Hello and welcome to my Sunday Recommendation. Thanks for joining me. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, stumble upon engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music. This is my chance to bring you carefully curated recommendations of all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday. If it’s folk, or independent, or about wildlife, nature or Orkney, I may love it, and so may you.
The Devil’s On The Mast by The Ciderhouse Rebellion and Kirsty Merryn
This week I’ve been thrilled by listening to The Devil’s On The Mast, a new album by The Ciderhouse Rebellion and Kirsty Merryn. The Ciderhouse Rebellion are Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger, a duo who improvise so freely that they have a magical understanding of each other’s performance. It’s a joy to listen to their narrative voices take the music in different directions, each knowing when to lead down a new path and when to follow. They create inspiring music which only exists in the moment that you experience it and is then gone like a breath or a gust of wind.
Over a winter’s week in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors, Adam, Kirsty and Murray devised and recorded an album of brand new music.
The album is largely improvised and recorded on the first take. It is beautifully produced and mixed by Murray to produce a full, dynamic sound despite the presence of only accordion, violin and voice.
One of my favourite songs has lyrics by Kirsty and deals with physic gardens, where plants were grown for their health benefits as well as for nutrition. Belladonna is also known as Deadly Nightshade and was grown for its ability to dilate the pupils as well as for its ability to stop the heart. Something which will make you look more beautiful or will kill you is a powerful metaphor. Here’s the video directed by Todd MacDonald.
There are light-hearted moments such as The Queen and the Nightman, where the reason Queen Elizabeth I never married is explained by her propensity to lose engagement rings down her privy, leading to the nightman, whose job it was to dig out her waste, becoming rich.
If the album has a theme it is the unusual jobs of working people which seldom get considered now and which rarely feature in folk song. Knock Four Times features the knocker-uppers who acted as alarm clocks to factory workers in places, even up to the late 1960s. There were many stories of knocker-uppers told to me as a child growing up in a northern mill town.
In No Grass Grows on His Grave, an excise man is happy to turn a blind eye to smuggling, so his local community can survive, yet despises the wreckers who lure ships onto rocks to be wrecked, because of the loss of life, and his actions have tragic consequences. “For smuggling feeds the living and wreckers feed on the dead.” It’s a classic in the folk tradition:
There are stories of wreckers and smugglers, midwives and hedge-witches, snake-catchers and nightmen. It’s just my kind of thing, and it could be yours, too. The album comes as a digital download with a booklet available separately, or as a booklet with included CD and is available from their Bandcamp page. Once you listen, you won’t be able to stop until the last note sounds. It’s a fabulous experience.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more recommendations of things you might adore next Sunday. In the meantime, I wish you a great week. Keep safe, everyone.