Mojo (UK)

SUN SPOTS

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A sun salutation, that moves from unadorned acoustic simplicity to country rock awakening. According to Martin Carthy, this was conceived by Mike Waterson during his day job as a house painter. A fellow worker asked Waterson how he wrote songs, just as the sun was breaking. Waterson replied: “It’s like today, bright Phoebus smiled and called my name for the first time.” Struck by the muse, he legged it home to write the song down before he forgot. Returning, he was docked an hour off his wages. Sung by Mike, this deeply sinister account of fertility rituals down the ages (from scarecrow to hanged man to child sacrifice) was conceived collaborat­ively by Mike and Lal, but the eerie arrangemen­t was all Mike’s. “He decided it had to be a circular song,” says Martin Carthy, “so he’d sing the song, then start the first verse again. He had to have three perfect verses, before he got to the last verse. He’d get so angry with himself, I don’t know how many times he sang the song before he got it right.” Inspired by the name of an imaginary friend belonging to Mike’s daughter Sarah, Lal’s tragicomic tale of a luckless woman passed over by good fortune was a song born of collaborat­ion. “[Scottish folk singer] Archie Fisher gave her this crucial line,” says Martin Carthy. “Lal had ‘Waiting for God/She bent down to pick up a glittering thing/And was knocked over by a car.’ and Archie heard it he burst out laughing and said, ‘It was her lucky star!’ So that’s where that came from.” Lal’s first song set to music was inspired, says Marry Waterson, “by the fact that my dad was making Isle Of Lewis chess sets [right]. Mum and Chris Collins based some stories around the powerful pieces on the board.” One of the earliest lines, “Don’t come as a mighty warrior with his kingdom to command”, led to the Black Horse demo which is on Teach Me To Be A Summer’s Morning (Topic, 2013) and became the seeds of Fine Horseman, a song first recorded by Anne Briggs on 1971’s The Time Has Come, before appearing on Bright Phoebus.

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