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There’s a refreshingly joyful musical relationship at the heart of the new album Chatterbox, by accordionists Hannah James from England and Tuulikki Bartosik from Estonia. 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. “Playing with Tuulikki makes me feel very free as a musician,” Hannah explains. “Our styles and skills seem to complement each other, and spark some very interesting - and slightly wacky - ideas!” 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.”

Track list

  1. Mias polska/comp. James&Bartosik 03:35

  2. Cave - Calm/comp. James&Bartosik 01:07

  3. Lonesome woods/trad./arr. James&Bartosik&Fowler 03:47

  4. Josefins vaggvisa/comp. Bartosik 05:08

  5. Polska från Väster-Dalarna/Grue kirke brenner/trad. Sweden/Norway 04:29

  6. Cave - Walk of the naughty accordions/comp. James&Bartosik 02:32

  7. Karelian/trad. Finland 05:29

  8. Cave - Pentatonic/comp. James&Bartosik 03:43

  9. Ellin polkka/trad. Finland/arr. James&Bartosik&Fowler 03:10

  10. Cave - Playful/comp. James&Bartosik 02:17

  11. Leksands brudmarsch/trad. Sweden 03:30

  12. Johanna valss/comp. Bartosik/arr. James&Bartosik&Fowler 05:14

Total time 44:09

Hannah James – accordion, voice, Welsh drum

Tuulikki Bartosik – free-bass accordion, voice, metallophone

Special guest Dylan Fowler – guitar, Welsh drum

All tracks arranged by Hannah James & Tuulikki Bartosik if not mentioned otherwise 

Produced by Hannah James, Tuulikki Bartosik & Dylan Fowler

Recorded & mixed by Dylan Fowler 

Mastered by Minerva Pappi 

Design by Krõõt Kukkur 


As a huge fan of accordions, I can appreciate the idea of two fine accordion players coming together and merging different cultures together to form a wonderful album. This of course is not always going to work, sometimes partnerships don't always click. 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

This album takes a little while to work its magic … and when it does the hypnosis is complete and lasting.

‘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.

Charles Elland, FolkWords