guitar and voice

Imbued with a sense of immediacy and spirit that is stirring, at times electrifying, Rebecca Barclay and John Steele’s seamlessly woven mix of vocal and guitar feels new yet is uncompromisingly traditional.

Compelling stories of murder, mourning, betrayal, love, history, retribution, the face of adversity, ghosts, loss, independence, and the human spirit, from both sides of the Atlantic, performed with respect for a tradition that links generations, cultures and humanity.

Rebecca sings the songs and legends of her native Canada and the North East of England with an unusual voice brimming with a variety of textures, from dark, smoky and mysterious, to lively, pale and vulnerable, and full of surprises. Her voice invokes haunting memories with cadence and melodic power.

John’s guitar is by turns percussive, gentle, fiddle-like and undulating, with waves of melodic twists, combining the wider elements of exuberant folk music with a firm classical training. His style has a mesmerizing sense of impending immediacy, age and spirit.

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Rebecca Barclay and John Steele perform songs from the traditions of England, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and France. Their understated arrangements of traditions songs are founded on Rebecca Barclay’s powerful yet subtle vocals coupled with John Steele’s sensitive guitar accompaniments, occasionally complemented by fiddle and percussion. Both experienced solo performers, their collaboration evolved out of a common interest in English traditional song, but their diverse repertoire includes material from throughout the English and French speaking regions of Europe and North America, with a few musical oddities thrown into the mix for good measure.

Barclay and Steele’s approach to performing traditional material is to place the song at the centre of their arrangements and to allow the performance to grow as naturally as possible out of the words, melody and mood of the song. In doing so they draw on a variety of influences blending them intuitively to create a sound that is both firmly rooted in tradition yet identifiably their own.

rebecca barclay

Rebecca Barclay lives in the northeast of England. She has been an inspired singer since the age of 12 when she started actively researching folk traditions. She has a particular interest in the stories of older songs, bringing them to life with ornamentation and rhythmical influences from a diverse range of cultural traditions. Her vocal style, firmly rooted in the tradition of English folk singing, draws for further inspiration from East Indian classical singing, Irish Sean-nós singing, Balkan harmonic singing and South African 4-part percussive harmonies which she first studies at the "Worlds of Music" group in Toronto Canada. Rebecca Barclay has performed widely across Canada the USA and in the UK, both as a soloist and as a compliment to an assortment of bands, ranging in style from folk choirs to jazz and celtic rock. Her respect for cultural diversity derives from being Canadian.

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John Steele

John Steele grew up in the Northumberland and County Durham area in the northeast of England and has been playing guitar for more than 20 years. Firmly rooted in the tradition of English folk guitar, his playing draws for further inspiration on a diverse range of influences including classical music, blues and American folk. Also a fiddler, he has incorporated ideas of ornamentation from Irish and Scottish fiddling into his guitar style. John Steele has played in sessions throughout Europe and North America, both as an accompanist to singers and melody players and as a soloist, and has appeared on radio shows in Canada and the UK. In addition to his collaboration with Rebecca Barclay, John Steele is a member of the respected Northumberland instrumental ceilidh dance band "Maximum Pastry!".

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Rebecca Barclay and John Steele provide dark mysterious vocals and intricate guitar, combining to present sparse, intensely direct and compelling older traditional story songs.