Tunes for a Monday Morning

Old beech and ivy  early spring

BumblebeeJune 1st marks the beginning of 30 Days Wild, an annual event sponsored by the UK's Wildlife Trusts. The idea is to do something out in nature each day no matter where you live -- country, city, town, or suburb. It's a good way of remembering to stay connected to the beautiful natural world -- especially now, when climate crisis is the most pressing issue of our time.

Today, in honor of 30 Days Wild, here is a collection of "wild songs" about the growing green world, woodlands dark and bright, coastal winds and forest magic....

Above: "Trees Hug Bees" by Jeanes -- a music collective founded by Russell Jeanes (a graphic designer, filmmaker and poet from Yorkshire) to create Sleeping Leaves, a "pastoral folk" EP containing songs, poems, and sounds of the natural world put together in a collective fashion.The vocalist on this tract is Léa Decan. 

Belove: "The Arboretum" by singer/songwriter Bill Jones, based in north-east England. The song appears on her new album, A Wonderful Fairytale (2019).

Woodland flowers

Above: "Sisters Three" by singer/songwriter Ange Hardy, from Somerset. The song appears on her sixth studio album, Bring Back Home (2017).

Below: "A’ phiuthrag ’sa phiuthar (O sister, beloved sister)"  performed by Julie Fowlis, from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. It tells the story of a girl lured away in the woods by the sìthichean (the  fairy-people), and her sister's long search to bring her home again. The song appears on Fowlis' latest album, Alterus (2018). The animation is by Eleonore Dambre and Dima Nowarah.

Piskie flowers

Above: "Woodcat" by Tunng, a "folktronica" band founded by Sam Genders and Mike Lindsay, based in London. This wonderfully odd little song   (rooted in the folklore of shape-shifting hares) appeared on their album Comments of the Inner Chorus (2007).The Spirit Within by Karen Davis

Below: "Old Pine" by singer/songwriter Ben Howard, who grew up on the other side of Dartmoor. The song, celebrating the beauty of our West Country coastline, is from Ben's first album, Every Kingdom (2012).

Old beech and ivy summer

Pictures: An old beech tree twined with ivy, photographed in spring and summer; wild strawberries and piskie flowers in the woods; and a vintage drawing of a bumblebee (artist unknown). The hare painting is "The Spirit Within" by Karen Davis; all rights reserved by the artist.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Underwater sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor

Today, five composers creating music in response to the natural world.

Above: "Music in the Antropocene," an inspiring talk (with music) by Alaskan composer John Luther Adams, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2014. "Today a growing number of geologists believe we have left the Holocene and entered a new geologic period, the Anthropocene, in which the dominant geologic force is humanity itself," he says. "What does this mean for music? What does it mean for my work as a composer, or for any artist working in any medium today?" He goes on to discuss his move from full-time environmental activism to art-making, and why he believes that the latter is as necessary as the former. This relates, I believe, to all art forms at their best, including fantasy and mythic arts.

Below: "In a Treeless Place, Only Snow" by John Luther Adams, performed by the faculty and fellows at the Bang on a Can Summer Marathon at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2016. (I've chosen an indoor piece as it's hard to experience Luther's outdoor pieces fully through a short video.)

Above: Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi discusses his beautiful new album series Seven Days Walking -- seven albums, released over seven months, inspired by his walks through the Italian Alps. The series began in March, and three of the albums are available so far.

Below: "Fox Tracks" from Seven Days Walking: Day I, with Einaudi on piano, Federico Mecozzi on violin, and Redi Hasa on cello.

Above: "Usal Road" by Breton composer and multi-instrumentalist Yann Tiersen,  from his new album All (2019), a meditation on place and the natural world, blending music with field recordings made in Brittany, Devon, and elsewhere. It's the first of Tiersen's albums to be recorded in his studio on Ushant, the small island in the Celtic Sea between Brittany and Cornwall where he makes his home.

Below: "First of the Tide" by Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper -- from his new album Sule Skerry (2019), the second in a triptych inspired his Orkney homeland and the works of Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown

Orkney seal

To end with: "Waloyo Yamoni (We Overcome the Wind)" by American composer Christopher Tin, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Angel City Chorale, Prima Vocal Ensemble and Lucis choirs conducted by Tin in London, 2016. It's the final piece on his album The Drop That Contains the Sea -- a gorgeous song cycle on the theme of water, each song sung in a different language. This one is in Lango, a Southern Luo dialect spoken by the Lango people of Uganda.

"In the coming century water, and water management, is going to be the most important global issue to all people and across all countries,” he says. “Between melting Antarctic ice sheets and rising ocean levels and droughts and increased devastation from hurricanes and so forth, water is literally going to shape the way we draw our maps.”

When I despair at all the destruction we humans are responsible for, I remember we are also capable of this, and my heart lifts a little:

Underwater sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor

Today's music is dedicated to the brave young people who created the Extinction Rebellion, and to the older folks who stand alongside them-- which I hope is all of us here. The photographs at the top and bottom of the post are of underwater sculptures by environmental artist Jason deCaires Taylor. The middle photograph is of a harbour seal in Orkney archipelago. It is their home, too, we are fighting for.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Into the forest

Today's music comes from brothers and sisters, and starts with a journey to the wildwood....

Above: "This Forest" by The Rheingans Sisters (Anna & Rowan Rheingans), from the Peak District of Derbyshire. The song appears on their lovely album, Bright Field (2018). The video is by Harriet Holman Penney.

