Stone Angel’s roots remain in the folklore of native Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 13:14 24 October 2014 | UPDATED: 13:14 24 October 2014
It started in the days of glam-pop and progressive rock – an era of endless guitar solos, jazz-rock fusion and half-baked hippy philosophy.
Stone Angel, formed in 1974, however, were inspired by things much more immediate and tangible – the history, landscape and folklore of their native Norfolk.
The roots of the band however went back to 1972 when singer-guitarist Ken Saul, now of Filby, and fellow guitarist Paul Corrick got together to rehearse for a Yarmouth Folk Club Christmas party.
They could only come up with a duet version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” so asked local folk singer Jill Child to add vocals.
The trio Midwinter was born and enjoyed success on the local folk club, college and session circuit. An album’s worth of demo tracks was recorded in 1973 but not released at the time.
The band ended when Jill left for college in 1974 and Ken and Paul, armed with a good mixture of traditional folk songs and tunes, plus Ken’s own songs, went on to form Stone Angel with three new members.
With Joan Bartle (now Joan Saul) on vocals, flute and crumhorn, Mick Burroughs on percussion and bass, and Dave Lambert on fiddle, mandolin and rebec, the new five-piece had a much fuller sound – with frequent echoes of renaissance music mixed in with modern musical styles.
Along the way Ken added dulcimer to his musical skills and became the group’s main songwriter.
Little time was wasted and the first album, “Stone Angel”, was recorded during the winter of 1974-75.
With Ken’s songs about Norfolk’s infamous hell-hound Black Shuck, unique black-sailed wherries and the monks of Bromholm Priory, the album had a strong Norfolk identity and helped to establish the band on the folk club and festival scene throughout East Anglia and beyond.
Stone Angel enjoyed new success as a performing band but the inevitable pressures of work and family life eventually saw the group break up.
Ken and Joan, now married, continued as regulars on the local folk scene and that might have been the end of Stone Angel.
The Stone Angel vinyl LP had sold in small numbers but the era of CDs saw specialist label Kissing Spell reissue “Stone Angel” in 1994.
With their music available again, Ken and Joan reformed the band, playing live and recording new albums. By this time the new five-piece included Dave Felmingham on vocals, keyboards and programming, Andrew Smith on vocals and electric guitars and Michael Wakelin on vocals and bass guitar.
The new Stone Angel won many new fans – consolidating their reputation with the impressive new album “Lonely Waters” in 2004.
The band had grown to an ambitious septet with new members Richard Danby (oboe, recorder, crumhorn and vocals) and Jane Denny (percussion and vocals) and the return of original member Mick Burroughs.
However tragedy struck when band member Richard Danby died as a new album recording was nearing completion. The death hit the band hard – but they reformed with Geoff Hurrell joining on bass, vocals and a new instrument – the glockenspiel.
Mick Burroughs left and in 2007 Stone Angel released what is perhaps their most ambitious CD “Circle of Leaves”.
As well as new songs written by both Ken and Joan the work included traditional folk tunes, a 12th century religious lyric, Rudyard Kipling’s “Oak Ash and Thorn” and the seasonal “Holly and the Ivy”,
Last year Stone Angel releasd Between the Water and the Sky and last mont played at Hickling Broad for Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
The current 40th anniversary season continues with a concert at All Saints Church, Welborne, on Saturday October 25.
For more details about Stone Angel, including how to get tickets for their concerts and CDs, visit www.stone-angel.co.uk.
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