AMY HOPWOOD – Into The Woods (own label)

Into Ther WoodsIt won’t surprise you to learn that there are a lot of trees on this album. Trees, wood, forests and their inhabitants, both real and mythological abound. Into The Woods is Amy’s third album, mostly original songs with two traditional titles but the original songs have the timeless appeal of traditional songs and everything fits together perfectly. You see, Amy has based her new songs on folklore and fairy tales but opened them up to new interpretations. This is a very stripped down affair with the only support coming from Tobias Raven on guitar and bass and Amy adds what she calls “oddities” including a chorus of bees, field recordings in the woods and a vibraslap (I think).

The opening track, ‘Brambles’ is reckoned to be a take on Sleeping Beauty but listening first time without the benefit of lyrics or notes I heard something different. To me it’s about paranoia and the way a person defends him- or her-self against the slights and hurts that the world can throw at us. It may not be what Amy intended but that is what it says to me and I continued to seek for modern parallels in the songs.

Next is ‘Where The Wild Bees Go’ based on the old superstition that if you don’t talk to your bees they will fly away but Amy’s observation that “the living is simple and honest” adds another dimension. Doesn’t it? ‘Three Impossible Tasks’ is a darkly gothic take on ‘The Lovers’ Task’ although it seems to me that the witch accepts her defeat rather too easily, or perhaps she’s not too bright.

‘The Oak And The Ash’ is the first of the traditional songs and Amy has amalgamated verses from several texts. The theme of regret carries through to ‘What Wasn’t There’ about a man whose life is blighted by something he doesn’t have or perhaps never had. As Amy points out he couldn’t see the wood for an absent tree but ‘Kintsugi’ tells us that we have to accept our imperfections. Good advice perhaps.

When I got to ‘The Woodpecker’s Song’ I had to stop and find out if woodpeckers do indeed sing. They have a call but it’s not the most melodious sound you’ll hear in the woods. ‘Astrid And The Wolf’ sounds like it began as a fairy-tale but to me it’s a song of female empowerment cast as a fable. From The Emperor’s New Clothes Amy gives us ‘The Liar And The Tailor’ – no explanation necessary although I can’t find any trees in this song. ‘Best Served Cold’ is a cautionary tale along the lines of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” but if she isn’t scorned and gets her man there comes the lie of ‘Happily Ever After’ which Amy maintains should be “together ever after” for better or worse.

Finally we have ‘The Seeds Of Love’ and Amy gives us one last twist as she rejects the rose and selects hyssop instead although I don’t believe that Cecil Sharp collected that verse. Hyssop was much used in herbal medicine which brings us round to the healing properties of nature, I suppose. I’ve played Into The Woods three times today – something I rarely do – but it captured me from the first. It’s a lovely record that is easy on the ear but has much to tell us.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Liar And The Tailor’:

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