The story behind the songs
The roots of this album reach back to the small town of Saalfeld in East Germany in the late 1940s. This is where my parents Friedrich and Ilse met and married, and when my father also had a love affair with a local poet and singer called Änne. When his critical writing as newspaper editor brought him into conflict with the oppressive Russian occupying regime, and after being warned by a friend, my parents escaped deportation to a Siberian forced labour camp by fleeing to the West. It seemed like the end of the affair between Friedrich and Änne, and they never saw each other again, separated by the Iron Curtain and my father’s untimely death. However, a stack of over fifty love poems written by Änne for my father came to light many years later, after my mother died. Unbeknown to us children, she had kept Änne’s beautiful poems all this time.
Since then I translated a couple of these poems and set them to music, ‘Echoes’ and ‘Friedrich’ on this album. Online I also found a very old songbook of ten songs, lyrics by Änne and music by Reinhold Sorge, and included one of these with my translation on the album: ‘What use can be this rain’. A few years ago I had the good fortune of visiting Saalfeld, and being welcomed by Änne’s grandson Michael Renner and his wife Marion. Their home is the house where Änne had lived and performed her songs and poems all those years ago.
The rest of the songs on the album were either written by me, some of the tunes based on certain Indian scales or ragas, or they are songs that I love like ‘Get out of Town’, ‘Johnny Guitar’, the Welsh traditional song ‘Ffynnon Ofor’ (with a poetic translation by Morgan Francis) and the Welsh song ‘Hiraeth am Feirion’, giving it a different slant with a seal woman’s story: ‘The Selkie’s Longing’. ‘River Daughter’ is about Goldberry, Tom Bombadil’s consort in Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’, who sadly did not make it into the movies, but are characters I love. ‘Doni the Elephant’ concerns the horrific plight of elephants being killed for their tusks, inspired by my encounter with a rescued elephant at a sanctuary on Bali. ‘Charlie’s Song’ was written shortly after my beloved cat companion Charlie died.
The people behind the album
All the songs were recorded as a live improvised performance, with some instrumental parts added later.
Shanee Taylor: vocals, tampura, zither
Dylan Fowler: guitar, piano, lap steel, clarinet, drums
Gillian Stevens: cello, crwth (a Welsh bowed lyre)
Dylan Fowler arranged, produced and recorded this album at Studio Felin Fach in Abergavenny, Wales.
Cover and booklet design by Dek Leverton
Front and back covers: paintings by Tim Rossiter
Most of the photos are from Shanee’s collection.
Special thanks to: Dylan Fowler, Gillian Stevens, Gilles Petit, Frankie Armstrong, Tim Rossiter, Dek Leverton, Änne Renner-Meyer, Michael and Marion Renner, Morgan Francis, my supportive friends including Rachel, Flow, Gunny, Martin, Mau, Jan, Geoff Mead, members of Cor Elen, Cardiff Tuesday Club, my brother Volker, my parents Ilse and Friedrich, and the amazing female singers and song writers who have inspired me over the years…
© Shanee Taylor Music 2016.
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