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.
I'm heading up to Sheffield this week to help present "The Secret of the Selkies" (an evening of music, image, and spoken word) along with three of my Modern Faeries colleagues: Fay Hield, Lucy Farrell, and Barney Morse-Brown. The concert takes place on Friday night at the Kelham Island Museum, sponsored by the University of Sheffield's Being Human Festival. If you're anywhere nearby, please come. (Tickets are free but you have to book. For more info, click on the link above.)
Today's music comes from those same three colleagues, whose work is simply beautiful....
Above: "Martha" by Barney Morse-Brown, who performs under the name Duotone. This haunting piece is from his fourth album, A Life Reappearing (2018).
Below: A wonderful performance of "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" (Child Ballad #200) by Fay Hield. The song appeared on her third solo album, Old Adam (2016).
Above: "Go From My Window," another heart-stirring song recorded by Fay for Old Adam. William Alexander Barrett, the editor of English Folk Songs (1891), tells us this ballad was widely known in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Below: "Arthur O'Bradley" by Fay and the Full English band, at the 2014 Folk Awards. Sponsored by TheEnglish Folk Dance & Song Society, the Full English project created a searchable online archive of English folk song collections from the early 20th century. Alongside the project, Fay assembled a "supergroup" of folk musicians (Nancy Kerr, Rob Harbron, Ben Nicholls, Seth Lakeman, Martin Simpson, and Sam Sweeney) to create and perform new musical arrangements of material drawn from the archive. They toured the songs in 2013; and produced an album, The Full English, which I highly recommend.
Above: "Polly Vaughan," a traditional Irish ballad performed The Furrow Collective, from their second album, Wild Hog. Lucy Farrell is the singer here, with Alasdair Roberts, Emily Portman, and Rachel Newton.
Below: "I'd Rather Be Tending My Sheep," performed by The Furrow Collective. Lucy is the lead singer on this one too. (And another Modern Faeries colleague, Marry Waterson, created the animated video.) The song appeared on The Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions album (2014).
And to end, as we began, with music by Duotone (Barney Morse-Brown):
"Greetings Hello," performed at the Union Chapel Church in London in 2016. Barney's mix of loops and cello from the 5:30 point onward is especially dazzling.....
It's been a cold, wet, stormy day on Dartmoor, and our dodgy rural Internet line keeps flickering on and off (which is why this post is up so late). The air has the bite of winter, so let's have music with heat and movement to get the blood going....
Above: "Boy With a Coin" by Iron & Wine (the stage name of American singer/songwriter Sam Beam) from his album The Shepherd's Dog (2007). The magical video was choreographed by the Spanish flamenco dancer Yaelisa. (And if you'd like a little more of Sam's music this morning, this is another old favourite.)
Below: "A Room in Paris" by the Danish/Swedish folk trio Dreamer's Circus (Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, Ale Carr, and Nikolaj Busk). The video features the Danish/Spanish dancer and choreographer Selene Muñoz.
Below: "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" by the New York jazz band The Hot Sardines (with singer Elizabeth Bougerol), from their sixth album, The Hot Sardines (2014). This one goes out to all of my swing dance friends....
Above: "All Tangled Up" by Dutch jazz sing Caro Emerald, from her second album, The Shocking Miss Emerald (2013).
I've been listening to a lot of Nordic folk music while Howard has been in Helsinki, so let's start the week with music from our European neighbours to the north....
Above: "When the Land is White With Snow" by the Finnish band Frigg, from their album Joululaulut (2018).
Below: "Return from Helsinki" by Frigg, from their album Keidas-Oasis-Oase (2005).
Above: "Typhoon Nozaki" by Väsen (Olov Johansson, Mikael Marin, and Roger Tallroth), from Sweden. The song appears from their album Rule of Three (2019).
Below: "Kind of Polska" by The Gjermund Larsen Trio (Laresen, Sondre Meisfjord, and Andreas Utnem), from Norway, and Nordic (Anders Löfberg, Erik Rydvall, and Magnus Zetterlund), from Sweden. The tune appears on The Gjermund Larsen Trio's album Salmeklang (2016).
Above: A Swedish herding song performed by Jonna Jinton. She says: "The singing technique called kulning was used by women long time ago to call the cows and goats back home to the farm in the evenings. It was also used as a form of communication, since the high pitch sounds can be heard through very far distances. I sang this one to the cows one last time before they went back to their winter farm. I love seeing them running towards me as I sing, especially my favorite cow, Stjärna (Star), who is always the first one to come."
