Tunes for a Monday Morning

Deer in Ocean Surf by Connie Cooper Edwards


Songs of the morning to start a quiet day at the cusp of summer....

Above: "Lá Róúil" by the Irish folk duo Zoë Conway and John Mc Intyre, with Irish fiddle & bouzouki player Éamon Doorley (of Danú), and Scottish singer & multi-instrumentalist Julie Fowlis. The song appears on their collaborative album Allt (2021), inspired by old and new Gaelic poetry from  Ireland and Scotland. "A great day, great day," they sing, "I'll have a great day. It won't be long till I see you again."

Below: "Lark in the Clear Air" by Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart, based in Edinburgh. It's from her album and stage show A Pocket of Wind Resistance (2017).

Above: "The Lark" by English singer/songwriter Kate Rusby, from Yorkshire, with Nic Jones. The song appeared on two of Rusby's albums: The Girl Who Couldn't Fly (2005) and 20 (2012).

Below: "Lark in the Morning," a traditional song performed by English singer and fiddle player Jackie Oates, from Staffordshire. The song appeared on her second solo album, The Violet Hour (2008).

Above: "Lemady," a traditional song (also known as "Arise and Pick a Posy") performed by the East London folk group Stick in the Wheel and Jack Sharp (of Wolf People). The song appeared on Stick in the Wheel's fourth album, This and the Memory of This (2018).

Below, "Early One Morning," a traditional song performed by English singer/songwriter Jim Moray, based in Bristol. The song appeared on his second album, Sweet England (2003).

Above: "Awake, Awake," a traditional song performed by The Gigspanner Big Band, consisting of the Gigspanner trio (Steeleye Span's Peter Knight, Sacha Trochet, and Peter Flack), plus the Edgelarks duo (Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin), and John Spiers (of Bellowhead). Other good versions of this classic ballad from the British and American folk traditions include "Waking Dreams" from Martin & Eliza Carthy, "Awake, Awake" from Maz O'Connor, and "The Silver Dagger" from Mandolin Orange.

Below: "May Morning Dew," a traditional song performed by Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, filmed in Glasgow last year. The song appears on her most recent album, All Is Not Forgotten (2020).

Woodland lark

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Nightingale  photographed by John Bridges

Today's music comes from British folk singer and folk song collector Sam Lee. I'm completely in love with this young man's work, and the wide variety of collaborative projects he instigates or contributes to. If you ever have the chance to see him live, please don't miss it.  Sam's recordings of old ballads and Gypsy Traveller songs are wonderful, but hearing them live -- as they are meant to be heard -- is just extraordinary.

517aFgiAObL._SX319_BO1 204 203 200_Above: A BBC profile of Lee's "Singing With the Nightingales," an annual series of events in which folk, classical, and jazz musicians collaborate with nightingales in their natural habitats. As the website explains, guests at the nightingale gatherings are invited "not just to listen to these birds in ear-tinglingly close proximity, but to share an evening around the fire, delving into your hosts’ and guest musicians' own funds of rare songs and stories." After supper by the fire, the small audience for each event is lead "in silence and darkness into the nightingale’s habitat, not only to listen to these majestic birds, but to share in an improvised collaboration; to experience what happens when bird and human virtuosi converge in musical collaboration." The BBC video above was filmed back in 2017, but the Nightingale project continues -- and Sam has just published a fine book on the subject, which I highly recommend.

Below: "The Garden of England," a re-working of the folk classic "Seeds of Love" (the very first song collected by Cecil Sharpe). It appears on his latest album Old Wow, 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 an 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: A live recording of "The Moon Shines Bright," re-working "Wild Mountain Thyme" and classic Romany folk themes, accompanied by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. The song appears on Old Wow.

Below: "Blackbird," a traditional British Traveller song peformed in Amsterdam, with Jonah Brody on piano, Joshua Green on percussion, amd Flora Curzon on violin. The song appeared on an earlier album, The Fade in Time.

