British Dark Folk Nursery Rhyme

Halloween Video of the Week – Lady Maisery’s – The Crow on the Cradle

Boo! It’s Halloween, Samhain, All Saint’s Eve or any other permeation of word to describe this fantastic time of year and to get in the mood I’ve been listening to some dark folk of time gone by.

The darkness has come and much like the balsamic vinegar that hugs at the bottom of that olive oil starter, the vestiges of our primal minds and lesser selves are cast on to shadows and we look inward (or maybe at innards?) I certainly treat it as a time for reflection, as the veil between the living and the deceased is as they say “at it’s thinnest” a quiet stillness descends and the mind races and chases all around.

Folk music notoriously deals with some dark stories, and the selection of tracks that could go here is endless, but when getting in the mood for some introspection I remembered this fairly recent rendition of “The Crow on the Cradle” as performed by Lady Maisery for their album “Mayday” in 2013.


Why this song? Well.. it appeals to our childhoods. Part of the song is the nursery rhyme “Little Boy Blue” (Roud 11318) which certainly harkens to the mysteriousness of youth, particularly being young in the depths of history as a hard sometimes cruel place. Also.. its a crow! The image of the crow as a dismal, tormenting creature is in our collective consciousness, Poe’s influences of “The Raven” certainly have not diminished. Even without reading writer Sydney Carter’s lyrics as psychological references to the Cold War, there are awful images within which dance around our minds like terrible omens of things to come and these contrasts to the comforting familiarity of nursery rhymes are jarring to put it mildly. With lyrics such as, “the crow in the cradle, the black and the white, somebody’s baby is born for a fight”, the idea that the other, a talking doomsayer (a simple crow) has the power to condemn a human being to inescapable fate is incredibly frightening. You can imagine from far history of the chills and fear of the unknown and more powerful entities pulling the strings of an innocent’s life.


Lady Maisery as always have hauntingly beautiful voices and they like smoothest obsidian and the sharpest of knifes. The light tap of the percussion, the mourning accordion and gentle banjo create an aching, wounding sound that resonates in particular on this darkest of nights tonight.

Give it a listen, let me know if you agree. Have a great Halloween!

Mayday is available from Rootbeat Records website here, check out this track and others (including Lady Maisery’s new album, “Cycle” on their website here.

British Folk Music

September 19, 2016 : Gilmore and Roberts, “Doctor James”

So no doubt you have come across to see my video of the week (yes week, the monthly thing was too short even after one month).

If you have not read my blog post on Gilmore and Roberts and their appearance to crowds at the Doncaster Folk Music Festival, you are of course invited to here.

If not, lets just say they left a lasting impression, so the folk video of the week I think belongs to “Doctor James” from their 2012 album “The Innocent Left”.

It was a tough choice with the video, they have an extensive body of work and there are so many great numbers, but I will try and explain my thoughts below.

“Doctor James” is a song based on the historical person “James Barry”, an Irish military surgeon who was in the British Army. Unremarkable this seems in itself, when the good doctor passed away following dysentry and examined on the table it turned out that Doctor James was in fact a woman. Quite remarkably he fooled everybody including Florence Nightingale and several other contemporaries. He was by all accounts a cantankerous but powerful advocate for equal rights and access to healthcare and in works alone is a worthwhile subject of study.

Off the bat it is an interesting story for an interesting life and Gilmore and Roberts bring it to life in a thrilling way.

The music video is almost guerilla-style, it almost looks like they scouted for the best 5 metre square patch of autumn leaves in the woods and hankered down on it for the four and a half minutes duration. The moving spotlight half shows and half hides, it is masterful conveyance of the hidden parts of Dr James’ life, it gives the video a slightly ghoulish, haunting feel; Dr James was considered a difficult person even if accomplished, he is almost being channelled here in the modern day. The song doesn’t let up, it paces through quite briskly and yet packs a lot of historical information in while it does so. The lyrics are snappy and their delivery is smooth and rich, it is by all means a cool song. As previously mentioned in my other post, the arranging of all these components of folk into an exceptional working package takes some effort, to make it a great sounding song is something else again.

Most importantly it is like a crossover hit. It is undoubtedly folk, yet the cinematography is near modern, for some reason it reminds me of the music videos directed for some of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hits (maybe a less satanic Y Control), which is certainly a good thing. There is a lot of red here, everything not the main artists is red. I did not know there were this many red things in the world. It’s significance is not apparent to myself though it does pierce the moving darkness of the video shot, it adds another dimension to the video and is in itself a discussion point. The artists both look slick, and wear red face-paint with grim, beautiful determination.

Well played with exceedingly well intonation, and a sharp beat and sound it stands on it’s own legs throughout and above the genre it is placed in.

Give it a go, click the video above see if you agree 🙂

Americana Indie Folk

September 2016 : Little Lapin’s “Lover’s Gate”

Little Lapin – “Lover’s Gate” from the Album “Holding Out for the Kicks”

Album available @ CDBaby and BandCamp 


Check out the website for details of their tour!


What can I say?

I reviewed this album the other week for FATEA magazine,  (here) and listened to some of the tracks before moving on to some other albums on my list.

But the other night I was driving and I was observing the quietness on the roads and the mix of drunken tragedy (as the students are back) and seemingly tender moments in the palely lit walkways, it made me think of this song.

It is an indie folk song that is semi post-apocalyptic. What I mean is, you can imagine that the content is almost mildly fearful of what is to come, much like Grime’s “Oblivion” from the other year it conjures a sense of the void. But much like the rest of the album, it has youthful optimism which is communicated in quite an understated way on the album and in particular in this song . The subject in the song seemingly muses on a backup plan for just in case the world implodes and burns, it is delicately and beautifully sung with a touch of melancholy, it’s simplicity is it’s strength.

Not just that, the live performance is spot on with the album, the lighting and atmosphere is moody and evocative(if only I was there).

Check it out, much like the album in general there is a dream-like essence and a musing which gets the thoughts going.