We’re huge fans of Burd Ellen, here on Tradfolk, so it’s always a pleasure to air their latest creations (and to natter to singer/instrumentalist, Debbie Armour, on The Old Songs Podcast). Taken from their most recent album (A Tarot of the Green Wood), a brand new video for ‘The Lovers’ is their very own Valentine’s Day gift to us all.
“The film continues our collaborative relationship with Scottish visual artist Kieran Milne”, explains Debbie Armour. “It is an excerpt from a longer audio/visual joint work entitled Neither Witch Nor Will Warlock, which was commissioned for the WITCH // HAG film festival in 2022.”
You can watch the video at the top of this page.
The song is a new setting of a translated Danish narrative ballad that concerns the hunting of a deer, “among other things.” We asked Debbie to expand on that a little further…
About ‘The Lovers’
How did you come across ‘The Lovers’?
Debbie Armour: ‘The Lovers’ is actually a version of the ‘Maiden Hind’ or ‘Bonny Hind’ song family [Roud 205]. This text in particular is from a great book called Four and Forty, which is a collection of Danish narrative ballads translated into Scots by a man called Alexander Gray. It was published by Edinburgh University Press in the 1930s or 40s. I think. I set it to a slightly mangled version of the tune to ‘Lizzie Wan’ [Roud 234], a ballad which concerns itself with similar themes.
What does the song mean to you?
DA: I’m morbidly obsessed with incest ballads, so I was hugely excited to find yet another, especially one that also has some magical transformation. It is such fun to perform. The refrain serves to really drive home the rising panic as everything goes wrong for Peter.
How did you make the song your own?
DA: We took quite an experimental approach to this one, really focusing on background sounds and atmospherics as opposed to a more usual musical accompaniment. The heron you hear is a real one – a grey heron recorded in Poland – and the rain is all the way from Australia!
Burd Ellen on tour
The duo, consisting of Debbie and her musical partner, Gayle Brogan, is on tour throughout March. They will be joined by a varied and impressive array of artists, including folk royalty Emily Portman, Welsh language innovators Tristwch Y Fenywod, Scottish composer Rylan Gleave and mysterious London “slacker folk” duo, Milkweed.
For a full list of tour dates, head to the Tradfolk events calendar.
Read our review of A Tarot of the Green Wood. Find out more about Burd Ellen at burdellen.com.