Published Mar 18, 2009Taking their love of song suites (The Tain, "Medley" from The Crane Wife) to the next level, Colin Meloy and his merry minstrels have crafted an album-length narrative full of forest queens, shape-changing creatures and star-crossed lovers. Touchstones from the darker heart of the '60s and '70s folk revival are consulted then given a muscular overhaul via Chris Funk's unchained riffing. Initially conceived as a stage play, the music features a few key themes that repeat with variations, often utilising harpsichord and other period touches to balance the rock stomp. Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark lends vocals as the unlucky Margaret, who finds herself taken captive after snuggling with a seemingly helpless wounded faun. Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) goes all Sandy Denny as the Forest Queen, who is jealous of her shape changer's infidelity. The mythic elements are just a clever way for Meloy to write about the age-old hazards of lust, betrayal and crimes of passion without having to resort to singing about "Jessie's Girl," or some such thing. Realizing that helps keep things from getting too Dungeons & Dragons, and then the dead baby chorus is just, well, maybe icing on the cake isn't exactly the best term.
In interview, you've called this a folk opera but at times, the music is very heavy. Was Led Zeppelin in your mind at all?
Meloy: I think Zeppelin is the famous marrying of those two worlds, but I think there's a real kinship between folk music and metal. The classic '70s metal scene was happening parallel to the folk revival. I think both of them were about ambitious narratives and taking you out of your world. A review that I read of our album recently said we had traded Black Sabbath for the Smiths, but it was still music to get stuffed into a locker. That's probably a good pull quote for this record.
You borrowed the title from one of her EPs but was there ever any thought of trying to coax Anne Briggs out of retirement for an appearance on the album?
From everything that I've read I know that she's done with being a singer in any sort of public sphere. People who take pilgrimages to their favourite artists and coax them into a newfound career, I don't think I could do that. I tend to respect people's privacy, as a recluse myself. (Capitol)