Making ‘The Year, She Turns’ – May
May 15, 2017. No comments.
May Madness. Isn’t it? However, I am not going to bring politics into this blog… This is about the musical mayhem that transpired last year whilst producing the song for May… and how it all fell together just beautifully in the end.
The lyrics draw on the folk traditions and the rituals around Beltane… and yes, I did see a stag on the side of the road to Skye once in the month of May. It was also in May when I took the bonny boat (ferry) to Skye during a tour with Mike Cosgrave. I am very lucky to have Mike’s skills, musicality, and dry sense of humour accompanying me on stage. As well as his own instrumental duo, he also plays with the lovely Jackie Oates who came to see us perform recently at Oxford Folk Weekend, complete with dancing baby. It was May, too, when I survived Shetland Folk Festival at the end of the last millennium and first met my brilliant new band member Clare Lindley who came to rehearse with us yesterday for the first time.
The ‘song a month’ project was well underway, but despite a few promising conversations I found myself stuck without anyone to record my next song. One day I just decided to head to Real World Studios with my harp and ask someone…. like some kind of recording refugee! Thanks to Rob Bozas I was able to book in a session with Marco Migliari and I decided it would be a good idea to try and catch up and record the songs for April and May at the same time. I knew the fiddle playing of Eliza Carthy would be absolutely PERFECT for the May song… and as life would have it, Eliza happened to be recording ‘Big Machine’ with the Wayward Band at Real World that very month.
I’ve known Eliza since we were youngsters on the folk scene; around the time Mrs Casey Records put together a CD called ‘Evolving Tradition’. I was playing with Maclaine Colston back then, and he went on to join ‘Eliza Carthy and The Kings of Callicutt’ along with Saul Rose who still plays in her band, as does Beth Porter who has played with me for many years. Maclaine, Saul, Beth and I also play together (occasionally) as the ‘Winter Wonderband’. And so it is, that like the patterns made by the ribbons on the maypole, the connections we make often intermingle and come back around in other combinations…
Recording ‘May Madness’
I am enormously grateful to Eliza for being happy to collaborate on the song, despite being unfeasibly busy at that time. The plan was to record it with Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound when she returned to Edinburgh – the same day Mike would record his guitar parts down in Devon. It was the last week of May and this was my first time producing a remote session so it was a little nerve-racking, but it all got woven together something like this:
Record my guitar and vocals – realise I am not happy with my guitar and vocals – make a new click track and re-record my guitar and vocals (Thank you Marco) – give a USB stick to Eliza and send files to Mike Cosgrave – send links to Eliza due to missing USB stick – discover Eliza has missed her flight back to Edinburgh and had to drive back all the way up from South West England, and then mix her album and do a gig at the Queens Hall… Speak with Eliza and discover she had been playing a gig the night before only 15 minutes down the road from me and both realise she could have recorded it here…
Fiddle session rescheduled – receive guitar parts from Devon – send Eliza Mike’s new guitar part – receive fiddle parts from Edinburgh the next day – discover after a mild panic that it doesn’t sound right because I am listening to MY guitar part and Eliza played along to the latest version from Mike – scrap my guitar part entirely – listen again – breathe a sigh of relief because it sounded GREAT. Wild, raw, beautiful… just like I wanted. Mix and release the song on the 28th May. Just. In. Time.
The light evenings, the big skies, the full blooms, that long lost sun… reappearing. There’s something about this month that invites us to embrace it all. What else is there to be done with so much wild beauty?