Tunes for a Monday Morning

Western Duirinish coast  Isle of Skye

Since we were speaking of lives and literature from remote islands last week, I'd like to start the new week with music from some of those same islands. (I apologise for the lack of posts at the end of last week -- I've been down with health problems yet again.)

Above: "Dh’èirich mi moch, b' fheàrr nach do dh’èirich" by singer/songwriter Julie Fowlis, from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. The song appears on her beautiful and rather magical album Alterum (2017).

Below: Singer Ellen MacDonald discusses her maternal ties to North Uist and Scalpay during the recording of The Hebridean Sessions with the Gàidhealtachd band Dàimh. Though born and raised on the mainland (in Inverness), Macdonald studied at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic language college on the the Isle of Skye.

Above: "The Wren and the Salt Air," a song written by Jenny Sturgeon (of Salt House and Northern Flyway) while on St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides. This haunting piece is one of four works commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland to celebrate the 30th anniversary of St Kilda's designation as a World Heritage Site for Nature.  Sturgeon trained as a biologist as well as a musician, and many of her exquisite songs evoke various aspects of the natural world. On this one, she's backed up by field recordings of St Kilda wrens, plus Pete MacCallum on guitar.

Below: "An Léimras/Harris Dance"  by Brighde Chaimbeul, a young pipe and whistle player who grew up in a musical family on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides. The tune comes from Chaimbeul's debut album The Reeling (2019). The video was filmed by Dòmhnall Eòghainn MacKinnon over the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Above: "Louise's Waltz" by Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, an award-winning folk duo from Shetland. The song appears on their album Bare Knuckle (2017).

Below: "Three Fishers" performed by Fara (Jennifer Austin, Jeana Leslie, Catriona Price, and Kristan Harvey), whose music is rooted in the distinctive fiddle style of Orkney. The song appears on their album Cross the Line (2017).

The Shetland and Orkney archipelagos lie off the northern coast of Scotland, and share musical influences from Scandinavia. 

And something a little different to end with: 

"Air Fàir an Là" by Niteworks (Ruairidh Graham, Allan MacDonald, Christopher Nicolson and Innes Strachan), a trad-electronica band from the Isle of Skye -- with vocals by Sian (Eilidh Cormack, Ellen MacDonald and Ceitlin Lilidh). The song is based on a 17th century poem by Mairi nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (Mary Macleod). It's from the band's strange but wonderful second album, also called Air Fàir an Là (2018).

Looking west from Skye to the Outer Hebrides

 For more music from the islands of Scotland, see previous posts on the lost songs of St. Kilda, Jenny Sturgeon and Inge Thompson's Northern Flyway, the music of Salt House, the Songs of Separation project, and Hannah Tuulikki's Away with the Birds. Photographs above: The Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides.

Tunes for a Monday Morning


This week, Appalachian ballads and American roots music played by musicians from both sides of the Atlantic....

Above: "I Must And Will Be Married," an American folk song from the Anglo-Scots tradition performed by Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds -- from their forthcoming album Singing It All Back Home: Appalachian Ballads of English and Scottish Origin. The album was produced by Ben Walker here in the UK, with contributions from Justin Currie, Rory McLeod and Lisa Knapp, and the great Shirley Collins. It will launch at the Cecil Sharpe House in London in June, so if you're anywhere nearby, keep an eye out for tickets. This is a great project to support.

Below: "The Spider and the Wolf," written and performed by Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds. It's from a previous album, A History Of Insolence (2015).

Above: "Gallows Pole" performed by American bluegrass musician Willie Watson, a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show, from his solo album Folksinger, Vol. II (2017). This Appalachian ballad is related to "The Maid from Freed from the Gallows" in the Anglo-Scots folk songbook.

Below: "I'm On My Way," peformed by the brilliant bluegrass musician Rhiannon Giddens, from North Carolina, with Italian jazz musician Francesco Turrisi. The song will appear on their collaborative album There is No Other, due out next month.

Above: "Rain and Snow," an Appalachian ballad performed by American bluegrass musician Molly Tuttle and her band. This performance was recorded in Bristol, England, in 2016.

