Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Spiral Earth's top ten albums

Delighted to report that, along with records by The Levellers, Spiers and Boden and Seth Lakeman, our 'Untie the Wind' made it into Spiral Earth's top ten albums of 2008! Read the full line up here.

Meantime, wishing you all a peaceful Christmas. We'll see you in the New Year for more, much more.


Telling the Bees xxx

Friday, 19 December 2008

Jon Boden support!

Happy to announce that we've been booked to support Jon Boden and the Remnant Kings at the Jericho Tavern on Saturday March 7th. Jon will be launching his second solo album, Songs from the Floodplain, which is, I'm told, a concept album of 'deeply resonating folkapocalyptica'. Well, quite. Should be an unmissable night - love to see you there.

Andy xxx

Thursday, 18 December 2008

English Acoustic Collective

As you may know, Andy was guest tutor on the English Acoustic Collective summer school this year (July 2008). The indefatigable Matt Coatsworth recorded many of the sessions that took place there and is gradually posting them online here. Part of the ethos of the school is to encourage experimentation so these are not polished studio recordings. But they communicate some of the feel and atmosphere of the course, which is nothing if not extraordinary.

Friday, 12 December 2008


We had an intense but rewarding week on Exmoor, recording five new songs in total. The old Telling the Bees magic was working and we found new and surprising arrangements arising spontaneously out of the creative furnace.

It's a very wonderful thing to do, to go off to the countryside for a week with no other distractions. We've found a good way of working too - doing live takes until we've found one we're all happy with, then finishing it with the minimum of editing. To maintain that level of concentration is quite demanding, so it's wonderful to be able to walk out of the door and be in inspiring countryside, delightful walks in every direction.

Five songs is very nearly half an album, but don't get too excited just yet as we'll need at least two other recording sessions and a lot of mixing. But suffice it to say that we're well chuffed with what we've done, and can't wait for you to hear it too.

Meanwhile, here are some photos...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Exmoor and beyond

We played a cracking gig this week at a new acoustic night here in Oxford, called the Potting Shed. Watch out for more stuff happening there - it's an intimate venue with great acoustics.

Meanwhile we're off to Exmoor again to start work on the next album. Yup, that's right, we're getting it together in the country with a car-load of food, instruments, recording tat and a dog (essential, we think, to the recording process). Untie the Wind took nine months from start to finish but we're hoping that this will be a bit quicker. We'll try and keep you updated on our progress but we may not have internet connection down there. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

So they will bring me honey

As you may have read in the papers last week, there was a beekeeper's demonstration in London a few days ago protesting at the lack of research being done upon the plight of bees. Bees are suffering from an unknown illness causing the complete collapse of colonies. No bees means no pollination, means no fruit and veg, means no us. Naturally this is a cause that concerns us, as all round lovers of the bees, greatly. You can read more about the demo here.

On a happier note we played a little gigette last night at a poetry reading - Hear the Word - at which we were all given a jar of local honey. Andy, meanwhile, was given this rather lovely book about the Life of the Bee. Lovely gifts, thank you. The keen-eyed among you might be interested in the other books on Andy's shelf...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Bees at the Gardener's

Happy to announce that we'll be playing an acoustic set at The Gardener's Arms, Plantation Road, Jericho, Oxford, on December 2nd. Not sure, yet, who else is playing or how much it'll be, but we can tell you that the backroom of the pub is, erm, bijou, so get there early!

Going mad in Dorset

As promised, here are the gig details for Andy & Cliff:

Saturday 15th November - French Dance with Cliff Stapleton & Andy Letcher. Hauntingly original music on pipes and hurdy gurdy.

Salway Ash Village Hall (nr Bridport).
Dance class at 7.30pm with Rab Lamb.
Bar, homemade snacks.

Tickets £6 advance (from Fruits of the Earth, Bridport)
or £7 on the door.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Free download!

We're happy to announce that from November 1st, and for a three month period only, you'll be able to download our song, Wood, free of charge! The song has been included on the new FATEA showcase bandstand session along with tracks from other up and coming folk bands, known and not so known.

Enjoy and do please spread the word!

Andy xxx

Abbie Lathe

We played in the unfamiliar surroundings of Oxford's Jacqueline du Pre building last night, supporting the ever-lovely Abbie Lathe. A short set but an attentive and appreciative audience and a great sound. Colin and Jane had to work hard as they're in Abbie's band too...Thanks to everyone who came and to Abbie for having us.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Andy Letcher & Cliff Stapleton

I did a beautiful gig with Cliff Stapleton in the depths of Somerset at the weekend. In this side-project to the Bees we play bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy for French and Breton dancing (bourrees, schottisches, hanter dros, that sort of thing), a dronetastic pairing.

Cliff is an old hand at this having played with Blowzabella back in the early days and more recently with (the much missed) Primaeval. We've written all the tunes between us and we delight in simple tunes, played over and over so the music starts to get trancey. It's what people did before electrickery - organic trance on rasping instruments of hoof and horn. We played for at least two hours and still they were calling for more.

We were playing in someone's house, a converted studio loft, all decorated with greenery and drapes. Here's a photo of us setting up - you'll have to imagine the room full of dancers! We're playing again soon in Dorset - if I can find out where I'll post it up here.

Andy xxx

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Glastonbury gig

Here's some photos from our recent Glastonbury gig. We had a lovely time, great venue, great audience. Nathan runs a very fine acoustic evening with his Fabulous Furry Folk night, so if you're near Glasto we urge you to go.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Abbots Bromley

Andy went to see the Abbots Bromley horn dance again this year. As ever it was captivating, moving and inspiring. Here's some pics to prove it.

Bellowhead & other tales

It's been a bit of a quiet summer for the Bees (summer? was there one?) as we've all been lying low or doing other things.

