January 31, 2010 § 3 Comments
If I never make it home I’d settle for a house with Catskill Farms.
January 27, 2010 § 4 Comments
I’m a total sucker for Joanna Newsom.
A lyrical wordsmith with a voice, despised by so many, that gives goosebumps of the good kind. She is notorious for her meticulous compositions and conspicuous virtuosity, instrumental, lyrical and conceptual. She sings intricate narratives of longing and loss.
I saw her live a couple of years ago and she played her harp until her fingers, literally, bled. She held them up at the end and apologised if her playing had faltered.
Her third album, the follow-up to 2006′s acclaimed orchestral opus Ys is now unveiled as a triple LP. Have One On Me will be released internationally on 23 February.
Here’s ’81, a preview of her new work…
January 26, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Crofter’s Kitchen, Evening
A man’s boots with a woman in them
Clatter across the floor. A hand
Long careless of the lives it kills
Comes down and thwacks on newspapers
A long black fish with bloody gills.
The kettle’s at her singsong – minor
Prophetess in her sooty cave.
A kitten climbs the bundled net
On the bench, and, curled up like a cowpat,
Purrs on the Stornoway Gazette.
The six hooks of a Mackerel Dandy
Climb their thin rope – an exclamation
By the curled question of a gaff.
Three rubber eels cling like a crayfish
On top of an old photograph.
Peats fur themselves in gray. The door
Bursts open, chairs creak, hands reach out
For spectacles, a lamp flairs high…
The collie underneath the table
Slumps wit a world-rejecting sigh.
I’ve started another blogging project as a sister site to The Croft mainly to indulge my love of food and share recipes with those that like a bit of good honest grub.
You’ll find the new site at The Crofter’s Kitchen.
While there are no rules governing the recipes found there, it is unlikely that you’ll find anything too exotic or ingredients too far from your door.
This isn’t a place for fancy saucer-y or delicately stacked restaurant food. Just good honest fare.
There’s only three recipes up at the moment and at some point I’ll open up proceedings to allow others to post their own their own. Meantime I’ll continue to post ‘em as I cook ‘em and encourage others to post their own versions or tips in the comments threads over there and I’ll re-blog the best of them.
I know there are a few foodies out there so hopefully it will prove a decent read.
January 25, 2010 § 5 Comments
Been thinking today about the number of Gaelic words spoken to me as a kid. Although not raised in a Gaelic speaking house my Mum always seemed to have a number of choice Gaelic words up her sleeve, undoubtedly gleaned from my Granny who had far more being a fluent speaker. Somehow they’ve stuck and nowadays I often find myself uttering the self same words to the missus and the cats…
Mach a seo! – Get out of here!
A’ghraidh – My love
Seo ma tha! – There you go!
Ochan! – Oh / oh dear!
M’ulaidh beag. – My little treasure
Ceàird – Tinker
Uist bidh sàmhach! – Shush, be quiet!
Bùrach – A mess, often in reference to my bedroom.
As you can see my childhood was a heady mix of love and oppression.
(Excuse any mistranslation / spelling)
January 25, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Lamb, Tong Barn, Isle of Lewis, April 2009.
Not quite sure why but, even though still a couple of months away, this year’s lambing season is on my mind.
The weather is usually lousy, the hours are usually long and, being the newbie, I always end up pulling the graveyard shift. Not the ideal or average holiday but I can’t wait as despite days spent shovelling s.h.1.t it’s literally a breath of fresh air.
I twittered pretty heavily last year while helping out at the barn but due to work commitments I wasn’t involved as long as I’d have liked. This year I’ll be over for longer and plan to get a few HD video blogs under my belt.
Poop, placenta and plucky wee lambs, all in glorious technicolour.
To get you in the mood here’s the only lambing vid I can find on EweTube, narrated, apparently, by the computer from Star Trek.
January 25, 2010 § 1 Comment
One of my favourite blogs is Caught By The River, a life as fishing as art sort of affair.
This week I’d encourage you to pop over and sign up to their mailing list as, after five fantastic river themed music compilations, they have decided to take a break from the water and go in search of ‘birdsongs’. That’s songs that are either by, about or influenced by birds.
A download link to the first in the series, which has been selected by Martin Noble of British Sea Power, will be sent to all members / subscribers on Wednesday 27th January.
In addition to this, each download will come with a sleeve designed by artist Matt Sewell. For each comp Matt will paint a different species of bird to grace the cover. That’s the first one you can see at the top of this post.
To get you in the spirit of things you can listen to a demo of that Hebridean hooligan of the skies, “The Great Skua” a bird which, when it isn’t harrassing gannets to the point of puking, is dive bombing towrists who wander unawares near their nests.
Vicious buggers and well deserved of all the heavy guitars thrown in their direction here.
January 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Emily Portman is a singer, writer and concertina player with a BBC folk award nomination for her work with harmony trio The Devil’s Interval.
