It all began with a chance meeting for Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage..
It has proved the perfect meeting of musical minds. They are playing Shoreham’s Ropetackle on Thursday, April 18 (doors: 7.30pm; tickets: 01273 464640
The two quickly discovered their shared musical passions and sympathies. Over time they have developed an intimate show of American roots and English folk music which they deliver huddled round a single microphone.
“It was a chance meeting, pretty much,” recalls Ben. “I play in a band called The Willows and I had just come off touring with them and I went down to this club which is now called the Black Fen Folk Club (in Cambridge), just to play some music that I hadn’t been playing on tour. I just went down there to sing a few songs. Hannah had been living in the US for the previous ten years, and she had moved away from music for quite a long while and had just some back to the UK. She was at the same event. She went on there, and it was pretty much the first time that she had played on her own. I think I heard Hannah first, and she has got an absolutely-incredible voice, a real one-off voice. It evokes a lot of memories of other folk singers, but it is very much her own voice, and she was playing dulcimer.
“I think I spoke to her first. I said ‘Well sung’, and I was interested in whether she had made any recordings before because what she was doing was such high quality. I was quite surprised that she hadn’t. She had heard of The Willows in the US and didn’t know what they looked like, and she was surprised when she worked out who I was. And we got on well.
“As I said, I was surprised that she hadn’t made a recording, and I ended up producing her first solo album in 2015, called Charms Against Sorrow. I played a bit on there and we recorded most of it in a converted mill in Suffolk. It was awesome. There was a great response to the album, and it put her on the map. I was able to tour about half of that record with her as a backing musician, and for the same reason that I had gone to that club, to do something different, we ended up in the downtime doing duets, just singing together on the tour, but just for us, just in the downtime. When it came to making another record, we realised that we had all these snippets of duets and so we fell into making these duet records. We had a lot of material already.”
They have now done two albums together: “If you asked us both to sing into the air away from each other, we have different solo voices, for sure.
“Hannah is very clear, very obviously beautiful and very pure and high. I have always had this slightly-more gravelly voice. Everyone says that I sound older than I am.
“So when we sing together with these voices, there is a real blend, a real juxtaposing of our voices.”
And then we realised that we could also sing together in quite similar voices if I sing in my higher voice. So we have got these two options for a lot of our material. We have worked really hard to blend.”
They offer their show around a single vintage microphone, which is a craft-heavy, intimate warm experience.
“We would love for people to leave our shows feeling uplifted. We have been told that we are a duo who look and sound classically timeless, yet feel refreshingly unique.”