Above: "The Blind Beggar," performed with Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann at the Foundling Museum in London as part of their Broadside Ballads project. A broadside, the three musicians explain, "is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. Broadside ballads, from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, contain words and images once displayed and sung daily in Britain’s streets and inns. Although part of living traditions of folksong, popular art and literature, these illustrated printed sheets are now rare and preserved in only a few libraries." In developing the project, they spent time researching the ballads at the Bodleian, and then created new contemporary arrangements for these historic songs.

Below: "Lord Gregory" (Child Ballad #76) performed with the Choir of World Cultures (directed by Barbara Morgenstern) from Berlin.


For more on Gypsy/Traveller songs, see the short film Ballad Lands: Jonny O' the Brine (about Sam's apprenticeship to Scottish Traveller Stanley Robertson); and his talk about how he became involved with the Travellers and their songs as a young Jewish man from London.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Tain - Mare and Foals by Louis le Brocquy

I'm focused on music from Ireland (mostly) and Scotland today: old, new, and the old made new. Let's start with a quiet, eerie traditional ballad and move on from there....

Above: "My Son David" (also known as "Edward" and "My Son Henry," Child Ballad #13) performed by Atlantic Arc, a new ensemble of musicians and singers from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, directed by Dónal Lunny. The ensemble members are Graham Henderson (keyboards), Jarlath Henderson (vocals, guitars, pipes, whistles), Sharon Howley (cello), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitar), Aidan O’Rourke (fiddle), Davie Ryan (drums), Pádraig Rynne (concertina), Pauline Scanlon (vocals), and Ewen Vernal (bass). The song is Atlantic Arc's first released, filmed in County Clare (2021).

The Tain illustrated by Louise le BrocquyBelow: "The Táin," an interpretation of the ancient Irish epic with music by Lorcán Mac Mathúna, contemporary dance by Fearghus Ó Conchúir, and the art of Louis Le Brocquy. The performance was filmed at The Model gallery in Sligo in 2018, with musicians Martin Tourish (piano accordion), Daire Bracken (fiddle) and Éamonn Galldubh (pipes and flute) backing up Mac Mathúna's vocals.

"The aim of the artists was to give the medieval words of The Táin a physical interpretation combining movement, imagery, and music," Mac Mathúna explains. "To give the livid drama of the tale its full breadth with the 'seen' and 'heard' gestures of movement of body, and voice; all in the presence of a selection of Le Brocquys wonderfully animated 'shadows of the text'."

The Táin illustrated by Louise de Brocquy

Above: "The Wild Rover," a traditional song performed by Lankum (brothers Ian & Daragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada, and vocalist Radie Peat), based in Dublin. The song appeared on their album The Livelong Day (2019).

Below: "Abair Liom do Rúin (Tell Me Your Secrets)" by Clare Sands & Steve Cooney, with Tommy Sands (spoken word). "We wrote and recorded the song over three days and nights by candle-light to create a mantra that growls from the belly and sings from the heart," says Clare. "'Abair Liom do Rúin' is a transcendent, traditional trance-like ode to Spring." The video, made by visual artists Liadain Ni Bhraonáin and Kasia Kaminska, was filmed in Donegal and has just been released. 

The Táin - Bull of Cuailnge by Louis le Borcquy

Above: "Blood Moon," an old favourite from the Northern Irish "atmosfolk" duo Saint Sister (Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty), from their first EP, Madrid (2015). The video was directed by Myrid Carten and Aphra Lee Hill; the young actors are Meabh Parr and Emma White.

Below: "Oh My God Canada," the latest release from Saint Sister. The song will appear on their new album, Where I Should End, due out in June.

And a rousing tune to end with, below:

"Earworm" by The Bonny Men, based in Dublin. The video -- exploring "the tormernt of the creative process" -- was a collaboration between Irish film director Gavin Fitzgerald, choreographer Sibéal Davitt, and The Bonny Men, filmed in a desolate Dublin power station. (In my imagination at least, there's a distinct whiff of Bordertown here.) The song appears on the band's most recent album, The Broken Pledge (2020).

