Above: A classic British folk song, " Whilst the Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping," performed by the great Chris Wood and Andy Cutting at the Southwell Festival. (I woke up with the first line of the song running through my head: Oh, I have a dog and a good dog too.... Tilly loves that part.)
Below, so the poachers don't get the last word: "I Am the Fox," performed by Nancy Kerr (whose work I just love) and James Fagan (of the The James Brothers) at the Bath Folk Festival.
Above: Nancy Kerr and James Fagan again, performing their gorgeous song "Queen of Waters."
Below: "Seven Years," a beautiful tune by Andy Cutting, performed by Cutting with Martin Simpson and Nancy Kerr.
And one more: "Atheist Spiritual: Come Down Jehovah," written and performed by Chris Wood. I'm not an atheist myself (I'm an earthy old pagan), but this song speaks to me deeply nonetheless.
Today, the music of Rebekka Karijord, which seems to echo the introspective mood I'm in as the week begins....
Karijord is a Norwegian singer/songwriter, sound technician, and composer for film & dance, based in Sweden. She has a new album out this year, Mother Tongue -- partially inspired by the traumatic arrival, three months early, of her first baby. It's darker than her early work, and very beautiful.
Above: "Home," a stunning song from the new album.
Below: "Wear it Like a Crown," an old favorite from her first album, The Art of Letting Go.
Above: "Paperboy," performed live in Paris -- a simple accoustic rendition, just harp and voice.
Below: "This Anarchistic Heart," performed live in Stockholm. The video ends a bit abruptly, but is well-filmed otherwise. I'd love to see Karijord in performance one day; I hear that her concerts are magical.
The art today is by Spanish painter Remedios Varo. I love her work, which partially inspired one of the characters in my desert novel, The Wood Wife. I recommend "The surrealist muses who roared" by Joanna Moorhead, a Guardian article about Varo and her best friend, English painter Leonora Carrington -- published back in 2010, before Carrington's death the following year. There's also a very good biography of Varo: Unexpected Journeys by Janet A. Kaplan.
There's so much turmoil in the world right now that I'm going to go against the grain of worry and fear to start the week with music that reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit, and the joy of being alive....
Above: "Head Rush" by Jiggy, an Alt Folk collective from Dublin, Ireland. The song begins with "mouth music" from Irish vocalist Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Indian vocalist Debojyoti Sanyal, with Mark Murphy on keyboard, Guy Rickarby and Robbie Harris on drums and percussion, and Éamonn Galldubh on Uilleann Pipes. In regards to video above they say: "All people smile in the same language." And indeed they do.
Below: "Happiness" from We Banjo Three, an Irish band consisting of two sets of brothers: Enda & Fergil Schahill, and Martin & David Howley. I love these guys. Their exuberant video was filmed on the streets of Galway and Galway Market.
Above: "Sultanas de Merkaíllo," an old favorite from the Barcelona band Ojos de Brujo. Pass, sadness, pass, the lyrics tell us. Though our pockets are empty, our hearts are full - so pass, sadness, pass, in the heat and fire the rumba. Alas, Ojos de Brujo disbanded in 2012 after more than a decade of making great flamenco/gypsy-jazz/punk/hiphop music -- but lead singer Marina Abad is still going strong and doing interesting things.
Below: Let's end with a quieter piece from American singer/songwriter John Legend, reminding us to make the most of every moment in "Love Me Now."
The art above is by Jackie Morris, an artist/author based on the coast of Wales. Please visit her website to see more of her beautiful and always-uplifting work.
Today, three singers of Portuguese fado: a genre of songs expressing feelings of love and saudade (or longing)...often sad, and thus called "the Portuguese blues."
Above: "Gente Da Minha Terra (People of My Land)" by Mariza (Marisa dos Reis Nunes), performed in 2013. Born in Portuguese Mozambique and raised in Lisbon, this exquisite singer is widely regarded as the leading fadista of the New Fado movement.
Below: A beautifully simple version of "Melhor de Mim." It comes from Mariza's most recent album, Mundo (2015) -- which is terrific.
