|Artwork: Stephen Grasso
It's not every day that I get contacted by a favourite new band to tell them me they've just covered one of my favourite songs and that they'd like us to premiere it here.
Fortunately today is not just any day, so we're thrilled to bring you the premiere of Lake Ruth's version of the immortal "Tam Lin" (which you can stream below). Lake Ruth, you'll remember, blew me away with this - their debut album, baroque space-pop of the highest order.
Lake Ruth's Allison and Hewson pick up the story for us:
"But tonight is Halloween, and the Faerie Folk ride, Those that would their true love win, at Mile's Cross they must hide".
For a song that dates back to 1549, or even earlier, Tam Lin is a surprisingly modern fairytale which subverts the traditional 'damsel in distress' narrative in favor of a formidable heroine, who by innate strength, witchcraft, or both, defeats an equally powerful female rival: The Faerie Queen.
The story is set in the forest of Carterhaugh, near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. Walking through the woods, young Janet, wearing her magical green garter, encounters the knight Tam Lin, who forbids her to pass through his territory. Janet picks a rare double-headed rose, and replies that she will go where she pleases. Her courage seems to make a good impression on Tam Lin, and they become lovers.
When Janet returns home some time later, her father notices that she is showing the signs of pregnancy, gently suggesting in a 'meek and mild' tone that they marry her off before things become too obvious. Yet Janet refuses to forsake Tam Lin. When she returns to Carterhaugh, he informs her that he is a prisoner of The Faerie Queen. He fears that the Queen plans to hand him over to the Devil on Halloween night as her 'tithe to hell', which she must pay every seven years.
To free Tam Lin, Janet has to conceal herself at the crossroads at midnight, pull him down from his horse as the Faerie Court rides by, then hold and hide him from sight as he is transformed from a series of fearsome animals back into a human. This she successfully does, much to the anger of The Faerie Queen, who accepts defeat but muses that she would have turned Tam Lin into a tree, had she known what he was up to.
Our rendition of Tam Lin is an homage to Fairport Convention's excellent version on the 'Liege and Lief' album. In the course of acquiring the streaming license, we learned that their adaptation was arranged by the late, virtuoso fiddle player Dave Swarbrick, who sadly passed away back in June of this year. We decided, in the spirit of the song's heroine, to throw caution to the wind, and put out a song with umpteen verses, abundant guitar solos, and occasional mixed time signatures. This Halloween, we invite you to listen to the fruits of this perilous endeavor!