Burd Ellen is the nom de guerre of Debbie Armour- mother, rager and sumptuously gifted folk singer. Although all the material on her debut album "Silver Came" is traditional, Armour's music slugs from many jugs- from avant garde hip hop to punk-prophets like Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush. This breadth of interests helps christen "Silver Came" with an emotional range and a raw inventiveness which is all too rare in contemporary folk circles.
This accounts for some of her song choices. Armour plunges her scalpel deep into the corpus of British folk song and reports back with shapes obscure and bloody. Her reading of Sweet Lemany retains all the peculiar, spiralling ornaments of Peter Bellamy's version but applies rich harmonium drones that feel like rainbow-spewing cataracts gouged deep into the black earth. While her version of Lou Killen's Bramble Briar has the graceful pathos of a lone acrobat sashaying down the corde lisse in an empty Big Top.
Raised on the Isle of Mull, Armour has performed in Gaelic since childhood and sings a clutch of unaccompanied songs here which have a mysterious, elemental beauty but are probably about getting your boots dirty when attempting to shepherds cow herds across some god-forsaken Hebridean field.
Special mention must go to the two other members of Burd Ellen- Lucy Duncan (aka Luki) and Gayle Brogan (aka Pefkin)- who invest the songs with drama and diversity with a range of instruments including piano, violin, psaltery, assorted electronic debris and some sensual vocal harmonies. Props too to engineer Jer Reid whose background in hardcore and improv helps add a layer of celestial crud to the recording which confirms Burd Ellen as a more sonically adventurous counterpart to contemporary folk/ punk-primitives Stick In The Wheel and Lankum.
Raw and intimate. Celestial and earthy; Burd is the word.
Tha Thìde Agam `Eiridh
Angus Kenneth MacIver of Uig is one of my very favourite singers. This is a partial version of a beautiful song from his repertoire, which tells about the deep grief of a young man on finding his lover's shrouded body under the window.
Because My Love Loves Me
Originally composed for Muldoon's Picnic by Katy Lavinia Cooper. I've wanted to sing this for a long time, and it sits as a companion to "Sweet Lemany" in this collection. Roud 578
Co Leis an Crodh Druim-fhionn Ud Thall
The first of a pair of wee lullaby fragments from the singing of Rev. William Matheson of North Uist on the subject of cattle. The baby is shown all the cows that belong "to me, my love, and to you, my darling.".
I learned this one from the peerless singing of Peter Bellamy. It's a strange and very sad wee song... I imagine it peering in through the window of the "Maid in Bedlam" family, too sad to be allowed inside. Roud 193
Fair Annie of Lochroyan
This powerful version of "Lord Gregory" comes from the singing of Isla St Clair, another of my favourite voices. Annie's agency and determination are a departure from the usual damp and powerless girl we see at the castle gates. We recorded this in one take, in sequence with "Lemany" Roud 49.
The tumbling melody and heartbreaking words are from Lou Killen's singing, but the story is an old one. The tale appears in Boccaccio's Decameron and has inspired the likes of Keats. Roud 18
On the perennial but pertinent subject of the persistent man. This is an American tune in the "Silver Dagger" song family. Suzannah Park learned it from her granny and was kind enough to share it with the world. Roud 22621
Thug an Geamhradh Leis an Crodh
We return to Rev. Matheson's cows, but now the babe is told the sad news that the winter has taken the herd.
Burd Ellen is a collaborative project featuring Debbie Armour (Alasdair Roberts, Green Ribbons) and Gayle Brogan (Pefkin,
Barrett’s Dottled Beauty). The group uses traditional song to explore and evoke dark landscapes and deep stories. Innovative instrumentation, drone and sound-wash support detailed vocal work to create a unique sonic atmosphere....more
Love the complexity of this track and the rising and falling of the violins, and the texture. Makes me want to dance.
Thank you so much for this album. I really love it, and find it really inspiring my own work on the Witchcraft Trials ❤️ tararosehip