub singing Cum On Feel The Noize (but probably not Martin Carthy’s version), but the ultimate conclusion must be that this is a remarkable work by a singer and writer so totally consumed by folk song and storytelling that she’s moved to interpret and reposition it in such a boldly individual fashion. It’s not light and it’s easy to lose patience with a style that offers only rare glimpses of brightness, but Portman is an accomplished singer and this helps enormously in the assimilation of her complex, rampantly imaginative ideas. An album, certainly that merits major respect. - Colin Irwin, fROOTS


Underpined by fables and folklore, then characterised by the slenderest melodic lines from sumptuously recorded guitar, harp and strings 'The Glamoury' encapsulates the mood of Shirley Collins and Karine Polwart. However, there's also an additional genreless contemporary quality contained in these addictive stories that fans of artists as far flung as Joanna Newsom could appreciate.

Wrapped in Emily Portman's distinctive voice the whole mood it's highly artistic, yet at its heart is a wellspring of very real human emotion: Fabulous 21st century folk!
- Spiral Earth - web fanzine


Underpined by fables and folklore, then characterised by the slenderest melodic lines from sumptuously recorded guitar, harp and strings 'The Glamoury' encapsulates the mood of Shirley Collins and Karine Polwart. However, there's also an additional genreless contemporary quality contained in these addictive stories that fans of artists as far flung as Joanna Newsom could appreciate.

Wrapped in Emily Portman's distinctive voice the whole mood it's highly artistic, yet at its heart is a wellspring of very real human emotion: Fabulous 21st century folk!
- Spiral Earth - web fanzine


Emily’s album is a collection of her own songs all based on traditional stories and myths molded in to something very rare and exciting by her mature writing, subtle arrangements and exceptional use of vocal harmony. This is definitely one of my favourite albums of the year so far.’


- Corrina Hewitt


Emily’s album is a collection of her own songs all based on traditional stories and myths molded in to something very rare and exciting by her mature writing, subtle arrangements and exceptional use of vocal harmony. This is definitely one of my favourite albums of the year so far.’


- Corrina Hewitt


Support slot from Young English singer Emily Portman, whose piquantly harmonised, eerily off-kilter renderings of traditional and original songs confirmed her as a noteworthy budding talent. - Review 16th march


Support slot from Young English singer Emily Portman, whose piquantly harmonised, eerily off-kilter renderings of traditional and original songs confirmed her as a noteworthy budding talent. - Review 16th march


Discography

• Various Artists, BBC Folk Awards 2013, (Proper 2013) Featured Artist.
• Emily Portman, Hatchling (Furrow 2012) Solo Release.
• Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground (Folk Police 2012) Featured Artist.
• Emily Portman, Hinge of the Year (Furrow 2011) Vinyl EP.
• Various Artists, The Rough Guide to English Folk (World Music Network 2011) Featured Artist.
• Various Artists, Folk Against Fascism Compilation (Navigator Records, 2011), Featured Artist.
• Various Artists, Oak, Ash and Thorn (Folk Police Records, 2011), Featured Artist.
• Alasdair Roberts, Too Long in This Condition (Drag City, 2010) Featured Artist.
• Emily Portman, The Glamoury (Furrow, 2010). Debut Solo Release.
• Rob Lane, Tess of the D’Urbervilles DVD (BBC Warner 2009) Featured Artist on soundtrack.
• Sandra Kerr, Hi Said The Elephant (Fellside, 2009). Featured Artist.
• Rubus, Nine Witch Knots (Wildgoose, 2008). Debut Release.
• Various Artists, BBC Folk Awards 2007 (Proper, 2007). Featured Artist.
• Various Artists, Folk Rising, The Future of Folk (PMD 2007). Featured Artist.
• Waterson: Carthy, Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man, (Topic Records 2006) Featured artist.
• The Devils Interval, Blood and Honey (WildGoose 2006). Debut Release.
• Various Artists, Song Links 2 (Fellside Records 2005). Featured Artist.

Photos

Bio

Emily Portman is a singer, writer and concertina player originating from Glastonbury and hailed 'one of the new British folk scene's most beguiling presences' (Uncut).
Her BBC Folk award-winning album Hatchling is described as Marvelous (The Observer) Eerily magnificent (fROOTS) and One of the years most distinctive folk releases (Songlines).
With her debut album 'The Glamoury' also gaining her two BBC Folk Award nominations, Emily is fast gaining a reputation for her remarkable and original songwriting (The Observer). Not only has her music propelled Emily onto the front cover of FRoots, she has received widespread international radio-play and tours the UK extensively, recently supporting The Be Good Tanyas in a sell-out tour culminating at Londons Barbican. Inspired by the darker underbelly of folklore and balladry, Emily weaves harmony-rich narratives alongside Lucy Farrell (viola) and Rachel Newton (harp).

Band Members