A young Dorset-based duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. Shire Folk Editor Graham Hobbs caught up with them in February at the Oxford Folk Club to find out more about them …
SF: Jon and Jay met at school and played some music together as teenagers. However, it wasn’t until they went to the Larmer Tree Festival in 2011 that they decided to form a duo. It was a very good decision, as their album While the Blackthorn Burns won the FATEA Magazine Debut Album of the Year for 2014.
NB: We were both amazed by the music at Larmer Tree and that certainly gave us the inspiration to try to perform together’, explained Jon. ‘My father loved and played traditional music and I suppose it sort of seeped into me over many years without me really noticing’.
Jay explained that he had a slightly different route into the tradition. ‘I really like electronic music and Bjork is a particular favourite of mine. From this I started to learn more about Icelandic music and ‘Shadow’ from our debut album has the melody adapted from an Icelandic folk tune. I did enjoy going round to Jon’s house and joining in the family singalongs, so that is where it all really began’.
They are both influenced by the landscape around them when it comes to their writing and indeed their name. Nine Barrow is also the name of an elongated hill in the northern Purbeck Hills. In their set, you will find songs like ‘Siege’, about an attack on Corfe Castle, and ‘For a Time’, which tells of the Dorset village of Tyneham. This village was evacuated for military purposes just before the Second World War and has never been lived in since.
Jon and Jay have many other influences on their style of music and both like The Staves. Jon went on to say, ‘We learnt so much from recently supporting Philip Henry and Hannah Martin.
‘Many people come up to us after a gig and ask us what that grey box is we have on stage’, said Jay. ‘It is a reed organ with an electronic bellow inside – a flattened accordian is the closest we’ve come to describing it’ At times I thought it sounded like a drone and was used to good effect in my two favourite songs in the set, namely ‘Birdsong’ and ‘The Sea’.
Jay is a doctor and Jon a teacher, and like so many folk musicians they have to balance gigs and festivals with full-time work. ‘We would like to be full-time musicians, but like everyone else, it is all about numbers’ said Jon. ‘We will see what the next few years bring, but at the moment we are enjoying every minute of what we are doing now’.
They have recently introduced quite a few new songs into their set. ‘We nearly have enough material for another album, but we like to try it out live first’, explained Jay. ‘We have made a considerable investment in some new production equipment and although we were pleased with the sound on our first album, our second should be even better’.
When time allows Ninebarrow will be playing many gigs and weekend festivals over the summer. So if you like intelligent, well-written songs, brilliant harmony singing and excellent musicianship I suggest you check them out at [www.ninebarrow.co.uk]