COMPOSER, PRODUCER, VOCALIST, SONGWRITER
International radio play including Cerys Matthews on
BBC Radio 4 and 6
"Esbe showcases what a fantastic musician she is . . . a musical magician,
who has once again made a fantastic record!" Rootstime
"A breathtaking achievement"
CD Of The Month Canardfolk
"Esbe never ceases to amaze . . . even more amazing than anything she has done before.
Great album!" Jazzquad
"Esbe’s talent . . . to put her unique stamp on popular traditional folk songs.
She really knows how to make a melody her own! A fascinating listen" Folk And Honey
"A phenomenal voice coupled with impressive arrangements"
Richard Hageman, Radio WMNR Featured Album
"Artfully composed . .. showcases an impressive talent . . . Above all Esbe breathes new life, a new experience without losing each song's charm, impact or grace" MonolithCocktail
"Esbe has such a pure, but warm voice, it's perfectly suited to holding the stage all by itself!"
Tony Currie, Radio Six International
"Esoteric, atmospheric and hypnotic, beguiling, intoxicating" Folking
"Brilliant arrangements . . . just jaw-dropping" FolkWales -Thumbs Up!
"Clever interlacing of the melodies . . . fascinating voice . . . studio technique - that's all Esbe needs to breathe new, gentle life into ten folk classics” Westzeit
"A stylish creation . . . shows her dexterity and vocal ingenuity . . .
and how great a creator of new sounds she is . . . wonderfully sung" Era Jazzu
"A vocal flair that makes you sit up and listen" Spiral Earth
8/10 "Stunning vocal prowess . . . eloquent and expressive.
Esbe makes each of these tracks her own . . . absorbing" Take Effect
“Esbe weaves her distinctive faery magic . . . silver clarity of rippling harmonies . . . Esbe is restlessly eclectic and prolific, burnishing the unlikeliest material with her starlit lustre” RnR
"Incredible layered vocals, making for a wonderfully atmospheric recording"
Essex Folk News
"Beautifully arranged . . . Coventry Carol, so sensitively interpreted, my spine tingled"
North East Post
"Striking and full of melodic surprises . . . terrifically clever" Songlines
"would fit well on the soundtrack of a world created by Tolkien" Rigas Laiks (Good Times)
"Esbe has created new , fascinating versions . . . unexpected harmonies and phrasing, and so the emotions they evoke are therefore also new" Ivan Rod
Esbe steps into the magical world of a capella folk songs on her eighth studio album, a stylish creation of reinterpretations from the folk canon that are as unexpected as they are beautiful.
BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY show-cases Esbe’s vocal dexterity with richly layered harmonies and some melodic surprises. Esbe takes the listener to new places with special reference to her engaging arrangements of Scarborough Fair, and Sumer Is Icumen In which opens the album. Perfectly recorded as always, Esbe sometimes treats her multi-tracked vocals as choral groupings, and at other times as if the voice is a sampled instrument, best shown in her vivacious and eccentric interpretations of Three Blind Mice and Oranges And Lemons.
From the quirky to the sublime, every song is re-created, as if written anew. And Esbe’s unusual arrangements fit perfectly within the contemporary choral tradition whilst displaying her own unique voice in this classical world. The tonal boundaries are redrawn with new harmonies, sometimes changing with each verse as in the enchanting Greensleeves. As Esbe says,
“When I plan a new album, I have in mind the overall sound I’d like to explore. My last few albums have been produced using orchestral instruments and electronica, but I wanted to make this album all about the voice. I’ve sung these songs all my life, they’ve always been there… I re-worked the harmonies and arrangements to give them a new twist, to intensify their emotions, whether serious or frivolous.”
In the song Blow The Wind Southerly, famously sung by Kathleen Ferrier CBE, Esbe departs from a solo vocal rendition to compose heart-wrenching harmonies. Always with a strong sense of the visual, she imagined a young woman, standing on a cliff in the moonlight, wishing her lover would return safely from his ocean voyage. The sense of urgency as she pleads with the ocean to bring his return becomes increasingly poignant as each bridge chorus gains speed, after slower, more reflective verses.
To further enhance the atmosphere, Esbe has added some delightfully expressive field recordings which engage the listener and enhance the setting for some of the songs. Amongst others, a cuckoo heralds Sumer Is Icumen In, and ocean waves add a blustery chill to My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.
Each of the songs on BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY has a particular meaning for Esbe, from the resonance of the familiar that we all share, to the classic gospel ‘Kumbaya’, which Esbe fondly remembers singing with her mother as a child, and the 16th century Coventry Carol. Usually heard with its medieval chord structure, Esbe has enhanced the reflective melancholy of this Christmas carol with newly composed tightly wrought harmonies against the recording of an old church bell.
For those who have followed Esbe's releases during the past five years, each album is produced with its own theme and soundscape. Ever changing and developing as both arranger and producer, BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY was conceived as a pure a capella album, without orchestration or sound-bank samples. These have both been strongly featured on Esbe's previous albums, the serene, I Might Be Dreaming, which featured filmic orchestral strings, and ‘Saqqara’, an interesting blend of contemporary sounds, Middle Eastern vocals, and percussion. BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY is a conscious departure from this production style, enabling Esbe to reacquaint herself with her Royal Academy of Music training in composition and vocal scoring on manuscript before recording. As Esbe says:
“I love exploring unexpected harmonies for well-known songs. I did this on my ' 2020 lockdown' album, UNDER COVER where I picked some of my favourite pop and jazz songs and found new ways to show them. Some of the songs on BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY were built around short vocal phrases whilst others were arranged in a more classical choral tradition. For these, there was no ‘backing track’ to sing to, so I allowed the natural tempo to unfold. This was a new way of working - to interpret as if singing live. I found a greater freedom of expression to reflect on each phrase or word and its emotion."
Esbe, London, United Kingdom