A kind of awe accompanied the release of Frankie Archer’s first single. ‘Over the Border‘ announced a new solo artist who had managed to intertwine the ancient and modern to enthralling effect. Mark Radcliffe called it “fascinating and intoxicating”; we praised her originality in taking traditional music, “somewhere that is entirely her own.” Many people wondered how she might follow it up.
Well, the wait is almost over. Archer has announced her second single, ‘Close the Coalhouse Door’, which will be released online on July 15th. The song may not be traditional (it was written by Alex Glasgow), but in much the same way as a tradfolk fan might get caught up in the original songs of Ewan MacColl, there’s a lot here to love. Lyrically, it’s chilling (if the last verse doesn’t send spectral shivers up your spine, you may need to check you’ve still got a pulse). And, what with the popularity of the BBC’s Sherwood at the moment – closing, as it always does, with dusty mining songs – there’s a sense of very good timing about this one.
The only sounds you’ll hear on Archer’s version of ‘Close the Coalhouse Door’ are those of a shovel through coal (just to set the scene), and then the singer’s multi-layered, thrillingly discordant vocals. It has the same Laurie Anderson minimalism that made ‘Over the Border’ so attractive, this time without the fiddle. The song is left naked – every syllable delivered in her stark, Northumbrian accent; vast, pregnant pauses between verses, giving the listener time to reflect on what they’ve already heard. Archer’s vocal ornamentation and inflections root her firmly in traditional music and, once again, it’s a joy to hear how she uses that as the seed from which to grow something in her own, unique style.
Of ‘Close the Coalhouse Door’, Archer says, “My version of the song focuses on the horror and pain which is experienced due to coal mining. I want it to move people, I want it to shock people, because although the UK’s mining industry has changed dramatically since the song was written in the 1960s, suffering of humans and the environment in the pursuit of fossil fuels is happening today around the world.”
Once again, we’re left wondering what else Frankie Archer might do. Is it too soon to petition for an album? Answers in the comments below.
For more on the release of ‘Close the Coalhouse Door’, keep an eye on Frankie Archer’s Instagram page, her website, and her Bandcamp page. The song is released on July 15th.