Click on the album cover above to go to CD Baby where you can buy download or hard copy of "Haunting".
You can hear sample tracks from the album on my Facebook page. Click on the image above to go to "My Band" select the track you'd like to hear.
"Tam Glen" (from CD1, track 3) is mirrored by "Divining for Love" (from CD2, track 3) and "Thig am Bàta" (from CD1, track 13) is mirrored by "The Boat Will Come" (CD2, track 13), and there's an excerpt from the epic "Annie of Lochroyan" to listen to there, too.
Pulling together the threads of Haunting, I was struggling with the problem of how to present a meaningful idea of how the songs are one element of the oral tradition which is deeply embedded with other aspects - stories, beliefs, superstitions, anecdotes and experience.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that there was a need to record voices speaking alongside the songs, but not interpersed between them and the simplest way to do this is a double CD.
The result is one CD with the songs performed vocally by me with Alpin Stewart, and instrumentally by Martin MacDonald, Jo Baird, and Graeme Walker; and a second CD of spoken word from me, Iain M Campbell and Andrew Mackintosh in parallel with the songs and their themes. In it, I give stories behind or related to the songs, Iain gives his own personal responses to the songs fuelled by his breadth of cultural knowledge and Andrew performs traditional folktales tied in to the themes of the corresponding songs.
In contrast to many recordings, the songs on Haunting were recorded first and all the arrangements made to fit with them - not an easy task for Jo and Martin! When we came to mix the tracks, Terry's inspired skill and deft workmanship creatively crafted the instrumental tracks recorded for the songs in such a way as to support and enhance the spoken tracks.
Customer review of "Haunting" from musicScotland.com:
"On a recent trip in my car, I played the spoken word for my son. He was very interested in sharing this with his young daughters. I love all things Celtic, and hope our grand children will too. Christina Stewart's album is very beautiful, and truly haunting!"
Each track on CD 1 is a song, with a corresponding spoken track on CD 2 connected with the themes in the song.
Blow, ye Winds, Blow - a cautionary tale of the dangers that lie in wait if you don't follow parental guidelines. A young girl goes for a walk outside the limits set by her parents and meets the Devil himself. He will carry her off unless she performs an impossible task for him. She outwits him by telling him she'll do that for him, but that it is only fair then if he does a similar task for her. Once he does his, she says, he can come back and she'll do hers. Andrew's story The King's 3 Questions is another version of how to outwit the one with the power and gain your freedom, similarly celebrating the notion you can get the better of anyone if you are smarter than they are.
Nighean nan Geug - translated as Girl of the Sticks, referring to the sticks she uses to mind the livestock. The voice singing is that of the girl's dead mother comforting her while her new step-mother mistreats the children behind their father's back. In this and the Guardian Ghost story, you can see that the ghosts of Highland tradition are not all to be feared.
Tam Glen - Robert Burns' tale of young infatuation involves a girl looking for supernatural confirmation that Tam Glen is the man she is destined to marry, and not the Laird her parents see as a preferable match. Iain expands on the references to the ways she is looking for this confirmation, including Hallowe'en divination.
Da Laimh 's a Phiob - a song which is also a pipe tune in which the singer bemoans that he needs two hands to play bagpipes and doesn't then have a hand free for his sword in the event he may need to defend himself.
Binnorie - I learned this from Janice Clark while she was leading A' Seinn Quines women's singing group. It was a terrific experience learning from her and singing with the other women. This song has various versions and names, notably Old Blind Dog's 'The Cruel Sister' and Ewan MacColl's 'Minorie'. You can find it in Wikipedia under 'The Twa Sisters'.
Oran na Maighdainn Mhara - Ishbel MacAskill, the mesmerising Lewis singer, taught me this sad song sung by a mermaid who is returning to the world of unsurpassed beauty under the sea, because her land-living husband has betrayed her. It's especially sad because she is leaving her children behind. Andrew's story The Sisters of Loch Duich involves the selkies which appear much more commonly in Scottish folklore than what would be recognised as mermaids across Europe. Unusually here, though, some of the characters actually end up happy!
Lord Lovat - There have been 16 Lords Lovat so far, since the title was created in in the 1400s and it's hard to know which one is remembered in this song. Could Lady Nancy Bell be Isabella Wemyss? Two Lords Lovat married ladies of that name and both enjoyed quite a bit of time together - one having several children during their marriage and the other being married for over 20 years before she passed away. The prophetic dream which brings Lord Lovat home just too late is the pivotal point in the song and a very common and strongly held conviction of people's belief about spirits and death even today as Iain explains.
Oran Leannain Sidhe - translated as Song of the Fairy Lover, this version is based on the singing of Mrs Annie Arnott in Kilmuir on Skye recorded by Calum MacLean in 1954 and lodged in the archives of the School of Scottish Studies. It has an interesting combination of vocables both in lines interspersed between verse lines and as a two-line refrain.
The Grey Selkie - again, a version based on one lodged at the School of Scottish Studies, this time recorded in Orkney in 1970 from the singing of James Henderson and one of at least three distinct melodies in the archive, none of which bears any significant resemblance to the one popularised by Joan Baez. There is a full discussion of the ballad by the late Dr Alan Bruford in Scottish Studies 18, reprinted in Ballad Studies, edited by Dr Emily Lyle. Iain's comments on Selkies and Grey Seals put the notion of an un-noticed visit by a grey seal transformed into a man into context.
Fine Flowers in the Valley - a tragic tale of infanticide, which, for me, represents the loss of grasp on reality which can follow an horrendous trauma such as being forced to kill your own baby, albeit the illegitimate child from a seduction or rape. At one time in Scotland it was a capital crime to conceal a pregnancy and having a baby outside marriage could destroy a woman's life. Familial murders, though, are the kind of events preserved in songs and stories, evidenced by Andrew's tale of The Wraith of Rait.
Bonn Beinn Eadarra - also known as The Headless Corpse is a song associated with Skye, though the tale which is attached to it has versions based in different parts of Scotland. There is a discussion of the song and the story in 'The Gaelic Otherworld: John Gregorson Campbell's Superstitions Of The Highlands And Islands Of Scotland And Witchcraft & Second Sight In The Highlands & Islands' by Ronald Black, published by Birlinn. Variations of the song are known on Skye and elsewhere.
True Thomas - a ballad from the Scottish borders (hence Huntly bank and the Eildon tree, connected with strange goings-on in folklore) which sets the background story for Thomas the Rhymer. After his visit to fairyland, Thomas returns unable to lie and tells the future, even when it is not in his or anyone else's interest. What seems to some a blessing can turn out to be a curse. Ian re-imagines Thomas the Dreamer, giving his own inimitable take on the legend.
Thig am Bata - I first learned this song as a waulking song and it has other melodies, too. This melody is given in Eilean Fraoch and is also used in the choral 'Ossianic Procession'.
Annie of Lochroyan - make sure you are sitting comfortably before you play this one - it's nothing if not long! There are 20 verses of derring-do and intrigue in persuit Lord Gregory whose mother has ensnared him by witchcraft. Annie succeeds in breaking the spell on Gregory's prison by taking the turn out of it - going round it three times, as perfectly sensible people still do, to undo bad luck, or for fun in a circle of toadstools. A version of this ballad was included in Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders and there is a version in Herd's collection dating back to 1776. Andrew gives another example of a Scottish witch in the story of The Witch of Laggan.