MARRY WATERSON & DAVID A. JAYCOCK – Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love (One Little Indian Records TPLP1419CDP)

Death Had Quicker Wings Than LoveMarry Waterson and David A. Jaycock release their second album as a duo, Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love, on the 29th of September 2017. Sadly, the promotional copy of the CD I received didn’t include information on who else played what, but I understand from Marry’s web site that contributors include singer/songwriter Kathryn Williams, Romeo Stodart (guitar on ‘Out Of Their Hearts’), violinist Emma Smith, and John Parish (percussion on ‘Small Ways And Slowly’). (Clearly there are other instrumental contributions, including piano, bass and electric guitar.) The record was exquisitely produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead.

  1. Unusually, ‘The Vain Jackdaw’, reinterpreting one of Aesop’s fables, starts with a simple but eerily archaic instrumental section and is followed by a purely unaccompanied vocal. The moral of the fable is “Hope not to succeed in borrowed plumes“, or as Marry’s song puts it “Fine feathers don’t make fine birds“: however, Marry’s singing of a subtly ambitious melody is successful on every level. If ‘unaccompanied’ suggests to you a simplistic rendering, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
  2. ‘Lost (adjective)’ explores the feelings of darkness and loss that permeate the entire album. It has a more ‘modern’ feel to the instrumentation with its underlying guitar arpeggios.
  3. ‘Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love’ takes its inspiration from a maiden’s crown in St Stephen’s Old Church, Robin Hood’s Bay. A maiden’s garland or crown was traditionally displayed in a church as a funeral memento of females (usually) who died virgins. The title is said to derive from the words inscribed on the grave of Mary Woodson, who died on the way to her wedding in 1785. The song includes vocal and violin contributions from Kathryn Williams and Emma Smith.
  4. Talking about ‘Out Of Their Hearts’, Marry describes how “Once we had that [Romeo Stodart’s guitar part], David dampened down the guitar strings with crocodile clips which creates a fantastic atmosphere and then added a bass that wandered through the song like footsteps.” And very effective it is too.
  5. ‘Gunshot Lips’ has as harsh a lyric as you’d expect from the title, and a guitar arrangement that leans to the classical, augmented by
  6. ‘New Love Song’ includes harmony vocals (presumably from David?) around a simple lyric set off by atmospheric instrumental work.
  7. I had some difficulty in following the lyrics of ‘Three Of Them’ – I suppose it’s age thing – but it didn’t impair my enjoyment of the song. Still, I wish people who write lyrics this good would actually make them available with the CD.
  8. ‘On The Second Tide’ has a free-ranging modal melody that reminds me a little of Irish balladry tinged with singing techniques well to the East of these islands: I could almost imagine Sheila Chandra singing this, if only she was still able to perform.
  9. ‘Forgive Me’ is described as a ‘meditation upon the sadness of seeing your children leave home’: yep, been there, and the song certainly has resonance. It is, I suppose, closer than most of songs here to what you expect to hear from the singer-songwriter end of the folk spectrum.
  10. The arrangement of ‘Small Ways And Slowly’ even borders on folk-rock with its backing vocals and build-up towards electric guitar. Much as I love the preceding tracks, it will be interesting to see if Marry and David come up with more material in this idiom in the future.

I’ve seen this described as a ‘folk record’ and as ‘in an authentic folk style’. I can see where those descriptions come from, but I’m not sure they’re strictly accurate, any more than they are with reference to Lal and Mike Waterson’s Bright Phoebus, also cited in PR materials. (This is far from being a criticism – I’m no folk purist!) Though the songs include themes and tropes that echo the tradition, they have a poetic sensibility that could never be described as primitive or rough-hewn. The melodies often have a sinuous complexity that wouldn’t be out of place in an art song performance. The arrangements avoid flash and thunder, but they’re deceptively accomplished and always effective, with instrumentation that goes beyond the boundaries of the traditional acoustic session. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine an album like this being made by anyone in whom awareness and knowledge of the English tradition wasn’t deeply ingrained.

I guess you wouldn’t expect someone with the surname Waterson to release an unsatisfactory CD, but this is so much more than satisfactory. Marry’s singing has the quality you expect of the best revival singers: accomplished without sounding ‘over-trained’. David A. Jaycock not only provides equally accomplished (and unquestionably sympathetic) guitar accompaniment, but clearly plays a vital role in the transition of each song into arrangements that bring out in the best in the lyric, melody and performance. This may not be the most cheerful set of songs I’ve heard this year – well, cheerfulness in a song is overrated, in my opinion – but it’s certainly one of the very best.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Marry Waterson and David A Jaycock link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artist’s website: marrywaterson.com

‘Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love’ – official video:

Marry Waterson and David A Jaycock – new single and album

Marry Waterson

Marry Waterson and David A. Jaycock have revealed the first single (and accompanying video) taken from their second album as a duo, the haunting folk lament ‘Small Ways And Slowly’. The pair are set to release the wonderful new album, Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love, via One Little Indian Records on 29th September.

