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Shirley Collins announces new album Archangel Hill & shares new song ‘High And Away’

One of the most important voices in British folk music Shirley Collins returns with Archangel Hill, her third album for Domino. Due for release on May 26, it showcases another peerless collection of songs chosen by Collins, most from traditional sources but others from favourite writers of hers.

The first song to be shared from Archangel Hill is ‘High And Away’, with words by collaborator Pip Barnes. He says of its origins: “There is a passage in Shirley’s book ‘America Over The Water’ where she relays a conversation with the Arkansas singer Almeda Riddle in 1959. It begins: “She told of the tricks a tornado can play” and goes on to give four or five examples. Whenever I heard Shirley read this, I would note that alliterative and rhythmic first line of the passage, and the vividness of the images of a tornado’s doings, and say to myself, “There’s a song here, it’s almost written itself.” I wrote the words, but with no strong idea of a tune for it, other than that it seemed to suggest itself into ¾ time. Shirley obliged with a tune of her own devising, and Ian with its arrangement.”

Archangel Hill is named in honour of Shirley’s stepfather who called Mount Caburn, a landmark close to Collins’ home in Lewes, Archangel Hill. Shirley imparts some context: “Whenever I walk Mount Caburn, I give a silent greeting in memory of my stepfather Bill and his horses. I’ve picked sloes there in autumn, sat watching sheep and the occasional chalk hill blue butterfly in summer, but Bill had ridden over it many times in the 1920s, walking horses from Bishopstone to the Lewes races.” The album artwork is a painting by Peter Messer of Mount Caburn that Collins commissioned.

All of the songs on Archangel Hill were recorded last year except for ‘Hand And Heart’, which was taken from a live performance at the Sydney Opera House in 1980 and features an arrangement by Shirley’s beloved and talented sister Dolly Collins as well as the words of author F.C. Ball, aka Great Uncle Fred. The record has been produced by Ian Kearey – Shirley Collins’ musical director and the arrangements were shared between Collins, Kearey, Barnes, as well as Dave Arthur and Pete Cooper, players from The Lodestar Band.

Archangel Hill is twilight teaching, an end of time reminder from Shirley about being a good ancestor and paying your respects to the generations before. Shirley has done a lifetime of this work and with this record asks of us to do the same.

Archangel Hill:

  1. Fare Thee Well My Dearest Dear
  2. Lost In A Wood
  3. The Captain With The Whiskers
  4. June Apple
  5. The Golden Glove
  6. High And Away
  7. Oakham Poachers
  8. Hares On The Mountain
  9. Hand And Heart
  10. The Bonny Labouring Boy
  11. Swaggering Boney
  12. How Far Is It To Bethlehem?
  13. Archangel Hill
Photo credit: Grant Gee

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