Numerous traditional songs depict instances of change between realms or personas, brimming with unique enchantment and potential. The third record from musician and writer Kerry Andrew, under the name You Are Wolf, is a cheerful homage to these transformative encounters, influenced by their recent struggle with chronic illness and exploration of their non-binary self.
Andrew’s dedication to experimentation is evident in the potential conveyed through his accessible and aesthetically pleasing arrangements. The opening track, Reynardine, a well-known ballad about a woman enchanted by a werefox, showcases Andrew’s smooth vocals accompanied by simple string plucking, creating a charming radio-friendly sound. However, as the lyrics slow and distortion seeps in, the listener is taken by surprise. It becomes clear that a trick has been played, with the track initially lulling the listener before revealing something more unexpected.
The album’s theme is established by the track Hare Song 1, which features lyrics such as “you will find me at the edge of breath / You will find me at the heart of fire, shaking off death.” The traditional Twa Magicians, set to a lively prepared piano loop and exploring themes of coercion and consent, has been reimagined to depict two women swapping roles and identities. They transform from a griddle and cake to a moorland and its heather.
There are many excellent examples, such as the 1969 recording by the Irish Traditional Music Archive of six young girls singing a haunting playground rhyme, and the sound of birds on “The Trees in the Wood,” a duet with Ben See that explores the concept of life within nature. With additional vocals from Sam Lee and lyrics from Robert Macfarlane (along with a drone from Andrew’s radiator on “Blue Men”), this album is full of potential for crossover appeal and a dynamic energy.
This month, other things are also available.
The 1978 recording released by a private press has been reissued with accompanying writings, drawings, and dedications from the artist’s friends. Dorothy Carter’s Waillee Waillee (Palto Flats) is a remarkable reissue that blends original and traditional songs, brought to life by the haunting sounds of zithers and psalteries. Another stunning display of instrumental beauty is Talende Strenger/Kertovat Kielet (Taragot Sounds), a Norwegian/Finnish collaboration between Ragnhild Knudsen and Pauliina Syrjälä. Syrjälä’s kantele, a Baltic box zither, weaves beautifully with Knudsen’s bowed Hardanger fiddle, creating a festive and unique sound. For more seasonal delights, check out Wesselbobs by Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones, a collection of winter songs from West Yorkshire named after a decorated evergreen carried by local wassailers. The duo delivers broadside ballads, local poems, and dances with the warmth of mulled wine.