The Quiggs – Seeds I Didn’t Sow
Based on the west coast of Scotland, The Quiggs are husband and wife Pernille and Stephen. Stephen is formerly of Scottish folk legends The McCalmans, Pernille relocated from Denmark after being reared on a childhood diet of American folk music. Both have solo albums to their name, and they first recorded together as a duo on 2015’s River Of Time.
Although there’s no trad/arr this time round, recorded live in the studio, as before this combines an acoustic collection of covers alongside a clutch of original material by Pernille. Taking the former first, in a nod to her 60s protest influences, Tom Paxton’s How Beautiful Upon the Mountain gets the ball rolling in fine form, Ian McCalman adding extra guitar, Stephen taking the lead on the verses and the pair combining voices in perfect harmony for the chorus and the song sounding like you’ve just stepped into some Greenwich Village coffee bar.
Stephen again on lead, this, in turn, is followed by a lovely rendition of The Dutchman, a poignant song about looking after a partner with dementia, another 60s number it was written long before the term became well known. Popularised by Steve Goodman, it was written by Michael Peter Smith, and it’s his original to which this hews.
It’s over to Australia for Andy’s Gone With Cattle, Pernille initially singing unaccompanied before Stephen joins on harmonies on a song written in 1888 by the poet Henry Lawson about the hardship of being a drover’s wife. The late Nick Keir, with whom Quigg played in both the McCalmans and later, as a duo, is represented by two songs. Recorded by the McCalmans on their Coming Home album, the gently strummed Corryvreckan Calling is a based on the true story of an Edinburgh girl seeking out a quiet life in the Hebrides, while Bells of the Town, from the Peace & Plenty album, is, as per the original, also sung a capella, the tune evoking the peal referred to in the lyrics.
A further McCalmans link comes with No More Sailing, a waltzing love letter to the coast of Morar penned by Ian McCalman under the pseudonym of Lex D. Hall, sung by Stephen with Alan Jones from Lanarkshire’s Haggerdash providing concertina. With an intro arrangement evocative of McColl and MacGowan’s Fairytale, Childhood’s End is Dick Gaughan’s powerful reflection on the loss and meaningless of war. Staying in Scotland, The Surf and the Silverfish is another waltzer, this time from Duncan McCrone and Cy Jack of The Clydesiders, which addresses the often ambivalent relationship between the fisherman and the sea.
The final cover, however, hails from Pernille’s home country, Regnverjrsdag i November (Rainy day in November for those who don’t speak Danish), a carpe diem song by Danish folkie Pia Raug about appreciating the smaller things in life and sung by Pernille in her native tongue with Stephen on harmonica.
The remaining four tracks, on which she takes the lead, are all from Pernille, a mix of the personal and the political, opening the album with the dreamily fingerpicked rippling title number that, inspired by the wild growing yellow poppies in her garden, serves as comment on the enduring power of nature but, more pointedly, as an allegory of hope about immigration.
The refugee crisis also informs Distant Embers, a circling guitar pattern backdropping the song which was inspired by a documentary featuring children in a refugee camp outside Syria and the emotional and physical effects of war. Similar sentiments inform the deceptively jauntier Paper Boats, a song written in response to the treatment of refugees detained by the Australian authorities on the islands of Nauru and Manus, it’s swaying ‘we are immigrants all’ chorus inspired by the words of Pope Francis.
On a more upbeat note, closing number In My Mind is a waltzing love song for her husband. Meanwhile, Standing Stones recalls her father’s visit to the standing stones on Machrie Moor on Arran, a meditation on time, our relationship with the planet and a reminder of the “never ending circle of stones to which we are all bound.”
Musically unfussy and simple it may be, but these songs and memorable melodies make you want to revisit them again and again, sounding fresh with each hearing. Unquestionably one of the best folk albums of the year.
Order it here: www.stephenquigg.com/CD-Seeds-I-didnt-sow.htm