Tunes for a Monday Morning

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While I've been out of the studio over the last two weeks (due to medical issues again), autumn has come to the hills of Devon and painted the hills in rust and gold. The songs I've chosen today are old favourites evoking the turn of the season: the blackberries in the hedgerows, the leaves underfoot, the coziness of a fire as the nights draw in. As I look out the window, the distant slope of the open moor is covered in mist. Fall leafTilly snores beside me, subdued like the weather, and in the stillness and quiet a new work week begins.....

Above: "Blackberry Lane" by  Emily Mae Winters, who was born in England, raised in Ireland, and is now based in London. The song was performed for the Oak Sessions in the autumn of 2016. It appeared on her album Siren Serenade the following year.

Below: John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" sung by the American vocal trio Mountain Man (Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath). The video was filmed for a "Live from the Garden" performance last year.

Above: "Everything Changes" by Rachel Sermanni, from the Highlands of Scotland. The song can be found on her EP Everything Changes (2014).

Below: "Stags Bellow" by Martha Tilston, from Cornwall. The song appeared on her album Machines of Love and Grace (2012).

Above: "Westlin Winds" (with lyrics by Robert Burns) performed by Ben Walker and Kirsty Merryn. I count this song as an "old favourite" because I've long been fond of the classic version by Dick Gaughin (1981) -- but this new rendition, from Walker & Merryn's EP Life and the Land (2021), is also a beauty. 

Below: "Shelter" by Olivia Chaney, who was born in Florence and raised in Oxfordshire. The song appeared on her beautiful album Shelter (2018), and the video was filmed in her family cottage on the North York Moors. This song and the two that follow celebrate the fires that keep us warm through the cold of the year. Here in Devon it's almost cold enough to light the old stove in our own kitchen hearth, which will then stay burning until the spring, the small glowing heart of our house.

Above: "Fire Light" by the Scottish folk trio Salt House (Jenny Sturgen, Ewan McPherson, and Lauren MacColl), recorded remotely (due to Covid restrictions) in Shetland and Inverness-shire last year. The song can be found on their gorgeous third album Huam (2020). With apologies to all the other good folk bands out there, Salt House is my hands-down favourite. (The song-writing! The musicianship! The harmonies!) They've got a new EP coming out in December (on my birthday, serendipitously enough), available for pre-order here from the fabulous Hudson Records.

Below: "Mountain of Gold" by Salt House, also from Huam. This one is more wintery than autumnal, a taste of the cold months approaching. 

Autumn color

The art above is by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).

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.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Selkie by Danielle Barlow

I haven't been to the Devon coast since the pandemic began and I'm truly missing the sea these days. Let's start the week with some magical music of the sea and shore....

Above: Scottish singer Shiobhan Miller peforms "Selkie," a tradition Orcadian ballad about a human woman who loves a man of the seal people. Miller's beautiful rendition of the song appears on her equally beautiful new album, All is Not Forgotten (2020).

Below: Scottish singer Julie Fowlis performs "Òran an Ròin/The Song of the Seal," a traditional Gaelic ballad from the Hebrides. Selkies, she explains, are "creatures who moved between the parallel worlds of sea and land, but never truly belonging to either. " This haunting version of the song was recorded last May, with video footage by Mike Guest.

Above: "Swirling Eddies," a selkie song by musician and music scholar Fay Hield, based in Sheffield -- from her mythical, magical new album Wrackline (2020). While working on this piece, she says, 

"I imagined what it would be like to fall in love with the world above water. How it would feel to leave your selkie family, traditions and life in the sea, to be lured onto land. What would it take to make that irresistible leap, to turn your back and step into a new adventure? In a lot of the stories a human steals their skin so they are forced into marriage. In this instance, I wanted to selkie to be intrigued by the human world, to want to come and enter into this new way of being. Exploring the seduction and lure of the ‘other’. This includes the male suitor, but places him to one side, focusing more on the world that opens up. The words and tune for ‘Swirling Eddies’ came together...through singing over and over, round and round, like the waves going in and out. I wanted the tune to seem dizzying, as she would be in the dancing, and light-headedness of moving into a new environment, feeling airless, or rather, I suppose, waterless."

Below: "Stone's Throw: Lament of the Selkie" by Rachel Taylor-Beales, a musician and activist based in Wales. The song appeared on her poignant album of the same name (2015), which was subsequently turned into a theatre piece. She says:

"I’d been exploring the character and persona of Selkie, a shape-shifting seal woman re-imagined from Orkney folklore, struggling to live her life on land away from her natural habitat of the ocean. Selkie’s internal turbulence seemed to echo the real-life struggles of people in the news headlines, and that I'd met personally: stories of refugees and displaced people, far from home, with all the loneliness and chaos, grief and loss that comes with enforced migration. In the legends, in order to marry a Selkie woman, her sealskin has to be captured while she is in human form and kept hidden from her so she can't go back to sea. The woman of the legends -- taken out of her natural environment, longing for home, misunderstood by those around her who know nothing of her former life -- became synonymous in my mind with the stories of refugees. The video was filmed by my husband Bill Taylor-Beales, and features Isla Horton, who achingly portrays a displaced mother separated from home and family."

Above: "Black Seas" by the London-based iyatra Quartet (Alice Barron, Richard Phillips, Will Roberts, and George Sleightholme). The song is from their album Break the Dawn (2020).  The video was filmed by Andrew Spicer.

