Today I thought I’d share with you a song by the amazing supergroup Celtic Woman, which is an all-female folk band created and led by David Downes. I really like their music, and listened to them particularly much as a teenager when I was still rather new to the world of Celtic and folk music in general. This song comes from their latest album from last year called Postcards From Ireland, and the soloist here is Chloe Agnew, who is I believe one of the more recognisable and liked members of this group of all time, as she has been with Celtic Woman on and off since her teenage years. You can learn more about the song reading my earlier post where I shared a version of it sung by Órla Fallon, who, as it happens, was also part of Celtic Woman in the past.
Today I’d like to share with you quite a popular folk song which is Scottish in origin. It was adapted by Francis McPeake from Belfast, from a poem called Braes of Balquhither by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill, with already existing music composed by Robert Archibald Smith. Ever since it was first recorded in 1950’s, it has been sung by loads of Anglophone folk musicians and it’s also alternately known as Will Ye Go, Lassie Go. Órla Fallon’s version is oone of my favourites.
Today, let’s listen to a very mountain-themed set of two harp tunes from Gwenan Gibbard. She is from the Llyn Peninsula, as I may have mentioned in some other post featuring her music (as I’ve shared some more of it in the past) which is located in Snowdonia and also commonly known as the Snowdon’s Arm. No surprise then that both these pieces have Snowdonia-inspired titles.
So I’m quite behind with this series, which is quite a pity, because on 12 November was one of my main fazas – Cornelis Vreeswijk’s – death anniversary. It’s been 33 years since he passed away!… As I always say, way too many! And I originally wanted to commemorate him exactly on that day but oh well… at least I can do it now.
I’ve been feeling kinda crappy lately so I chose a poem which, , between the lines – but in a way that is still easily readable – is also about feeling shitty with and about yourself, which generally is very different from how I am experiencing it yet at the same time very similar because essentially it’s all about having an overactive and spiteful self-critic and hating yourself as a result, just the ways this hatred manifests are different between different people I think.
The author of the poem, however, is not Cornelis, although as you may remember from my blog he himself was also a poet in addition to being a singer. This poem was written by an early 20th century Swedish poet Gustav Fröding, who is really loved in Sweden, although, just like Vreeswijk he was also quite controversial in his time and if I remember correctly even had an episode where he faced a trial for obscenity because of one poem he wrote. Also, again just like Vreeswijk, he had a life-long problem with alcohol as well as intimate relationships with women. Interestingly, in my Dad’s personal slang dictionary, a troll means someone who drinks heavily and chronically, like people who sit all day long near their local village shop, they’re called trolls in his language. 😀 Fröding spent a large part of his life in all sorts of mental health institutions though it’s not clear what diagnosis he had exactly, it sounds like some sort of psychotic disorder and depression, the latter ran in his family. More exactly it was his mother who suffered from it when he was a child, and as a result wasn’t able to parent him properly and so he had a rather difficult childhood. Years ago when I was learning a lot about Fröding and reading his poems simply because I knew Vreeswijk appreciated him and they appeared to have so freaking much in common (and if you’ve got any idea about fazas you know that for someone who has a faza anything even remotely related to the faza peep is interesting and worth digging into), I’ve come across an opinion that this early separation from his mother was the main factor contributing to his later problems with relationships and pretty much all the other emotional and mental health related difficulties that he was experiencing, including the self-hatred thing that we’re focusing on since that’s what the poem focuses on.
