Sixmilecross is the new album by Tailor and the Crow. It is available now here: https://tailorandthecrow.bandcamp.com as a digital download and a limited edition cassette.
I am going to explain a little about the album and what the songs are about. None of this information is important to you understanding or enjoying the album but some of you may be interested so here it is.
It began when my late grandmother gave me a book of poetry by W. F. Marshall “the bard of Tyrone” and I was taken with his use of dialect and sense of place. The book was called ‘Ballads and Verses from Tyrone’ and I originally thought it was a book of songs. I went to visit Sixmilecross, where Marshall is from and a number of places in the surrounding area that featured in his poems. I spoke to people about him and asked them to “translate” some of the more unusual phrases and placenames. There was a poem in the book called Purple and Gold about an immigrant dreaming of his homeland that I wrote some music for and starting playing as a band and that led me to write a series of songs about homesickness and the diasporic experience.
“… the Motherland that bred me
Fairer to my eyes has grown,
As the longsome years have led me
Far and farther from Tyrone.”
That song and a few others never made it onto the final album, but these are the ones that did.
Heimat is a German word that denotes a relationship between a person and the place they come from. This song plays with the idea that your homeland may miss you as much as you miss it.
2. A Parting
This is the only song that uses one of Marshall’s poems directly. The poem is a slightly bitter and wistful look at youth. We have used it to highlight the idea of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone.
3. No Man Knows or Cares
This songs takes its title from an excellent RTE Radio documentary about the 1970s emigration of Irish to England; lyrically the song compares the Irish countryside with urban England.
4. Bernish Tape
The first of three songs on the album about Bernish Glen. Bernish Glen is a small glen near Sixmilecross that is actually quite difficult to get to now but was a shortcut between townlands in the past. Marshall has a poem about it where he describes the animals and plants in the glen. He then begins to talk about the rumours and stories about the place and ends with an admission of its eeriness, which I certainly felt when I visited.
“… Alone up there,
Perhaps you might
Just change you mind
Like many men
And look behind …”
5. Bernish Glen
Bernish Tape set the scene with field recordings from Bernish Glen itself and then this song introduces the human element mirroring the structure of the poem.
Finally this song reflects the sinister final verse of the poem with the glen taking its revenge on its visitor.
7. Red Petticoats
This song is based on a translation of the lyrics to Siúil a Rún which tells of a woman lamenting the loss of her partner who has left her to fight abroad.
8. Good Roaring Fire
This is a song from Tyrone that I know very little about. The only recording I know of is by Willie Brady and is a long way from our version but he introduces it by saying it was written by Johnny Patterson. I learned it from ‘Ulster Songs and Ballads’ collected by H. Richard Hayward and it has a Roud number 6301. We are using it to portray the immigrant’s idyllic, romanticised vision of his homeland.
This is one song I don’t want to explain because the enigmatic nature of the lyrics are vital to the feel of the song. W F Marshall mentions The Remackin in a few of his poems.
This song is based on the traditional Welsh song of the same name about the feeling of longing for your homeland.
Ian and I recorded the album in a relatively short time in a friends garden shed (which used to be a polling booth) tying the immigration theme with a bit of politics. I spent a disproportionate amount of time mixing it and getting it sounding great on cassette.