the low countries
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the low countries

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Taken from his Lancaster Guardian column
HERE

LANCASTER'S wonderful The Low Countries released a great album last year and the good news is they've bettered it.
The new album opens with Wes Martin's banjo riff which sounds as if it's been issued straight from the loins of Doc Boggs, while Nigel Parrington chases it with his plaintiff drone.

And I mean drone in a good way – I'm glad his vocal style has traADVERTISEMENTnsferred its balance to English traditional song rather than being indebted to bayou blues. His wife Els provides beautiful
backing vocals, and her Belgian influence rounds off the thoroughly north European feel of this record.

Oddly enough, I feel the opening track is actually the weakest one on the album, and as a folk rock Broadside, it's still a resounding
success.

Nigel and Els duet on the Handmaid's Blush – a song that could have been written at any time in the last 600 years, but still feels rooted to the present.

There are just some things that cannot be improved upon – like for example a hammer, a clothes peg, or wonderfully crafted song.

Potash Sea is a gentle instrumental that's as perfect as an afternoon spent drifting in a boat on a summer afternoon with your best friends and the world's finest picnic.

The fourth track sees the first appearance of an electric guitar on the album – up until now the splendour has been sustained with nothing more than zither, mandolin, and gentle tinkles on the triangle.

The result is as perfect a marriage of folk and rock sensibilities I've heard since Pentangle's Jack Orion.

Tender vocals and sustained bottom end piano expands the Drone King, which gives way to Woodfever – where Nigel's voice draws inevitable
comparisons with John Martyn.

The album is a forward move from Low Countries that draws on a similar sort of back to basics bosky influences that inspired a host of bands in the late 1960s and early 70s, without slipping into the uncompromising territories of Shirley Collins, Dave Swarbrick, or the Watersons.

This isn't straight ahead folk music, it's an unabashed hybrid of styles that culminate in a profoundly pleasant experience, with deep expansive ideas and evocative melodies layered like mille-feuille.

It's basically a mini-concept album that delves into similar emotions and ideas Kate Bush dealt with her album Ariel – admittedly on a far more modest budget.

The Low Countries really know their way around a restorative groove – and this album is the aural version of riding a horse and cart to Scarborough Fair: stimulating, not too fast, and wonderfully satisfying. Buy this album and support Lancaster's ever inspiring musicians! Details at myspace.com/thelowcountries.

- Howard Byrom


'What a beautifully sensitive album this is from The Low Countries. It's kinda in between trad-folk and nu-folk; whatever-folk, it's really very nice and really very enjoyable. Am I surprised though? Well no actually coz the last release I had from this lot was also extremely palatable!


In the main this is a gentle work that finds two voices, male and female, in wonderfully respectful harmony set against some really impressive traditionally biased instrumentation of guitars, piano, zither harp, bass, banjo, and mandolin. Listening to 'The Failing Of The Strains' is peace and serenity personified; I'm gently being lulled into The Low Countries' poetically folkoid world - they're tempting me, teasing me, enticing me and I can't help but go with their flow and leave it to chance where it will end up, safe in the knowledge that it's a good feeling, a safe feeling, so I'll just let it carry me to wherever or whatever....

'The Failing Of The Strains' takes the listener away on a tide of slowly moving ripples and eddy's, not dangerous natural occurrences but pleasant and cosseting man-made musical interludes generated by gently lilting passages and softly rhythmic undercurrents. Nothing here will cause you harm, nothing is awkward or spiky - all is naturally flowing, softly undulating and welcomingly warm. 'The Failing Of The Strains' hits all the right spots and satisfies all needs. If I have any criticism at all it would be that, at just over twenty minutes, this is far too short. In that time The Low Countries lay down eight impressive but very short tracks, eight little gems, eight pots of gold!! There could, and should, be more!!

I have to admit to really liking what The Low Countries are doing; their style is unhurried, unfussy and often quite unusual. The Low Countries take nu-folk and put a nicely commercial spin on it. All too often modern folk music is a little insular and over-indulgent but The Low Countries make folk accessible, meaningful and easy to take - The Low Countries make folk music for the common man. 'The Failing Of The Strains' by The Low Countries is short but sweet, a little ray of hope, a small pot of gold at the end of a colourful musical rainbow. The Low Countries take folk music on and up a level and 'The Failing Of The Strains', although extremely short is very very cool!!'

- Toxic Pete


Hypericum Perforatum is the work of singer-songwriter, Nigel Parrington. Here, he has created an enjoyable and appealing collection of well-crafted, mellow pop, imbued with distinct roots sensibilities.

The opening track, "Learning In The Ways Of Love," is a deliciously radio-friendly number with sprightly harmonica and guitar riffs catching the ear immediately. The infectious chorus provides an instantly memorable sing-along opportunity. This has summer hit written all over it!!

"Drown" is a real slow-burning number, coming across in a similar manner to the sultry country shades of Ryan Adams, complete with lonesome harmonies. Subtle country vibes are resurrected again on the duet, "Forever Comes," evoking memories of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris with further striking harmonies. Elsewhere, "Tell Her" could be lifted straight from The Beatles back catalogue.

Parrington makes several nods towards his own song-writing heroes, most obviously on his affectionate tribute to Roy Orbison, who Parrington sings of with great respect and reverence. The lyrics of "Orbison" will strike an emotional chord with many music lovers, relating well the relationship between song-writer and listener; "Roy Orbison, when I'm lonely just like you… so many times you've helped me through."

Hypericum Perforatum is a high quality collection of well-written, meaningful material with biting and honest lyrics -- it is sure to appeal to the discerning music lover.

- www.folking.com


Discography

2007 'hypericum perforatum' Nub Country Records
Airplay on BBC radio, Diversity FM and online (folk radio uk)
2008 'the failing of the strain' Nub Country Records
Airplay on Diversity FM

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Bio

Stupendously great songs played extremely well have given The Low Countries a great and loyal following in the UK and beyond. Signed to Nub Country Records in 2007 they released their debut album 'hypericum perforatum ' to fantastic reviews:

'Indie folk at it's best with a home grown realism...I love it' FolkRadio.co.uk © FolkRadio.co.uk

'english psyche pop folk masterpiece - syd barrett meets nick drake with glorious beatles harmonies and northern wit - album of the year - " MBop Magazine

'..The Low Countries: splendid melancholia which sounds like a North Country version of Golden Smog or Josh Rouse. Nigel Parrington is definitely onto something” Howard Byrom, The Lancaster Guardian 4 05 07

"Really tasty stuff - a little beauty!!" Peter J Brown aka toxic pete (www.toxicpete.co.uk)
"Beautiful South meets Richard Thompson...really fine mellow tunes" Fresh Air FM

'shades of Ryan Adams...Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris...elsewhere Tell Her could be lifted from the Beatles' back catalogue...' www.folking.com

'warm acoustic-based americana-infused blend of classic songwriting. Melodies, harmonies, middle-eights and banjo combine to soothe your weary heads' Opposite of Robot Promotions

Indie Music Lounge 'Artist of the Month'

'Outstandingly good..' the hairless heart herald

Nigel has always been influenced by great songwriters such as Richard Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and many many others and in 2007 formed The Low Countries together with Els and Wes to best perform his songs. They were initially brought together by a common adoration of the Wicker Man and its music. In the spring of 2008 they recorded a concept album 'the failing of the strains'...a soundtrack to an imaginary prequel to the Wicker Man. The album has garnered rave reviews and is a big hit live...a cult classic.
They are currently rehearsing more new material and planning their 3rd release in 2009.