Sleeping Spirals – Hannah James and Toby Kuhn

On 'Sleeping Spirals', the exceptional talents of songwriter Hannah James and cellist Toby Kuhn combine to bring folk tales full of melody and intrigue.

Sleeping Spirals

Hannah James and Toby Kuhn

  • Folk

  1. In The Gloaming
  2. The Giant
  3. Three Ravens
  4. January
  5. Jealousy
  6. The Ragged Woman
  7. Too Far For You To See
  8. Sheila's Tune
  9. Jezerka
  10. Vine Dance
  11. Under Sea
  12. The Faint and Weary Traveller

Think Kate Rusby meets The Handsome Family and that’s probably a good start. 'Sleeping Spirals' is folk music in the purest tradition, but with an exploratory twist and sinister undercurrent. It is the debut album of two fine musical talents; Hannah James and Toby Kuhn. Fusing English folk and European melodies, they blend the traditional narrative style of the ballad with twisting, twirling energies.

‘Sleeping Spirals’ kicks off with ‘In The Gloaming’. It soars to a sufi-esque whirling dervish – a glorious, quick tempo introduction, followed by two traditional ballads ‘The Giant’ and ‘Three Ravens’. These further bring a mystical, mythical element. ‘The Giant’ has a fairy tale quality certainly, while ‘Three Ravens’ is a dark tale of murder and revenge.

Hannah’s haunting yet sweetly innocent voice betrays the complexity of ‘Sleeping Spirals’. This voice, juxtaposed with Toby Kuhn’s exquisite cello makes for a powerful musical dialogue. Add to the mix, Hannah’s accordion and percussion to create a slightly surreal, yet sensitive and reflective blend. Emotionally stirring, the listener cannot fail to be moved.

With a distinctive European folk flavour, and with Hannah James Northern English accent adding character to the ethos, this is a textured and rich album of ancient tales infused with the natural world, past times, and long-lost sensitivities to people, places, and things.

‘Sleeping Spirals’ is an invocation to awaken the beauty of traditional folk music and song.

The team that is Hannah James and Toby Kuhn works – not just because of exceptional skill and talent – but the capacity to explore, and experiment. For example, ‘Jealousy’ is slightly different from the rest of the pack with a hint of the playful, clog-dancing background of Hannah James.

Soulful, original, and conversational, ‘Sleeping Spirals’ twists and twirls through various moods and sounds with the cello constantly resonating and adding a rich, passionate and emotive texture. James is not just a beautiful voice, she is a dancer and accordionist who has explored the folk traditions of Europe. She has collaborated widely, but her own songwriting talents and the honing of her craft have led her to develop a deeply personal style.

Toby Kuhn is a French cellist who escaped the classical world to also go exploring musical traditions across Europe. Inspired by the Balkans and Americana, he is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to play cello borrowing finger-picking techniques from guitarists and banjoists, chopping from violinists, and plucking from bassists – such is his inventiveness and ingenuity.

Quality musicianship, it seeps its own style. Courageous, innovative, yet utterly steeped in the traditional folk ethos.