Above: "O Pastor," performed in 2010 by Teresa Salgueiro, from Lisbon. Salgueiro first recorded this song with the Portuguese music ensemble Madredeus. (She was their lead singer until 2007.) If you're unfamiliar with the group, I highly recommend their compilation album Antologia, which is utterly gorgeous.
Below: "Meu Amor de Longe" by Raquel Tavares, another fine fadista from Lisbon. Fado songs tend to emphasize personal stories of love, longing, and other emotional themes -- but they're not all sad, as this song shows. On a dark winter day, it's good to be reminded of warmth, light, and the quiet strength of community.
The art today is by Paula Rego, who was born and raised in Portugal and now lives in London. Rego's work often incorporates imagery from Portuguese folklore, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, children's literature and women's history. "We interpret the world through stories," she says. "Everybody makes, in their own way, sense of things; but if you have stories it helps."
(Rego is also a close friend of fairy tale scholar Marina Warner, whose project on refugee stories seems more vital than ever right now.)
Since the theme of "darkness" keeps emerging here, on the wings of owls and the breath of wolves, let's start the week with music that is brewed in dreams, night journeys, and the darker side of fairy tales....
All four songs today are by the Irish alt-folk duo Saint Sister : Gemma Doherty (from Derry) and Morgan MacIntyre (from Belfast). Their music "draws from early Celtic harp traditions, 60s folk and electronic pop to create ‘atmosfolk' -- a mix of soulful vocal harmonies, dreamy synth and electro-acoustic harp."
Above: "Madrid" (2015), from Saint Sister's debut EP of the same name. The darkly folkloric/ dystopian video was directed by Bob Gallagher.
Below: "Blood Moon" (2015). Myrid Carten & Aphra Lee Hill's poignant video captures the intensity of adolescent friendship, and the painful shadowlands between friendship and romance. It was shot in the hills of Donegal, on Ireland's northwest coast.
Above: Bob Gallagher's dreamlike video for "Tin Man" (2016), marrying the 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz with the television show Blind Date.
Below: Doherty and McIntyre in a quietly atmospheric performance of their new song, "Corpses."
The art today is by Kelly Louise Judd, a painter and illustrator from Kansas City, Missouri whose work is inspired by folklore, ghost stories, Victorian literature and art, Northern Renaissance art, animals and nature. Please visit her website, blog, and Swans Bones Etsy shop to see more.
This is going to be a very tough week for many people, particularly in America (due to the impending presidential inauguration), so let's start the day with music that is soul-lifting, timeless, and crosses over all walls and borders.
Below: A short but gorgeous extract from "La Rêveuse: Les folies d'Espagne" by French composer Marin Marias (late 17th century), performed on viola de gamba by the great Catalan violist, composer, conductor, and music scholar Jordi Savall.
Above: "Folias of Spain: Music of the Sephardic Diasopora," a concert by Jordi Savall, performing with Rolf Lislevand (baroque guitar, theorbo), Arianna Savall (harp), Pedro Estevan (percussion) and Adela González-Campa (percussion) at a music festival in Lanvellec, France.
Below: "L'Amor" by singer, composer, and harpist Arianna Savall, who is the Swiss-born daughter of Catalan composer Jordi Savall and soprano Montserrat Figueras. She's released three albums and this piece is on the first of them: Bella Terra.
Please be good to yourselves and each other this week, for the conflicts and tensions of world events can so easily filter down to the personal level. My continuing mantra: be gentle, be gentle, be gentle. Stand your ground, know your truth, but be kind.
Tales of sailors, stars, and storms this week, from London and the West Country....
To begin with, two songs by Emily Mae Winters, a singer/songwriter whose work is inspired by history, myth, and literature. Winters was born in England, raised on the Irish coast, and studied music and theatre at Central in London. Her debut album, Siren Serenade, is due out in April.
Above: "Star," a wonderful song referencing a classic poem by John Keats. The video was filmed in the "Poets' Church," St Giles in the Fields, in London.