Below: "Jericho" by Mile Twelve, a five-piece bluegrass band from Boston (Evan Murphy, Catherine Bowness, Nate Sabat, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes and David Benedict). The song is from their new album, City on a Hill (2019).

Above: "All in One" by Copper Viper (Robin Joel Sangster and Duncan Menzies), an American bluegrass & British folk duo based in London. The song is from their new album, Cut it Down, Count the Rings (2018).

And to end with something just a little different: "Pipeline Swallowtails" by Sarah Louise, a 12-string guitarist from North Carolina who is half of the Appalachian folk duo House and Land. The song is from her strange and magical solo album, Deeper Woods (2018).


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Flowers on a stone wall

Some tunes and songs from Scotland today....

Above: "Fair Weather Beggar" by Claire Hastings, a singer/songwriter based in Glasgow. It's from her new album, Those Who Roam, songs of journeys and travel (2019).

Below: The Trooper and the Maid," performed by The Claire Hastings Band at the Cottiers Theatre in Glasgow, 2016.

Above: "Montreal" by Talisk, a Scottish folk trio consisting of Mohsen Amini, Hayley Keenan, and Graeme Armstrong. The tune appears on their latest album, Beyond (2018).

Below: "Farewell" by Talisk, from the same album.

Above: "Miller Tae My Trade" performed by Scottish singer Hannah Rarity, with Innes White, Sally Simpson, and Conal McDonagh. It's from Rarity's debut EP, Beginnings (2017). Her first full album, Neath a Gloaming Star, was released last autumn.

Below: "I Once Loved a Lass" performed by Hannah Rarity, with Ryan MacKenzie and Bernadette Kellermann. The video was filmed at Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland (2016).


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Mixed media art by Louise Richardson

Today, let's start the week off with some stories in musical form....

Above: "I Grew Up in a Room, Small as a Penny" by Ana Silvera, a singer-songwriter from London who weaves music, storytelling and poetry together in beautiful, beautiful ways. The song is from her new album, Oracles (2018), recorded live last year at The Roundhouse.

Below: "Pont Mirabeau" by Ana Silvera, with Bjarke Falgren on cello. The video was filmed on the Danish island of Møn by Emile Carlsen (2017).

Above: "Skeleton Song" by Ana Silvera, from Oracles (2108). The song is based on an Inuit myth about a dead girl fished out of the sea and brought back to life. The video features ballet dancer Kate Church, who also directed the piece. Choreography: Kate Church and Alice Williamson.

Below: "Start Again" by Hatful of Rain,  a British folk & Americana band from East Sussex.  The song appears on their fine new album, Songs of the Lost and Found (2018).

Above: "Way Up on the Hill," a haunting song in the Anglo-American murder ballad tradition by Hatful of Rain. The song appeared on the group's first album, Way Up on the Hill (2012).

Below: "Briar Rose" by Aoife O'Donovan, an extraordinary folk & bluegrass musician from Boston, Massachusetts, currently touring with the I'm With Her trio. This song, rooted in the Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty legend and a poem by Anne Sexton, can be found on O'Donovan's first solo album, Fossils (2013).

Above: "Mary and the Prince" by Martha Tilston, a singer-songwriter from our part of England: the Cornwall/Devon peninsula. This song, Tilston's wry take on Prince Charming stories, appeared on her early album Bimbling (2004).

Below: "Stories" by Martha Tilston, a lovely piece from her lastest album, Nomad (2017). The video was filmed in Cornwall (in Penwith, I think), in a landscape much like ours here on Dartmoor. "Keep running into the stories that took you this far," says Tilston. Oh yes.

Leaves in the woods

The artwork today is by Louise Richardson, a mixed media artist in Norwich, England, working with scupture, textiles, and photography. "I am currently looking at the idea of memory and identity," she writes, "bringing universal messages to the viewer, through the portrayal of objects in my own memory. The diversity of materials within my work -- both found and processed -- gives me the opportunity and freedom to invent metaphors which run parallel with the subject matter."

