Hello and welcome to my Sunday Review. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, see engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music – this is my chance to bring you all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday.
She & I by Kirsty Merryn
This week it’s another of my favourite CDs of the past few years, She & I by Kirsty Merryn.
I can tell you the exact moment I became sick of men telling the same men’s stories over and over, with no insight into how dull they appeared. It was in 1996, at a cinema showing the bloated science fiction drudgery that was Independence Day by Roland Emmerich. I vowed I would never put myself through hours of ridiculous masculine posturing again, where women were simply objects. I wanted new and more interesting stories; stories that were seldom told. I wanted to hear from brave women and intelligent women about their lives, not just see bland mannequins. Wikipedia says Independence Day is ‘Now considered a significant turning point in the history of the Hollywood blockbuster.’ It was a significant turning point for me too. I was never going to put myself through that sort of macho nonsense ever again.
She and I by Kirsty Merryn contains a wealth of new and more interesting stories, told with vigour from diverse perspectives. With support from pledgers, and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (yes, there is such a thing), Kirsty spent a year researching inspirational women, creating a collection of musical stories based in the folk music tradition. Amazingly, for a folk musician, she plays the piano, and gets away with it. I know! The cheek of it.
To start the album is the only song that’s not about a woman. Here’s the song, The Pit and the Pugilist, about Tommy Mitchell, coal miner and boxing champion, told by Kirsty, his great, great grand-daughter:
Breathtaking, isn’t it? Here’s another, Forfarshire. This is how Kirsty introduces it:
“Forfarshire tells the story of Grace Darling, who, together with her father William, a lighthouse keeper, saved passengers from a shipwrecked paddle-steamer called the Forfarshire. Grace sadly died just a few years later, leaving William to man the lighthouse without her.”
The song and video features Steve Knightley of Show of Hands. He’s a lovely chap, constantly creative, and suits the song beautifully:
The interesting women who follow include Lady Hamilton portrayed as The Fair Tea Maker Of Edgware Row, Georgina Houghton who was a Victorian spiritualist in An Evening at Home in Spiritual Seances and Annie Edson Taylor who became the Queen Of The Mist, as the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Intrigued?
The album ends with a decent murder ballad. That, after all, is what folk music is for. Here’s The Birds are Drunk:
If you love what you’ve heard, please do buy a CD or a download, it’s a great way to support the artists you love. Her music is here at Bandcamp: https://kirstymerryn.bandcamp.com/album/she-i. And here, if you’re of an iTunes persuasion.
Why not buy direct from her at her own website? www.kirstymerryn.com?
The production is restrained and sets the glorious stories in perfect relief. There’s at least one captivating line that will delight you in every song and a sideways-glance delivery that raises She & I Far above any recent debut folk album.
You can always buy from Amazon – if they had a copy. (Last time I checked they just had one second-hand copy of the CD for 50 pence.) Bargain of the year.
I highly recommend She & I. I’m sure you’ll love it too.
Kirsty’s current tour is yet another victim of the coronavirus. I was meant to be listening to her in a tiny church with fabulous acoustics in South Devon this weekend. Instead, I’m sitting in glorious isolation.
With a brand new album, Our Bright Night, to promote and no tour to promote it, Kirsty’s organised Home Folk Festival. It’s the Folk Festival you can attend in your very own home. Held over the weekend of 11 and 12 April it features Kirsty as well as Steve Knightley and a who’s who of future folk legends. Entertainingly, due to social isolation, duos may have to appear as twin single acts. It’s a symptom of the modern world. It’ll be a great weekend.
I was so excited by the festival idea, I designed a logo for the festival, as a volunteer. It’s not just folk musicians who are furloughed.
Fancy joining me in the audience? Separately, obviously.
Meandering Wild – a travel and photography website
Meandering Wild is a curious and engaging website. It’s beautifully presented, it’s curated like a high-end wildlife, nature and photography magazine, and it’s idiosyncratically indexed. Fancy a bit of Finland, Norway, Argentina, Marrakech, Iceland, the Chernobyl exclusion zone or Scotland? They’re all here:
Here’s how it introduces itself:
“Meandering Wild aims to take you on a journey into the beautiful corners of the planet. Curated adventures will show you unknown gems and unexpected wildlife encounters.”
Okay, I’m sold. Sounds like it’s for me.
“Simple tips for travel and photography will help and guide you through planning your own road trip adventures and give you inspiration to move beyond auto on your camera while exploring our planet.”
I’m a ‘strictly manual’ kind of photographer, so auto is a four letter word to me. If reading The Complete Guide to Visiting and Photographing the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is your kind of thing then Meandering Wild is definitely for you. Wild and remote hot springs in Iceland? Well, I can dream, can’t I? How about Slavonian Grebes at Lake Myvatn? It could be a while before any of us are doing that. Even more reason to dream and plan a trip.
Meandering Wild is, for the Internet, surprisingly considered. It’s there for a purpose and does what it does very well. The one thing it benefits from is a lack of social media pushiness. Having said that, it does have a much greater social media following than my blog. There are no clickbait titles, no nagging advertising and no superficial treatment of subjects. It’s slow, serious and seriously good. There’s also a post I recommend on slow blogging:
In our Instagram times it’s curious to come upon a site where the unnamed author is almost completely anonymous, where the site is often written in the passive voice and where the one photo of the author shows only the eyes in a face wrapped against cold. It’s refreshing, given the cult of personality elsewhere.
My recommendation is to find the archive page buried in two layers of menu for a complete guide, kick back, relax and enjoy. Here it is: https://meanderingwild.com/archive
If you want a slower, more considered and thoughtful approach to travel, wildlife and photography blogging, you could enjoy it a great deal. After all, you may be someone who has a bit more time on their hands.
That’s it for this week.
I’ll be back with more reviews of things you might adore next Sunday.