Once again, with the news of the world pressing in, I'd like to begin the week with music that shines a light in the dark -- and toe-tapping, spirit-lifting music of Laura Cortese fits the bill. Cortese was born San Francisco, studied music in Boston, and now peforms solo and in a variety of musical collaborations -- my favorite of which is her all-women folk & roots band, Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards.
Above: "Stockholm," from the band's fine new abum, California Calling. The video was shot on tour in Scandinavia.
Below: "Women of the Ages," with lyrics adapted from the poetry of John Beaton. The video was made to raise funds for Rosie's Place, Boston, the oldest women's shelter in the United States.
Above: "Shine You No More," a traditional tune re-worked by The Danish String Quartet, from their gorgeous new album Last Leaf. The quartet is: Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen (violin), Frederik Øland (violin), Asbjørn Nørgaard (viola), and Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin (violoncello).
Below: "Gammel Reinlender fra Sønndala," another traditional piece, from WoodWork (2015). I recommend all of their albums, both classical and folk, which get a great deal of play in my studio.
Above: "A Room in Paris" from the Danish/Swedish folk trio Dreamer's Circus: Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen (from The Danish String Quartet, violin), Ale Carr (cittern), and Nikolaj Busk (piano accordion). The song is from their album Second Movement (2015), and the video features the great Danish-Spanish dancer Selene Muñoz.
Below: "Magpie," by the The Unthanks, from Northumbria. The song, written by David Dodds, is based on traditional counting rhymes, and appears on The Unthanks sixth album, Mount the Air (2015).
Above: "Devil's Resting Place" by singer/songwriter Laura Marling, based in London. The song is from her fourth album, Once I Was an Eagle (2013).
Below: "Pretty Polly," a murder ballad performed by Vandaveer (Mark Charles Heidinger and Rose Guerin), based in Kentucky. This traditional song comes from the British Isles, but can also be found in American Appalachian songbooks. It appears on Vandaveer's album of murder ballads, Oh, Willie, Please (2013).
Above: The spooky, folkloric video for "Black Horse" by singer/songwriter Lisa Knapp, from south London. The song appears on her second album, Hidden Seam (2013), and features vocals by James Yorkston.
Below: "La Fille Damnee" (The Damned Girl) by Breton harpist and songwriter Cécile Corbel. The song appears on her second album, SongBook Vol. 2 (2008).
The images today are of Avebury in Wiltshire and Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, photographed by my friend Stu Jenks. Visit Fizziwig Press to see more of his beautiful work.
This week, music rooted in the Nordic folk tradition from Sweden and Norway....
To start with: "Sparvens visa" (about a little sparrow and the coming of winter) by the Swedish folk trio Triakel: Emma Härdelin (from the folk-rock band Garmarna), Kjell-Erik Eriksson (fiddle), and Janne Strömstedt (harmonium). Their sixth and most recent album is Thyra (2014).
Above: "Le Fil" by the Swedish folk duo Symbio: Johannes Geworkian-Hellman on hurdy-gurdy and LarsEmil Öjeberget on accordion. They have one album out, Phoresy (2016), with a second due out next year.
Below: "Et steg ut" by Susanne Lundeng, a Norwegian fiddler and composer who draws inspiration from folk music, classical music, and jazz. In the video below she performs with Bjørn Andor Drage (keyboard) and Arnfinn Bergrabb (percussion) in Bodø, in the north of Norway. Lungen's eighth and most recent solo album is 111 Nordlandsslåtter (2015.)
Above: "Shallow Digger" by contemporary folksinger/songwriter Siv Jakobsen, based in Oslo on Norway's south coast. The song is from her haunting new album The Nordic Mellow (2017).
Below: "How We Used to Love," an older song of Jakobsen's, from The Lingering (2015). I like the glimpses of Norwegian landscape and architecture in this video...plus the very cute dog.
And to end as we began, with a song about a bird:
"Blackbird" by Swedish folksinger/songwriter Jenny Lysander, from her lovely first album Northern Folk (2015). The video was directed by Ana Tortos. Lysander is based in Stockholm.
The art today is: "The Maiden Notburga & her White Stag," a Norwegian fairy tale illustrated by Wilhelm Roegge (1829 - 1908), and "Gerda," from Andersen's The Snow Queen illustrated by Honor Appleton (1879-1951).
Today, songs of love (good, bad, and faery-haunted), rooted in the ballad tradition of the British Isles.
Above: "Orfeo" (Child Ballad #19), performed by the American folk/bluegrass duo Anna & Elizabeth, with a shadow puppet video created by the musicians themselves. This rendition of an old Scots faery ballad is from their debut album, Anna & Elizabeth (2017).