Andy just made his debut with folk supergroup, Bellowhead, standing in on pipes at the BBC Prom in the Park in front of 40,000 people. It was, he says, surreal...He's also playing pipes in a new duo with hurdy-gurdy maestro, Cliff Stapleton (an original member of Blowzabella), playing for French dancing.

Josie is getting ready to record an album with her funk-rock band, The Conscripts.

Meanwhile Colin and Jane, after a well-earned break, are gearing up to tour with Abbie Lathe before then recording an album with Lisa Fitzgibbon.

So it's busy busy.

But fear not, Bee fans. We're getting excited about our gigs in Oxford and Glastonbury (the latter with US folk nightingale, Pamela Wyn Shannon) and are in the process of organizing more.

And - get this - we start work on the next album in late December. Watch this space! So, see you all soon!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Woven wheat whispers

Woven Wheat Whispers are no more, ground between two stones. So sorry if you've tried to download the album from there. You can still download from CD Baby and, hopefully soon, from iTunes.

But hey, don't you want the actual album so you can see Rima's exquisite artwork?

Four winds

Well, the summer, of sorts, is with us and having played the last of our current gigs we've been rather scattered to the four winds. Colin and Jane have been away on a long-needed holiday and Jos is about to take hers. Andy, meanwhile, has been on his annual troubadelic trip to St Chartier, the glorious French pipe and gurdy festival. We're in the process of arranging more gigs for the autumn and beyond - if you know somewhere we can play that will at least pay petrol then do get in touch - and there's mutterings about starting work on the new album. Watch this space!

Spiral Earth Review

Cor blimey, we got this 'ere lovely review from Spiral Earth. Cheers chaps.

The debut album from Telling The Bees who formed in 2007 around the songwriting of Andy Letcher, his songs of 'darkly crafted folkadelia' are brought to life by the assembled talents of Josie Webber, Jane Griffiths and Colin Fletcher. Andy Letcher is the pre-eminent authority on English bagpiping and the magic mushroom, what a combination...

Folkadelia is a gloriously enthralling term, hinting at untold depths with a nod and a wink, beckoning you into a secret world of mystic sensuality, yet it can all fall flat if it fails to deliver the whole experience. You can't unlock the gates without being prepared for the come down when they close, true psychedelia has that element of melancholy that is the flipside to the euphoria. Without that counterbalance it's just a pastiche. Untie The Wind has that chill of winter air blowing across it's beautiful surface that makes it truly resonate on all level's of the heart and soul.

We all get a polaroid moment of an albums sonic profile, for me with this album it's Cello and English Border Bagpipes, they carry that torch of melancholia through the glades and greenwood that make up this album. And it is Wood, in all it's forms, that is a central theme here; whether in the material that willingly gives itself up to become the instruments that make the music we love, or in the rage of a land ravaged by mankind's so called progress. Songs that delve so deep into the Greenwood that they invoke memories of other times held together by customs we have lost.

Telling The Bees have created a heady soundscape of pagan earthiness 'On the footpaths and byways of England you are never alone' (Quietly Raging). Yet it is not an off-with-the-fairies noodling desire for a better place, it has a darker, angry heart, in the past Letcher has put action to words in anti-road protests 'on the motorways and carriageways of England you are always alone'. These are songs that delve very deep, they repay repeated listening.

There are many points of reference within this album, their MySpace list of influences includes Vashti Bunyan, Espers and the wonderful Ozric Tentacles, if there is one influence that stands out for me it's Comus, their shade haunts the deepwood of Untie The Wind; the drone of a deeply bowed cello set against an insistent fiddle conjures an edgy sense of unease that sets the spine a tingling.

Untie The Wind is an album of sensual, powerful songs. It's one of those rare things these days, an album that has many secrets, you can only unlock them if you take the time to really listen and submit yourself to the experience; Turn on, tune out, and listen to the voices of the trees...

Iain Hazlewood

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Summer solstice

As is traditional, Andy was up Windmill Hill (Avebury) for the summer solstice sunrise, hanging out with various hedge-priests, philosophers and Dongas ('Waiting for the Dawn' was written about two previous solstices). Gawd bless the British weather - it was pissing with rain with no sun to be seen at all. In the photos, Donga Steph (of the Mordekkers - with the brolly), Matt Watkins, aka Dr Syntax, with the hat, and Graham Harvey.


When we're not playing with the Bees, each us has a variety of other musical projects on the go. Josie plays with funk rockers, The Conscripts, while Colin and Jane play with just about everyone from Matt Sage to Lisa Fitzgibbon. But here's some video clips of Andy in hardcore bagpipe mode, playing with Becky Price at this year's Blowout festival.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Vashti Bunyan

Heard a great Radio 4 interview with Vashti Bunyan about her gorgeous album 'Just another diamond day'. You can listen again online for a week, but will need to download BBC iPlayer.

Monday, 9 June 2008


We played a gorgeous gig in the Barracks Lane Community Yurt last night (I think it's a measure of quite how good a community is, whether it has a yurt or not). The line up was The World is Not Flat; Alan Buckley; Joshua Knight and our good selves. The audience were a delight, attentive, appreciative, and good hecklers too. Thanks to Annie for organising and to Kate Raworth for taking these extraordinary photos. More at her website.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Well Wishing

A good friend of ours, Stephen Hancock, set out on an adventure this Wednesday - three months hitching round the holy, and unholy, sites of Britain. He started with a farewell breakfast at Binsey Well, one of those delightful - dare I say, magical? - corners of Oxford. Binsey was once renowned as a pilgrimage site, Britain's Lourdes. Now it is a bit sad, down at heel. But breakfast in the sun was a lovely way to start the day and to bid Stephen good journeying. Catch up with his (guaranteed-to-be) crazy adventures at his blog.