Cornelis Vreeswijk, as you may know since I’ve written about that a few times earlier when writing about him in more detail, also struggled with similar emotional issues. He had terrible problems with intimacy and closeness and often wrote about it and generally his love life difficulties, and had relationships with many women in his life, but whenever things started to get deeper, it scared him, or something else made the relationship impossible to be stable for longer and things were constantly stormy and messy from what you can observe when having a closer look at his life. He was always very shy though it may be hard to believe just when hearing him live a few times, I had a problem with that anyway because he is so eloquent and has a sort of jovial, kinda boisterous air about him. But when you observe things for longer, listen to many more live recordings, read some more and listen to some interviews like I did, it does show a lot, plus obviously it is there in his poems and lyrics. It often amazes me how he could mask it so well but from what I understand he saw his outside personality as some sort of a role he was supposed to play in life, or something. Must have been so freakishly exhausting, would surely be for me anyway haha. And of course there’s that whole self-loathing and self-destruction thing which is just so sad. I remember when watching the 2010 Amir Chamdin’s film “Cornelis” (which was a real struggle since I didn’t really have any audiodescription or anything and with my less than perfect Swedish skills didn’t always understand everything fully but still I think I understood a lot on that first watching, I did have English subtitles to help myself with though when need be but back then my Swedish was actually better than my English) that was what affected me the most when I saw the level of that self-destruction, perhaps because, while I am not an addict in the classical understanding of this word, I struggle with other self-destructive behaviours like self-harm and can deeply relate to what it’s like feeling awful about yourself, so I guess it must have struck a chord or something. So it seems quite natural that Cornelis would feel some affinity with Fröding as they shared so much, and I am actually a bit surprised that he didn’t interpret more of his poems because apparently a lot of Swedish singers did that.
He released his interpretation of it, with a very jazzy/bluesy feel on his 1970 album “Poem, Ballader Och Lite Blues” (Poems, Ballads And A Bit Of Blues). It’s not as musical as many other Frödings poems are, so probably for that reason, rather than an actual song, it’s more like sing-speak, which is something Vreeswijk used a lot in his music and I think it often makes it more expressive than just singing and is very characteristic of his style.
But a couple years ago, quite some time later after I acquainted myself with Cornelis’ discography, I came across his live performance of this song on YouTube, in collaboration with a 70’s jazzrock band Made In Sweden. I like the album version a lot and it’s not much different at all, despite the instrumentalists are different, but I slightly prefer the rocky live version rather than the jazzy album version as it just speaks to me more, so that is why I chose to share the live one with you.
For contrast, there is another artist from Sweden called Sofia Karlsson whom I absolutely love (I shared her cover of Vreeswijk’s Grimasch Om Morgonen in the very beginnings of this blog), who also interpreted this poem in 2009, but in such a starkly different way! While Cornelis’ version is so raw and jaggy, intense and frenzied, raving and just so very directly conveying the feeling of this poem, Sofia’s version, while no less expressive, is so much subtler, sophisticated and I’d say more from an outside observer’s point of view rather than sitting directly in the lyrical subject’s brain. For some people it might make it more emotionally bearable. 😀 I love both!
In Cornelis’ live version, he makes a brief introduction just like on the album and says that: “Gustav Fröding was a hip poet. He tried to drown his sorrows. But they could swim”. I think it’s such an interesting way to put it lol. Below is a poetic translation of this poem, so that you know what it’s all about. I took it from
It’s a pity though that most of you probably can’t understand the Swedish version and there are so many cool words that I’ve never heard anywhere else, my favourite is klumpkloss, which in the translation below is interpreted as “object of fright”, I’m not exactly sure how to translate it to English but I suppose it would be something like a lump. I find this word really funny but sadly never had an occasion to use it in a real life situation haha, I don’t even know if people actually use it. 😀
I still haven’t written about my favourite music from Lapland, so today it will finally happen. I love Sami language and I love Sami music. The song I want to show you is an effect of colaboration between brilliant Maxida Märak – singer, actress and human rights activist from Swedish Lapland, and Dowhill Bluegrass Band, who are a Swedish band making bluegrass music. Maxida is good both at doing contemporary music as well as traditional Sami yoik. She is particularly interested in Sami people’s rights. Actually, Sami people have quite a lot of famous activists, but that’s no wonder for me, their rights definitely seem underestimated by some. “The Mountain” is actually a cover, but Maxida made it a protest song. It is a protest against exploiting Lapland’s teritory and it’s resources and against threatening the industry of reindeer herding by opening mines in the areas where these animals are grazing. It is actually surprising how Maxida – always associated with hip hop and club music and Sami yoiks – found herself in bluegrass. I am not a big fan of bluegrasss, like I have many more favourite genres, but I really like the album that is the effect of Maxida’s cooperation with Downhill BB.