There have been times over the course of the past eight years of Roots & Fusion when I’ve been fortunate to be part of something wonderful. Let me tell you a story…
Back in 2011, I was listening to the late lamented Bob’s Folk Show when he played a song by Marina Florance. It seems that Neil King from Fatea (and Along The Tracks, another excellent show on Blues & Roots Radio) first heard Marina in the Club Tent at Cambridge Folk Festival and included her on one of his Showcase Session downloads.
I was so impressed that I got in touch and asked her if next time she was near Stockport she would like to record a session for Roots & Fusion. As she lives in Norwich, this took some time to arrange.
It was May 2012 when it finally came together. Back then my sound engineer of the time (Jason Powell) & I were recording artists in places of interest in the borough of Stockport – a crazy idea that grew into something remarkable. When Jason first suggested we take the sessions outside the studio into interesting places I was unconvinced. It’s radio – why would it matter where a session was recorded, no-one can see. Jason impressed on me the importance of ambient sound and he also thought that artists might be a little bored always recording in a studio. He was right. Over the course of a few years we recorded sessions in churches, museums, Stockport air raid shelter, Vernon Park, cafés, even the boardroom of Robinsons Brewery – but I digress…
We arranged to record Marina in Stockport’s Staircase House, a beautifully restored 15th century townhouse museum, home to one of only three surviving Jacobean cage–newel staircases in the country, installed in 1618.
Marina was wonderful. She just kept on playing. I think we recorded ten songs in total, all of them in one take. There was a wonderful moment when right at the end of recording The Dress, a grandfather clock we had been recording near chimed in perfect time.
We had a conversation about future plans and Marina mentioned she wanted to record an EP at the Puppet Theatre in Norwich as part of a collaboration with book artist Jules Allen, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. At this point I suggested she talk with Jason, or Mr Ears as I fondly called him.
And so it came about that Jason travelled down to Norwich to record Marina’s voice & guitar, together with Paul Bullen on keyboards and Cara Winter on backing vocals. They recorded five tracks in the space of five hours in the Puppet Theatre, with a result that is incredible.
The EP, My Own Little Piece Of The Sky, is a masterpiece. Neil King described it like this in his review for Fatea Magazine, “the five tracks on the EP share a remarkable atmosphere in which the interplay of melody and narrative is simply stunning”. It is this atmosphere that Jason captured so brilliantly with his recording – so much so that when a track was played on BBC6 Music, Tom Robinson remarked specifically about how impressed he was with the recording.
When Marina sent me a copy of the CD to see if I wanted to play any on Roots & Fusion, I decided that I would play the whole thing. So on the 6th February 2013, that’s what I did – all five tracks, back to back. Because I can…
Marina’s most recent venture has been a commission to write & sing a few songs for the Warm & Toasty Club in Colchester, as part of the Coast To Coast project. These songs are based on the memories and experiences of some of the retired people she met there. It sounds like she had a marvellous time there, listening to “memory afternoons” and sampling the Biscuit of the Week. The EP with her three songs is available now, called Coast To Coast.
If you ever get the chance to see Marina Florance live, do it. Don’t think twice, just do it. And say hello. She’ll like that…