Here’s the latest film diary!
I just found this on YouTube. The complete concert filmed at the OBOD Summer Gathering from Glastonbury Town Hall. Guests on stage are Paul Newman, Kate and Corwen, and sadly you can’t see Keiron Sibley on the Djembe. We had one run through the set together before we played that night, so what you are seeing and hearing is pretty much a live jam. I remember Kate saying, “Imagine what we would sound like if we actually practiced!” So true.
She is pleased with her song. I’ll be playing it at my forthcoming concerts over the next few weeks, so I hope you all like it too!
There’s a tree by the well in the woods that’s covered in garlands,
Clooties and ribbons that drift in the cool morning air,
That’s where I met an old woman who came from a far land,
Holding a flame o’er the well, and singing a prayer.
Goddess of fire, Goddess of healing,
Goddess of Spring, welcome again.
She told me she’d been a prisoner trapped in a mountain,
Taken by the Queen of Winter at Summer’s End,
But in her prison she heard a spell the people were chanting,
Three days of Summer, and snowdrops are flowering again.
She spoke of the Cell of the Oak where a fire is still burning,
Nineteen Priestesses tend the eternal flame,
Oh but of you, my Lady, we are still learning,
Brighid, Brigantia, the Goddess of Many Names.
Then I caught her reflection in the mirrored well,
And looked deep into her face,
The old woman gone, a maiden now knelt in her place.
From my pocket I pulled a ribbon,
And in honour of her maidenhood,
I tied it there to the tree by the well in the wood.
Goddess of fire, Goddess of healing,
Goddess of Spring, welcome again.
(copyright Damh the Bard 2011)
Some of you might not have heard my single The Sons and Daughters of Robin Hood. I’ve just found this video, complete with lyrics, on YouTube, so here it is!
Considering the current political climate I think this song should be heard far and wide, so feel free to share the link as much as you like!
And the live version from the OBOD Summer Gathering!
A couple of weeks ago I played at the PF Devon and Cornwall conference, a gig I love to play each year, and a great reason to step foot upon my home county of Cornwall. On the Sunday after the conference the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft opens for that one Sunday, so many of the people at the conference descend upon the town to see what’s been happening at the museum.
Now I cannot go to Boscastle without walking to the top of the cliffs to look out upon the mightly Atlantic ocean, and it was here, about 14 years ago that I heard the refrain that opens my song The Winter King in the sound of the sea as it struck the cliffs below. So this time I took some footage on my walk up to put into a video to go with the song.
It’s VERY shaky, but it does show the beauty of the place, and the inspiration behind the refrain, and the rest of King Arthur’s song. I hope you enjoy it, despite the wobbly videoing!
As with many of my songs I had the tune for this song for a number of weeks before the lyrics finally arrived. Looking back I think I wrote two sets of lyrics for this and both ended up in the bin. But finally I was noodling with the tune on my mandolin in the living room and it was the chorus that came first.
Come follow me, come dance with me,
Come with me to the Greenwood Grove such magic there to see,
The Lord of the Wild with his Faerie Kin,
Deep within the Greenwood Grove,
We’ll dance the Magic Ring.
I remember looking at these words and thinking, ‘the only way I’m going to find out what this song is about is to do as the chorus asks, and follow the Lord of the Wild into the Grove itself.’ So I carried on playing the song, and closed my eyes.
Music takes me away. I can lose hours simply playing an instrument, closing my eyes, and riding the notes to wherever they take me. On this occasion I was taken into a woodland (no surprise there then!) and pretty soon I heard the sound of music being played, coming towards me through the woods. I hid behind an oak and waited as the music drew closer and closer. A huge horned figure led a procession of dancing spectral figures past me. Then came others walking behind, laughing and smiling, and others on horseback. Now I’m quite familiar with the stories of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, but I had to follow, I had to, the music was irresistible.
I kept a small distance so as not to be seen, and soon the host began to gather in a clearing up ahead – an almost perfectly circular Grove. There was a hill in its centre that reminded me of a large round barrow, and the large horned figure slowly climbed the hill, and silence began to fall around the glade. He had a large club in one hand which he raised above his head, then brought it down onto the hill which resounded with a deep, hollow, sound. He raised it again, and once more it fell upon the Hollow Hill below, and then again, and again, until I realised he was creating a consistent bass rhythm, as other drums began to join him. The figures began to circle and dance in a magical ring dance around the edge of the Grove, then from the hill emerged a Man of Birch, followed by a Lady of Rowan. Other leafy-faced figures began to step from the Otherworld, through the Hollow Hill into the grove, and join the dance. I realised I was watching the Spirits of the Ogam trees join the dance, and in that moment the words of the song began to form.
I am the Birch of the new beginning,
The Rowan star with magic guarding…
The images around me began to fade, and I became aware that I was still playing the tune on my mandolin, and had been throughout all of this, and that it was this tune that the Faerie Host had been dancing to. I became more and more aware of the room around me, until I opened my eyes, and began to write. It was finished in no time at all after that. A gift from the Spirits of Nature!
Cerri showed me this piece and I posted a link to it on my Facebook page but I think it’s so good that I’m going to blog it too.
