Tomorrow sees the release of Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love, the new album from Marry Waterson & David A Jaycock. To celebrate the release, you can listen to the album in full below and read, in Marry’s own words, about the songs and the making of the album. Order it now.
Marry Waterson on Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love
The album is called ‘Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love’ and was produced Portishead’s Adrian Utley, recorded by Ali Chant at Planet 245 and mixed Adrian Utley and Ali Chant at The Playpen.
This album came together after I went on a Kathryn Williams writing retreat. Artists are daily thrown together to create a song, performing it that night in front of the other musicians, with a live show later in the week.
I made lovely friends there and continue to write and perform with many of them including Kathryn, Emily Barker, Adem IIhan, Lowry Evans and Michele Stodart. It was a great week. Adrian Utley was also there, and afterwards, we both agreed that it was a shame we didn’t get to work together, so I sent him some of the songs Dave and I had been writing and asked if he’d be interested in producing the album. Wonderfully, he said yes.
Ade’s instinct was not to throw everything at the songs, to keep the bones of what makes me and Dave; us. Adrian was really interested in letting the voice and guitar occupy its own space, adding subtle atmospheric instrumentation, though every nook and cranny in his studio has some amazing, weird or beautiful instrument calling to be played. It’s a musical sweetshop. Adrian makes experimental sounds by playing instruments in unconventional ways and trying out different recording spaces – the studio, a hallway, even outside on the rooftop.
Aesop Fables inspired me to write ‘The Vain Jackdaw’. The inside cover of my tattered copy bears the lines “This Book Bilongs to Me. Address 160 Hull. 8 years old”. I had an idea to write a whole album based on fables. Ade liked the idea of leaving the song unaccompanied, just as I sang it initially, and suggested we record it outside on the rooftop, to sing into the air like a bird. Dave really liked the melody so he and Ade came up with a short intro, which they also recorded on the rooftop.
‘Lost’ (adjective) I really struggled with some of Dave’s new song structures when we first began writing the album, especially on this one. I said “I don’t know what to do with that Dave, I can’t hear a path for any of the lyrics I have”
He fired off something like “C’mon Marry, you’re brilliant, there’s only you that can come up with this, I’m going for a smoke, c’mon”. And to my surprise when he came back in, I’d sung the words for ’Lost’ into the song, just as it is on the record. I found the lyric from synonyms of the word ‘lost’.
Ade’s guitar is amazing, he plays with brushes and sticks, it sounds like a wave has knocked you over and you’re tumbling about under the sea. Ali Chant (who recorded the album) used a beautiful handmade cymbal to add to the movement.
Feeling ‘lost’ is a common thread on songs throughout the album, including ‘Forgive me’ (“if I lower my eyes as you rise”). After 19 years (largely) as a stay-at-home mum, my teens are flying the nest, my role is downsized and I’m finding it hard to adjust as I must. Dave composed this tune around my lyric. Ade added beautiful, mournful electric guitar.
‘Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love’ was inspired by one of the last few remaining maidens’ crowns housed in St Stephen’s Old Church in Robin Hood’s Bay, built in 1822. I sang there for the BBCR2 folk show in 2016 and as I explained this custom to Mark Radcliffe I realised I wanted to write about it.
Virgins’ crowns or ‘crants’ – derived from the German word “Kranz” – means wreath, garland or chaplet of the kind mentioned in Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the burial of Ophelia. “….She is allowed her virgin crants, her maiden strewments”.
The garlands were embellished with strips of white linen, paper flowers and ribbons, or white gloves to symbolise purity, sometimes with verse. It was customary to hang the garlands up in the church above the dead girl’s pew. The quote “Death had quicker wings than love” is found in the works of the late Reverend John Wesley and according to a tragic tale, were inscribed on the gravestone of Mary Woodson who died on her way to be married at Beeley Church in 1785.
No longer visible on the gravestone, a copy of the following transcription is said to be kept in safekeeping in the village. ‘A faithful maid lies buried here. A lover true a friend sincere. She wished the marriage state to prove, but death had quicker wings than love. Here o’er her corpse her – [Ed: sic] friend regrets her short and hasty end. This sculptured stone his passion rears and bathes her hapless name in tears. But hold fond swain Nor wing thy constant heart . We’ll meet again hereafter ne’er to part.’
Kathryn Williams added her lovely harmonies and Emma Smith’s violin is sublime.
‘Out Of Their Hearts’: Romeo Stodart (who was also at Kathryn’s writing retreat) asked if I’d like to work with him on the last day, I was delighted but we never found the time.
I later sent him this song and he emailed this beautiful, guitar part back.
We were considering a string arrangement when Dave came up with this magical guitar accompaniment.
Ade put crocodile clips on Dave’s guitar which creates a fantastic atmosphere and once Ade had added a bass that wandered like footsteps; it was done.
‘Gunshot Lips’ – “Words fired from lips that wound or blow you apart.”
I only recently just heard Dave’s early solo albums. I told him I couldn’t believe he never played me this and asked if we could use some of his wonderful classical guitar on this album.
Ade is a master at creating atmosphere with his electric guitar, which he does beautifully here. I had the idea for a drum to add tension as a gunshot sound and Dave added harmonium at the end.
‘New Love Song’ is Dave’s song. He’s a man of few words, but that’s cool, he says everything that needs to be said in a love song. Dave plays guitar and piano. Emma Smith plays violin.
‘Three of Them’ Based on a ‘Japanese tale’ (though there is no proof it is Japanese in origin). It goes something like this: The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.
On Two Wolves, David had said that he thought we were writing telepathically sometimes. Spookily, whilst I was writing this he sent me a melody entitled ‘Three of Them’. I felt the song should feel kind of spinny and turny and we were dying to use a mellotron anyway. I used a green bullet mic (usually used for a harmonica) with delay on it, and we asked Kathryn to whisper and sing repeated lyrics.
‘On the Second Tide’: This was another melody that Dave sent me that got me quite cross, I had a right job getting lyrics to scan, which I based around the title and the feel of the sea.
‘Small Ways and Slowly’: John Parish only popped by the studio to borrow something but he liked the song and so put down some percussion. It totally lifted the song and took it where it needed to be. Kathryn and Romeo sang beautiful harmonies.
Order Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love here: https://OLI.lnk.to/DHQWTLYT
Upcoming Dates: 30 September 2017 at Kings Place, London (more details here)