It is with great excitement that I announce the existence of my first solo EP, Woop Woop ! I think one is meant to call it a launch actually, but existence feels more accurate. I have spent many years as a musician filled with urges to have my own solo cd. There seems to be something about the physical presence of a cd that pretends to prove something, a certain I don’t know what, and it won’t go away. Perhaps it is because music is so momentary, once one has played it, it is gone entirely, although for me there is always an echo to varying degrees. For example I spent a couple of hours yesterday working on a beautiful song by another local musician and that song played itself in my mind all night long through my dreams and into my waking hours, I can still hear it now.
I started work on this particular EP a couple of years ago, and for various reasons it has taken this long, perhaps mostly because I am also a mum. A home educating mum at that, this is no small feat (no recorded musical achievements are a small feat in my opinion) for it means that in order to do any work I have to either get childcare (ha ha) or get up at five am while they are sleeping and work. Of course I can’t play music while they sleep because we live in a very small bus, which limits playing and writing time considerably because it is dependent upon their being entertained enough that I can ignore them for a while and get stuck in.
For me the most time consuming aspect of recording has been the very fact that it is being recorded, this has caused a really unhelpful irony that goes something like this; because recording costs money I need to make as few mistakes as possible so that it happens as quickly as possible, added to the fact that multiple takes lead to a decrease in spirited takes, the ninety-sixth time of playing that intro is considerably less fun than say the first, second or third, and each mistake becomes more glaring than the one before. The pressure that this creates of course makes my hands shake and the whole thing takes longer and costs more. Ironically also when left for a while most of the apparently glaring mistakes seem to magically disappear and I am left with a more beautiful rendition than I thought possible. I expect people have written books about this, but I don’t want to read one, I want to play music!
I am very happy with the four tracks on this EP (extended play). So I have decided to tell you all about their background, so that perhaps you will be as enthralled with them as I am (another fantastical dream of mine, but you never know) and then maybe you will rave about them and buy them and demand that they are played on Mike Hardings’ Folk Radio show, or perhaps you will simply look forward to my next EP to be released at Imbolc (in February) and then my actual whole album which will be ready in Spring! Or maybe you will just enjoy them and we will both be happy that I did it at all.
Regret Not Me– My paternal Grandmother was a very determined little Welsh woman, she was born in 1912 and because she was clever and characterful she managed to go to University. She lived a long, full happy life, sixty years of which in Wells in Somerset. A walk round Wells with my grandmother in her late nineties revealed just how many people knew and respected her, she was kind, very intelligent and thoroughly interested in people and life, indeed in her nineties she was so busy I had to make an appointment to visit her! I never heard her complaining, she had the sort of attitude that I would like to cultivate, and she made the best of whatever came her way. She really was an inspirational Piscean wonder-woman!
My grandma died in 2013 a week before her 101th birthday, and my father asked me to sing at her funeral. I didn’t know what to sing and I wanted to sing something she would have loved. Late one night I found myself looking through The Poets World, by James Reeves for inspiration, a book Grandma had given to me, full of her annotations on all the poems.
At first I found nothing, but later the book creaked open in my hands with a paper bookmark left by my grandmother that I hadn’t noticed before. At the top of the page grandma had written in pencil in beautiful tiny handwriting “resigned to death but lived a happy life” next to ‘Regret Not Me’ by Thomas Hardy, as soon as I read this poem the music for this song came to me so easily, I sang it from the page as if it already existed somewhere just waiting for this occasion; I felt my grandmothers presence as she guided me to this beautiful and perfect song for her passing.
Grandma age 100 and Mayme (her great-granddaughter age 6 months.
The Three Ravenswas first published in the songbook Melismatacompiled by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1611, although it is likely to be much older. I found this song in a book! I had never heard anyone else playing it and instantly loved the weirdness of it, both in melody and character. The three ravens are discussing what to eat for breakfast and they decide to eat a fallen knight. The knight is guarded by his hawks and hounds, and the song ends with his sweetheart burying him before she dies herself. It appeals to my romantic nature and my penchant for slightly dark folk songs. There is a Scottish version of this song called the Twa Corbies, in this younger variant the knight is deserted by his hawks, his hounds and his sweetheart!
Out on the Ocean– I wanted to write a sea shanty with a heroine and this is what came out! I love songs with strong choruses that people can join in on and harmonise to, so hopefully one day everyone will join in!
Of course sea shanties by their very nature are very male songs, created and sung by men at sea! A story of a woman at sea may seem romantic, but it is also reflective of the huge number of women who lived and worked out their lives as men, much of the physical work available only to men paid higher wages and allowed more freedom to many working class women.
The Black Shawl– I learned this traditional song in Ireland when I was a lass; it has its roots in the British Isles but it is more commonly found in Ireland.
The content of this song has always left me wondering, the young woman loves a man who appears to be of very poor character and messes her about a great deal and yet still she loves him. I am not sure whether she needs a good shake up for being so daft or an award for her unconditional love, which really there isn’t enough of these days!
I lived in Ireland for a few years in my late teens and early twenties and I attended an Irish music course run at a horse-riding centre by a man named Eddie. Every week the people from the local town of Ballybofey would come to the centre and listen to a session style concert given by the musicians on the course, and every week Eddie would announce me to sing The Black Shawl whether I liked it or not! I had to get up and sing it while he went misty eyed in the corner! I was made to sing it so many times that I had a twenty year break from it before I fell back in love with it on my return to Ireland three years ago, when some friends convinced me to play it again for old times sake!
So there we have it, my new EP- ‘Regret Not Me’.
Available on Bandcamp and from Thursday 15thNovember you can but an actual CD! Better still come to the launch gig at the Assembly rooms in Glastonbury on the 15th November (and buy a copy), where I will be supporting Si Barron, fantastic singer of traditional and contemporary folk songs.
I had the intention of donating 10% of the profits from the sales of my CDs to Tree Sisters, and amazing grassroots network of women who are planting two million trees a year in the tropics. However as profit margins on this particular run are pretty much non-existent I will be asking for an extra 50p per cd (or more if you feel so inclined). Planting more trees is urgently needed for future generations and indeed for us if we are to continue to exist on this beautiful planet. I’d love to get my hands in the soil and do it myself, but this is a start.
CDs cost £5+50p +p&p if you would like me to send you one please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org