Remembering: Little Arrow 2

Remembering: Little Arrow

It’s been 10 years since Little Arrow emerged with their debut album, Music, Masks & Poems way back in 2011. In marking this monumental milestone, Cardiff imprint Bubblewrap are also celebrating the life and music of frontman, William Hughes, who we sadly lost to cancer in December 2018. Now available for the first time on vinyl, and accompanied by a raft of bonus digital tracks, Music, Masks & Poems completes the collection of existing fans but also acts as the perfect introduction to a stellar, much-missed songwriting talent.

Little Arrow were that rare thing, a genuinely heartwarming group informed by an ancient folk tradition but not consumed by it. An act seemingly completely oblivious to the prevailing trends, making music for the sake of expression and in an attempt to affect the listener.

Music, Masks & Poems was initially released on Bubblewrap in 2011, the product of a genuinely communal effort (made up of friends and family members, including Margret Hughes his mother who provides a comforting female tone in the ether throughout) that produced wonderfully tender intertwining gospel harmonies, and intricate unfussy instrumentation, such that each brush of a cymbal and strum of a chord is allowed space to shiver unfettered. Little Arrow’s heart-on-their-sleeve opus brings to mind journeys across oceans, recalling visions of vast awe-inspiring landscapes of West Wales and ye olde mediaeval battles.

These narratives were led by one man William Hughes (previously of Fredrick Stanley Star) but backed by a gathered group of players, he sings in a wounded tone, first hushed then brave, warm and swelling towards choral, like a man peering into your soul at the dead of night and offering you advice from the bottom of a bottle, or an uncle returning from voyage and regaling you with his travails in the past few years, as with  opener ‘Bitten Blues’.

But it’s not overly serious, it’s human and delightful: spine tingling instrumentation brushing upon your skin, and voices that quiver the heart. See the personal introspective strums of ‘Dear Old Diary’ that comes replete with wonky harmonica blows. If you must have comparisons you could mention the tenderness and ragged communal harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash;  the nautical themes of Robert Wyatt, or the hand-in-hand campfire male/female harmonies of 70’s English folkies like Fairport Convention. But comparisons are useless, for Little Arrow are weaving an intricate, literate, and open-hearted tapestry of song with peerless highlights like the shoulder-to-shoulder anthem ‘Aeroplane‘ that carries you aloft up mountains on a wave of militaristic drum sweeps, twinkling xylophones and swelling brothers in arms chorus. The wonderfully prescient ‘Vessel of Fear’ is a sprawling journey through sign-of-the-times narrative, that is tenderly illuminated by joined at the hip vocal interplay of this family affair; it feels somewhat apt in uncertain time(‘We are vessels of fear/Where we go I’m not sure/If we’ll have the choice to return.”)

Alongside the original album, the release will also include the following digital tracks:

Vessel of Fear – Winter Villains
People of the Volcano – Ben Sharpe
The Viewers Are All Human – Sky Barkers
Poetically Diseased – Quiet Marauder
One Helium Balloon – Callum Duggan
Beneath The True Blue – Ivan Moult
Easy Now – Farm Hand
Loss Um (Remix) – Echoes
People Of The Volcano (Live Greenman Session, 18/08/2014)
Poetically Diseased (Live at Four Bars, Cardiff, 18/12/14)
Boat (Live Campfire Version, 27/08/2011)
Loss Um (Live Greenman Session, 18/08/2014)
Flat Earth (Live at Gwdihw, Cardiff, 21/04/2015)
War Drones (Live Field Recording, 13/09/2016)
Medicine Moon (BBC Radio Wales Session, 24/09/2014)
Pier Mountain (BBC Radio Wales Session, 24/09/2014)
Flat Earth (BBC Radio Wales Session, 24/09/2014)
Government Bodies (Live Field Recording, 02/04/2014)

Poetically Diseased (Live from Four Bars, Cardiff) was followed by People of The Volcano, a previously unheard live session recorded for a Greenman session back in 2014.

Brimming with themes of hope, love and community, the album remains an expansive, airy and understated folk-tinged gem. Label owner and Little Arrow drummer Rich Chitty elaborates in his accompanying liner notes:

“From the tranquil opening of ‘Bitten Blues’ to the vivid imagery in ‘Aeroplane’; the lyrics felt old-worldly but familiar. Full of hope, but tragic. Wetting its toes amongst the mayhem, as Will puts it in ‘Poetically Diseased’. It was intimate, strange and personal yet somehow relatable, as though it talked of your pain and your joy, all through metaphors nearly lost to time. ‘Easy Now’ and ‘Beneath the True Blue’ were haunting and heart-breaking. ‘People of the Volcano’, ‘Boat’ and ‘Poetically Diseased’ were optimistic but borne of that same curious cloth. To this day, it remains my favourite part of Will’s back catalogue.”

The release charts some of the many aspects of Will’s artistic life with a ‘Words & Art’ booklet showcasing his sculptures and lyrics; all accompanying the heavyweight, marbled blue vinyl of music. The digital reissue will also include bonus live recordings spanning Little Arrow’s career alongside interpretations of the album tracks re-recorded by some of Will’s closest friends.

Ben Sharpe – guitar, vocals, reason, fixer and friend remembers Will:

I can remember vividly the night Will, asked Dickie and me to join his ‘as yet untitled‘ project. The stars were out, putting on a West Wales spectacular. We were around the fire, as we often were and often would be. Will outlined what was to become Little Arrow in his awkward and intense way. This intensity was born from an absolute belief in his music. For him, asking us to join was an important moment, just like every performance was important, and intense, and awkward…the moment…you were there, you saw him, you heard him…he was sharing himself.
It is hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we were first shaping songs in a Pembrokeshire cottage. A worthy winter, singing and single malt. The start of a great journey with many friends. 

I miss him immensely and am so proud to have been a part of Little Arrow, to have shared all those moments. I am honoured to have been his friend. 

This re-release has helped me confront losing Will, and find a way to make music again without him. Maybe even for him…
Will may have left us, but through music, through Little Arrow recordings and through his art, he will always be with us.”

Pre-Order Music, Masks & Poems

All proceeds from the album will be donated to Paul Sartori – Hospice at Home –

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.