[british folk] (2020) Fay Hield - Wrackline [FLAC] [DarkAngie]

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(2020) Fay Hield - Wrackline

Wrackline, Fay Hield’s fifth studio album, begins with a spell of transformation. ‘I shall go into a hare,’ she sings, channelling the spirit of seventeenth-century witch Isobel Gowdie. But it is no whimsical flight of fancy, no children’s game: Gowdie’s plight was real, and her case unique in the history of British witchcraft. She claimed to have danced with the Queen of Elphame, bedded the devil, turned into a jackdaw. Her confessions are still pored over by scholars of the history of the occult, and yet there is still no consensus on the exact causes of her actions. It has been posited that she suffered from a form of psychosis, or that ergot poisoning was to blame, or that she was suffering from a kind of post-traumatic disorder precipitated by sexual abuse. And neither was her fate documented, although historians believe that she would most likely have been sentenced to death and executed by burning and strangulation. Gowdie’s case sheds light on the historical treatment of women, and of people suffering from mental illnesses. Her spells and chants, which were written down during her trial, show that she had an extraordinary imagination and a rare talent for words, but they have a contemporary relevance too: many of them speak of escape of flight, hinting at oppression that still exists in some quarters of society. There are few artists better placed to tell Gowdie’s story than Fay Hield, who has a PhD and is a lecturer in ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield. She was also a member of a cappella group The Witches of Elswick, whose interpretations of some of the darker songs in the British tradition featured a number of strong and striking female characters. Hare Spell, Wrackline’s first track, is astonishing even by Hield’s standards. It is thrilling and incantatory, its arrangement both spine-tingling and extremely clever, and the whole thing is propelled along by her band’s voice and instruments featuring Rob Harbron, Sam Sweeney, Ben Nicholls and Ewan MacPherson. The rest of the album proceeds along similarly impressive lines. Thematically, Hield is concerned with all things weird and dark, the edgelands between history, myth and magic. Her own songs – her first efforts at songwriting – give a voice to the people dwelling in those edgelands. Jenny Wren is a kind of feminist riposte to the traditional ballad Cruel Mother (a song which is also included on this album) in which the difficulties of childbirth are acknowledged. Hield accompanies her singing – which is both impassioned and precise – with a nimble banjo tune. It is hard to believe that she has never recorded her own songs before. Some of the self-written songs are augmented by well-chosen collaborators. Night Journey sets a poem by Terri Windling to a minimal and haunting backing of fiddle and banjo, fashioning a chorus that has the power of an ancient rite. These are songs that bear their cargo of history lightly; the self-penned material bleeds seamlessly into the traditional songs. In Swirling Eddies Hield tells the story of a selkie, a mythic seal-woman of Scottish legend. The strange, reflexive shape of the verses mirrors the restless, rippling water where the selkies gather. The sea – at once a barrier and a gateway to another realm – is a recurring theme: on Call The Storm it symbolises freedom and painful partings. Hield has a mastery of ambiguity and is especially aware of nature’s power to act on us in multiple and often apparently conflicting ways. On the aforementioned Cruel Mother she treads a path from melancholy to tragedy but, uniquely, ends the song on a note of forgiveness. It is all the more heartbreaking for its tenderness, and Harbron’s concertina provides the perfect, sombre backdrop. Hield has the ability to wring emotion out of any subject. The Old Grey Goose – widely known, particularly in America, as an upbeat playground song – is turned into a sincere and sad reflection on the nature of passing and loss. Most ambitious of all is an adaptation of Sir Launfal, a lengthy poem on the subject of sexual politics in the realms of fairies and men, originally written in Middle English. Hield’s stirring voice carries the song for upwards of seven minutes, and the whole performance is beautifully paced. The music seems to grow in confidence, and the melody to become more prominent, as the song winds its way to its conclusion. There are glimpses of humour too – Pig Song (an example of how folk and music hall traditions can become entwined) packs a satirical punch despite the sweetness of its vocal arrangement. Sweet William’s Ghost, which Hield learnt from the singing of Maggie Boyle, is a beautiful meditation on grief and leads perfectly into Wing Flash, which deals with similar themes but in an entirely different way: more personal, more modern, more lyrically impressionistic. These two songs provide yet another example of Hield’s knack for juxtaposing two distinct styles (in this instance the traditional and the contemporary) in the most organic of ways. Wrackline is an album full of pleasing and brilliantly executed internal mirrors and unexpected directions. It is a world lovingly crafted by Hield, with its own logic, its own depths of meaning. So it is fitting that, with the closing track When She Comes, it comes full circle. Here Hield uses the words of Sarah Hesketh, who writes from the point of view of the hare that first made an appearance in the opening song. The imagery is stunning, the language highly original. The relationship between hare and witch is rendered electric and intimate, almost sexual in its vocabulary of passion. It is wonderfully performed too – Hield gives herself to the song as completely as the hare gives up its body to the witch. It is a rapturous and strangely life-affirming way to end a record that is often haunted by death or loss, and it helps to cement the album as more than a mere collection of songs. Wrackline is a stunning and complete work of art, put together with great care and skill and performed with Hield’s distinctive magic.

01 - Hare Spell
02 - Jenny Wren
03 - Night Journey
04 - Swirling Eddies
05 - Call the Storm
06 - Cruel Mother
07 - Old Grey Goose
08 - Sir Launfal
09 - Pig Song
10 - Sweet William's Ghost
11 - Wing Flash
12 - When She Comes

Media Report:
Genre: british folk
Format: FLAC
Format/Info: Free Lossless Audio Codec, 16-bit PCM
Bit rate mode: Variable
Channel(s): 2 channels
Sampling rate: 44.1 KHz
Bit depth: 16 bits

Trackers List

Tracker Name

Torrent File Content

(2020) Fay Hield - Wrackline [FLAC]
  • 08 - Sir Launfal.flac (39.5 MB)
  • 10 - Sweet William's Ghost.flac (31.4 MB)
  • 06 - Cruel Mother.flac (26.6 MB)
  • 04 - Swirling Eddies.flac (21.0 MB)
  • 07 - Old Grey Goose.flac (20.7 MB)
  • 12 - When She Comes.flac (19.8 MB)
  • 03 - Night Journey.flac (19.2 MB)
  • 01 - Hare Spell.flac (19.0 MB)
  • 05 - Call the Storm.flac (16.9 MB)
  • 02 - Jenny Wren.flac (16.5 MB)
  • 11 - Wing Flash.flac (14.2 MB)
  • 09 - Pig Song.flac (12.9 MB)
  • cover.jpg (94.7 KB)
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