Below: "Anchor." Both songs can be found on Winters' Foreign Waters EP.
The next two come from The Changing Room, an award-winning music collective in Cornwall performing songs in both English and Cornish. The group centers on songwriters Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain, working with a range of musicians including Jamie Francis, Evan Carson, Morrigan Palmer Brown, Kevin McGuire, John McCusker, and Belinda O’Hooley.
First, "The Grayhound," a song about Cornwall's lively history of smuggling; and about the ships, known as revenue luggers, whose aim was to hunt the smugglers down. Second, "Gwrello Glaw," a Cornish-language song about weathering storms both real and metaphoric. Both pieces come from The Changing Room's fine second album, Picking Up the Pieces (2016).
And to end with today: "The Bow to the Sailor" by singer/songwriter Ange Hardy, from Somerset. It's from Hardy's third album, Lament of the Black Sheep (2014), which is lovely -- as is all of her work.
The art today is by Jeanie Tomanek. Please visit her beautiful website to see more.
Today's music begins with "Porz Goret" by Yann Tiersen, a composer and pianist from Finistère, Brittany. The piece is from Eusa, a book of ten piano scores based on Tiersen's home island of Ouessant, with field recordings of natural sounds (wind, rain, and the sea) from the places that inspired each piece. "Ouessant is more than just a home," he says, "it’s a part of me. The idea was to make a map of the island and, by extension, a map of who I am."
Below: "Waterfalls" by Cécile Corbel, also from Finistère, who performs new and traditional songs in Breton, English, and French. This one is from Corbel's new album, Vagabonde (a collaboration with other musicians from Brittany, the British Isles, and beyond), filmed near the harpist's home in the Breton countryside.
Above: "Szerelem," an old Hungarian song performed by the Wild Honey Trio (Peia Luzzi, Megan Danforth and Cyrise Schachter) -- an American vocal group dedicated to gathering, studying, and performing traditional music from around the world. "I think of songs as living on our breath," says Luzzi; "if they are not carried or sung, they are lost."
Below: "Oj ty rzeko" by Laboratorium Pieśni (Song Labratory), from Poland. This wonderful all-woman polyphonic group performs traditional songs from Poland, Ukraine, the Balkans, Belarus, Georgia, Scandinavia, and father afield. Their work, they say, "is inspired by the sounds of nature, and is often intuitive, wild and feminine."
And to end with: "Walk" by composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi, from Turin, Italy. Returning to Einaudi's music each January has become something of a ritual for me -- along with cleaning the house on New Year's Day, sweeping out the remains of the last year and welcoming in the new.
Now the sun is rising. The gate stands adjar. Let's see where this new day will lead....
On a quiet December morning in Devon, here are quietly lovely songs from Scottish singer Siobhan Miller to start the week.
The daughter of a folk musician and a folk artist, Miller grew up in Penicuik (near Edinburgh), studied Scottish music at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, and has twice won Singer of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards. She's released an album with her former band, Salt House (Lay Your Dark Low, 2013), an album with fiddler Jeana Leslie (Shadows Tall), and a debut solo album (Flight of Time, 2015), all of which are worth seeking out.
Above, the video for Miller's recently released single: a cover of "One Too Many Mornings" by Bob Dylan.
Below, an acapella peformance of "The Swan Swims Sae Bonny" (a.k.a. "Twa Sisters," Child Ballad #10), from 2013.
Above, Miller and her band perform "Bonny Light Horseman," a broadsheet ballad from the Napoleonic Wars.
Below, Miller and Jeana Leslie perform "Tom of Bedlam" (a.k.a. "Bedlam Boys"), a ballad in the "mad song" tradition, possibly dating to the 17th century.
Oh heck, here's one more:
Below, Miller and her band perform "If I Had Known" in Stirling earlier this year. The song is by Miller, but rich in folk imagery -- a nice blend of old and new.
Photograph: Tilly on a quiet morning. The beautiful quilt is by Karen Meisner. The songs today are for Amal & Stu.