Below: A Swedish herding song performed by Åsa Larsson (of Resmiranda). "We went for a walk in the magical midsummer night and met these beautiful cows who came close when I started to kula. Midsummer's eve is associated with mystery and magic in Swedish folklore tradition. One ritual that lives on until today is to pick seven kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow. The person you dream of that night, is the person you will spend your life with." (To watch Larsson kula to a wild swan, go here.)
Below: "Devil's Polska" by the Finnish/Irish trio Slow Moving Clouds (Aki, Danny Diamond, and Kevin Murphy) from their album Os (2015).
Howard returned from Helsinki this weekend and is now in London for the next month, teaching Commedia at East15 Acting School. His Fool's Journey continues throughout the year (the next training session is in France in December) -- so our Funding for Foolery campaign continues too. Can you help us reach our funding goal? Our entire family sends a big thank you to all of you who have contributed already, along with enthusiastic tail thumps from Tilly.
Images above: A traditionalnycklelharpa; and cows here in Chagford, waiting to be sung to.
My week is starting a little late due to health issues, but I'm back in the studio again on quiet, grey, melancholy day. Tilly is dozing at my feet, a squirrel is peering at us through the window glass, and the hills are turning yellow and gold as the days grow steadily colder.
On Sunday night, I was lucky enough to see my Modern Fairies colleague Marry Waterson perform with Emily Barker in an old Devon church (accompanied by Lukas Drinkwater and Rob Pemberton), so I'm focusing on their music today. "Having met on a writing retreat," writes Neil Spencer, "it is perhaps no surprise that England’s Marry Waterson and Australia’s Emily Barker found their voices made a harmonious fit. Both women have a history of collaborative projects. That their respective personae also gelled was more unexpected. Waterson, a scion of Yorkshire’s Waterson-Carthy dynasty, sings much like her late mother Lal; stoicism and lowering northern skies are never far away. By contrast, Barker has inclined to upbeat Americana; her last album, Sweet Kind of Blue, recorded in Memphis, bristles with soul and country influences. Together, the pair have cooked up a dozen songs that blend light and dark, helped by the cello parts of producer Adem Ilhan, encountered at the same retreat."
In the video above, Marry and Emily perform four original songs -- "Be Good," "Twister," "I’m Drawn," and "Perfect Needs" -- for Pirate Live (2018). All of the songs can be found on their wonderful new album, A Window to Other Ways.
Below, Marry and guitarist David A. Jaycock perform their beautiful song "Two Wolves," from the album of the same name (2015).
Above: "Lord I Want an Exit" by Emily, recorded for The Toerag Sessions (2015).
Below: "Some Old Salty" by Marry's late mother, Lal Waterson, from her album Once in a Blue Moon (with Marry's brother, Oliver Knight). Marry, Emily, Lukas, and Rob sang this one acapella on Sunday night to close their set, and it was so gorgeous my heart was in my throat.
The wolf photographs are from the Wolf Conservation Center, an educational foundation and wolf refuge in South Salem, New York. For more information, go here. For wolves in folklore, fairy tales, and fantasy, go here.
I'm starting the week with music from the beautiful, troubled, complicated country I was raised in and still love....
Above: "The Line Between" by the English/American roots duo Son of Town Hall (Ben Parker and David Berkeley), from their fine new album The Adventures of Son of Town Hall. I love these guys and hope the new album brings them more attention on both sides of the Atlantic.
Below: "Morning Fields" by Son of Town Hall, recorded at a Studio Session last year.
Above: "Down in the Water" by Mipso (Wood Robinson, Libby Rodenbough, Jacob Sharp, Joseph Terrell), an American roots quartet from North Carolina. This performance was filmed in Saxapahaw, NC, in 2016.
Below: "My Burder With Me" by Mipso, performed in New York City in 2017.
Above: "Scrape Me Off the Ceiling" by The Steel Wheels (Eric Brubaker, Brian Dikel, Kevin Joaquin Garcia, Jay Lapp, Trent Wagler), an American roots group from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The song is from their album Wild As We Came Here (2017).
Below: "February Seven," an old favorite from The Avett Brothers (Scott Avett, Seth Avett, Bob Crawford, Joe Kwon), from Concord, North Carolina. I love the underlying theme of this video: examining the process of songwriting (or another kind of creative work), and reminding me of this advice for writers from Hilary Mantel:
"If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient."
And one more to end with, below: "Marching On" a song of hope and persistence during these difficult times by Phoebe Hunt & the Gatherers, from Austin, Texas.
March on, everyone. March on.
The art today is by the great American painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009).
I'm in the mood for a little John Dowland this morning, so I hope you are too....
Above, Dowland's "A Fancy," performed by the great English lutenist Julian Bream, the very best of Dowland's contemporary interpreters. His classic album Lute Music of John Dowland, recorded in a Dorset chapel in 1976, introduced many people to Dowland's compositions, and to Early Music in general.
Below, Dowland's "Lachrimae Pavan," performed on the classical guitar by Nataly Makovskaya. The piece was composed sometime before 1596 for solo lute, and then re-appeared as a song, "Flow My Tears," in Dowland's Second Booke of Songs or Ayres (1600). This guitar version is perfectly lovely.
Above, "Weep You No More Sad Fountains," from Dowland's Third and Last Booke of Songes or Ayres, 1603 -- which, fortunately, wasn't his last at all -- performed by Paul Agnew (tenor) and Christopher Wilson (lute), from the album In Darknesse Let Me Dwell (1996).
Below, "Now, O Now I Needs Must Part" from Dowland's First Book Of Songs Or Ayres, 1597 -- performed by Les Canards Chantants, a choral group from America dedicated to Renaissance polyphony. Although they're based in Philadelphia, the video was filmed on a steam train on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in the north of England. They say: "See if you can spot the station used as 'Hogsmeade' in the Harry Potter movie. All aboard the Hogwarts Express!"
It's a quiet, rainy morning here in Devon, I'm back in the studio at last and starting the week with beautiful music from Wales, both old and new....
Above: "Pan O'wn y Gwanwyn" by Alaw (Oli Wilson-Dickson, Dylan Fowler, and Jamie Smith). The song is from their second album, Dead Man's Dance (2017). The video was filmed at Twyn y Gaer hill fort near Abergavenny.
Below" "Breuddwyd y Wrach/Nyth y Gog" by Alaw, performed at Acapela Studio in 2013.
Above: "Cardod" by Gwilym Bowen Rhys, a singer-songwriter from North West Wales. This piece, blending 17th century poetry and 18th century fiddle music, appears on his fine new album, Arenig (2019). Also, "Arenig," the title song from the new album, featuring poetry by Euros Bowen (Rhys' great-uncle) about the Arenig mountains of Snowdonia.
Below: "Dig Me a Hole" by Gwyneth Glyn, a singer, poet, and playright from Eifionydd on the Llŷn Peninsula. The song appears on Glyn's solo album Tro (2017).
Above: "The Cliffs" by Isembards Wheel, a folk band based in Cardiff. The song is from their EP Autumn In Eden (2016).
Below: "The Fisherman" by The Gentle Good (singer-songwriter Gareth Bonello) from Cardiff -- with Callum Duggan on double bass and Jennifer Gallichan on vocals. It appears on Bonello's fourth album, Ruins/Adfeilion (2016).
The imagery today is by one of my favourite artists (and favourite people), Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who was born in south Wales, and now lives on the Welsh coast near Aberystwyth. After a distinguished career as a director, performer, choreographer and puppeteer for stage, film, and television, Clive turned to making art in a wide variety of forms, including painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, maquettes, animation, and artist’s books. His work -- inspired by myth, Romance, folklore, poetry, Biblical stories, and the history and landscape of Wales -- can now be found in museums, galleries, libraries, and private collections the world over.
As his biography notes: "In 2016 Random Spectacular published Hicks-Jenkins' dark reworking of Hansel & Gretel into a picture book; and the following year Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop in Covent Garden commissioned a Hansel & Gretel toy theatre kit based on it. In response to the two publications, Goldfield Productions engaged the artist, to direct and design a new version of the fairytale, with music by Matthew Kaner and a libretto by the poet Simon Armitage. Performed by a chamber consort, a narrator/singer and two puppeteers, it premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival in July 2018, earning a four-star review from The Guardian before beginning a five month tour of music festivals. The London premiere at Barbican was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast in December 2018. Hansel & Gretel was the second collaboration between the artist and poet, coming on the heels of Faber & Faber publishing Armitage’s revision of his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, illustrated throughout with the fourteen screenprints Hicks-Jenkins made in collaboration with Penfold Press."
To see more of Clive's absolutely gorgeous work, please visit his website and art blog.