on August 7, 2014
I’ve received copies of two new albums I played on this week, both of which remind me of the important role good record labels play in music making.
When my first album, ‘Beautiful Twisted’, got picked up by Camera Obscura Records in 2001, Tony Dale at the label put me in touch with another band he worked with – The Iditarod. He knew I was interested in playing shows in the US and thought that Jeffrey, Carin and co. would be good people to connect with. Jeffrey promptly organised a tour of the American northeast and Canada for us to do together and this tour was a life-changing experience for me, giving me the bug for touring and collaborating. Whilst on tour, and in the week we spent together afterwards, a number of recordings were made. Some of those became a collaborative album ‘Yuletide’. Others that I’d forgotten about are collected on ‘Foxfur and Rarebits‘ – the vinyl collection of Iditarod rarities I received from Morc Records this week.
As well as this blast from the past, I received the Silver Servants album, which is out on Second Language, the label that released my most recent album. When I started working with Second Language I was invited to join the extended Silver Servants lineup and spent an enjoyable day recording together with Glen, David, Ollie and co. It felt nice to be part of a record label ‘family’ again.
Financially it may make less and less sense for musicians to work with record labels these days. Being part of a community in the way that happens when you work with a label that loves your music is something I treasure, though.
on August 4, 2014
I’m very excited to be speaking at ‘A Fiend in the Furrows‘ at Queen’s University Belfast next month. The programme looks excellent, including papers on Arthur Machen, M.R. James, Aleister Crowley, ‘Children of the Stones’ and Angela Carter, as well as film screenings and performances.
I’ll be talking about what it is that thrills us when we watch a film like ‘The Wicker Man’, listen to dark folk songs like ‘The Ballad of Tam Lin’, or read mysterious or magical tales. I’ll also be performing together with old friend Clare Button.
on July 11, 2014
Burning Bridges & Fifth Column Films are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make a film about the life and music of the wonderful Shirley Collins. The campaign ends on July 22nd and so far less than half of the £25,000 needed has been pledged, so if you’re a fan of Shirley’s and would like to see the film made, go to The Ballad of Shirley Collins and make a pledge, and pass the word around.
There are a number of fundraiser gigs happening this month, and I’ll be playing at the one put on by I Thought I Heard A Sound in Sheffield on July 21st. There’s also an exclusive compilation album called ‘Shirley Collins Inspired‘ featuring tracks by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Alasdair Roberts & David McGuinness, Graham Coxon, and many more. Here’s my track for the album, featuring James Green on harmoniflute and Aby Vulliamy on viola:
on May 20, 2014
It’s rare to find an event that weaves the occult, the artistic and the academic together but The State of Magick / The Magickal State – at Leicester De Montfort University this friday and saturday promises to do just that.
SoM/MS, curated by performance artist Nick Kilby, is part conference, part performance, with presentations on friday 23rd and performances and actions on saturday 24th. I’ll be giving a presentation on ‘The Magic of Place’ on friday, talking about the process of listening to the land and being inspired by it during my time in Mid Wales.
I’m looking forward to seeing Charlotte Rodgers, who’s an old friend and who will also be speaking and performing. Her art is breathtaking, sometimes dark, and always beautiful.
It’ll be an exciting gathering, I’m sure.
on March 13, 2014
This time last week I was driving to Wales to record my new album – a collection of songs exploring themes from the Mabinogion. It seemed appropriate to record these songs in Wales, and I was looking forward to visiting my good friends Delyth and Dafydd Morris-Jones, who’d offered up the use of their barn for the project.
After weeks of rain, the clouds lifted and spring arrived in a whirl of blue skies and daffodils. The birds sang (some making cameo appearances on the recordings) and the sun shone.
Photo by Nancy Wallace.
Christophe Albertijn was in charge of recording and he travelled over from Antwerp to work on the project. We’d recorded The Woody Nightshade in a similar way, in a different barn in Oxfordshire, and it was great that Christophe was available to work on this one.
Nancy Wallace joined us for the weekend to add vocals. It’s always a joy to sing with Nancy, and she made a new friend – Begw the dog!
On the day we were recording a song about Branwen, a Welsh princess who marries the King of Ireland, then trains a starling to speak and sends it to tell her brother that she’s being mistreated, we were visited by a huge, loud murmuration of starlings. They started flocking to the trees next to the house, then flew in formation over our heads, like a squadron of mini fighter-jets, to the opposite hills. It’s quite unusual for them to come this far inland – they usually roost on the pier in Aberystwyth – so there must’ve been some Mabinogi magic at work!
Photo by Nancy Wallace.
Our last day of recording was with Harriet Earis, adding harp to the songs. Harriet has lived in Mid Wales for years and loves the stories of the Mabinogion as much as I do. She played on Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails and I was keen to involve her in this project.
Now we’ve recorded the basics, and will add some extra instruments over the next few weeks. Then I’ll head to Antwerp in April to mix the album with Christophe and it should be out later this year..
Photo by Nancy Wallace.
on February 17, 2014
Helen and I met at Sheffield University as students and since then, she’s been writing poetry and I’ve been making music. Helen’s first collection of poems, Missel-Child, has just been published by Carcanet, and she’ll be reading from it. As well as doing solo sets, we’ll be collaborating on a set that will incorporate music and poetry – Helen will read and I’ll respond musically.
The gig takes place at Bishops House, which is worth a visit: it’s a museum housed in a 15th century timber framed house.
on December 18, 2013
I’m covering a spooky song called ‘When Father Hanged the Children’ about a real life hangman who was given the task of hanging two children for stealing on ‘Yesterday, Perhaps: Songs of the Kitchen Cynics’ alongside other Kitchen Cynics covers by Alasdair Roberts, Josephine Foster, PG Six and Adrian Crowley, among others.
Kitchen Cynics’ Alan Davidson is a fine and prodigious songwriter, and it’s great to hear his songs reinterpreted in diverse ways.
Copies can be ordered direct from Alan: firstname.lastname@example.org
on December 5, 2013
A cd of winter songs, carols and tunes recorded with Harriet Earis at St. John’s Church at Ysbyty Cynfyn is now available on Bandcamp.
on November 18, 2013
Whilst I was living in Wales, in an old vicarage beside a church built within a stone circle, I was asked to play a concert as part of the local community’s Christmas tree festival together with Harriet Earis. We played a selection of mostly English and Welsh carols, folksongs and tunes in the church and everyone enjoyed it so much we got asked to do the same the following year, and now it’s turned into an annual event. The community around Ysbyty Cynfyn is closeknit but more welcoming than any other rural community I’ve experienced and it’s lovely to have a reason to go back and visit.
The church at Ysbyty Cynfyn in winter.
This year, Harriet and I decided to look for some more similar venues to play together, and are playing a handful of castles, churches and Christmas markets in the run up to Christmas. We’ve also recorded a cd, and I’ll have some of them to sell soon..
Photo by Bruce Cardwell.
on October 23, 2013
I’m off to Scotland for a couple of shows at the beginning of November and am very excited to be playing one of them at Sharmanka, which is one of Glasgow’s hidden treasures. It’s a gallery /theatre exhibiting the works of Russian artist Eduard Bersudsky, who moved to Glasgow in the 90’s. Bersudsky’s kinetic art is made from old machine parts, carved wooden figures, animal skulls and other found items and each piece seems alive: when the machines are turned on and a Sharmanka performance begins, you enter a fairytale sci-fi landscape and meet strange creatures. I hope they like my songs!