Spinning Yarns is a collection of traditional songs mostly harvested in eastern Canada from Newfoundland southwards. Two actually surfaced in Wisconsin but they passed through Canada to get there. Norah is probably best known in Britain as a member of The Outside Track and it’s good that her other projects are beginning to appear here.
Norah’s sound is gentle and pastoral with Brian Miller and Randy Gosa on guitars, mandolas and bouzouki and fellow Tracker Allie Robertson on harp. Dáithí Sproule guests on one song. Norah herself plays flute, whistles and harmonium and her vocal style is strong but unfussy – she lets the songs tell their own story.
I’ll leave it to the folklorists to trace the origins of some of the songs back across the Atlantic although some are obvious. ‘The Carrion Crow’ is immediately familiar – it’s just the words and tune that have changed over the course of its long journey. ‘Here’s A Health Unto All True Lovers’ is a classic night-visiting song complete with crowing cocks and lily-white breasts. ‘The Pinery Boy’, one of the Wisconsin songs, was originally ‘The Sailor Boy’ with elements of ‘A Sailor’s Life’ and follows the well-known story of a young woman going to sea in search of her true lover only to find that he has drowned. In contrast, ‘Sir Neil And Glengyle’ is a Scots ballad, pretty much unchanged and is of a type of song that had already fallen out of favour when it was recorded in Nova Scotia in 1909.
At the risk of continuing to bore our readers, I will say that there is clearly a huge supply of traditional song collected in Canada over the last century and which is only now appearing here in the UK. Spinning Yarns may be seen by some as a bit pastoral but within it is a variety of songs that reward repeated listening.
Artist’s website: www.norahrendell.com
‘Here’s A Health Unto All True Lovers’ with Brian Miller and Randy Gosa: