• Casa la Vigna

    I have just finished recording and writing with Ian King in Italy. It's hard to describe the beauty of the place he lives in. It's perched on the side of mountain covered in olive groves overlooking Pisa. The odd time we'd stand on his deck and pretend to be able to see the leaning tower. He has lizards, geckos [distinguishable by their propensity to scare the bejesus out of you every time you open an external door], massively carniverous daddy-long-legs, scorpions [unfortunately I didn't encounter one which was very disappointing] and snakes. There was of course the issue of the lethal flies that like my pale interesting flesh and I had to rediscover the wonder of the antihistamine.
    Ian's beloved Barnsley F.C towel with the local church in the background - coincidence? Below is the first night of homesickness where we consoled ourselves with a nice glass of wine and some pasta at the nearby Collective. Ian shows his pigeon Italian off to the locals who genuinely believe that he is an actual pigeon.
    That would be the fauna covered. Ian pointed out where the wild boar dig up the roads, gardens and pretty much everywhere else on long walks up the hills. We spotted the frst fireflies on the way home from the local Trattoria and spent a bit of time googling butterflies and discussing the various flowers festooned all over this beautiful place.
    I think that we would have finished the entire album if we'd had 2 more days and hadn't been recording in wildly different ways. He's very methodical and clear in the way he organises his ideas. I'm the complete opposite. It took us three days to record the first song and then they just tumbled out. First off we are putting 4 original pieces at least on the album, which will be called Newbliss after the place we started this project. I don't really want to go into too much detail about the other arrangements and songs yet.

    The original concept of the album was to link songs that meant a lot to us from our respective traditions. Initially this was supposed to be the old "lets see how we link Flamenco to Appalacian clog dancing" technique. However Ian produced an arrangement of Cruel Mother, which comes in various guises and links The Brothers Grimm to Scottish and English folklore. The basic idea was that a woman kills her two children and then sings to them. It's much darker and deeper than that but it has a reference to a long knife in it which niggled away at me for a full day until I remembered where I had heard something similar. There's a very well known Irish folk song called "The River Saile [salach being the Irish word for dirty, probably the Poddle river in Dublin]" that tells of a woman who kills her child with a knife "long and sharp" - made famous by The Dubliners. We did a bit of research and found that it referred to James Francis Childs' Murder Ballads. It was a sort of eureka moment. Here was the link that we needed. That single line linked a song that we had picked arbitrarily, to both traditions. It mightn't seem much but I always view occourances like this as serendipitous and they usually auger well for further links.
    So we picked 5 songs to work on and record and in the main we achieved what we set out to do. It's going to take a bit of time to get the recordings sorted out as there is a lot of travel involved over the next couple of months for both of us but we're aiming for the end of August as a realistic goal for us both.

    Other than that there isn't much to say. What a beautiful place! The Italians are a friendly and very funny bunch and if you squint and look directly into the sun you can just see the blob that is the tower. Actually no, now that he's thinking about it it's probably that blob over there...