Featuring a plethora of notable collaborations with the likes of celebrated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, Romeo Stodart (The Magic Numbers), Emma Smith (The Elysian Quartet), John Parish (PJ Harvey) and produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley, the uniquely atmospheric, dark and haunting folk record focusses Waterson and Jaycock’s singular voice and sets them apart.

Of course, no-one needs to explain to Marry Waterson of the magic that happens when you keep the front door open. Bright Phoebus, the game-changing 1972 album, recorded by Lal and Mike Waterson, was recorded in just such a fashion. Consciously or otherwise, it seems that Marry and David ring-fenced something of that process and applied it to Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love. “We saw everyone as potential contributors. I remember on one of the final days we were recording ‘Small Ways And Slowly’ – John Parish popped in to borrow something and ended up laying down some percussion which totally lifted the song. It was such a kick to be able to hand over these songs and work with people who understood where they were coming from to such a degree, often on first hearing.”

Marry’s surprise is genuine, yet what you can hear time and time again isn’t the result of dumb luck. It’s a testament to a specific power that lies deep in the Waterson DNA. She opens her mouth to sing and you immediately pick out the details in the picture.

Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love follows in previous record Two Wolves’ authentic English folk style, similarly inspired by personal experience, but told through the form of historical fables. “Feeling lost is a common thread throughout the record,” explains Marry. It’s a feeling addressed most directly in Lost (adjective), a pensive study in the disorientation that remains when two souls are wrenched apart.

And working with Portishead’s Adrian Utley has freshened Waterson and Jaycock’s signature style; the record evidently treads new ground. Opening track, ‘The Vain Jackdaw’, was inspired by the classic Aesop Fables. “The inside cover of my tattered copy bears the lines ‘This Book Bilongs to Me. Address 160 Hull. 8 years old’, says Marry. The vocal was recorded outside on the rooftop, and left totally unaccompanied, apart from a haunting guitar intro. Utley wanted Marry to “sing into the air like a bird”.

Waterson made her recording debut on her mother Lal and aunt Norma Waterson’s A True Hearted Girl back in 1977 and later under the name The Waterdaughters. She also formed an occasional singing partnership with them and Eliza Carthy, appearing on numerous Watersons and Waterson / Carthy recordings to boot – but it wasn’t until two crucial shows in 2007 that the idea of making music herself really took hold.

That year Marry and brother Oliver Knight appeared with the Waterson family at a special Royal Albert Hall concert entitled A Mighty River of Song, and again later the same year at the BBC Electric Proms Concert Once in a Blue Moon: A Tribute to Lal Waterson in which they both played key roles as performers and curators.

Encouraged, in 2011 came the pair’s hugely acclaimed debut The Days That Shaped Me, which was nominated for a BBC Folk Award. That album, and it’s 2012 follow-up Hidden (again as Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight) showcased Marry’s highly original and distinctly English performance style – style that owes much to the folk tradition. Marry went on to team up with David A Jaycock for third album Two Wolves in 2015, which was released to fantastic critical praise. Having previously worked with Neill MacColl and Kate St. John on several projects including Hal Willner’s Rogue’s Gallery at Sydney Opera House and the Bright Phoebus tour, the pair were the obvious choice to produce the record.

Waterson has since been busy with a reissue of Bright Phoebus, Lal and Mike Waterson’s 1972 folk-noir masterpiece. Featuring performances from Lal, Mike and Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Dave Mattacks, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, amongst others, the album is now recognised as a forward-thinking benchmark for the genre, and will be released by Domino Records in August.

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Marry Waterson and David A Jaycock link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artists’ website: http://marrywaterson.com/

‘Small Ways And Slowly’ – official video:

MARRY WATERSON AND DAVID A JAYCOCK Two Wolves (One Little Indian tplp1284cd)

MARRY WATERSON AND DAVID A JAYCOCK Two WolvesWhen her brother, Oliver Knight, decided to take a break from music, Marry Waterson found herself with something of a quandary. Not playing any instruments herself, while she might have the words, setting them to music was a bit of a problem. However, an unexpected, and frankly unlikely, new ‘musical foil’ presented itself in the form of Jaycock. Described by mutual friend James Yorkston as a “Cornish hermit and underground psychedelic freak-ball”, he’d been impressed when he saw her performing in 2009 and, out of the blue, got back in contact to see if she’d be interested in working together.

