To start with, above: "Seven Songs on Six Islands," a little film by Myles O'Reilly, featuring brothers Brían & Diarmuid Mac Gloinn of Ye Vagabond. This one is for everyone locked down at home, for whom a trip through six Irish islands might be particularly welcome right now. (O'Reilly is doing wonderful work documenting the contemporary Irish folk music scene, by the way. To support him on Patreon, go here.)
Above: "Reels" from the Scottish band Westward the Light (Charlie Grey, Catriona Hawksworth, Joseph Peach, and Owen Sinclair). Their self-titled debut album has just been released.
Below: "Encore" by Westward the Light.
Above: "Mountain of Gold" by the Scotland-based trio Salt House ( Jenny Sturgeon, Lauren MacColl, and my Modern Fairies colleague Ewan MacPherson), from their new album Huam. Their previous album, Undersong, has been constantly on our CD player, and it's clear that this one is going to be too.
Below: "Fire Light," also from Huam. Please don't miss this gorgeous music.
Pictures: Tilly and me on the south Devon coast a while back. Dartmoor is a beautiful place to be locked down, so I'm not complaining...but I keep dreaming of the sea.
I'm still struggling with low spirits due to the death of my youngest brother, so I wasn't sure I was up to chosing the "Monday Music" this week ... and yet music is often the very thing that I turn to for solace, understanding, and healing. So I send these songs out for Keith, my brother who is gone; to Vic, my brother who is missing; to Michael, my brother recently found; and to any of you who might resonate with it too. Art lifts us. And that's why we need it.
Above: "Bubble" by King Creosote and John Hopkins, from their collaborative album Diamond Mine (2001). The animated video, with its doppleganger of Tilly, was directed by Elliot Dear.
Below: "Wherever I Go" by the great British guitarist Mark Knopfler, with Australian-born bluegrass musician Ruth Moody, now based in Canada. The song appeared on Knopfler's album Tracker (2015).
Above: "Dear Brother" by Nahko Bear, with two members of his band, Medicine for the People: Max Ribner and Tim Snider. Nahko is singer-songwriter of mixed Apache, Mohawk, Puerto Rican & Filipino heritage. The song was recorded live in New York in 2018.
Below: "Tus Pies" by Nahko Bear, recorded live in New York in 2016.
Above: "No Hard Feelings" by The Avett Brothers ( Scott Avett, Seth Avett, Bob Crawford, Joe Kwon) from North Carolina. The song was filmed for the Live from Here television program in 2017, with back-up from the Live from Here band.
Below: "Time After Time" by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper, from her first album, She's So Unusual (1983). When I was a young editor in New York City in the '80s, my youngest brother used to call me "Terri Lauper" to tease me for my '80s fashion sense. The original video for "Time After Time" reminded him of me, he once said, for I'd always been something of a misfit in our family and left it at a very young age. The haunting version below, filmed in 2004, seems the right song to end with today.
Long-time readers of Myth & Moor already how much I admire the work of the London-based folksinger Sam Lee -- from his early apprenticeship in Romany and Traveller songs to his involvement in The Nest Collective and The Song Collecter's Collective, as well as his tireless activism on behalf of the natural world. His new album, Old Wow, reflects all these things: a collection of old songs molded into new forms for our troubled times. "I feel like we are living in the age of extinction, culturally as well as ecologically,” he explains in a recent interview. “My hope is that by looking to the past we can strengthen our resolve to protect the future. What I’m doing is making the richest compost I possibly can."
Above: The video for "The Garden of England" from Old Wow, a re-working of the folk classic "Seeds of Love" (the very first song collected by Cecil Sharpe).
Below: "Soul Cake" (Old Wow), rooted in "Green Grow the Rushes-O" and "The Souling Song" (from the singing of The Watersons).
Above: A live recording of "The Moon Shines Bright" (Old Wow), re-working "Wild Mountain Thyme" and classic Romany folk themes, accompanied by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.
Below, an older piece: "Lovely Molly/I Once Was a Ploughboy" (from The Fade in Time by Sam Lee & Friends), accompanied by the Roundhouse Choir, 2015.
Above: "Sweet Sixteen" (Old Wow), a beautiful song inspired by ballads of transitory lovers, and by parenthood and the different ways that families are formed.
Below: The painterly video for "Lay This Body Down" (Old Wow), a free slave song from the American south, created with Bernard Butler, Cosmo Sheldrake, Dizraeli, and the Ballet Rambert dancers.
