Henley Life - page 15

MUSIC
M
egan Henwood is a distinguished
singer-songwriter but she is far too
self-deprecating to describe herself as
a force of nature. However her third album
River,
released last month on Dharma Records,
reaffirms her unique ability to create roots
music of beguiling purity from her
surroundings.
River
is the most mature work yet of an artist
renowned for her intoxicating blend of
acoustic and electronic ingredients.
It depicts Megan’s lifelong relationship with
the rivers and seas that flow into her creativity.
Its alt-folk essence is illuminated with shades
of sophisticated jazz and low-key electronica,
on a record of dark hues and discreet
optimism.
The album, again produced by close
collaborator Tom Excell, is the third in a
bespoke series that began after Megan won
the 2009 BBC Young Folk Award aged just 20,
together with her younger brother Joe.
Her debut appearance at the Glastonbury
Festival duly followed the next year.
On record, 2011’s
Making Waves
and 2015 set
Head Heart Hand
were widely applauded for
displaying a songwriting and performing
maturity beyond her years. The sessions for
River,
were recorded at her brother Joe’s
studio, Henwood Studios in Oakley Wood near
Wallingford.
The album is a voyage full of smoky
ambience, lyrical poise and instrumental
scope. Megan’s touch is as delicate as her
imagery, in songs written by a self-confessed
lover of language who sings words and
phrases you just don’t hear every day. For
example, in
Apples
, the character regretfully
“wipes the tears from her sleeve / it’s where
her heart used to be.”
The energy for the entire
record comes from the
water. This is unsurprising
as Megan’s father is one
of Henley’s most
established boatbuilders,
Colin Henwood, formerly
of Henwood & Dean. And
Megan’s mother Maggie
is herself a folk singer and
ran the business side of
the family boatbuilders
for many year.
Specifically, the river of
Megan’s music comes
from the water that flows
through Oxford, where
this often nomadic soul
(she used to live in a
vintage Airstream
caravan) has almost
surprised herself by
making her home since
2010.
“I’ve been here for nearly
seven years now. I just
love it. It’s just got the
balance for me. So a lot of
this album is based around Oxford and
Cornwall and those places that I resonate
with. I swim in the river a lot and I grew up by
the river, swimming in it, boating in it,
looking at the sea. I think I’d find it hard to
live somewhere I couldn’t submerge myself.
“It sounds a bit silly, but there’s some kind of
calming, rejuvenating feeling of being
submerged in water that is part of my
survival process.”
For Megan, the understanding needed to
produce an album of this depth and quality
has to go beyond a merely musical
relationship.
“There’s merit to working with people you’re
familiar with that know what you want to
achieve — not just as a musician but as a
human being,” she says.
“On this record and the one before, I had a
good balance of people that I felt were the
anchors I’ve worked with for so long, and we
can communicate really well, along with a
few people that bring that new sparkle, that I
haven’t worked with before. Those sessions
are always really exciting.”
That’s this album all over — it’s like a
rambling house with a mixture of old and
new furniture where the woodwork of folk
tradition sits comfortably alongside
experimental pieces of modern art.
Megan will start decorating them soon, in
live performances that will stretch into 2018.
River
is about to flow freely.
Songs from the river
The river of Megan’s music comes
from the water that flows
through Oxford
Henley is blessed with a rich musical heritage with musical families settling here and
bringing up their equally talented offspring. Megan Henwood is one such child of Henley
who has very much forged her own musical path. Paul Sexton reviewed her latest album
and spoke to Megan.
HENLEY
life
| DECEMBER 2017
15
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