DUIR – The Stout Guardian Of The Door 2020 Remaster (DUIR-OAK-CD-004)

The Stout Guardian Of The DoorDuir are unique. I’m torn between Ralph Waldo Emerson unique, “Insist on yourself; never imitate.” and Henry David Thoreau unique, “I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion”. But of course, they are neither, they are Duir unique.

Last year Duir released Sodden Dogs And Blind Winged Horses (reviewed here by Dai Jeffries). This year, they have remastered the 2007 album The Stout Guardian Of The Door. Appropriately for an album which, without being pinned as either, has thematic elements of the epic or the picaresque, the album travels musically from track to track, as though reflecting the changing locations. The focus of the tracks are variously on spoken word, the electronic sounds of mellotron/synthesiser, acoustic guitar, vocal chants, strolling bass and the band’s fusion of the different elements into a unified album.

You can tell, then, that this is not traditional folk music, but then neither is it modern folk music, nor prog, nor ambient (nor any other labelled genre). That said, given the different emphases in each track, there are aspects of each. In many ways, though, it could be said that the album is more traditional than most folk music you will see on folking.com. Duir’s interest is in a deeper tradition, one where the music takes you back to the places where the land and humanity have touched for centuries, even millennia.

The Stout Guardian Of The Door takes you on a path from just north of Grantham along the limestone of Lincoln Edge to the Humber. The link below to the title track is the beginning of the journey, twenty miles or so north-easterly to the village of Dorrington. The village is itself named after Duir – who is The Stout Guardian of the Door according to history/tradition/mythology (depending on your take on these things). Each track takes you a little further on the journey. Part One ends at Lincoln where the Lincoln Gap provides a short break in the limestone ridge; Part Two takes you the remainder of the journey to the Humber.

As you listen, you are taken not just on the geographical journey northwards, but through time, touching on: Knights Templar; TE Lawrence; the old inland lighthouse of Dunstan Pillar; the village of Metheringham, co-named ‘Meg’ with the local witch; a Bronze Age/Iron Age timber causeway; the old cleansing ritual of washing a stone coffin; the petrified dragon in the village renamed as Dragonby because of it; and, finally, to the village of Alkborough where there is a turf labyrinth and where the Rivers Trent and Ouse meet to form the Humber, the end point of the journey.

Musically, as you can hear on the link below, from, say, the simple acoustic guitar tracks of ‘In The Shadow of Dunstan Pillar’ or ‘Short Meg’ along the way to the sweeping electronica of ‘Humber’, to the compulsion of the story-telling vocal, this is a rather stunning piece of work, conceptually grand – and unique.

How to sum it up? The Stout Guardian OfTthe Door isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Give it a listen.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/songsfromtheoak/

‘The Stout Guardian Of The Door’:

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