Woven Wheat Whispers is the label that brought out the much-talked-about John Barleycorn Reborn multi-disc compilation back at Lammas (and the much less noticed, but IMO actually superior, “companion” volume, All Souls Arise); they are an outstanding label (if that’s the term) that is doing much to promote a new generation of folk music that is frequently highly “myffic“. They have a number of artists who have done some Christmas-related music – I particularly like Pig’s Ear, who have a sound reminiscent of Albion Band and early Steeleye Span, and whose A Cracklin’ Good Christmas EP can be downloaded for free at the above link – but the particular piece I want to bring to your attention today is the stunning White Frost and the Black Thorn, by Eleanor’s Visceral Tomb.
This is a ritual in music – no other way to describe it. It transcends any possible category of pagan or Christian music – it is truly and deeply mythic in the sense of the Pratchett quote I posted previously, having “to do with gods only in the way that roots have to do with leaves.” It has definitely altered my vision, particularly as I am still consciously lingering in the deep magic that is at the climax of Hogfather.
You can hear some samples, and read all the lyrics, via the above link; and they have also released a couple of the full songs in a free EP. Check out the free tracks, especially the Holly-Wren Carol and Holly and the Ivy/Let Nothing You Dismay; read the words as you listen; and let me know when you re-emerge from the darkness of the winter forest, and how much your perception has changed.
A short sample (that can only give the barest hint of what lies in wait, as the instrumentation and delivery are *vastly* different than anything you’ve ever heard) :
The holly & the ivy / now they are both full grown
of all the trees that are in the wood / the holly bears the crown
For the rising of the winter sun / and the running of the deer
the holy seed of the mistletoe / in the dawning of the year
The holly bears a sharp prickle / as sharp as any thorn
and the wren’s heart pierced in the darkest night / is healed before the dawn