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Art Of Cronshaw

Andrew Cronshaw
Quirkily, despite denuding the melodies of their lyrics’ clues and cues, there were some unexpected coincidences. He cites Lord Bateman (also known as Young Beichan in Child) as one example. Natacha Atlas and Abdullah Chhadeh knew nothing about the Middle-Eastern, sometimes Moorish, connections in the Child ballad’s storyline. It fed the theme of the concluding track, eventually renamed Sofia, The Saracen’s Daughter and led to Natacha Atlas and Abdullah Chhadeh arriving at an Arabic lyric that puts one part of the story under the magnifying glass. “I’m not cosmic or spiritual,” he owns, “but there was a certain rightness. Like I say in the album notes, stories cross linguistic boundaries. Tunes too sometimes. But they tend not to travel complete. The European ballad tradition is a multilingual tradition. A good story is a good story. Tales get corrupted and changed and added to. I loved the fact that Shirley [Collins] said to me how it’s had the wrong title for all these years. It is Sofia’s story. It’s not about Lord Bateman.”

Ochre broke new ground in another way. “I’d never done such long pieces before. That comes from Abdullah’s tradition because, once he gets going, he carries on! You can hear that. The last time I did that was years and years ago with Martin Simpson and Holly Tannen. We always improvised Cutty Wren. Martin played slide, Holly played Appalachian dulcimer and I played zither. We would record rehearsals, play it through and listen back to find the good stuff. We did it again at Bracknell Festival. We just started to play and the audience got it. We did a good one and we realised you can get through just by playing music. The audience wasn’t ‘told to like it’. Something happened. Even back then there was an element of improvisation. I can’t do it at solo gigs because that’s just widdle, but now I really like to improvise.”

And where did Ochre, the album title come from? “It’s the colour, of course, but there are two ochres. I got a digital stills camera. I took photos and discovered my colour sense. I liked low light in the evening. That was the time I’d go out in the forest and take this warm glow. I was driving in the south of France with Natacha and she said, ‘I love this evening golden ochre light’. Because she’s multilingual, there are a lot of English words she doesn’t know. Try explaining the concept of a weir to her! I remembered that.” The name stuck. (For readers wishing to follow in his footsteps, research the connections between a colour involving oatmeal porridge and the Nordic Lands.) “With all my albums, there’s the music, the picture and the title – and they’re not necessarily related anyway, except,” he adds cryptically, “when they come together on the album there’s a fourth concept, a confabulation. They only come together in my head and, if they come together in somebody else’s head in a different way, that’s fine too. So, Ochre is the light and the colour, but it’s also the connection with the Nordic countries. But the main thing is, it seems to work.”

fRom fRoots 264, June 2005


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