Some purists have taken exception to Sam's approach to folk material (mixing influences from a wide variety of cultural, musical, and aesthetic forms), but I find it thrilling, intellectually challenging, and moving. He constructs his songs on a firm foundation of knowledge of the folk tradition -- which is not so very different from what we are doing in the mythic fiction/fantasy field: taking ancient tales and re-working them into stories for our age.
In a Bluegrass Situation interview, he mused: "[Sometimes] you have to be an outsider, and that’s something that, by nature of who I am -- by being gay, by being Jewish, by being the kid that never quite fit into any of the places that I was -- I’ve always been in that position. It’s a place I’ve always been drawn to; most artists are like that one way or another. I’m not particularly exceptional, I’m not saying I’m necessarily special, but that’s something that I’ve certainly been accustomed to.
"When it comes carrying on the tradition, I did exactly the same. I went down the deepest root of folk music, but never went fully into those folk scenes. I was always an outsider in the folk world. I was always an outsider in these deep traditions, I was never part of the communities that I’m learning from. Yet, at the same time, you find yourself weirdly in the center of these places as well. This idea of: there is no center and there is no outside. Actually, these are all constructs, only in our minds, and we are all outsiders in the end."
The mythic art today is Migration Moon, Pilgrim's Rest, Care and Feeding, and Asking Questions of the Moon by American painter Jeanie Tomanek, based near Atlanta. To see more of her work go here; and to read about her art-making process, go here.
This morning I'd like to re-visit the Songs of Separation project: the brainchild of folk musician Jenny Hill, conceived in 2014 during the run-up to the referendum for Scottish independence. Hill's idea was to bring ten English and Scottish women folk musicians to a fairy-tale island off Scotland's west coast to create an album reflecting on "separation" in its many forms. In a week that is leading to Britian's departure from the EU, and the loss of my husband and daughter's precious rights as citizens of Europe, Hill's theme is sadly relevant once again.
"Celebrating the similarities and differences in our musical, linguistic and cultural heritage," she writes, "and set in the context of a post-referendum world, the work aims to evoke emotional responses and prompt new thinking about the issue of separation as it occurs in all our lives. The collected songs aim to get to the heart of what we feel when we are faced with a separation, both good and bad."
Above: A short video on the making of Songs of Separation, which includes fascinating discussion on the project's theme, on the creative process, and on the role of folk arts in society -- a perfect combination for Myth & Moor.
Below: An even shorter video from project's video diary, documenting a group sing, in Gaelic, with the Isle of Eigg community, along with a glimpse of that beautiful landscape. (You can view the other "Daily Reflection" videos on the project's YouTube channel.)
Next, four songs from the album itself, which I highly recommend.
Above: "Echo Mocks the Corncrake," featuring Karine Polwart. This traditional song, writes music critic Helen Gregory, "contains subtle political content and references to at least two forms of separation, even though it’s often thought of as a simple love song. The lyric tells of a young man whose partner leaves him for the bright lights of Ayr (located on 'the banks o’ Doune'), an act of separation which is one manifestation of the rural depopulation occurring as a result of the impact of the spread of industrialisation during the 18th and 19th centuries, further exacerbated in Scotland by the greed-fuelled brutality of the Highland Clearances. And the corncrake? The subject of the separation of humankind from the natural environment is key: habitat loss has meant that the numbers of this migratory bird have declined across the British Isles since the mid-19th century. Consequently, corncrakes are now restricted to Ireland and the northern and western islands of Scotland including, of course, the Isle of Eigg. So it’s fitting that 'Echo Mocks The Corncrake’ opens with a field recording of the bird’s distinctive krek krek call which sets the rhythm of the piece, picked up by percussive beats on a variety of instruments ahead of Karine’s vocals."
Below: "It was A' for our Rightfu' King," written by Robert Burns in the 18th century, arranged here by Hannah Read. "The song is inspired by the failed Jacobite uprising of 1745, lead by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720 - 1788)," explains Pauline MacKay. "The Jacobites sought to restore the deposed Stuart dynasty to the Scottish and English throne. The Jacobites were defeated at the battle of Culloden in 1746, forcing Bonnie Prince Charlie to flee to the highlands. He eventually reached Europe where he died in exile (in Rome). In this song a young woman laments the failure of the uprising and her Jacobite lover's absence from Scotland."
Below: "Muladach Mi ‘s Mi Air M’aineoil (Sad Am I And In A Strange Place)," a waulking song about a woman and two daughters separated from their home. The song's arrangement is by Mary Macmaster.
Above: "Unst Boat Song," a gorgeous prayer for the safety for working at sea by those who have been left behind, recorded in Eigg’s Cathedral Cave. The lyrics are in Norn, an ancient language still heard, in fragments, on the island of Unst.
I haven't posted a collection of ballads in a while, full of stories murderous and magical -- so here are seven of these timeless songs, all but one of them from the Child Ballads (compiled by the 19th century folklorist and scholar Francis J. Child).
Above: "Down by the Greenwoodside" (Child Ballad #20, also known as "The Cruel Mother"), performed by The Furrow Collective: Lucy Farrell, Rachel Newton, Emily Portman, and Alasdair Roberts. The song is from their new album Fathoms (2019). The animation is by Maud Hewlings.
Below: "Two Sisters" (Child Ballad #10), performed by English singer/songwriter Emily Portman.The song appeared on her solo album The Glamoury (2010).
Above: "The Gardener" (Child Ballad #219), performed by Lady Maisery: Hazel Askew, Hannah James, and Rowan Rheingans. The song appeared on their album Weave & Spin (2011).
Below: "Dowie Dens of Yarrow" (Child Ballad #2019), performed by Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart. The song appeared on Polwart's ballad album Fairest Floo'er (2007).
Above: "Lord Bateman" (Child Ballad #53, also known as "Young Beichan"), performed by English singer/songwriter Chris Wood. The song appeared on his solo album The Lark Descending (2005).
Below: "Bold Lovell" (a variant of the Irish highwayman ballad "Whiskey in the Jar"), performed by English folksinger Jim Moray, with fiddle player Tom Moore. The song is from his new album, The Outlander (2020).
To end with, below: A beautiful and unusual rendition of "Seven Bonnie Gypsies" (Child Ballad #200) performed by Jon Boden & the Remnant Kings. The song is from Boden's new album Rose in June (2019). The animation is by Marry Waterson.
The art in this post is by Flora McLachlan, a printmaker based in the west of Wales. "I am inspired by the fairy tales I grew up reading," she says, "and by the motif of the quest in the medieval romance poetry I read during my English degree. I see it as a venturing outwards and also inwards, entering the wild unruly forest of trees and thorns."
All rights to the music and art above reserved by the artists.
Below: "The King," also from Awake Arise. This song is the traditional blessing of the "wrenboys" on St. Stephen's Day (December 26). You can read more about this old folk practice here.
Above: "Banks of Inverurie," a wintry performance of a traditional Scottish ballad from Iona Fyfe. "The Banks of Inverurie echoes the form and structure of the American folksong, The Lakes of Pontchartrain," notes the singer. "The definite origins of the song remain unknown, but it is thought that it originated in Scotland and was brought to America by soldiers fighting for the British army in Louisiana and Canada in 1812. It could be argued that Aberdeenshire is the source region of the localised song, by its inclusion in Greig-Duncan and the song being set on the banks of the River Ury." The song can be found on Fyfe's lovely album Away From My Window (2018).
Below: "Vinterfolk" performed by The String Sisters during a recording session in the Shetland Islands. The String Sisters are: Annbjørg Lien (Norway), Catriona Macdonald (Shetland), Emma Härdelin (Sweden), Liz Carroll (U.S.), Liz Knowles (U.S.) abd Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Ireland) -- accompained by Tore Bruvoll on guitar, Dave Milligan on piano, Conrad Molleson on bass, and James Mackintosh on percussion. The song, written by Tore Bruvoll, appeared on their album Between Wind And Water (2017).
Above: "Ca' the Yowes" performed by Band of Burns from their fine new album The Thread. You'll find more of their music in this previous post.
Below: "The Parting Glass" performed by Scottish singer Emily Smith, from her seasonal album Songs for Christmas (2016). More information on this old Scottish ballad can be found here.
The wonderful, wonderful art today is "Embraced by the Bear" and "Time Out" by my friend and village neighbour Virginia Lee. To see more her work, go here.
My apologies for the paucity of posts in the last week; a combination of work, health issues, and holiday preparations seemed to have swallowed up all my time. I'm a day late, but here's music to kick off the week: folk carols, new Christmas ballads, and interesting renditions of traditional tunes.
Below: "We Shall Sing All Merrily," from the same album.
Above: "Christmas is Merry" by Yorkshire singer/songwriter Kate Rusby. The song comes appears on her lovely new Christmas album Holly Head (2019)
Below: "The Holly King" by Kate Rusby, from the same album.
