Tunes for a Monday Morning

Wishing Bottle by Kelly Louise Judd

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.

Dandelion Dogs by Kelly Louise Judd

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.

Three Black Dogs by Kelly Louise Judd

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Treble Viol/Viola de Gamba

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.

Above: "Folia: Op.Vn.12 - Rome, 1 Gennaio" by Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli (17th century). It's performed here by Hiro Kurosaki on violin, Alberto Martínez Molina on cembalo, and Ruth Verona (of The Purcells) on cello, filmed at the National Library of Spain and GBS Studio by Noah Shaye & Jose Aguilarat.

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.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Jeanie Tomanek

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.

Jeanie Tomanek

The art today is by Jeanie Tomanek. Please visit her beautiful website to see more.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

L'île de Ouessant

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....

Woodland gate

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Tilly in the morning. Quilt by Karen Meisner.

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.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Today, new renditions of old, old ballads about love, right and wrong. (Mostly wrong.)

Above: "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" (Child Ballad #200) performed by folk singer & music scholar Fay Hield, based in Sheffield. This Scottish border ballad about a runaway wife appears on Hield's new album, Old Adam, which I highly recommend. The video art is by Nick Hayes, animated by Kristina Pulejkova.

Drawing by Walter Crane

Below: "Katie Cruel" performed by Rue, from Dublin, Ireland. The best known version of this American folksong was collected in New England in the 18th century, but its origins are believed to be Scottish, and a good deal older.


Above: "Courting is a Pleasure" (a.k.a. "Handsome Molly"), an Irish ballad that can also be found in the American Appalachian tradition. This version is performed by Jarlath Henderson, an award-winning musician (and practicing doctor) from Northern Ireland. The song appears on his highly addictive new album, Hearts Broken, Heads Turned.

Below: "False Lady" (Child Ballad #68), a song also known as "Young Hunting" in Scotland, "Earl Richard" in England, and "Love Henry" in America. It's performed by here by Teyr, a folk trio based in London, filmed at the launch of their fine new album, Far From the Tree.

Walter Crane

Drawings by Walter Crane.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

On October 3rd, 2013, a boat carrying approximately 500 African migrants was wrecked near Lampedusa (an Italian island near Sicily), causing 366 deaths. Awa Ly, a Sengalese singer born and raised in Paris, wrote the song above in reaction to the tragedy -- and as an appeal for more help for migrants and refugees as the crisis continues.

"The video," says Ly, "tells the story of a man who decides to leave his country for more promising horizons. He is a teenager when we see him packing his luggage, but it is as a grandfather that he climbs onto the boat that will take him away...and to his death. Thus his life is summed up in single day: teenager in the morning, man in the afternoon, grandfather in the evening. The difficulties of everyday life are represented by the beauty and hostility of the desert; the acquisition of the knowledge and experience are represented by a baobab tree. [Sengalese hiphop singer] Faada Freddy and I are the 'storytellers' in the film. Like the spirits, we sing into the ear of the traveler to dissuade him from leaving home."

Below: A sequence of songs performed by Faada Freddy for Le Ring in France. Freddy is an alt-Gospel, Soul and hiphop singer from St. Louis in Senegal, making music entirely out of percussion and voice.

Above: "La fille sans nom"  by Breton singer & harpist Cécile Corbel with Faada Freddy, from Corbel's new album Vagabonde.  The video was filmed in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and le Finistère, Brittany.

Below: American singer/songwriter Alicia Keys performs her song "Hallelujah" on an Italian television program. The song was written for her short film "Let Me In," supporting people around the globe forced to flee conflict and disaster. The song & film were released earlier this year on World Refugee Day, as part of the We Are Here movement.

"I want us all to imagine if we were the refugees," says Keys; "as if we were the ones torn from the arms of our families and loved ones. While some seek to stoke the flames of division and turn us against our fellow neighbors, we’re here to make the case for love and compassion. How would we feel if it were happening to us?” 

Hand in hand

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Fiddle and box

Today, some soul-stirring music from the British Isles, to lift the heart and start the week with beauty.

Above: "Un i Sain Ffagan/One for Saint Fahans" by The Gentle Good (Gareth Bonello), from Cardith, Wales. "Saint Fagans National History Museum," says Bonello, "is a large outdoor museum just outside Cardiff. It houses a large social history collection, including an extensive folk song archive, which was my first contact with traditional Welsh music. Until recently I worked for the Museum’s learning department and so I wrote this guitar instrumental as a farewell. It is loosely based on Welsh fiddle tunes although I’ve incorporated some of my other influences as well."

