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Fay Hield - Wrackline

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 30 / 10 / 2020

Fay Hield - Wrackline
Label: Topic Records
Format: CD


First-rate latest album from Fay Hield upon which she weaves the traditional with the contemporary in experienced and accomplished style

The folk tradition is full of stories of transformations and identifications with both the natural world and the fairy realm. In recent months I’m sure many of us have wished we could wave a magic wand, cast a spell, shape shift and alter our reality. This album is a timely reminder of those possibilities. A wrackline is the place where the wet sand meets the dry, where the sea meets the land. It’s a liminal place where treasures can be discovered. There’s a magic about liminal spaces. Transformations take place there and deep connections are brought to the surface. Fay Hield is held in high esteem by the contemporary folk scene. As well as being an accomplished performer and composer, she is also a folk music scholar and academic in the University of Sheffield’s music department. She played a key part in the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s project 'The Full English' as both researcher and performer. For Fay Hield, who is so aware of traditional music and its power, there are both challenges and rewards in creating a new collection of songs. She has collaborated with musicians she has worked with before, who are able to bring their significant talents and experience to the arrangements. Sometime members of her backing band the Hurricane Party, they are also involved with her partner Jon Boden’s band, the Remnant Kings. They include Sam Sweeney on fiddle, Rob Harbron on concertina and harmonium, Ben Nicholls on double bass and Ewan MacPherson on vocals. Many of the songs are traditional, arranged by Hield. She has also collaborated with poets Terri Windling on 'Night Journey' and Sarah Hesketh on 'When She Comes'. 'Cruel Mother' looks at motherhood from a very dark place and Hield’s own song 'Jenny Wren' tries to understand it. 'Sweet William’s Ghost' is a traditional song about grief and distress. 'Wing Flash' is Hield’s own exploration of that emotional state. Hield’s song 'Swirling Eddies' follows the selkie or seal woman’s experience of crossing the liminal space of the wrackline from one world to another. 'Hare Spell' is based on Isobel Gowdie’s witch trial confessions in 1662, where she described transforming from human to her animal familiars, hare, crow and cat. Sarah Hesketh’s poem, 'When She Comes', helps us to understand the hare’s experience of this. There are lighter moments. 'Pig Song' was banned by the BBC in 1935, and has its roots in music hall tradition. It’s also about the relationship between human and animal, and in this case it’s the pig who walks away from the drunken man with dignity. 'Sir Launfal' is a song that lasts for more than seven minutes. Hield has rewritten and condensed a 6,000 word ballad written in Middle English to create an intense story of love and honour at court and in the fairy realm. She describes the process in a blog on her website and it is remarkable. I was transported back to the first time I heard Fairport Convention’s 'Tam Lin' on the John Peel show. Fay Hield’s voice and her delivery of these songs is faultless, supported by wonderful musical arrangements. The sleeve design with its lovely illustrations is as magical as the content of the songs, and there’s a booklet of background and lyrics for each song to add to the listening experience.

Track Listing:-
1 Hare Spell
2 Jenny Wren
3 Night Journey
4 Swirling Eddies
5 Call the Storm
6 Cruel Mother
7 Old Grey Goose
8 Sir Launfal
9 Pig Song
10 Sweet William's Ghost
11 Wing Flash
12 When She Comes

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