Against my expectations, One Bright Night drew me in and proceeded to seduce me. Kirsty Merryn is a singer/songwriter originally from the New Forest who is deeply rooted in traditional music as this, her second album, amply demonstrates. It’s complicated in a simple way with support from producer Alex Alex and Phil Beer and a guest appearance from Sam Kelly.
I’m not a great fan of the piano in folk music. In the same way that the organ displaced gallery musicians in church it seems to me that the Victorians used the piano to remove folk songs from their proper milieu and appropriate them for the drawing-room. Kirsty is a pianist and the album opens with a big piano introduction to ‘Twilight’, hence my lowered expectations, and the song moves seamlessly into ‘Banks Of The Sweet Primroses’ with Beer’s rhythmic fiddle driving it along.
The record is a journey through night but it also incorporates mysticism and thoughts of death and the demise of our planet. Kerry cleverly updates ‘Banks Of The Sweet Primroses’ to set it in the aforementioned twilight rather than the more traditional midsummer’s morning. That gives it a different feel which is later echoed in ‘Outlandish Knight’ – the woman is triumphant in both cases.
Next come two contrasting love songs. The first is ‘Constantine’, named for a Cornish beach, a conventional setting, and the second is ‘Mary’ set in a not too distant future where the trees have been replaced by pylons. Kirsty gives it a jolly, upbeat tune as Mary’s young man is trying to be positive while lamenting the destruction of nature. By now I was trapped! ‘Our Bright Night’ is set against the background of the dissolution of the monasteries, Kirsty pointing out that the women who were cast out were forgotten. It’s a magnificent song. ‘The Deep/The Wild/The Torrent’ also concerns a monk and ‘Little Fox’ is a simple love song.
Sam Kelly joins Kirsty for ‘Shanklin Chine’, a song in the Napoleonic era about a woman visited by the ghost of her dead lover, a sailor killed in battle who urges her join him by jumping off Shanklin Chine to her death. ‘The Thieves Of Whitehall’ is a very modern idea encased in a song that sounds traditional – another brilliant piece of writing. ‘The Wake’ is just that, an absolutely beautiful threnody leading into ‘Dawn’, a brief recapitulation of the first track.
One Bright Night is a wonderful album
Artist’s website: www.kirstymerryn.com
‘Thieves Of Whitehall’: