Dan Haywood is a folk songwriter, guitarist and ornithologist based in Lancashire, an enigmatic character whose previous large-scale musical endeavour was a 32-part lovesong to Caithness and Sutherland called New Hawks.
That, and his new album Dapple, reveal his fascination with geography and nature, and our deep-rooted relationship with them.
Over the course of ten small but perfectly formed tracks, where his charmingly imperfect, accented vocals and delicate, organic acoustic guitar work take centre stage, he conjurs a timeless spell with his bucolic tales of maidens, apple trees, fish in the river, embittered farmers, rooks and magpies.
He takes no half-measures in immersing himself in nature during the recording process, giving a very literal spin to the term ‘field recording’ by taking a 40 year-old Nagra mono tape machine - renowned for its high fidelity performance - out into the Forest of Bowland along with his guitar and the occasional accompanying musician. Recording at times and locations appropriate to each song, serendipitous bursts of birdsong add a special atmosphere.
Clocking in at just 24 minutes, this gently quirky, pastoral folk gem doesn’t outstay its welcome. The brevity means that the album’s impact is deceptive. You may be surprised to find that what you initially took to be just a series of sketched vignettes has seeped in to your mind, becoming like a cherished memory of another time.