Folk has long been a genre of music synonymous with storytelling; from ancient tales of rolling seas to the crimes of war and when it comes to storytelling it’s simple enough to say that Darren Black is one of the most prolific.
A natural born storyteller his verse has always sculpted a unique and tender view of the world around him. Now however he has bent his talents to produce his first ever concept album entirely based around the iron and coal mining industry of Wales. Lord Abergavenny’s Hills’ is a rich culmination of months of dedication as Black produced the album entirely off of his own back, reliant only upon his own home-built studio. This allowed him to pour his heart, soul and time into this album, honing it and polishing it at every turn until he had finally created a concept album that couldn’t be more suitable.
To listen to Lord Abergavenny’s Hills’ is to lay back and indulge in a brief, colourful and melodic history lesson as it whisks you away to rural Wales at the dawn of the iron and coal mining age; an age where backbreaking labour and painfully long hours were commonplace and health and safety were nothing more than words. These rich forays into the past allow you to explore a vast number of the lives led as songs such as Where the Rainbow Meets the Sweet Sunshine – a tender tale from the perspective of a doting wife waiting for her husband to come home from his dangerous and demanding job. Black sings a collection of songs that are an embodiment of human heartache, everything from the experiences of the miners to their families is accounted for with a deep, understanding verse that helps to shed light on a past that is clearly close to Black’s heart.
Black has always been nothing short of masterful lyrically with a rich understanding of human nature and a deep empathy to guide him. He combines this with an eager, earnest and honest voice that when carrying such a collection of warm, earthy lyrics couldn’t be more fitting that for an album of coal. The music is a superb combination of a wondrous blend of smoky tones, bluesy guitar medleys and an astounding violin. The resonant sounds of Lennie Harvey’s slide guitar adds to the already grandiose sounds Black provides and enriches it, allowing some of the songs to dabble somewhere between folk and bluegrass. Breaking up the album with a smooth interlude is the short fiddle tune Lord Abergavenny’s Hills’ which is so tenderly soothing that you could easily awaken laying in a sunspot on a rolling green hill somewhere in Wales.
The album whirls through a variety of genres, somehow amalgamating blues, bluegrass, folk and even elements of gently upbeat rock tunes into a music medley that’s not to be missed. Listening to Black’s skilful compositions is akin to watching an ancient tapestry being woven before your very eyes. A vast knowledge combines with a deep affection to create an album that speaks more clearly than any history book might with an array of songs that range from the sombre to the jaunty. The blues-rock song Hats Off to the Rest is a bouncy, rousing song that seems almost whimsical at first before you realise it’s actually a song about the perils faced by the miners. It’s a wonderful album that doesn’t shy away from the dark heart of the industry.
Lord Abergavenny’s Hills’ is a skilfully crafted concept album that is written with a tender honesty and a deep love for both the history and the location. It’s a swirling collection of rich, melodic music that’s sung with a soulful passion that’s hard to rival. For his first completely self-produced album, Black might just have produced his best album to date.
Fore more information on Darren Black, check out his website here: