It’s a year now since Crotchety Man retired – a year plus a week since my last day at work and a year minus a week since I officially ceased to be employed. Over those last twelve months I have moved 100 miles south, swapping the busy tourist city of York for the relative quiet of a Leicestershire village, and happily adjusted to a slower pace of life. So it seems appropriate to have a restful song as my Track of the Week.
Coinciding with this anniversary (although a few months behind schedule) The Queen of Elfland dropped through the letter box yesterday. It wasn’t the red-haired faerie herself, of course, just the video from The Road to Elfland, Kray Van Kirk’s Kickstarter-funded CD + DVD package (as advertised here back in April). The CD contains new recordings of songs that had already been published on Kray’s website together with three new tracks.
One of those new tracks tells of a bespectacled old man with a friendly face and a long beard. He sits at an ancient typewriter writing fabulous stories and, for children too young to read, he re-tells his stories out loud. Once he was a sailor, or maybe a spy; he joined the French Foreign Legion and “solemnly swore he knew how to fly”. The children, especially, were enchanted. And there’s a lovely line in which he explains to one inquisitive boy: “Writers sometimes tell the truth in a lie”.
But all of his stories were haunted by Shiloh
and he promised we’d meet her one day.
The storyteller is waiting for Shiloh to return, waiting for her knock on his door. As months and years go by there are times when the old man’s composure crumbles and he takes comfort in beer and whisky. Then, when his friends tell him it’s time go home, he smiles, shakes his head and replies that it will be dawn before the drink has drowned his ghosts again.
Shiloh is more a story than a song. The words are what’s important; the music is just the vehicle that carries them to the ear. Shiloh would fit snugly into the repertoire of any modern day minstrel and Kray Van Kirk plays that role beautifully. His guitar work is crystal clear; his voice is warm and mellow, even when the song is sad. On the Road to Elfland CD guest musicians fill out the sound with bass and accordion, and add subtle splashes of colour with mandolin, Irish whistle or violin. It’s a beautifully balanced production, warm and relaxing, just right for a Crotchety Old Man in his retirement.
Does Shiloh return in the end? I won’t give the game away here but you can listen to the song, and download it if you like, from the Kray Van Kirk website.