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CD - The Lost Words: Spell Songs | reviews, news & interviews

CD - The Lost Words: Spell Songs

CD - The Lost Words: Spell Songs

Songs inspired by disappearing nature cast their spell

The Lost Words: Spell Songs

Earlier this year, eight musicians – Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Kerry Andrew, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux – set about working with the ‘spell songs’ of nature writer Robert Macfarlane and the images from nature of artist Jackie Mor

ris, and recorded what they created at Rockfield studios, then performed four sell-out shows to standing ovations in February. At these shows, Morris would create new images live on stage as the musicians played. Next weekend, they return to Folk By The Oak, the one-day festival in Hertfordshire, and the patron of the Spell Songs project. At the same time, they’ll be launching this sumptuous CD and hardback book, the disc neatly embedded in its inside front cover, and featuring interviews, the songs and the stories behind them, plus new art works and new spells by Macfarlane.

The origin of the project was Macfarlane’s shock at familiar (to an older pre-digital generation) names for things in our increasingly fragile natural world being dropped from dictionaries. These lost words needed a home, not a burial plot, and each of the spell songs is dedicated to bringing back to breath and life the words that have apparently begun to vanish from 21st-century children’s vocabularies just as more and more species are vanishing from our polluted biosphere.

Given the breadth of talents among the participating artists, the textures and arrangements are rich and varied without being overcooked. There’s a freshness here that reflects the vitality of their natural sources, the totem animals that comprise their songs – the likes of kingfisher, heron, snow hared, goldfinch. Highlights include the delicate kora and guitar of Seckou Keita and Kris Drever behind Julie Fowlis’s voice on ‘Kingfisher’, and the harp and voice of Rachel Newton’s beautiful ‘Acorn’, featuring one of Drever’s guitar improvisations inspired directly by Morris’s artworks. ‘Ghost Owl’s’ spectral keyboards and trip-hop beats are offset by a rich vocal chorale from the group, while ‘The Snow Hare’ is a glorious pairing of Karine Polwart and Julie Fowlis. With added birdsong recorded by Chris Watson and scattered among the tracks like so much exotic seed, Spell Songs certainly works a powerful charm.

The Lost Words: Spells Songs is at Folk By The Oak on Sunday 14 July.

More New Music reviews on theartsdesk


There’s a freshness here that reflects the vitality of their natural sources


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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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