Below: "Goose & Common" by The Askew Sisters (Hazel & Emily Askew), who are based in London. The song refers to the mass enclosure of Common land throughout Britain from the 17th century onward. It's from their fine new album, Enclosures (2019), examining the relationship between in people and land in various ways.

Above: "The Lowlands of Holland" performed by Ye Vagabonds (brothers Brían & Diarmuid Mac Gloinn), from Dublin, Ireland. The ballad appeared on their debut album, Ye Vagabonds (2017); this version was filmed at the Celtic Colours International Festival on Cape Breton Island in March.

Below: "Sing My Sister Down" performed by The Henry Girls (sisters Karen, Lorna & Joleen McLaughlin), from Donegal, Ireland. The song was filmed at Lily's Bar in Malin, Co. Donegal, earlier this year.

Above: "Mexico" by The Staves (sisters Jessica, Camilla & Emily Staveley-Taylor), from Hertfordshire. The song appeared on their first album, Dead & Born & Grown (2011).

Below: "Mount the Air" by the The Unthanks (sisters Rachel & Becky Unthank and their band), from Northumberland. The song appeared on their fifth album, Mount the Air (2015), and performed at the British Folk Awards 2016...with some clog dancing too.

One more to end with:

"We All Need More Kindness in This World" by We Banjos 3 (brothers David & Martin Howley, Enda & Fergal Scahill), from Galway, Ireland. The song appeared on their first album, Roots of the Banjo Tree (2012). This performancd was filmed for BBC Radio Ulster in 2013.

Forest 2


Tunes for a Monday Evening

Horse drawing by William Heath Robinson

Above: "The Foggy Dew," performed by Ye Vagabonds (brothers Brían & Diarmuid Mac Gloinn), from Dublin, Ireland. The song appears on their fine new album, The Hare's Lament (2019).

Below: "Lath' a' siubhal sleibhe dhomh (On A Day As I Traversed The Mountain)," performed by Sarah-Jane Summers, a Scottish fiddler based in Norway. The song appears on her award-winning album Solo (2018).

Above: "House on a Hill" by singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney, from Oxford.  It's from her beautiful new album, Shelter (2018).

Below: "Shelter," the title song from the new album.

Above: "The House at Rosehill" by singer/songwriter Claire Hastings, from Glasgow, accompanied by Jenn Butterworth (guitar), Andrew Wait (accordion), and Laura Wilkie (fiddle). The song appeared on her first solo album, Between the River and the Railway (2016).

Below: "Keep it Whole" by singer/songwriter Anna Mieke, from Wicklow, Ireland. The song was released as a single last autumn; the video was filmed in Montana.

Dartmoor pony and foal

Photograph: a Dartmoor pony and newborn foal on our village Commons. The drawing is by William Heath Robinson (1872-1944).


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

Tilly

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).

Oakleaves


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).

fiddle


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 Tuesday morning

Margaret Lockwood in the film The Wicked Lady

Let's start the week (albeit a day late) with some fabulous folk songs that up-end traditional, heteronormative ideas about gender....

Above: "The Handsome Cabin Boy," which is one of a number of traditional songs (The Female Drummer, When I Was a Fair Maid, Bold William Taylor, etc.) about young women who dress in male clothing in order to live the life of a sailor or soldier. This lovely version is performed by Bill Jones, a folk musician based in Sunderland. It appeared on her first album, Turn to Me (2000). 

Below: "Sylvie" (a.k.a. "Sovay"), a traditional ballad about a female highwayman* performed by Rachael McShane (from the north-east of England) and The Cartographers. The song appears on their new album When All is Still (2018).

Above: "Gentleman Jack," written and performed by O’Hooley & Tidow, a folk duo from Yorkshire. The song, as music critic Alex Gallacher explains, is about "the 19th Century diarist, writer, traveller, mountaineer, rural gentlewoman, and industrialist Anne Lister. Anne kept much of her life written in 4 million words worth of diaries, which were hidden away for many years, and then thankfully later uncovered. It was discovered that around a sixth of them were written in secret code, which when deciphered, revealed a lot more than just her business activities at Shibden Hall, Halifax. Behind her back, the disapproving local residents would refer to Anne as ‘Gentleman Jack’." The song appeared on O'Hooley & Tidow's second album, The Fragile (2012).

There aren't as many songs about men dressing as women, but here's a particularly lovely one: "Gloria," written and performed by the Anglo-Welsh trio Trials of Cato. This moving song about cross-dressing and gender fluidity is from their debut album Hide and Hair (2018), which I am thoroughly addicted to.

Simply switching the gender of the singer of a love song can help us to hear it in a whole new way. Here are two fine examples:

Above, "Beeswing," the Richard Thompson classic, performed by Leicester-based folk musician Grace Petrie. It's from her terrific new album Queer as Folk (2018).

Below, "My Love's in Germany," a traditional Scottish ballad (adapted from a poem by Hector Macneil), beautifully performed by Trials of Cato.

And one more song to end with:

"Gonna Write Me a Letter" by the Irish "Celtgrass" band We Banjos 3, from Galway. The song appeared on their exuberant debut album, Roots of the Bajo Tree (2012).

Gonna write me a letter

*For more songs about kick-ass women, see Dianne Dugaw’s Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850 (University of Chicago Press). The photograph above is Margaret Lockwood as a female highwayman in the 1945 film The Wicked Lady. Many thanks to Ben Perkins, Jessica Wick, and Amal El-Mohtar for their suggestions for this post.


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.