“Listening to Antoine & Owena immediately takes me away to an English festival on a hot Summer’s day with all of the sights, sounds and tastes which you can imagine go with it. Foot tapping, cider, wine, singing and dancing. The complementary tones of the guitar and violin work really well as do their voices. Antoine’s lead vocal has the confident air of the folk storyteller, delivered with style and passion. A musical friend of mine commented on the excellence of Owena’s violin playing, saying “the intonation is spot on”… Myself, I just like the sound of it!
It’s no accident that this delightful folk duo are so good at what they do because they play so many gigs with passion, energy and professionalism. Antoine & Owena are able to effortlessly balance their accomplished live set with covers and originals and I’m looking forward to hearing their latest recordings.”
KEVIN ROWE, THE LOFT (5* FACEBOOK REVIEW)
Something out of nothing
Something Out Of Nothing is the second album by Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer and I enjoyed their debut, Hands, Hearts & Hangings, very much. The mix of original and tradition
al material is as before but the outcome is rather different. The traditional songs benefit from a more th
oughtful delivery without losing any of their power and the original songs have a slightly harder edge without the mystic touches that flavoured their debut.
The set opens with ‘Botany Bay’. There are so many variants on the song from rousing Irish singalongs to grim Australian ballads but Anotoine and Owena’s version is thoughtful; a warning to young men. It starts gently but builds to a fine climax. ‘Polly Anne’ is the first of the original songs but it could be taken for a traditional story – a young woman is swept off her feet by a young sea captain but regrets her decision, returns home and…regrets her decision. Folk songs are like that, even modern ones.
Antoine is from Salisbury, as is Owena, but in ‘Northern Man’ he tries to tell us different. Th
e period details are so right that I can’t help but wonder whose story of a Doncaster childhood is actually being told. I’m beginning to develop a theory because ‘Living On The Breadline’ tells of a young man who works on a farm in Wiltshire, at least at the beginning of the song, but the setting is a historical one although the parallels with modern-day gang-masters are obvious.
‘Farewell, Santo Domingo’ is another historical song concerning the colonisation of Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century and it’s a suitably bloody account. There are two other traditional songs; ‘Benjamin Bowmaneer’ and ‘Van Dieman’s Land’ – the latter sees Owena’s violin rocking up a storm. Anf Abbott appears on bodhran again and Antoine & Owena have enriched their musical palette wit
h the support of Mervyn Harris on bass and Luigi Cibrario on drums. The sound on Something Out Of Nothing is really very good.
The remaining three songs are all original. ‘Santa Rosa’ picks up the sea-faring theme again; ‘The Swallow’ is about the desire to escape from the country that England has become and the title track is the story of the cover illustration and another commentary on the state of the nation. Antoine and Owena have made a fine album that’s even better than their debut.
Dai Jeffries, Folking.com, 02/03/2020
Hands, Hearts & Hangings
Individually, Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer had been ploughing their separate musical furrows for many years until joining forces in early 2017. Antoine had performed in several bands of varying styles, including rock and progressive music before settling himself in the world of folk and traditional music. Owena’s trajectory was more straightforward having been around the folk scene for over twenty years composing her own tunes, playing fiddle parts in various bands and sharing the stage with luminaries such as the Oysterband, Show of Hands, Megson and Cara Dillon to name but a few.
After meeting, Antoine and Owena quickly began writing and performing together and impressively won the Purbeck Folk Festival Rising Award in 2017. Winning this prestigious event understandably provided something of a launch pad for them and they have appeared at a host of festivals and folk clubs so far in 2018.
In July the duo released their debut album ‘Hands, Hearts & Hangings’, which is a mix of self written material and traditional songs, all recorded at the legendary Real World Studios. Antoine sings, plays bouzouki, guitar and tambourine whilst Owena contributes voice and violin with special guest musician Anf Abbott filling things out on bodhran.
Owena’s mournful violin introduces the opening and self written track ‘The Peddler and the Witch’ before Antoine’s deceptively gentle picked guitar and vocal lead us through a tale that includes the archetypal folk fayre of witches, curses and hangings. Antoine’s voice is clear and tuneful, reminded me a little of Reg Meuross but with a bit more rasp!
‘The Ballad of John Olden’ is a more uptempo number as guitar and violin push things through with some lovely harmonies from Owena on the chorus, while the Traditional ‘My Son John/Lads of Laois’ is a percussive treat and fairly rattles along.
‘The Palmer’s Kiss’ similarly bounces through on a strong acoustic guitar part with some fine violin underpinning but the star of the show is the sweet, almost nursery rhyme harmony vocal chorus that’s just ripe for a bit of ‘folk club’ participation.
The traditional ‘The King of the Fairies’ is an all too short instrumental work out for the violin, guitar and bodhran, but this leads in nicely to ‘Summer Longing’ which is my favourite song on the album with it’s fingerpicked guitar and extended harmonies and then next up the ubiquitous ‘John Barleycorn’ is given a good ride for its money with some particularly rhythmic, sawing violin setting the pace.
Another traditional track ‘The Rambling Soldier’ gets quite a sparse retelling with Antoine’s voice particularly to the fore and then it’s back to more driving guitar and bodhran for ‘Seventeen’ and the only slightly slower, moodily atmospheric ‘So Alive’.
‘Luna’ rounds of the album in measured, introspective fashion with its courtly guitar strum and staccato notes as Antoine really stretches his voice out, holding the notes over Owena’s soaring violin. A lovely end to the record.
Well, this certainly doesn’t sound like a debut record and given the duo’s vast experience, I guess it was unlikely to! The playing is strong and assured, the original songs written with a sense of story and imagery that is stylistically sympathetic to the traditional numbers, all of which is captured in pristine fashion by the recording and production values.
‘Hand, Hearts & Hangings’ is a fine offering and it’s clear to see why Antoine & Owena are making such an impression in the world of folk.
Paul Jackson, Fatea Magazine
ANTOINE & OWENA – Hands, Hearts & Hangings (own label)
We receive a lot of unsolicited albums, often debuts from new artists. Some we may gloss over; others we play more than once. So it is with Hands, Hearts & Hangings, the first album from Wiltshire duo Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer. Both are experienced musicians and are beginning to make their mark, having supported Reg Meuross and Eliza and Martin Carthy. You don’t get to do that unless you’re pretty good.
Their repertoire mixes original and traditional material and perversely I prefer the former. Not that there is anything wrong with their traditional songs except that they are terribly well known and tend to be up-tempo crowd pleasers. That said, there are verses in their version of ‘My Son John’ that I haven’t heard before. If they delved into the old texts a little deeper they would have it nailed. But…they write the sort of songs that nobody writes anymore, conjuring up situations and stories the way Bob Pegg and Mandy Morton used to.
Take the first track, ‘The Peddler And The Witch’. We’re immediately in some unspecified past time and witnessing an encounter on the road that moves from commercial to threatening. Then there’s a twist – you might expect that – but there is a second twist to follow that. Brilliant. ‘The Ballad Of John Olden’ is a song of the Luddites but ‘The Palmer’s Kiss’ takes us back to the unspecified past time of that first song. Is it just about sex or is their something mystical involved? As ‘Summer Longing’ began I settled down for a sweet pastoral song but it turns out there is something odd and twisted about it. The final track, ‘Luna’, begins in a similar fashion but by the closing chant it, too, has changed.
Musically, Antoine and Owena don’t over-complicate things. He plays bouzouki and guitar and she plays violin and there is bodhran from Anf Abbott but if you hear them live this is pretty much what you’ll get and that’s good enough for me.
Dai Jeffries, Folking.com