There’s a refreshingly joyful musical relationship at the heart of the new album Chatterbox, by accordionists Hannah James and Sweden based Estonian musician Tuulikki Bartosik. Two women known in their respective countries for resisting the confines of musical tradition, they’ve created a piece of work which is bold, exciting and completely original. Showcasing the accordion’s versatility through assured musical interplay, improvisation and new compositions, and marked by a genuine sense of adventure, this is not like any accordion album you’ve ever heard.
When it came to recording, they wanted to find a space that would allow them to replicate the freedom and natural interplay they’d first found in Estonia – somewhere that their music could flow naturally. They chose the remote and beautiful Stiwdio Felin Fach in the Brecon Beacons, where producer Dylan Fowler immediately got what they were about – and had some interesting ideas of his own. “He took us to a cave!” Hannah laughs. Though both are used to putting music into unexpected contexts, Hannah and Tuulikki were at first somewhat taken aback by the idea – especially when it emerged that getting there meant trekking across country with their instruments. But when they arrived, they realised immediately that the cave’s rich resonances and rhythmically plinking water created a wonderfully evocative soundscape. “The natural sustain of the accordion just carried on forever, like an endless breath. It was the perfect environment for our instruments,” Tuulikki says. The accordions began to speak to each other (hence the name Chatterbox) and Fowler added subtle accompaniment on guitar and Welsh drum. The result is four beautiful new improvised pieces that form the album’s core. Back in the studio, the magical atmosphere carried on through the remaining 5 days of recording. In addition to the improvised cave pieces, the album contains several new compositions and traditional tunes, but through it all shines the musical symbiosis of Hannah and Tuulikki – a vivacity and instinct for collaboration that sets them apart. Despite the name, Tuulikki says that the process of making Chatterbox was very much about listening and responding. “It’s making music in the here and now. There are no filters or thinking, it is just about what happens in the moment.” You can also find Chatterbox amongst the best folk albums of 2015 listed by the British newspaper the Telegraph.
Hannah James – accordion, voice, Welsh drum
Tuulikki Bartosik – free-bass accordion, voice, metallophone
Special guest Dylan Fowler – guitar, Welsh drum
"English accordionist Hannah James (also credited for clogging) has teamed up with Estonian/Swedish counterpart Tuulikki Bartosik (free bass accordion, voice, metallophone) for Chatterbox, and their musical affinity is clear. Some of the tracks, including the sweet Cave Calm, were recorded in an actual cave. The traditional Swedish composition Leksands Brudmarsch is sweet and what's not to like about a song with the title Walk of the Naughty Accordions. An evocative album, including the lovely cover artwork by Coucou."
- Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
"Have to admit, I've never before mastered something that has been played in an actual spacious cave where you can hear the water dripping in the background. A special treat for me definitely! You can hear the end result in the track called "Cave" so give it a listen."
- Minerva Pappi, mastering engineer, Chartmakers
‘Chatterbox’ by Hannah James and Tuulikki Bartosik - a wholly original and mesmeric album...Chatterbox’ is a lush piece of work suffused with original compositions, traditional tunes and sparkling improvisation. Both artists agreeing that: “It’s making music in the here and now. There are no filters, it’s just about what happens in the moment.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Listen to ‘Chatterbox’ you’ll love it.
- Charlie Elland, FolkWords
I am very happy to say that in the case of Hannah James and Tuulikki Bartosik that they click amazingly and have created a gem of an album that I think will be near on impossible to top in the accordion world. A wonderful celebration of accordions.
- Paul Rawcliffe, FATEA
"What started as a dream for Hannah and Tuulikki became a stunning reality when they made their debut at the Gower Folk Festival 2014. Two great accordion players, they treated us to a feast of fantastic musicianship, lovely soulful singing and astounding clogging! They quite simply blew us away!"
-Joy Toole, Artistic Director Gower Folk Festival
"All too soon it's over, like a good meal, you lean back, sigh and wish you could do it all again."
- Ian Cripps, Fatea live