Following on from her well-received 2017 album debut, joined by Robyn Wallace on melodeon, and Nicola Beazley and Rosie Butler-Hall on fiddles, A Seed Of Gold again features a mix of the traditional, self-penned and covers, drawing inspiration from Hood’s native Wiltshire for its slowly gathering drone intro opening track, ‘The Swallow’, a tale of false love taken from ‘The Saddle’, a story in Wiltshire Tales, illustrative of the Dialect by 19th century antiquarian John Yonge Akerman. Local legend is also the source of the melodeon wheezing, bodhran thumped ‘Lyddie Shears’ which, interpolating ‘Baby Brock’, a fiddle tune by Butler-Hall in memory of a badgers set in the local woodland, tells the story of a witch from Winterslow reputed to have the ability to turn herself into a hare and who was found dead with a silver bullet in her heart when a local farmer shot a hare near her house. Shears comes off rather better in his telling, scampering off over the hills with her floppy-eared fellows.
Likewise ‘Tyger Fierce’, a self-penned number with Renaissance colours to its fiddle-driven melody, which relates the true story of Hannah Twynnoy, a Wiltshire barmaid, who, in 1703, was mauled to death in Malmesbury by the tiger from a travelling menagerie she had been taunting. The song, however, is told from the animal’s perspective about why it did what it did, the massed voices building to an abrupt end.
Returning to avian subjects, the yearningly melancholic ‘Turtle Dove’, a parting song also known as ‘Ten Thousand Miles’, is Hood’s fiddle and baritone ukulele setting of verses from a traditional lyric found in The Seeds Of Love, an anthology of folk songs of the British Isles. ‘The Seeds Of Love’ itself, the first folksong Cecil Sharp ever collected, is reworked by Hood as ‘Marrow Seeds’, a mournful but hopeful melodeon and fiddle number about migration inspired by being given seeds that had come from Syria and were being tended by gardeners worldwide until they could return to their native soil and rewild. I don’t need to explain the metaphor.
Sounding like a traditional ballad but in fact written by Hood, ‘The Stranger On The Bank’ is her response to broken token ballad ‘Claudy Banks’, wherein the true-hearted female protagonist gives short shrift to the opportunistic sailor who tries to woo her after informing her that her lover, Johnny, who else, has drowned.
The albums nature themes are neatly encapsulated in ‘Ethel’, a pastoral swaying song penned by Hood in memory national parks pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite who eased her depression at being widowed at 21 through the calming countryside. Plucked on acoustic guitar and complemented by aching fiddle, another, reputedly, true figure is the subject of ‘Wild Man Of The Sea’, a disarmingly lovely song about being free and different relating to The Wild Man Of Orford Township who, naked, unable to talk or articulate distinctly, and with considerable hair over his body, was captured by the locals but subsequently set free to wander the woods by the court, although this was around 1837 not, as the booklet says, in the 12th century, although a similar folklore motif does date back to then.
The final three tracks are all covers, the first up, carried by Wallace’s melodeon, being a quite magical swayalong take on Fred Small’s ‘Everything Possible’, a lullaby about love, acceptance, and following your heart originally written in 1983 for the band Motherlode and learnt here from the singing of Roy Bailey. Catching a similar musical resonance, written by James Oppenheim (not Oppenheimer), the tune later revised by Mimi Farina and perhaps best known via Judy Collins, the phrase originating from a 1910 speech by American women’s suffrage activist Helen Todd, ‘Bread And Roses’ has become a feminist protest anthem and neatly sets up here the final number by Hood fellow Morris dancer Jenny Reid, the stirring lurching marching rhythm ‘Les Tricoteuses’ titled for the women who sat knitting by the guillotine in the French Revolution, written for Courage Calls, an International Women’s Day production celebrating women’s voices titled after Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett’s iconic phrase ‘Courage Calls To Courage Everywhere’, and alluding to both Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat who, on June 25, 2013, held a thirteen-hour-long filibuster in he Senate to block a measure which included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas, and activist Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Muslim teacher’s daughter who went on to become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate after being shot by the Taliban for championing girls’ right to education, the track closing out with the Breton dance tune ‘An Dro’.
A Seed Of Gold has been a long time germinating, but this is a sterling album of spun gold that truly sets the seal on Hood’s status among the folk elite.
Artists’ website: www.rosiehood.com
‘Marrow Seeds’ – official video: