Strange place Cumbria. Not quite Scotland and it's shared Caledonian identity, yet too far from England's cultural epicentres to be dragged into any passing mode du jour. A place then where they do things their own way, at least if Hadrian's Union are anything to go by. Yes, they do make their own entertainment and now they have been kind enough to share it with the rest of us.
Aural Borderalis is an album of only 12 tracks but a 1,000 ideas – sometimes apparently even in one song. Starting with a track that fuses the best of 70's rock with the finest of folk sensibilities, they then proceed through the likes of Gogol Bordello with extra Klezmer, a little Genesis married to a growing Moody Blues lushness – and that's just the music – which frequently offers delightful, inventive and evocative flourishes throughout, embellishing the songs with further touches of class. Not surprising given the line-up that has been added to the original core of the band, with Folk Award winners, ex-Whapweaselers and the like.
Lyrically, there are themes of social concern, anger, regret and isolation, as well as deep love, longing and loss. Perhaps all folk favourites one way or another but in terms of both words and delivery, lyricist, singer and HU founder Stew Simpson can be heard to channel his inner Strummer, with nods to Morrisey as well as those princes of the North East folk scene – Lindisfarne, no less.
Following on from this, it is Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter time and then a gentle instrumental before it starts all over again.
Right in the middle of this festival of eclecticism is the least typical track of all, which perversely sums up HU in the most effective manner. English Eccentrics will call to mind The Bonzos, Stackridge and even the lyrical whimsy of Ray Davies at his Kinkiest. It is, in effect, their Intro and Outro, telling all of their raison d’etre and their ties that bind.
Overall, it's a strange beast of an album but a lovable one, bounding around with abandon at times, then curling around you in front of a warm fire. Listen and wonder!
Damian Liptrot Northern Sky
Rick Kemp - Steeleye Span
"Attention folk fans! Prepare to let some Hadrian’s Union into your life if you want a treat. This is a real whirligig of a release featuring a dynamic mix of reels, jigs and waltzes, and all knocked out with no little vim and plenty of quirky charm. At times they bring to mind the punky attitude of the Pogues, at others they seem to be fired by the prog/folk of Yorkshire’s Michael Chapman, but whatever they’re playing the five-piece dovetail quite beautifully for a release that is as stirring as a nip of whiskey on a cold winter’s night."
Aural Borderalis (The Crack)
"Never thought I could enjoy folk music until I heard Hadrians Union, Fantastic musicians and I love Stew Simpson's Vocals. Songs are well written and cover a good spectrum of subjects and Emotions."
Well this is just lovely. Hadrian’s Union are a Carlisle based duo who make the most melodious kind of folk music; the stuff which is sure to set even the most steadfast toe a-tappin’. Utilising a guitar and violin combo to fine effect, the pair weave many a tale and put plenty of passion behind it, too, making for an utterly compelling listen. Seek them out"
Trapped in time
"The feedback from our members has been very positive. What an interesting, refreshing and entertaining evening we had. Hadrians Union are very talented both musically and in the material they produce, much of it having been written and arranged by themselves. They were different but excellent. Two nice guys as well. We will certainly have them back again."
Ron Flanagan, Organiser, Longridge Folk Club
"I'll give you one piece of advice - Don't change a thing!"
"Best band I've seen in ages"
Ulvertson Music Live
"I've enjoyed the CD. Thanks for giving me the copy. Good luck with that! "
Andy Kershaw (BBC Radio1)
"Great Band, Great Songs, Great Sound"
fRoots Magazine Dec 2017