The world of folk music is delightful in so many ways from being about people to creating humble, yet enriching intimate experiences where folk musicians reveal themselves, their kinship and their culture. The secret to a folk musician’s acclaim is their regular living and ability to connect with people and their everyday lives. For instance, Sam Kelly was the first person to sing Cornish on national radio who had previously worked in both TK Maxx and Wetherspoons. Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, “The folk world’s equivalent to Beyonce and Jay Z” continue to deliver “the best that folk tradition has to offer” despite having won copious awards.
Furthermore, XS Noize has witnessed live how Fairport Convention is still able to remain tightknit and true to folk tradition. Anglo-Belgian Balfolk trio, Emily & the Simons, through their debut LP, Firelight, prove they deserve to be on the same platform as the musicians who perform at the London Folk Festival as well as Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, Sam Kelly and Fairport Convention.
Emily & the Simons first met in England’s Peak District, at the folk festival “Skint” and began to perform together professionally soon after. The composition of the bands’ name is simple: Emily Bowden leads a band of two musicians who are both called Simon (Simon Dumpleton and Simon Laffineur). Centred on Emily’s compositions and drawing inspiration from life’s encounters and the energy of the dance-floor (well Emily is a dancer after all!); Emily & the Simons across ten tracks provide fifty-five minutes of instrumental folk joy. Firelight reveals their highly expressive, improvisatory, passionate, tender and playful style across a repertoire ranging from exquisite, sensual mazurkas to joyful driving bourrées. Emily & the Simons music transports the imagination, stirs the feet and uplifts the spirit. Emily’s skills as a dance-musician and experience playing at Clandestine Mazurkas in London’s parks and at European folk festivals are demonstrated through this debut LP.
As well as Firelight being a passionate interplay of both music and dance, the choice of instruments Emily & the Simons use demonstrate a positive quirkiness, a strive for perfection and a respect for the history and the instruments themselves that created the ethereal collective folk sounds on Firelight. Emily is kitted out with an Alfred Vincent violin. In his lifetime, Vincent completed over 300 instruments, including a quartet bequeathed to the Royal Academy of Music. Dumpleton plays a Castagnari Magica accordion whilst Laffineur plays a Picado guitar constructed from a motley of wood that dried naturally over a prolonged period of time.
The traditional folk influences of Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, Sam Kelly, and Fairport Convention can be heard throughout Firelight, but make no mistake that Emily & the Simons debut is a unique and heartfelt composition originating not just from folk tradition, but also from the trio’s souls. The humbleness of these folk musicians demonstrates that they are ideal ambassadors for folk music. For instance, Simon Laffineur was drawn to folk music not fame and fortune but for the opportunity to sing around campfires. Laffineur describes himself as still being “curious and happy about all the unexpected meetings along the path.” With Firelight being funded solely through crowdfunding, Firelight is truly a story of people coming together to tell a story.