Below: "Polly Vaughan" (Roud Ballad #166) performed by The Furrow Collective at the Halifax Square Chapel in West Yorkshire. The group is composed of four English/Scottish musicians who also have strong solo careers: Alasdair Roberts, Emily Portman, Rachel Newton, and Lucy Farrell. The song is from their second album, Wild Hog (2014).
Above: "Sylvie" (also known as "Sovay" or "The Female Highwayman," Roud Ballad #7), performed by Rachael McShane & The Cartographers (Matt Ord, Julian Sutton, & Dan Rogers). The song will appear on a new album of re-worked ballads in 2018.
Below: "False Lady" (also known as "Young Hunting," Child Ballad #68) by the North London band Teyr (Dominic Henderson, Tommie Black-Roff, and James Gavin). The song comes from their fine first album, Far From the Tree (2016).
Above: "Anyone But Me," a contemporary ballad by the English alt-folk duo Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, from their second album, Fire & Fortune (2013). The song is performed at The Crossroads in London, a venue which pairs cross-genre musicians with an in-house chamber orchestra and choir.
Below: "Three Fishers," a ballad based on a poem by Charles Kingsley (1819-1923), performed by Fara. The band is composed of Scottish musicians Jennifer Austin, Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price. The song is from their lovely first album, Cross the Line (2016).
The art today is by Florence Susan Harrison (1878-1955). She was born in Brisbane, Australia, but spent much of her childhood at sea (her father was a sea caption) and at a great-aunt's school in England. It's not known where (or if) Harrison formally studied art, but she established a very successful career as an illustrator for the Blackie & Son publishing house (Glasgow and London) from 1905 onward.
I don't know about you, but the world is seeming particularly crazy to me right now, and I need a dose of hope, courage, and inspiration this morning....
"To hope is to gamble. It's to bet on your futures, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk." - Rebecca Solnit (Hope in the Dark)
Above: "Rise Up" by Andra Day (based in San Diego, California), from her album Cheers to the Fall (2015). The gorgeous video was directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Below: "Glory" by John Legend and Common, who wrote the song for the the civil rights film Selma (2014), directed by Ava DuVernay.
"But hope is not about what we expect. It is an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world, of the breaks with the present, the surprises. Or perhaps studying the record more carefully leads us to expect miracles -- not when and where we expect them, but to expect to be astonished, to expect that we don't know. And this is grounds to act." - Rebecca Solnit (Hope in the Dark)
Above: "Love Letters to God" by Nahko Bear (of Apache/Mowhawk/Filipino/Puerto Rican heritage), from his album Hoka (2016). The video was filmed in support of the water protectors at Standing Rock in the Dakotas.
Below: "Almost Like Praying" by composer & playright Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Hamilton), with Marc Anthony, Ruben Blades, Gloria Estefan, Fat Joe, Luis Fonsi, Jenifer Lopez, Rita Moreno and many others -- a track created as a fundraiser for recovery efforts in storm-shattered Puerto Rico.
Miranda's lyrics begin with a line from "Maria" (his favorite song from West Side Story), then weave in the names of the towns on the island -- evoking the spirit of place, the strength of community, and a sense of hope in the darkest of times. "For Puerto Ricans who live all over the world who have a connection and family on the island," he explains, "there was a terrible silence for several days where we were just waiting for word. And my Twitter feed, my Facebook feed, were just filled with family members listing the names of towns where their families were living. 'And from my grandmothers in Lares, my uncle is in Vega Alta -- has anyone seen them? Has anyone heard from them?' And I thought, well the only lyric that really unites us and that makes the most sense for a fundraising song is if I can somehow write a song that includes all 78 towns in Puerto Rico so that no one feels left out and no one's town feels forgotten."
You can buy the song here, or donate directly to the Hispanic Federation here.
"Joy doesn't betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection." - Rebecca Solnit (Hope in the Dark)
Below: "Level Up" by pianist & songwriter Vienna Teng (who is based in Detroit). The video was directed Lawrence Chen, choreographed by Jaclyn Walsh, and features the dancer Tommy Guns Ly, among others. "If you're afraid, give more; if you're alive, give more," Teng tells us in this moving and joyful song...which circles us back to Andra Day's words above: "All we need is hope; and for that we have each other."
"Inside the word 'emergency' is 'emerge'; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters." - Rebecca Solnit (Hope in the Dark)
This morning, the call of the sea...and life on the coast....
Below: "The Call/Daughters of Watchet/Caturn's Night" by singer/songwriters Ange Hardy and Lukas Drinkwater, from their gorgeous album Findings (2016). Hardy is based in Somerset, and Drinkwater in Exeter, here in Devon.
Above: "The Bow to the Sailor" by Ange Hardy, from her beautiful solo album The Lament of the Black Sheep (2014). The video was filmed on Watchet beach, Somerset.