Above: "At the Time of Year," a new Christmas single by Scottish singer/songwriter Siobhan Miller.
Below: "The Wexford Carol," a new Christmas single by Aizle, a folk band based in Manchester, with Irish-born singer and flautist Ríoghnach Connolly.
Below: I'll end, as I often do, with my favourite Christmas video: a wacky (and very pagan) rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by the great Annie Lennox.
The exquisite art today is by my friend and village neighbour Virginia Lee: "Catherdal Dreams," a portrait of Exeter Cathedral (Exeter is our closest city), and the magic winter's vision of "The Deer's Domain."
It's a misty, moody morning here, and instead of fighting against the melancholy weather let's flow along with it....
Above: "Only Ghosts" by Pine the Pilcrow (Kevin Murray, Hannah Ryan, Shay Sweeney and Robert Campbell), based in Dublin. The song comes from their EP of the same name (2018).
Below: "Sovay," the classic female-highwayman ballad performed by Varo (Lucie Azconaga and Consuelo Nerea Breschi), a French/Italian folk and baroque duo based in Dublin. The song will appear on their first album, due out early next year. If it's all this good, it will be quite a debut.
Above: "Shelter" by singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney, from Oxfordshire. The song appeared on her gorgeous album of the same name (2018).
Below: "Teignmouth" by singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf, from south London. The River Teign runs from Dartmoor, past our village, and down to the sea on the south Devon coast, and so this has long been one of my favourite of his songs. This version was filmed at Hilles House in Gloucestershire in 2012.
Above: "The Snow Queen" by London-based singer-songwriter Ana Silvera, whose work I absolutely love. This song, with its fairy tale imagery, appeared on The Aviary (2012).
Below:"Bedlam" by Ana Silvera, performed live with the Santiago Quartet in 2010. Her latest album is Oracles, and highly recommended.
And one more, below: "We Are" by the Haevn (Marijn van der Meer and Jorrit Kleijnen), based in Amersterdam. The song was recorded with a 50-piece string orchestra for their latest album, Symphonic Tales (2019).
Having been immersed in selkie lore recently, my dreams are still rolling with the waves ... so I'm starting the week with songs about sea and shore, and the liminal space between them.
Above: "The Great of Sule Skerry" (Child Ballad 113), a traditional song of Shetland and Orkney sung by Julie Fowlis (from the Isle of Eigg in the Hebrides) and The Unthanks (from Northumbria) for the Port programme on BBC Alba.
Below: "The Selkie Song" by Scottish singer/songwriter Jenny Sturgeon, accompanied by Jonny Hardie on the Isle of May in 2014.
Above: "Lord Franklin," a classic ballad about the 19th century Arctic explorer who perished on the search for the North West Passage. This lovely version was recorded by Irish fiddler Kevin Burke and the late Irish singer, guitarist and folklorist Mícheál O Domhnaill (co-founder of The Bothy Band) in 1979. The backing vocals are by Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill.
Below: "The Maid on the Shore," an oceanside variant of the "The Broomfield Hill" (Child Ballad #43), recorded by The John Renbourn Group in 1980. The singer, of course, is Jacqui McShee.
Above: "The Fisherman's Wife" by Matthew and the Atlas (English singer/songwriter Matt Hegarty and his band), recorded in 2015.
Below: "Mackerel," an award-winning song by the Rheingans Sisters (Anna and Rowan Rheingans), from Derbyshire. The song appeared on their first album Already Home (2015).
And one more to end with: "The Sailor's Farewell" by singer/songwriter Ange Hardy, from Somerset. The appeared on her third album, The Lament of the Black Sheep (2014).
The art today is by Jackie Morris, from her enchanting book The Seal Children. Go here to learn more about it.
Some previous songs of the sea can be found here and here.
If you are anywhere nearby, please join Fay Hield, Lucy Farrell, Duotone (Barney Morse-Brown), and me for an evening of music and spoken word about the seal people and the lore of the sea.
This event, sponsored by the University of Sheffield's Being Human Festival, continues one of the threads of work developed by Fay, Lucy, Inge Thomson and me for the Modern Fairies project. (Sadly, Inge can't be with us on Friday -- but Barney, who was also on the project, will bring his own considerable magic to the evening.) I'm so looking forward to seeing my MF colleagues again, and weaving spells of sea salt, music, and language.
All are welcome, and the tickets are free. For bookings and more information, go here.
The lovely selkie art by above is byNatalie Reid, created for the Modern Fairies project.