The Táin - Greyhound by Louis le Brocquy

The art today is by Louis Le Brocquy (1916-2012), from his celebrated illustrations for The Táin. All rights reserved by the artist's estate.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

European Hare

I often start the week with women's voices, so I'm giving men equal time today. The voices lifted here, both solo and in harmony, are raising my spirits on a rain-soaked morning.

Above: "Lovely Molly," a Scottish Travelers' song performed by London-based folksinger & song collector Sam Lee, with Jonah Brody and Joshua Green. The recording was made for the The Lullaby Project in 2016.

Below: "Hares on the Mountain," a traditional English song performed by John Smith, who was born in Essex and raised in Devon. It's from his lovely album Hummingbird (2018).

Above: "The Bothy Lads," performed by the Irish folk duo Ye Vagabonds (brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn), based in Dublin. They say: "We've always had a great interest in Scottish songs, and the strong connection they have to the Donegal singing tradition -- songs that travelled over and back with seasonal workers for generations until recent times." The video was recorded for Other Voices in 2020.

Below: "My Love's in Germany" performed by the Anglo-Welsh folk trio The Trials of Cato (Tomos Williams, Will Addison, Robin Jones). This traditional Scottish song (with lyrics adapted from an 18th century poem by Hector Macneill) appeared on the their first album, Hide and Hair (2018).

Next, two fine singer/songwriters based in the north of England.

Above: "Seven Hills," written and performed by Greg Russell. The song appeared on Utopia and Wasteland (2018), a collaborative album with Ciaran Algar.

Below: "Lamentations of Round-Oak Waters" (based on the life and poetry of John Clare), written and performed Jim Ghedi. The song is from his powerful new album In The Furrows Of Common Place, with a video filmed in the Outer Hebrides.

Above: "The Poorest Company" performed by Kris Drever (of Lau), from the Orkney Islands of Scotland.  The song was co-written by Drever, Roddy Woomble, and John McCusker, and appeared on their collaborative album Before the Ruin (2013). This solo version was recorded in 2020 during the first UK lockdown. (Here's the earlier version, also beautiful, with backing vocals by Woomble, McCusker, and Heidi Talbot.)

Below: "Row On," performed by Ninebarrow (Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere), from Dorset. The lyrics are from a poem found in the log book of a Nantucket whaler in 1846, set to a tune by Dorset musician & storyteller Tim Laycock. The song appeared on Ninebarrow's The Waters and the Wild (2018).

Brown Hare  Suffolk  by Michael Rae

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Deer & Jackdaws by Melissa Nolan

Above: "Awake Awake," a traditional song performed by English singer/songwriter Maz O'Connor, from her album This Willowed Light (2014). The animation is by Marry Waterson.

Below: "All on a Summer's Evening" by Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart, with sound designer Pippa Murphy, from their stage show and album A Pocket of Wind Resistence (2017). The animation is by Marry Waterson.

Above: "Birds of Passage" by the Scottish folk band Breabach, from their album Frenzy of the Meeting (2018). The animation is by Cat Bruce.

Below: "Pegasi" by American singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop, from her album Memories Are Now (2017). The animation is by Rachel Blumberg.

Above: "In Painter's Light" by Irish singer/songwriter Declan O'Rourke, from his album Arrivals (2020). The animation is by Toby Mortimer.

Below: "Easier" by English folk duo Faeland (Rebecca Nelson and Jacob Morrison), from their album Little Lights (2020). The animation is by Sofja Umarik.

Above: "Buried in Ivy" by English folk duo Honey and the Bear (Lucy and Jon Hart), with Graham Coe, Evan Carson, and Toby Shaer; from their beautiful new album Journey Through the Roke (2021). The animation is by Honey and the Bear.

Sika deer hinds by Andy Rouse

Photography by Melissa Nolan and Andy Rouse; all rights reserved by the photographers.