the background? Of course it is! But if youhate folk music, don’t panic. Keep at it untilthe two-minute mark. You’ll be treated to anintricate prog breakdown wherein Tullreveal themselves to be a bunch of highly original and highly talented oddballinstrumentalists.So the opening track just described is amicrocosm of the whole album. Folky her-di-diddly-hi-ho voices and acousticstrums that give way to off-centre grooves.And this is the schizoid influence I divinewhen reading the Ballad. I imagine Parker closing his eyes in Starbucks to shut out the blinking cursor. He cranks up
Songs From The Wood
and listens. Before he knows it,he’s sucking dryad tit and stroking druidstaff. He’s in the eclogue zone: gardens,fields and summer rain. And Parker mustsee himself in this couplet:
“A singer of these ageless times / With kitchen prose and gutter rhymes.
”But then the electrics arrive. A whole new energy. The lilting drive of the drums andthe propelling precision of the bass. Theflute, the harpsichord, the chimes, thehandclaps, the analog synths. It’s enough toshake Parker from his Arcadian reverie andthrow him into the circus ring of wordacrobatics and narrative sword-swallowing.He’s on fire because he’s eating fire.I personally don’t care for Anderson’s bearded Wicker Man malarkey. But I’m happy to let his band of merry men carry meoff into the land of prog every few minutes.Most importantly, though, I see how both of these disparate strands are knotted together in Parker’s prose.
The author of
The Ballad of Cocky the Fox
and the editor of
are known toenjoy a chinwag over a pint. In each edition,
eavesdrops on their beery blathering and presents a randomly chosenchunk of it to the readership.
In a recent
, I definedEssex as this Jekyll and Hyde county. Ugly and dangerous near London, picturesque andwealthy further out.
Yes. I remember that.
Well, I know you used to livethere. So how do you view it? What do youthink of when you hear the word “Essex”?
For me, Essex is rural. Tidy rural. All of the English countryside wastamed thousands of years ago and nowadaysit’s just cultivated wilderness. Although, between all the carefully manicuredhedgerows, there are still these nutty littlepockets of the wild. Ferrety woods, rookeries,that kind of thing. And it seems even tidier than when I was a boy growing up there.When I visited this summer, it all looked alot more “managed”.
And the trees were smaller?
Yes. Exactly. I’m sure being alot older now made a difference. But I wasstill able to surrender to the wilderness. Andhaving Harry with me helped.
You mean you were able tosee the countryside through his eyes?Childhood by proxy?