After an immensely fun Tramlines weekend, I've finally found a spare half hour to sit down and let you know what we're up to. It's just over two weeks until we head into the studio to record our debut album. I wrote down all the songs we've got ready (see left) and it numbers thirteen so far. Some of them are a firm part of our set now (Mary Lamson, South, Men Of Rank); other newbies have recently been added (we debuted Cawing Cuckoo on Sunday at the Folk Forest, whilst Charles Grandison Finney just missed out); others still go back a couple of years but never seemed to fit either of our two EPs (Imitation of Life, Martha My Lover, Old Rebel Sue). Chappaquiddick was one we tried on Your Obedient Servant but when we started recording it, we realised we'd taken the completely wrong approach. We'd gone in very heavy on what is a very simple song.
Then there are a couple that still require some work. One of these is Marry Me (Ellen Hart) and lyrically, I'm still adding to it. It's another song about Edwin Stanton, a character I find myself returning to. The verses are sketches of his romance with Ellen Hutchinson, who became his second wife. At this point, Stanton was known as Lincoln's cantankerous Secretary of War and as he courted Hutchinson, many of her friends were warning her off the old curmudgeon. He's scarred irreparably from the loss of his wife, child and brother, they said. He'll bring you nothing but misery. Stanton was persistent however, and eventually she fell for him. The song sees Stanton fighting the ghosts of his past, whilst pleading with Ellen that the past is gone and holds no weight over him. A hardened man by now, he doesn't find this argument difficult and despite the night terrors and the daily pressures of the war, here is a man in love, terrifyingly so.
It's possibly the one I'm looking forward to recording most, as he's my favourite character. It's fascinating that someone can go through such a dramatic and tremendous change of temperament as a result of personal suffering. As I sing about in Mary Lamson, Stanton had turned from a carefree, loving husband and father to a driven, angry and ambitious man, as he struggled to provide for his brother's family. His career became his life and this reaction to his mourning created many enemies along the way.
So, I'm still attempting to bring together all these verses, some of which are just snatches of some of these sentiments. Tonight we've got a rehearsal and this is what I want to work on. I want it to go from that persistent voice of proposal (the simple hook line is 'marry me, Ellen Hart') to those voices he attempts to control.
I've got lots more to say, both about the album and our Tramlines weekend, but as ever, I've got to be elsewhere. I'll keep you updated.