Below: "Boat" by alt-folk band Flats & Sharps, based in Cornwall. This charming song appears on their first album, King of My Mind (2017).
Above: "In Spirit," a new ghost ballad by Kim Lowings and the Greenwood, from the English Midlands. The song appears on their recent album Wild and Wicked Youth (2017).
Below: "Lady of the Sea" by Seth Lakeman, about a shipwreck off the Cornish coast. I never get tired of this one, which is from an early album, Freedom Fields (2006). Lakeman is from here on Dartmoor.
One more: "Alive" by Skippinish, an alt-folk group from the Scottish Highlands. The song appears on their new latest, The Seventh Wave, and the video is just lovely.
Post script: This upbeat music was chosen and posted before I heard the news of the shooting in Las Vegas. My heart goes out to all friends and family in America.
Photographs: Our daughter and Tilly on the south Devon coast; me and Tilly on the north Devon coast, near the Cornish border.
Today, two British songwriters whose work, though thoroughly contemporary, is grounded in English folk and American roots music: Sam Brookes and Johnny Flynn. The songs explore darkness, light, and the healing powers of love and the land.
Above: "Numb" by Sam Brookes -- a gorgeous song about love and loss from Brookes' first album, Kairos.
Below: Brookes' version of "Black-Eyed Dog" by the great Nick Drake. The "black dog" and the "black-eyed dog" are terms for depression, which Drake suffered and died from.
While the daily news remains disheartening, let's start the week with lively, toe-tapping, spirit-lifting tunes from Ireland, England, and Scotland...and some charming donkeys.
Above: "Leads" by Moxie, an alt-trad band from Sligo and Limerick, Ireland. The band members are Cillian Doheny, Jos Kelly, Darren Roche, Ted Kelly, and Paddy Hazel. The video was shot in the beautiful Irish landscape and, yes, includes a donkey.
Below: "The Bonny Ship, the Diamond," recorded by Beoga for their seventh album, Before We Change our Mind. The band members are Liam Bradley, Sean Og Graham, Damian McKee, Eamon Murray, and singer/fiddler Niamh Dunne. They're from County Kerry, Ireland.
Above: "The Greenland Whale," recorded by Sam Kelly & the Lost Boys for their new album, Pretty Peggy. Kelly (from Norfolk, England) is backed by Ciaran Algar, Evan Carson, Graham Coe, and Jamie Francis.
Below, another song about whaling history: "Race to Be King" by Seth Lakeman, performed at the Minack open-air theatre on the Cornish coast. Seth hails from here in Devon, on the other side of Dartmoor. The song is from his fourth album, Poor Man's Heaven.
And a tune to end with on this wet and windy morning:
"Wet Field Day" by Elephant Sessions, from the Scottish highlands. The band members are Greg Barry, Mark Bruce, Euan Smillie, Alasdair Taylor, and Seth Tinsley. The young man in the video is Shaun Somerville.
The donkey sketches today are by Dutch genre painterGerard ter Borch(1617-1681) and English illustratorSean Briggs. For more donkeys, check out the donkeycams at the Donkey Sanctuary on Devon's south coast. There are other lovely creatures up the road from us at Dartmoor's Miniature Pony Centre: shaggy little ponies, shire horses, and more. The video on their homepage is a delight.
After last week's discussion of Gaelic place-names, we must surely start the week with some Gaelic songs....
In the documentary series Port, Scottish singer Julie Fowlis teamed up with Irish singer Muireann NicAmhlaoibh to investigate Gaelic music and culture in its variations across the two countries. We listened to songs from the northern islands of Scotland in a previous post. Today, we start with two Port performances filmed in Ireland.
Above: "Dé Domhnaigh/Eleanór na Rún."
Below: "Fill-iù Oro Hù Ò/O Cò Bheir Mi Leam."
The singers are Niamh Farrell (from Ireland) and Linda Macleod (from Scotland), backed up Stephen Markham, Seamie O'Dowd, Fowlis and NicAmhlaoibh.
Above: The Gloaming's recording session for "The Pilgrim's Song," based on the Irish-language poems of Seán Ó Riordáin. Iarla Ó Lionáird sings in the sean-nós style (traditionally performed a capella), accompanied by Martin Hayes, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Dennis Cahill, and Thomas Bartlett.
Below: "Aurora," an instrumental piece by the Irish band Beoga. The group is: Damian McKee, Seán Óg Graham, Liam Bradley, Eamon Murray, and Niamh Dunne.
The art today is by Ronan Halpin, who studied at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin and the Yale School of Art in America. He now lives and works on Achill Island, off of Ireland's west coast.
The pieces here are: Achill Goat, Pooka, Chimera, and The Old King.