This piece is dark, and honest, as Alan Moore speaks his truth directly with no frills or fluffy language, and to me it sums up how I feel about Art and it’s relationship with Magic. To me the Bardic Path is a magical and Shamanistic tradition and an artist, be that a musician, writer, painter, sculptor, like the skilled storyteller, can change consciousness and guide us through Other Worlds. See what you think.
My Dad was, and still is, a big country music fan. My very early introduction to music consisted of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Don Williams, Emilou Harris, Dolly Parton but above all of these was John Denver. His songs were the soundtrack of my childhood, and of all of the country music I heard in those early days it’s really only John’s that has stayed with me. You only have to listen to the opening bars and the groove of Song of Awen to realise what an influence on my music he has been.
John Denver was a true country boy. Living in the mountains his inspiration came from the sights and sounds that surrounded him. Nature really is the best artist, and his lyrics and melodies manage to capture that essence of wildness that so many modern Pagans seek as part of their spiritual path. Add to that his voice, one of the purest voices in music with a natural vibrato and quality that I don’t think any other singer has matched since, and you have a near perfect singer/songwriter for a budding Bard. John Denver’s songs convey a connection with the Natural World that speaks directly to the heart. I regularly, even now, find tears of joy streaming down my face when I’m listening to his songs. I find myself nodding my head saying, “Yes! Yes! That’s it! You’ve got it, you understand!” Here are some examples of what I mean -
The Eagle and the Hawk
I am the eagle, I live in high country
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky
I am the hawk and there’s blood on my feathers
But time is still turning they soon will be dry
And all of those who see me, all who believe in me
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly
Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops
Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
And all that we can be and not what we are
Rocky Mountain High
Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake
And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high
Sunshine on my Shoulders
sunshine, on my shoulders – makes me happy
sunshine, in my eyes – can make me cry
sunshine, on the water – looks so lovely
sunshine, almost always – makes me high
if i had a day that i could give you
i’d give to you a day just like today
if i had a song that i could sing for you
i’d sing a song to make you feel this way
if i had a tale that i could tell you
i’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
if i had a wish that i could wish for you
i’d make a wish for sunshine all the while
He started the Winstar Foundation, a charity that promoted sustainable living, back in 1976, and was a keen environmental activist. His song Annie’s Song is still one of the most romantic, beautiful love songs ever written. Who knows what other great songs lay in wait from the Awen of John Denver, but sadly we will never know as on 12th October 1997 he got into his experimental light aircraft which crashed, taking his life and with it, his genius. Forever missed, his music will always live on in the hearts of those who believe that ‘they would have been a poorer man if they never saw an eagle fly.’
Blessed be John Denver.
One of the things I am asked more than any other is who have been my major influences when it comes to songwriting, so I thought it would be nice to write a series of blog posts addressing this subject. The question is where to start? So I think I should start with the first time I consciously became aware of the skill of the songwriter. For that I need to go back a number of years…
When I was 12 I asked my parents to buy me the latest album by David Bowie. I remember putting Heroes on my simple record player and listening to the opening music. I liked it, but it didn’t move me. I had loved his earlier album, Diamond Dogs, but there was a quality to his voice on Heroes that I just couldn’t get on with. I loved the songs, but wasn’t keen on the direction of the delivery. At the same time my friend had bought the new album by a band called Thin Lizzy called Fighting. He brought the album around and we played that, and Heroes over and over again (as children are apt to do with new favourite records). I still had trouble accessing Bowie’s new album, but when I heard the opening notes of Fighting I was immediately hooked.
When the first notes of Rosalie played I guess that was probably my first conscious encounter with a real guitar ‘riff’. There had been others – Blockbuster by The Sweet, Rebel Rebel by David Bowie, but there was something that shifted within me when that Lizzy guitar lick flew from my speakers. And then there were the lyrics. Within Phil Lynott’s music the lyrics and music are formed together in a vital marriage where the music holds the song, and the lyrics tell the story, but the music also acts as a kind of film score, changing here and there to emphasise and add accents where needed, but not overtly so anyone would really notice how their relationship with the song had been influenced.
My friend preferred the Bowie album, I preferred the Lizzy, so we swapped. I must have played that album to death – I still have it. Phil Lynott was a writer of real quality, his music had meaning and depth, but it also made you want to bang that head! This wasn’t something that was usual at the time. Even Ronnie Dio’s Sword and Sorcery lyrics were often confusing to me – they promised a lot, but actually when I listened hard I was often left not really understanding what he was singing about. Phil Lynott left no such grey areas, he delivered great words, and blended them with melodies that just didn’t leave you alone. My love of Thin Lizzy continued and they were the first rock band I ever saw live in 1979 on the Black Rose tour. I saw them many more times, and each time was a treat. Phil Lynott was not only a great lyricist, but also a brilliant bassist, singer, and an incredible front man and entertainer. I’m sure he also inadvertently taught me how to interact with an audience too.
I was at a rock club in Sussex the night I heard about his death, and it was on that night I realised that the golden age of rock, at least as I had known it, had died with him. After that the sounds of LA Hair Metal, Thrash and Death Metal became the major trend. But years later in my mind it is the music of Thin Lizzy that has proved its longevity. I listen to Boys are Back in Town, Waiting for an Alibi, Suicide, Black Rose – the list is endless, and they sound as fresh to my ears as they did when I was 12 years old.
So a big HENGWAH to Phil, now rockin’ out in the Otherworld with Gary Moore, and what a party I’m sure they are having!