Hamish Henderson developed this song from an anonymous German poem titled ‘Streilied zwischen Leben und Tod’ (battle song between life and death) that he found just before World War II began.
Good and bad have been part of human understanding since early civilisations and giving ourselves two polarised perspectives can bring detail, articulation and understanding to the surface (socratic dialogue in 4BC). Of course, we’re also seeing the misuse of polarised perspectives just now: they can also be divisive and destructive. There’s more than good and bad to the story of us, and our experiences of life through to death.
Hope is powerful.
I owe a debt to two wonderful musicians and teachers for this song: Alison McMorland and Andy Hunter. Alison’s singing of The Flytin o Life an Daith has been my definitive version and my melody has grown from hers. Andy’s lessons in Scots history and the gravitas of his singing with sweeping pipe-influenced phrasing are also a part of this song for me.
Our word flyting is a relative of the Old Norse for provocation: flyta, and while we’re at it duddies is thought to be an ancestor of dude. So there ye go.
I’m joined on this track by two dudes: Duncan Lyall on Wurlitzer and Steve Byrnes on guitar.
Song by Hamish Henderson
Arranged by Lori Watson and Duncan Lyall
Vocal and fiddle by Lori Watson
Wurlitzer by Duncan Lyall
Guitar by Steve Byrnes
Recorded and mixed by Duncan Lyall at Red Deer
Mastered by Iain Hutchison at Glo Worm Studios
Leaf by Jennifer Austin
Dark and brooding, windswept, contoured, joyful, turbulent, sparse: Yarrow is an evolving collection of traditional and original songs and new music by Lori Watson.
Yarrow is an exploration of human connections to nature and one another, through time, inspired by the Yarrow valley in the Scottish Borders. The project centres on the development of a contemporary album that carries these themes beyond conventional folk sounds, and as part of the exploration a series of acoustic singles will be released (Yarrow Acoustic Sessions).
“With Yarrow taking place over a couple of years, I can give more time and space to allowing the music to develop towards the final album and share the experience as we go in the monthly acoustic singles: so yeah there’s an element of risk in that I don’t quite know what’s going to evolve.”
“I’m interested in unfinished works and fragments, whether traditional or original. They’ve always been inspiring starting points for me. In Yarrow I’m creating and interpreting fragments; crafting something that expresses the connections between us and our environment spanning hundreds of years: and then it’s filtered by what inspires and resonates with me right now.”
Scots Singer of the Year, Lori Watson is a fiddle player, singer and composer. She has drawn on the rich tradition of the Scottish Borders throughout her artistic life, including experimental works and a PhD thesis and creative folio exploring innovation and contemporary traditional music practice.
A folk musician with considerable pedigree, Lori is touring and recording with Boreas, Iain Morrison and a range of other solo and collaborative projects, and has six albums in circulation, including two critically acclaimed albums with her trio Rule of Three. But this is Lori’s first significant song work and she aims to let us in on the process as well as the finished products.