Below: "Avalon" by Rhiannon Giddens (from North Carolina), with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, from their new album They're Calling Me Home (2021). The video, directed by Laura Sheeran, was filmed in Co. Galway, Ireland. The dancers (and choreographers) are Stephanie Dufresne and Mintesinot Wolde.

On the south Devon coast with Tilly

Selkie painting above: "Messenger of the Water" by my friend and neighbour Danielle Barlow. You can see more of her beautiful work on her website or Instagram page. All rights reserved by the artist. Photograph: On the south Devon coast with Tilly during betters days. 

Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Mill by Sir Edward Burne-jones

On a quiet morning in spring, let's starting the day with women's voice....

Above: "All is Not Forgotten," performed by singer/songwriter Siobhan Miller, from Penicuik, Scotland, accompanied by Kris Drever, Innes White, Megan Henderson, John Lowrie, and Euan Burton. This track appears on her most recent album of the same title (2020).

Below: "The Unquiet Grave," a traditional ballad performed by Miller and Kris Drever at The Queen's Hall in Edinburgh (2017).

Above: "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose" performed by singer/songwriter Josienne Clarke, with Ben Walker on guitar, from their album Fire & Fortune (2013). Clarke was raised in West Sussex and now lives in Scotland.

Below: "May the Kindness," written by David Wood and performed by English folksinger and fiddle player Jackie Oates. The song appeared on her third album, Hyperboreans (2009).

Above: "Anchor" by singer/songwriter Emily Mae Winters, who was born in England, raised in Ireland, and is now based in London. The song appeared on her album Siren Serenade (2017).

Below: "One of These Days," performed live for the Shadow Scape Sessions. The song appeared on her album High Romance (2019).


The artwork today is "The Mill" and "Pilgrim in the Garden" by painter, illustrator, and designer Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who was part of the second wave of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

For a post on the Pre-Raphaelites in relation to the fantasy field, go here. You'll also find links to further Pre-Raphaelite posts and sites at the bottom of the page.

''Pilgrim in the Garden'' by Edward Burne-Jones

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Sheep crossing

Above: "Steppy Downs Road" by English fiddle player and multi-instrumentalist Sam Sweeney, recorded live at Cecil Sharp House in London last year -- accompanied by Jack Rutter and Louis Campbell on guitars, and Ben Nicholls on double bass. Sweeney performs with Bellowhead, Leveret, The Full English, Jon Boden's The Remnant Kings, Fay Hield's The Hurricane Party and other bands in addition to his solo work. This song appears on his second solo album, Unearth Repeat, which I highly recommend. 

Below: "The Old Wagon Way" from Unearth Repeat.

Sheep in the lane

Above: "Notland Castle" by the Scots/English folk trio Lau (Kris Drever, Martin Green, and Aidan O'Rourke). The song can be found on their lovely live album Unplugged (2020).

Below: "Riad," also from Unplugged.

Tilly follows softly, careful not to spook them

Above: "Seven Bonnie Gypsies" performed by Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, with animation by Marry Waterson. The song is a variant of "Raggle Taggle Gypsies" (sung here by Boden's partner Fay Hield). It appeared on his fine album Rose in June (2019).

Below: "Bee Sting" from Afterglow (2017), performed for the Hudson Sessions in Sheffield that same year. Boden's most recent album is Last Mile Home (2021), and it's simply gorgeous.

Homeward bound

Photographs: An Easter walk in a Belstone lane. With sheep.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Nattadon Gate

Back again at last, with some music for you....

Above: "Parliament Hill" by Smith & Burrows, from their new album Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough. The video, directed by Mat Whitecross, was filmed on Hamstead Heath in London, with puppetry from the Little Angel Theatre (where my husband worked for many years). 

Below: "Transatlantic" by Irish-American folk & bluegrass musician Aoife O'Donovan (in Florida) with Scottish folk musician Kris Drever (in Glasgow), accompanied by Euan Burton, Louis Abbot, and Jeremy Kittle (in Glasgow and Brooklyn). The song was commissioned for Grásta, a Covid-pandemic arts project focused on "finding grace in uncertainty," sponsored by the Irish Arts Centre in New York.

Above: "Waterbound" performed by American folk & bluegrass musician Rhiannon Giddens, with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, accompanied by Niwel Tsumbu on guitar. It's from Giddens & Turrisi's new album, They're Calling Me Home, due out next month. During a year when so many have been confined to home, or stranded away from home, this traditional American song is particularly poignant.

Below: "I'm a Rover," a traditional Scots/Irish song performed by Ye Vagabonds (brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn), based in Dublin. They released it back in January, with a video filmed in Switzerland.

And one more, below: "Gaol a chruidh, gràdh a chruidh" performed by Staran, a collective of five accomplished musicians (Kim Carnie, John Lowrie, Innes White, James Lindsay, Jack Smedley) exploring Scottish music in traditional and nontraditional ways. Their first album, Staran, is due out in May. "Gaol a chruidh, gràdh a chruidh" (Love of the cattle, darling of the cattle) is a Gaelic milking song from the island of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides.

Cows on Dartmoor

"Do not lose hope - what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story." - Neil Gaiman (from "Instructions")

Woodland Gate