Less well known are her original compositions: these visceral visions of a darker Albion conjure landscapes where mythical sirens collide in urban backstreets. Inspired by folktales and ballads, Emily weaves harmony-rich narratives relaying female experience, accompanied by viola player Lucy Farrell (fresh from touring with The Unthanks) and harpist Rachel Newton of BBC folk Award Nominees The Shee. BBC Radio 3’s ‘Late Junction’, and ‘Words & Music’ have already caught wind of Emily’s new songs, airing her compositions even before their official release.
Emily is currently performing to sell-out crowds in the North East and her debut album ‘The Glamoury’ will be released Spring 2010.
You can here a number of her songs via her MySpace page.
January 24, 2010 § 2 Comments
Caught a truly great performance at the Celtic Festival on Friday night…
Alasdair Roberts is a Scottish folk musician. He released a number of albums under the name Appendix Out, and following the 2001 album The Night is Advancing, under his own name.
Roberts was born in Swabia, Germany, the son of former folk guitarist (and partner of Dougie MacLean), Alan Roberts and his German wife Annegret, though he was raised in Kilmahog, a hamlet close to the small town of Callander, near Stirling in central Scotland where he started playing the guitar and writing music. In 1994 he formed ‘Appendix Out’ with school friends Dave Elcock and Kenny McBride and started playing small venues. Roberts was also a classmate of Ladytron’s Helen Marnie.
While attending a Will Oldham concert in 1995, he offered a demo tape to the American singer, and a contract with US label Drag City soon followed. The band’s first release was a double A-side single, “Pissed With You/Ice Age”, and the band released its first album around a year later. After three albums with the ever-changing Appendix Out, Roberts recorded his first solo album, The Crook Of My Arm. This album consisted almost entirely of solo vocals and guitar in marked contrast to the increasingly experimental sound of the Appendix Out records. He has also collaborated with friends and label-mates Will Oldham and Jason Molina, both playing on their albums and on the one-off album, Amalgamated Sons Of Rest. He also played hurdy-gurdy on the soundtrack of the 2003 film Young Adam. This was later released under the title Lead Us Not Into Temptation by David Byrne. His new(ish) album Spoils is out now.
Roberts is noted for both his own compositions and recitations of traditional songs, including on his album of traditional death ballads, No Earthly Man and in 2006 featured in the BBC documentary Folk Britannia. He now lives in Glasgow.
January 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
Talented Tolsta A Chaolais tcheuchter, Iain Morrison has released his third solo studio album. After Empty Beer Bottles and Peat Fire Smoke and Skimming Stones he delivers Trust The Sea To Guide Me a new long player made with a little funding help from the Scottish Arts council.
Not to any detriment, there are no major departures from Iain’s previous beatific melancholies here and, as with previous releases, simple threads are woven between the past and present, drawing together diverse influences from his land, seas and people.
Sitting alongside the excellent new compositions, A Lewis Summer from his stalled Weather Journals sessions with local bard Daibhaidh Martin makes a welcome (re)appearance, 7th Floor’s lyrics and drive echoes those found on the Broken Off Car Door track by his former band Crash My Model Car and as ever we are treated to a good dose of, often untraditional, instrumentals as re-imaginings of old arrangements are given new edge witnessed in the spoken word splendor of a hushed Omu Prins Lament and An Ann Air Mhire Tha Sibhe as well as original works like Roddy MacIsaac.
Instrumentally throughout, acoustic guitars are backed by long drawn cello strings, pipes (great and small) and piano, traditional bouzoukis, well suited flutes, tip-tapped snared skins, harmonium and solid harmonies. His father, Pipe Major Iain M. Morrison also makes an appearance on canntaireachd or chanter.
It’s another great album, both winsome and uplifting, heart-rending and shot through with happiness. While his work is thoroughly evocative at times, the music remains more than strong enough to stand on it’s own off-island.
“I just kept swimming in this old wooden boat and although the lightening was cracking all around me, I didn’t feel scared”
January 22, 2010 § 5 Comments
While your humble scribe turned a great deal older yesterday, today The Croft blog turned 3.
Started on January 22nd 2007 The Croft set out to make some sense of an unerring pull “home”, investigate the possibilities of making such a move and to learn more about my island’s culture and place in the 21st century.
It’s been a trip so far. Since that first post I’ve delivered dozens of lambs, discovered bards and bands, writers and rogues, unearthed history, witnessed the progress of crofting law, the resurgance of Harris Tweed, met a lot of nice people, worked with Harris Tweed Hebrides, rattled a few virtual cages, seen controversies rise and fall, stumbled and picked myself up again, appeared in the island press (oh the fame!) and even today made plans with the people behind the first whisky to come out of the Isle of Lewis in over a century.
Thanks to credit crunches, recessions and lack of job opportunities I’m still in many ways no closer to my goal than I was at the start of 2007. But in so many other ways I’m closer than I’ve ever been.
The blog may not be the sharpest or most prolific and if I lived on Lewis I’m sure the posts would be far more substantial, but I’m happy with the figures in the ol’ stats. Seems I’m not alone with this passion, I’m not the only one with a love of that Eilean Beag Donn A’ Chuain and it’s because of that I, and the island, will always have a future.
Thanks for dropping by