Please visit her website to see more of her work.

Collage by Louise Richardson

Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Vanessa Bell rose

Today, art for hard times. We can be the healing.

Above: "The Flower" by American musician and activist Michael Franti, with his band Spearhead and Victoria Canal. The song is from Franti's film project Stay Human, and appears on the album Stay Human, Volume 2 (2019).

Below: Michael Franti performing "Nobody Cries Alone" at Paste Studio in New York City earlier this year. He's accompanied by Victoria Canal on keyboard and Carl Young on bass.

Above: "Tus Pies" by Nahko Bear, a musician and activist of Apache/Mowhawk/Puerto Rican/Filipino heritage, performed at Paste Studio in New York City. The song is from Hoka, Nahko's third album with the "Medicine for the People" collective (2016).

Below: "You Build a Wall" by English folk musician and activist Grace Petrie. It's from her first album, Heart First Aid Kit (2017). Her latest, Queer as Folk, is very good too.

Above: "Manara" by Alsarah and the Nubatones. Alsarah was born in Sudan, raised in Yemen, and is now based in Brooklyn, New York. This song was performed in New York as part of the Amnesty International concert series in support of refugees, Give a Home (2017).

Below: "Seven Notes" by English folk musician Nancy Kerr, a song about colonialism, migration, and race relations written for the Sweet Liberties project. It appeared on the Sweet Liberties album, and on Kerr's solo album Instar (2016).

The William Morris roseAbove: "Everlasting Arms," an American gospel song performed by musicians around the world. The video is part of the Playing for Change project, whose mission is "to connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people."

Below: "Love Train" by Turnaround Arts, a program that brings professional artists into struggling schools across America. The video features Turnaround students performing alongside the artists who have taught and mentored them. It was filmed with support from the Kennedy Center in DC, and the Playing for Change foundation.

The Beatrix Potter rose

Photographs: rose varieties named after artists Vanessa Bell, William Morris, and Beatrix Potter.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Woman in a Boat by Pekka Halonen

Music from our neighbours to the north today...

Above: "City Garden's" by the Danish/Swedish trio Dreamer's Circus (Nikolaj Busk, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen). The song (recorded on the Danish island of Møn in 2017) appears on their latest album, The Rooftop Sessions (2018).

Below: "Then We Waltzed" by Dreamer's Circus, also from The Rooftop Sessions.

Holiday in the New House by Pekka Halonen

Above: "Mitt hela hjärta" by the Swedish folk vocal group Kongero (Anna Wikenius, Lotta Andersson,  Anna Larsson, and Emma Björling). This lovely song appeared on their first album, om mikaelidagen (2008), but I also recommend their most recent album, Kom (2o17).

Below: "When the Land is White with Snow" performed by the Finnish group Frigg (Tommi Asplund, Tero Hyväluoma, Alina järvelä, Juho Kivivuori, Esko Järvelä, Anssi Salminen, and Petri Prauda). The song -- by English folk musician Chris Wood, with a new arrangement by Esko Järvelä -- appears on Frigg's new album, Joululaulut (2018).

Washing on the Ice by Pekka Halonen

Above: "What Will We Do/Fjellvåk (Mountain Bird)," performed by the Norwegian and Irish Snowflake Trio (Frode Halti, Vegar Vårdal, and Nuala Kennedy). The song -- an Irish traveller ballad combined with a Nordic waltz -- appears on the group's new album, Sun Dogs (2019).

Below: "Hiljainen Suru," performed by the Finnish and Irish trio Slow Moving Clouds (Aki, Ultan O'Brien, and Kevin Murphy). The song appeared on their debut album, Os (2015).

The art today is by Finnish painter Pekka Halonen (1865-1933). Born to a farming family in Lapinlahti, he trained in art in Helsinki and Paris, studied under Paul Gaughin, then returned home to devote himself to painting the Finnish landscape and people. His house and studio on on Lake Tuusula, once the center of a rural arts colony, is now a house museum dedicated to Halonen's life and work.