Below: "Olive Willow Song" by Jim Ghedi, who is based in an old mining town near Sheffield (South Yorkshire). In the video below, filmed in one of the oldest buildings in Sheffield, Ghedi is accompanied by Jamie Burney on fiddle and Ben Eckersley on cellow.

Above: "Bagpiper's & Sheila's 70" by Lady Maisery (Rowan Rheingans, Hazel Askew, and Hannah James), from their new album, Cycle. The first tune comes from a 1799 William Mittell manuscript, the second was composed by Hannah. The tunes are accompanied by singing tunes without words in the folk tradition of  "mouth music" (or "diddling").

Below: "Ballads Of The Broken Few" by Seth Lakeman, from the other side of Dartmoor, accompanied by Wildwood Kin, from Exeter. The video was filmed in Torre Abbey in south Devon, and the song is from Seth's fine new album of the same name.

Folk fiddle

Tunes for a Monday Morning


Today's music is from the new generation of Native American/Canadian musicians, mixing traditional rhythms with hiphop, electronica, pop, jazz, and more. This post is dedicated to the courageous pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, with prayers for them, for all of their supporters, and for the ones who stand against them, so that hearts might soften and minds might change.

Above, a film about the work young First Nations artists and activists are doing today: "Rebel Music/Native America: 7th Generation Rises," by Nusrat Durrani with Shepard Fairey, David Sable, and music director Laura Jane Grace.

Below, "Stadium Pow Wow" by A Tribe Called Red, from their latest album, We Are The Halluci Nation (2016). A Tribe Called Red comes out of the urban Native dance scene in Ottowa, Ontario. The group consists of Ian Campeau (of the Nipissing First Nation), Tim Hill (Mohawk, of the Six Nations of the Grand River), and Bear Witness (of the Cayuga First Nation).

Above, "My Stone," a poignant song by Frank Waln (2014). Waln, a.k.a. Oyate Teca Obmani (Walks With Young People), is a Sicangu Lakota hiphop artist, producer, and performer from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. I love this young man's work. 

Below, "Dancing on the Run" by Inez Jasper, an Ojibway/Métis heritage singer/songwriter from British Columbia. Jasper uses pop music to address the ways tribal dances and ceremonies were outlawed by the Canadian & American governments in the not-too-distant past...and it does so with humor and infectious joy.

Above, "Why" by Supaman (Christian Parrish), an Apsáalooke hiphop musician and fancy dance champion from Seattle, Washington. In this video, he teams up with jingle dance champion Acosia Red Elk, from the Umatilla people of the Pacific Northwest, to create a prayer of sound and movement.

Below (as a nod to tomorrow's nail-biter of an election in the U.S.), "Me and Mr. Washington" by the wonderful Nahko Bear and his band, Medicine for the People. Nahko is a singer/songwriter of mixed Apache, Mohawk, Puerto Rican & Filipino heritage. He was raised in Oregon, now lives in Hawaii, and is active in the Earth Guardians movement of young artists and activists. 

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Kirsty Mitchell

I'd been thinking of chosing darkly gothic music for today in honor of Halloween...but in truth, the world seems plenty dark already. For me, ghosts and ghouls lose their appeal when the daily news provides nightmares enough. Instead, here are three songs full of light to keep us going during troubled times.

First, above: "Receive" by The Danberrys (Ben DeBerry & Dorothy Daniel),  an American roots duo from Nashville, Tennessee. This performance by The Danberrys and friends was filmed in Nashville a few months ago.

Second, below: "Beauty in these Broken Bones," a gospel tune from Red Moon Road and friends, filmed in Winnipeg, Mantibo in 2014.  Red Moon Road is a Canadian alt-folk trio consisting of Sheena Rattai, Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner, and Daniel Jordan. Their three albums mix original tunes with traditional songs in both English and French.

And last, below: a beautiful performance of "Seasons" by Red Moon Road and friends in Winnipeg earlier this year. It comes from their fine third album, Sorrows and Glories (2015).

The Way Home by Kristy Mitchell

The magical images today are by English artist, designer & photographer Kristy Mitchell.

"My earliest memories were always of the stories read to me by my mother as a child," she says, "how it felt to be curled into her side, listening to the rush of her breath as she paused for effect, before launching into yet another characters voice. She was an English teacher, and read to me almost everyday, to an age I could no longer admit to my friends. She instilled in me the most precious gift a mother could, her imagination and a belief in beauty, it became my root, and the place I constantly try to return to in my work, and my dreams."

Dryad by Kristy Mitchell

The Last Door of Autumn by Kristy Mitchell