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Darren Hayman - Thankful Villages Volume 3

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 24 / 12 / 2018

Darren Hayman - Thankful Villages Volume 3
Label: Belka Records
Format: CD


Impressive final album of Darren Hayman’s three part long term project about the fifty-four Thankful Villages where every soldier returned alive from the First World War

November sees the release of the third part of Darren Hayman’s project to record aspects of rural British life through his exploration of the 54 ‘Thankful Villages’ identified in Arthur Mee’s book, ‘The King’s England’. The first volume won him the accolade of ‘Hardest Working Artist’ from the Association of Independent Music when it was released in 2016. This hard work has led to Darren Hayman becoming recognised as an expert in the social history of these fortunate villages through his films, paintings, oral history interviews, folk song recording and the composition of new songs. Thankful Villages are those where all the men who went to fight in the First World War returned. What a contrast to those communities devastated by the fate of the Pals Brigades, where friends and families fought and died together. Volume 1 concentrated on the churches in a selection of these villages, Volume 2 explored their rivers and this final volume looks at their old and young inhabitants and what the future holds for them. He’s been supported by Arts Council England in this collection, reflecting the renewed interest there is in soundscapes and local voices. He has made sound recordings, he has collected personal stories and folk songs and he has written new music to weave it all together. The titles of the tracks are the names of the villages featured, so the contents of each piece come as a surprise. I can relate his work to that of Chris Wood, Hugh Lupton and Steve Knightley. They also explore the past and present through song and story, oral history and music, though their picture of rural life is darker than Darren Hayman’s. His long term commitment to this project keeps it on the authentic side of romanticising the past and rural life for me. These are fresh from the field recordings, and the production and editing qualities reflect this. Each track brings new insight and perspective. There are old voices and young voices, children singing, reciting poetry and dancing. There’s a sense of the past, the present and the future. There are gravestones and churches, schools and village halls, hills and woods. There’s a family story about blackshirt sympathisers, birdsong, children’s choirs, an interview with a metal detectorist, a mention of Alfred Watkins’ book The Old Straight Track and the sound of a steam engine from 1957. There’s mention of closing schools, dwindling communities and commuter belt revival. It’s much more than a snapshot of rural life, and it’s a testament to Darren Hayman’s talents and hard work. The music and his specially composed pieces are evocative and charming. I’ve found this project fascinating, partly because I’ve been a contemporary folklorist and social historian, and I have lived in rural areas with their strange brew of wealth and deprivation. There’s also a chance that you will catch Darren Hayman on TV or radio over the next few weeks, as we commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War.

Track Listing:-
1 Bigby
2 Ousby
3 Meldon
4 Wysall
5 Minting
6 High Toynton
7 East Carlton
8 Hunstanworth
9 Herbrandston
10 Llanfihangel-Y-Creuddyn
11 Toft
12 East Wittering
13 Middleton On The Hill
14 Knill
15 Teigh
16 Saxby
17 Harley
18 Helperthorpe
19 Catwick

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Interview (2020)
Darren Hayman - Interview
As he prepared for the release of 'Home Time', his 17th album, Darren Hayman speaks to Ben Howarth about his most personal album and his reflections on the end of his epic, award-winning 'Thankful Villages' project.
Interview (2012)
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Brudenell, Leeds, 24/6/2011
Helen Tipping enjoys a night of acoustic rock and razor sharp humour from former Hefner front man Darren Hayman at a solo show at the Brudenell in Leeds
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