YOU MAY or may not have been blessed enough to have swooned for Clayhill, the cruelly underrated trio who got lumped into the semi-trendy genre ‘The New Acoustic’ by the music press alongside the likes of Lowgold and Kings of Convenience, which definition did them a massive disservice.
Seek ye their albums; for further evidence of my assertions, check out the dark delicacy of “Hang On” from Clayhill’s 2006 swansong album, Mine At Last.
After Clayhill’s sad demise, and the trio – former Red Snapper bassist Ali Friend and dual singer-songwriters, ex-Sunhouse (and there’s another criminally underrated band) man Gavin Clark and Ted Barnes went their separate ways, Ted was involved with soundtracks, working with the acclaimed Dead Man’s Shoes/This Is England director Shane Meadows on a clutch of tunes for his 2008 film, Somers Town, and library music, among other projects.
It’s nigh on 13 years now since his last album proper, Portal Nou, after which Ted creatively diversified, into theatre, film, even contemporary circus and songwriting partnerships, working with Beth Orton for a decade.
“Leaving rock ‘n’ roll to join the circus was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Ted says, memorably and wryly.
Ted the prodigal is now finally set to return with a new full album set, 17 Postcards, on March 19th.
Structurally, 17 Postcards is exactly that: succinct and often cathartic musical missives, some lyric, some instrumental, inspired by collaborations both past and ongoing and events of the past decade; notably the loss of his Clayhill bandmate Gavin Clark, who left us too soon in 2015.
Along for the ride are collaborators such as Ali Friend; Gill Sandell, of Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, on piano and accordion, and the string section of Howard Gott and Sarah Willson, whose work you’ve heard with both Beth Orton and Tindersticks.
He’s released a digital single, “Way Beyond This”, the video for which you can watch below; he shares vocal duties on a beautiful but, it has to be said, harrowing sway of a tune with Michael Clark, the son of his former bandmate.
It captures one of those moments in life when you can only watch from outside yourself with horror and shock; the parting of a lover.
“I’m way beyond this / I’m up in the clouds / Caught in a world I don’t understand … And I’m not the one that I used to know / You take my hand / And you pass the key / And I say goodbye /And I say goodbye,” Ted sings.
Let’s let Ted explain further: “‘Way Beyond This’ was originally written for What Am I Worth?, [a performance] by circus company Extraordinary Bodies.
“After the tour I reworked it for the album using Michael Clark’s beautiful vocal take. Michael is the son of my long-term band-mate, singer Gavin Clark, who sadly died six years ago. I can’t explain what a strange and poignant joy it was to hear him sing this song.
“He is unnervingly similar to his dad in depth and delivery but ploughs his own unique path and writing talents.
“The video features interpreter Jacqui Beckford signing the song for a scene in the Extraordinary Bodies film What do you see in me?.
“For me, her unselfconscious interpretation of the words and music was beautiful enough to hold court.”
Over the past 25 years Ted has watched “folk” come and go in the giddy world of what’s hot and what’s not, all the while fashioning his own brand of heartfelt, acoustic driven, atmospheric songcraft. It’s great he has found a home for it in the world.
“Way Beyond This” featuring Michael Clark is available over at Bandcamp now (see below) for just one English pound of your money.
17 Postcards will be released by Mornington Records on March 19th on digital download and CD, and will available from Ted’s Bandcamp page, where you’ll find a multiplicity of other goodies, including Portal Nou; it’s also available for pre-order from Rough Trade right now.
Follow Ted over at his website, which will you lead on a merry and multidisciplinary musical trail.