Category Archives: Lal Waterson

NS30: The scarecrow

This is a song – only the second I’ve done on 52fs – from Lal and Mike Waterson’s extraordinary album Bright Phoebus.

It’s an extraordinary song, which has been widely covered. My own interpretation was initially influenced strongly by Tony Capstick, who did the song unaccompanied and gave it a very strong rhythmic framework. The metre of the song is irregular, but in the original version the uneven lines are draped over a steady, unchanging backing; Capstick’s version brings that irregularity into the melody. This makes for a powerful and striking song – which I recorded, more or less as Capstick sang it, over here. But after a while I grew intrigued by the original version, which after all doesn’t lack for power: you have a gentle, lilting melody, Mike Waterson’s matter-of-fact delivery, and… this song. How did they do it? Perhaps simply by letting the song do the talking. That’s what I’ve tried to do here.

The first two verses were written by Lal Waterson, who got stuck at that point; the last verse, with its jolly dons and their fertility ritual, was added by Mike. What it all means is anybody’s guess. If her songs are anything to go by, the inside of Lal Waterson’s head was sometimes a bad place to be. I like to think this one’s about the folk song revival: as if to say, “you want old? you want pagan? is this what you want?”

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NS05: Child among the weeds

A song by Lal Waterson and Chris Collins from Bright Phoebus, Lal and Mike Waterson’s criminally under-appreciated album of self-composed songs.

There aren’t many contemporary songs which inspire the same kind of awe in me as “Lemany”, but this is one of them. There’s a more direct connection, too. One of the strange, incantatory lines in the first half of “Lemany” goes like this:

The sun is just a-glimmering:
Arise, my dear

And here’s a line from the middle section of this song, sung on the record by Bob Davenport (the main verses are sung by Lal):

The day has only just begun,
The silver sun is shining.
Wake up, wake up everyone!
The day is only dazzling!

The line from “Lemany” is clearly there in the background; I think Lal’s line actually betters it.

I was wary of doing this song – there are some extraordinarily powerful lines; there’s one in particular which tends to make me cry when I hear it or see it written down, so actually singing it was quite a challenge. I got through it, though. There isn’t as big a contrast between the verses and the middle section as there is on the record, for obvious reasons; what I did do was put together two different recordings, self-as-Lal and self-as-Bob. Wonders of technology eh?

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Filed under Lal Waterson, not a folk song