Tuonen lehto by Pekka Halonen

Tunes for a Monday Morning

The night sky

I'm inspired by the stars this week, and by these words from Carl Sagan: "The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself."

Above: "North Star" by Kyle Carey, based in Brooklyn, New York. The song was the title track of her second album, blending Scottish Gaelic and American roots music. I recommend it highly, along with her lastest: The Art of Forgetting.

Below: "Bright Morning Star," an Applachian spiritual performed by Cara Dillon, from Northern Ireland. The song appeared on her fifth solo album, A Thousand Hearts (2014). If this video won't play in your area, you can watch it on YouTube here.

Hanging the Stars by Jeanie Tomanek

Above: "Far Beyond the Stars" by The Henry Girls (sisters Karen, Lorna, and Joleen McLaughlin), from the west of Ireland. It's from their new album of the same name, released in January.

Crumbs by Jeanie Tomanek

Above: "Underneath the Stars" by Kate Rusby, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire. This haunting song was the title track of her sixth solo album in 2003.

Jeanie Tomanek

Below: "Staring at the Stars" by Salt House (Jenny Sturgeon, Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl), a folk trio based in Scotland. It's from their thoroughly gorgeous new album Undersong (2017), recorded on the tiny island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides.

Star Quilt by Jeanie Tomanek

Below: "All the Stars Are Coming Out Tonight" by singer-songwriter John Boden (formerly of Bellowhead, and creator of the Folk Song a Day project). The song appears on his new album Afterglow (2017), which is terrific.

The Star Fishers by Jeanie Tomanek

The star-filled art today is, of course, by Jeanie Tomanek, who is based in Marietta, Georgia.

"I paint," she says, "to explore the significance of ideas, memories, events, feelings, dreams and images that seem to demand my closer attention. Some of the themes I investigate emerge first in the poems I write. Literature, folktales, and myths often inspire my exploration of the feminine archetype. My figures often bear the scars and imperfections, that, to me, characterize the struggle to become."

To learn more about the artist, go here. To view a photo-essay of her workspace, go here. To see more of  Jeannie's work, please visit her website, or seek out her book, Everywoman Art.

Solo by Jeanie Tomanek

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Gannets at Rathlin Island by Angela Harding

I'm finally starting to write again after three hard weeks of flu. It's only for a little while each day, as I'm still in the last stage of recovery -- but its good to be out of bed at last, and I'm very glad to be back to Myth & Moor.

Let's start the week with songs of the sea: of sailors and selkies and all those who wait on the shore....

Above: "Forfarashire" by London-based singer Kirsty Merryn, with Steve Knightley (from Show of Hands). The song -- which appeared on Merryn's first album, She & I (2017) -- tells the story of Grace Darling, the daughter of a lighthouse-keeper, who rescued survivors from the wreck of a paddlesteamer

Below: "Shipping Song" by Lisa Knapp, also based on London. This piece, woven from the language of the Shipping Forecast (the daily radio broadcast of weather reports for the seas off the British coast), appeared on Knapp's second album, Hidden Seam (2013).

Above: "The Call/Daughters of Watchet/Caturn's Night" by Ange Hardy and Lukas Drinkwater, based in Somerset and Devon. Watchet is a harbour town on the Somerset coast, its history bound up with fishing, farming, and mining. The song can be found on their joint album Findings (2017).

Below: "The Golden Vanity" (Child Ballad #286) performed by Iona Fyfe, from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The song appears on her latest album, Dark Turn of Mind (2018).

Above: a gorgeous version of "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry" (Child Ballad #113) sung by Julie Fowlis, from the Scottish Hebrides, with the The Unthanks from Northumbria.

Below: another fine version of the same ballad performed by English folksinger Maz O'Connor, who grew up in the Lake District. The song appears on her second album, This Willowed Light (2014). The video was filmed by a member of The Icicle Divers Sub Aqua Club, based in Crewe. 

Detail from Seal Song by Angela Harding

The art today is by printmaker and painter Angela Harding, from Rutland, in the East Midlands of England. "For the past 10 years," she says, "I have worked solely at my art practice in the village of Wing -- which is very apt for a women inspired by birds. My studio is at the bottom of the garden and houses all I need to make my work, including a recently acquired Rochat Albion press. The studio overlooks sheep fields surrounded by gentle sloping hills. It’s not a dramatic landscape but somehow a comforting one and to me feels very much like home. The Rutland countryside does have a wealth of animal and bird life that is a constant inspiration for my work. Rutland Water is just over the ridge which attracts a great diversity of bird life that is world renowned."

To see more of her beautiful work, please visit her website and online shop.

Detail from Black Throated Diver by Angela Harding

Art above: "Gannets at Rathlin Island," and details from "Seal Song" and "Black Throated Diver." All rights reserved by Angela Harding.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Rift Within by Arthur Hughes

I'm back home after two weeks on the road, and back in my hillside studio. My desk is piled high with work, my email Inbox is overflowing, and the pages of my neglected work-in-progress are glaring at me balefully...but the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the hound lounges happily beside me, glad to return to normal routines. So let's start the week with some traditional ballads to put us all in a storytelling mood....

Above: "Lover's Ghost" (Child Ballad #272), performed by The Rosie Hood Trio. Rosie Hood is a singer/songwriter from Wiltshire, joined here by Nicola Beazley and Lucy Huzzard for a new video released last week.

Below: "The Bonnie Earl O' Moray" (Child Ballad #181) performed by Said the Maiden (Jess Distill, Hannah Elizabeth, Kathy Pilkinton), a vocal harmony trio from Hertfordshire. The song can be found on their debut album, Here's a Health (2017).

Above: Said the Maiden again, performing "The Soldier and the Maid" (Child Ballad # 299).

Above: "False Lady" (Child Ballad #68) peformed by Teyr (James Gavin, Dominic Henderson, Tommie Black-Roff), from London. The song can be found on the trio's debut album, Far From The Tree (2016).

Above: "Banks of the Newfoundland," performed by Teyr. This one is a "capstan shanty" collected by Cecil Sharp in 1915, and may be related to the transportation ballad "Van Diemen's Land."

And last, an old performance from one of the primary bands of 20th century folk revival: "The Lady of Carlisle" (also known as "The Lion's Den") performed by Pentangle in 1972. Variants of this broadside ballad have been collected in Scotland, Ireland, Somerset, and the mountains of Kentucky.

Happy hound

For more information on Child Ballads go here, and on Broadside Ballads go here. The painting above is by Arthur Hughes (1832-1915).

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Dawn from the boat house window

In a time of political discord, strife, and disconnection from the wider world, let's start the week grounded in harmony, community, and the wonders of the earth we share.

Above: "Rivermouth" by Rising Appalachia (Leah and Chloe Smith), based in the southern Appalachian region and New Orleans. The sisters are activists as well as musicians, working with Mississippi River, Gulf, and Klamath water protectors and other Waterkeepers around the world to preserve drinkable, fishable, swimmable water for everyone, everywhere. The song is from their sixth album, Wider Circles (2015).

Below: "Rang Tang Ring Toon" and "AGT" by Moutain Man, an American vocal harmony trio (Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath) from the mountains of Vermont. Both songs are from their new album, Magic Ship (2018).

Morning coffee

Sunrise on the River Dart

Below: "The Birds' Courting Song," a traditional song performed by the English vocal harmony trio Said the Maiden (Jess Distill, Hannah Elizabeth and Kathy Pilkinton), from Hertfordshire. The song can be found on their debut album, Here's a Health (2017).

River mist

Above:  "Order and Chaos" by the English vocal harmony trio Lady Maisery (Hannah James, Hazel Askew, and Rowan Rheingans). It's from their third album, Cycle (2016), with animation by Minha Kim.

Below: "Rivers Run" by the great Scottish songwriter Karine Polwart, from her fourth solo album, This Earthly Spell (2008). She's accompanied here by her brother Steven, and my Modern Fairies colleague Inge Thomson.

Writing on the the river

"Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does."

- Margaret Atwood (The Penelopiad)

Photographs: a favourite place of mine to hide away and write, on the River Dart.