^ Click to hear excerpts from all the tracks
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Extended Notes for Lost and Haunted Ways
I began a love affair in 2006, with and within the Isle of Great Britain, and its culture, its places old and new, and its people, with one person in particular whose love for visiting the States was nearly as ardent as my love for her homeland, which is also my ancestral homeland. Six of those years contained visits to and fro. Another six followed, where the experiences mellowed and married and began to live on as music.
Although I first visited England and Scotland in a previous century, as a directing intern at London’s Young Vic theatre, this romance can be traced back to my earliest days, indeed, to my mitochondrial DNA.
But the coals set alight by my grandmother’s tales of illustrious ancestors with names like Percy and Plantagenet were further fanned by the pens of Shakespeare, Dickens, Austin, Stevenson, Jane Porter, Harold Pinter, A. C. Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse, and a mother that found great escape in the BBC dramas imported through PBS, as well as J.R.R. Tolkien, whose fanciful Hobbits of Middle-earth so accurately depict the gentry, townsfolk, and husbandmen of the English Midlands.
In some ways, as I wander the outside world, I shall always walk there, upon the grass among the daisies and woodlands of that fair realm.
1. Riding Off to Boston (2:51) A fella heads up the coast to see his true love after far too long. A bookend that might be as much about John returning to Abigail as any number of fellas doing much the same thing, on their way toward any number of Bostons.
2. Morning Star O’er Staffordshire (4:35) Dewy dawn nestled in the lush, rolling pastures of Eriador.
I retitled this tune, since it won’t be played through
But I’m back in that garden of English dew
Where the dawn’s early birds must still twitter and dart
Near the Midlands spot where I left my heart
Beneath a tree in Piggy Lane
From whence it has never been reclaimed
My initial concept for this piece was something that might be heard form a Victorian music box.
3. Abbots Bromley (3:29) The first entry in the big book of British villages has the requisite pub with Civil War smuggler’s tunnel, Tudor houses, a medieval market cross, and a Norman church spire standing tall above them all. It was recently voted the best place to live in England. Who knew?
I went with sort of an Anglican hymn quality for this one, or something that might have been sung at traditional civic or holiday ceremonies.
4. The Steeds of Culloden (4:45) Scotland, 1746. We meet our young hero galloping across the heath, pursued by all the King’s horse. It be left to the listener to say if he reaches the safety of his Highlands home, or falls victim to the steeds of Culloden.
On the 16th of April in 1746, a hoard of delusional Scotsmen charged like mad badgers across an open field, through freezing rain, and straight into the teeth of the mighty British army… (Read More Here)
5. The Ibex in Blackstock Road (2:47) There once lived an ibex back in the day, at a crossroads near where the Gunners play. And as spry as a lamb in May so they say.
The Highbury shopping expeditions at either end appeared years ago. The middle bit, with an actual ibex prancing its way up and down some dodgy peak, is always conjured on the spot. So don’t expect to hear the same thing in concert.
6. Claudia’s Garden (4:43) An improvised meditation on lazy bees, curious robins, and something about mothers, daughters, and granddaughters.
7. The Bicyclist (3:24) A favorite cyclist on an unexplored road.
The nudge to finally change this tune from vague concept to finished piece came when I was commissioned to compose something for the Bushwick Book Club episode featuring the book Schwinn: The Best Present Ever! by Don Rauf.
8. Cotswolds Yellow Stone Blues (3:54) Of sunlit squares and crumbling circles, tangled woods and ancient tombs. Be it economic slump, or the relics of faded glories, an ethereal melancholy settles like faerie fog upon the green hill country stretching from the Thames Valley to the Welsh Marches, perforated as it is with the ubiquitous yellow stone used to make the aging storybook towns and prehistoric barrows of pagan chiefs, as well as the mysterious stone circle left by those who came and went betwixt the two.
9. The White Lady of Tutbury
a) John O’Gaunt’s Gateway (1:51) A marshaling and marching away, until a trumpet sounds the closing of the gates.
b) Lady of the Tower (2:04) One left behind to while away the time. Forever after?
c) The Ghost’s Walk (4:25) Windswept and woebegone ruins in the dead of night, so to speak.
Likely the site of ancient military strongholds, Tutbury Castle arose in 1068, less than two years after the Norman Conquest. Some 350 years later, it became the glittering jewel and center of power for John O’Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and the historical inspiration for Tywin Lanister of Game of the Thrones fame. But it wasn’t until Tudor times that it reached its true magnificence… (Read More Here.)
10. Abbots Bromley Reprise (1:47) A brisk jaunt across the fields and footpaths of the English Midlands. British law established public rights of way, across the countryside and inner waterways, regardless of who owns the property. Landowners are expected to provide and maintain access to these footpaths, byways and bridleways, and the public are expected to respect them as both a right and a privilege, and a cherished tradition.
11. Clissold Park (3:34) Sunday unfolds in a Central London sanctuary. This tune was meant to suggest the increasing busy-ness as more and more people arrive to enjoy the lovely lawns filling with relaxing readers, frisbees and footballs, and other revitalizing opportunities for fresh air and exercise.
12. Riding Back from Boston (3:59) A fella heads down the Old Post Road, having said farewell to his true love before she sailed across the sea for the very last time. Maybe he’s still out there, on some lonely stretch of road, unnoticed by other travelers.
The Album Art
All of the photography used for the CD is the work of Lucie Robinson, who arose in the English county of Stafford, before migrating to Central London. She has a wonderful eye for texture, light, and color, be it still life or portraiture, and a bone-deep love of natural beauty. She is also responsible for nearly all the photos seen above. Although I might have taken one or two myself, I honestly do not remember.
The album’s cover photo is of the North Tower of Tutbury Castle, a feature of what would have been the Castle’s inner wall. Completed around 1460, near the end of Henry VI’s reign, the tower is said to be haunted by a “white lady.”
The photo below was taken through an archer’s balistaria in the front stairway of a larger building, which was used for stores and as a buttery during the reign of Elizabeth I, although the surviving stone structure predates that era. It looks out upon the Castle’s inner bailey and the excavated foundations of St. Peter’s Chapel, which date from 1170s.
The following photo was taken at Peveril Castle, in the Peaks District. A detail of it was also used for the CD disc art. The extended bits on the banner above is a fantasy landscape that I created in Photoshop, from this and several other photos taken nearby the castle ruins.
Peveril Castle is first recorded in the Doomsday Survey of 1086. It became a royal possession of Henry II in 1155, who visited several times, and an armed fortress during the Rebellion of 1173. In 1216 King John gave it to William de Ferrers, decedent cousin of the original owner of Tutbury Castle.
Part of the Rollright Stones, this Neolithic circle is dated to around 2,500BC – that’s 4,518 years ago! Each porous segment is made of Jurassic oolitic limestone, like just about everything else in the Cotswolds. A couple hundred yards in the background, at the end of the line of trees, are the four stones of a barrow some thousand years older, seen in the previous section of this article. Just across the road from the circle is a newer single stone, sitting atop a barrow from the later Bronze Age. And a burial ground from Saxon times isn’t far off. Tokens of self-styled Druids and witches alike are frequently found round about the area, and left unmolested by those who know what’s good for them.
Today, Lucie Robinson lives in her adopted home of Newbury, west of London. Visit her photography website at https://www.lucierobinsonphotography.co.uk/
This album was recorded entirely on Martin guitars, made in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Although several instruments were recorded for the project, the final cuts were achieved with the following guitars, in order of prevalence:
2004 OMC-28B Laurence Juber model – Brazilian rosewood/Adirondack spruce: Tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11
2017 Custom 000C-21 TSP – Guatemalan Rosewood/Adirondack Spruce: Tracks 5, 7, 8, 12
2007 Custom 000C-28M – Madagascar Rosewood/Adirondack Spruce: 2, 10