Although this mostly took place by e-mail and phone, the pair clearly developed a fruitful rapport, he retaining his experimental approach but tempering this with a more traditional structure, and she finding ways to wrap her words round the melodies. With guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John handling production duties, contributions from the likes of Simon Edwards, Alison Cotton and Kami Thompson and instrumentation that includes piano, oboe, viola, cello, accordion and Weissenborn, the album began to take shape, the songs roaming across a wide range of subjects.

Setting the tone, it opens with the watery guitar and dreamlike pastoral cor anglais and oboe-shaded sound of ‘Sing Me Your Tune’ (a instrumental reprise providing the album’s play out), the line “You were the strange melody that came fully formed to me, the picture you painted filled the space vacated” almost a summation of the working relationship. Musically, it summons up a sort of Arthur Rackham world, a landscape of ferns, dew-hung spider webs and dragonflies hovering over standing waters, an atmosphere that permeates the following ‘Hoping To Be Saved’, a visit to the beach littered with piano arpeggios about Britain’s disappearing village communities, and, indeed, much of the album.

The seaside also finds its way into the acoustic guitar and piano dream world of ‘The Honey And The Seaweed’, the lyrics shaped from the words of her late mother, Lal, found in the same 60s notebook from whence came many of the early songs for the ‘Bright Phoebus’ project. There’s another nod to the family legacy on ‘Velvet Yeller’ which interweaves samples of her late uncle Mike’s recording of the traditional ‘Tam Lin’ between Waterson’s own verses.

With a melody line at times reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Stranger Song’, the title track explores the duality of human nature, a fight between ego and empathy, sorrow and serenity, etched with circling acoustic guitar and a wailing Jen-1000 synth that’s mirrored by Waterson’s mournful howl. If that conjures thoughts of late 60s progressive folk, so too do ‘Caught On Coattails’ and the accompanying a capella ‘Ginger Brown & Apple Green’, both of which are redolent of Pink Floyd, the former circa Piper At The Gates Of Dawn while the birdsong on the latter can’t help but recalls ‘Grantchester Meadows’ off Ummagumma. That same air of pastoral psychedelia also hangs over ‘Brighter Thinking’.

Featuring MacColl on marxophone, the dreamily lilting ‘Woolgathering Girl’ is a particular highlight, lyrically underscoring such Waterson influences as Dylan Thomas and Billie Holiday, the ghost of the latter also haunting the jazzy blues ambience of ‘Emotional Vampire,’ while the final stretch also offers the breathy, banjo-dappled intoxication of Mockingbird with its talk of “everyday déjà-vus” and the childhood nostalgia of the music hall coloured ‘Circa ’73’ with its playful Lewis Carroll-like imagery about Wendy houses, telephones made from paper cups. “stilts made from empty tins of powdered milk” and “quick brown frogs jumping over the dogs”.

Ethereal and melancholic, like its shadow play cover illustration, it conjures and transports you to a timeless world that exists just behind the veil of our perceptions, at once mysterious and unsettling, but also alluring and comforting.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://marrywaterson.com/

‘The Honey And The Seaweed’ – official video:

Marry Waterson – new album and tour

Marry Waterson - new album and tour

Marry Waterson returns with a brand new album made in collaboration with David A. Jaycock on 20th November. Entitled Two Wolves, it was recorded in May of this year and produced by guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist & arranger Kate St. John.

The seeds for the union were sown in 2013 when David was asked – via mutual friend and collaborator, James Yorkston – to rearrange ‘Yolk Yellow Legged’, a co-write with Yorkston taken from Marry and brother Oliver Knight’s 2011 debut The Days That Shaped Me. David had been struck by the character and warmth of Marry’s singing when he saw her performing with Yorkston in 2009. “It was earthy, dreamlike, warm, powerful and jagged. It had the capacity to be both melancholic and joyful, and it could tell a story – of course Marry Waterson could tell a story!” Continue reading Marry Waterson – new album and tour

New Video from Lisa Knapp + BBC Folk Awards

Lisa Knapp Hidden Seam

Lisa Knapp first emerged in 2007 with a remarkable debut album, ‘Wild And Undaunted’ and quickly established herself as a highly distinctive, creative artist, merging a radiant style of traditional folk and self-penned song with vocal, fiddle, hammer dulcimer, strings, banjo and contemporary production.

It was a long wait but evidently worth it – the South Londoner’s much anticipated 2nd full length album, Hidden Seam, is finally available from Navigator Records. Continue reading New Video from Lisa Knapp + BBC Folk Awards