Gillian is flying in from the US on thursday and we’ll finish mixing the new Rusalnaia album together. Then she and I will play a couple of Rusalnaia shows – one in Nottingham and one in Sheffield – the first we’ve done in at least 2 years.
The new album is more electric than our first album, and the live shows will feature Gill alternating between dulcimer and electric guitar. We’re excited about playing these songs live as well as revisiting some of the songs on our first album. It’ll be great to spend time together again and take her to some of my favourite new haunts: last time she visited I was still living in the wilds of Wales and we wandered desolate hillsides by moonlight and visited ruined castles. This time it’ll be a tour of the local Sheffield cafes and pubs, with excursions into the Peaks – I can’t wait!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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..