FolkWorld #81 11/2023
© Jane Brace PR

Music of the Unexpected

A chance collaboration during COVID between three key singer-songwriters from the UK, Canada and Iceland has triggered what is likely to be one of the most arresting, unique and diverse albums of the year.

Ward Knútur Townes

Artist Audio Ward Knútur Townes "Unanswered", Betty Beetroot Records, 2023

In their own musical micro NATO alliance, popular Derbyshire-based performer Lucy Ward returns with this, her first major album in five years, joining forces with Iceland’s mesmerising modern-day troubadour Svavar Knútur and Canada’s Adyn Townes, purveyor of pin-sharp, heartfelt songs.

Three contrasting singer-songwriters with more than a dozen album releases between them and a plethora of industry awards and nominations, this is a beguiling new trio and sound - and a release of totally original music.

They were propelled together through the world’s largest musical collaboration Global Music Match - a ground-breaking project which saw 60 artists from 16 countries making music virtually with counterparts. Ward, Knútur and Townes teamed up through COVID lockdowns, melding their songwriting skills and seemingly made-to-be harmonies, literally finding their sound as the world fell silent. Such was their rapport they agreed it shouldn’t end there and decided to pursue a debut album.

For Lucy Ward, now a mum of three young boys and with four successful solo studio albums behind her – it reaffirms her place as one of UK’s folk’s most powerful and captivating artists. Her songwriting has been described as ‘passion, protest and tradition rolled into one’.

Ward Knútur Townes

Artist Video

Dubbed ‘Brit-Folk’s most vibrant and forthright young talent’ by MOJO, ‘impressive and original’ by The Guardian and ‘inspiring’ by Billy Bragg, Lucy won the Best Newcomer gong at the 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was one of the youngest ever nominees for Folk Singer of the Year at the 2014 Awards while her Single Flame album became one of MOJO’s top albums of 2013.

Across the Atlantic alt-indie artist Adyn Townes (Andrew M.L. Brown in the writing credits) is a five time International Songwriting Competition finalist and winner of the 2020 Music New Brunswick SOCAN* Song of the Year Award for House on the Ocean.

Completing the trio Svavar Knútur is a singular songwriter from the north of Iceland with a sublime voice and sharp observation. His intimate, quirky, mood-swing songs may sometimes be spun from his country’s dark history and rugged ‘fire and ice’ landscape but they also deliver hope and humour and cleverly sum up the human condition.

Now these three top drawer singer songwriters fuse their talent on debut album Unanswered, produced by Steve MacLachlan who also plays drums on the release. Aside from their three exceptional voices, Townes plays guitars, Ward plays sansula and Knútur plays guitars, keys and synths. Completing the line-up are guests Sarah Matthews on violin and viola and Evan McCosham on bass.

Having painstakingly crafted the album over two years courtesy of Zoom, the trio finally met in Iceland in April to record the 11-track album. Recorded at Leifshús Art Farm on a mountainside overlooking a fjord, Unanswered is music of the unexpected – bold, moving, eloquent and eclectic, turning on a sixpence from folk to rock, pop to blues. The narrative song themes delve into in love, mystery, folklore, nature and social injustice in eleven wonderful vignettes.

Sometimes stark and spectral, other times positive and punchy Unanswered is not just a breath of fresh air – it’s a complete gust of creativity from an alliance that would probably never have come to be had it not been for a global pandemic. Their meeting proved a master stroke of serendipity.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Ward Knútur Townes, (3) Svavar Knútur, (4) Adyn Townes, (5) Lucy Ward (unknown/website).

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