Not only did I do very well for books this year, I got two longed-for CDs as well. Steeleye Span's latest - Bloody Men. It's so consistently good! There's The Bonny Black Hare, which is pure smut, the least-disguised sexual innuendo I've ever heard. Great, if slightly disturbing, to hear Maddy giving it such force. Then The Scullion King which is another of those historical ballads, rather like They Called Her Babylon from the last album. Cold Haily Windy Night has been redone, as has First House in Connaught. The very eerie The Demon of the Well rather recalls King Henry from way back when. They've also put some John Clare to music, which I very much approve of, though it's not quite up to June Tabor's Chaucer in At the Wood's Heart.
I'd heard most of the songs on the album before, because I managed two gigs this year: one with the stuffy people in Winchester, who give you wicked looks if you so much as move in your seat, and the other in the cannabis-induced haze of Cropredy 2006. Ah, Cropredy! Listening to this album takes me back to dancing in a big crowd in a big field, late at night, in my tasselly poncho, with a man who looked like Jesus. I think at the time I thought he was Jesus. We met two very drunken policemen that night. Alice wore one's hat and I drank the other's Guinness, even though I hate the stuff. Not that any of this is remotely relevant to the music, but I do so love Cropredy. It's when I get to wear floaty clothes, burn incense, smoke weed and love strangers. Suddenly the music sounds so exquisite and the waffles taste so sweet and the sky is so gorgeous and the people on the canal boat are so kind that I want to weep. It's what I imagine the sixties were like. I do hope I can go again this year.
Anyway, yes, my brother bought me Scribbled in Chalk, which I had long coveted, for Christmas. Karine Polwart's not well-known, but she should be. I first heard of her when my parents were channel-hopping and some BBC music thingy came on. There was this Scottish lady singing in a pub and they were talking to her and she caught my interest simply because she was nice and interesting. And then she played a song called Baleerie Baloo, which happens to be on this album. It also happens to be one of very few songs that make me cry, the other most notable being Tori Amos' Winter. Baleerie is so beautiful and so sad. It's so rare that Holocaust songs work, and this puts Janis Ian's Tattoo to shame. The rest of the album is no disappointment, either. I'm not quite through with listening to all of it yet, but highlights so far are Hole in the Heart and Daisy, two which are personal favourites because I relate them to myself.
I'd also like to strongly recommend, in my wholly unbiased opinion, two albums recently released by friends of mine. There's Haberdashery by Scatcat and his gang of alley cats. And also The Operator by Anonymous. You can get both albums for a tenner at Resident Alien, their record label. They're fundamentally Christian bands but, like the legendary Delirious? whom I so worshipped in my young, foolish, pre-folkie, Christian days and have maintained a strong fondness for, their stuff can be appreciated, on a deeper level even, by people who don't share their religious views. Why? 'Cause it rocks. 'Nuff said.