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Cover Story: (20) The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. Bob Dylan, Christy Moore or Cage the Elephant

Cover Story: (19) Beeswing - Christy Moore or Richard Thompson

Richard thompson - 1
Can Salut! Live's Cover Story series stagger back into life? It can.

Apologies for the dearth of updates. I have been on holiday in Corsica - massively recommended - and trying to earn a living (not recommended).

Today, I turn to a song that has been haunting me for days. On the garage shelves where I keep hundreds of CDs, I came across Christy Moore's album, Burning Times. He's made better, but some tracks stand out. I'd nominate Magdalen Laundries, Hattie Carroll and, yes, Beeswing. I've been playing it over and again, ignoring iTunes's insulting attempt to categorise it as country and western.

SEE ALSO: a further look at Beeswing: Maeve Gilchrist and Galway Street Club


Legend has it that Richard Thompson's beautiful lyrics were inspired by the supremely gifted but eccentric folk singer Annie Briggs, described thus at Wikipedia:

Briggs was notoriously wild at this time [end of the 1960s].

There are many stories from this period about her, such as pushing [Johnny] Moynihan and Andy Irvine out of a hay loft and, on another occasion, jumping into the sea at Malin Head, Donegal to chase seals. In an episode of Folk Britannia (a documentary history of UK folk music aired in 2006) Richard Thompson recalled that he only ever encountered Briggs twice and on both occasions she was drunk and unconscious.

It is often speculated that it was Briggs who inspired Thompson's song 'Beeswing'

There isn't a poor phrase or badly chosen word in Thompson's lyrics, each verse offering a poetic gem. The chorus runs:

She was a rare thing Fine as a beeswing So fine a breath of wind might blow her away She was a lost child She was running wild She said as long as there's no price on love I'll stay And you wouldn't want me any other way

But who sings it best? I am loathe to depart from the author. His version, or one of his versions, can be seen in the first of my clips ...

He delivers his own great song in gripping style. I love it.

But Christy!

The way he makes his voice rise and fall, the emphasis, the warm texture, the complete understanding of each character's thoughts ... it might have been written it for him. No contest for me.

But chapeau to Richard Thompson, a truly massive British songwriting (and guitar-playing) talent for songs that contains such magical verses as this ...

Oh the last I heard she's sleeping rough back on the Derby beat

White Horse in her hip pocket and a wolfhound at her feet

And they say she even married once, a man named Romany Brown

But even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down

And they say her flower is faded now, hard weather and hard booze

But maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains you refuse





**** You can buy the Christy Moore album Burning Times, on which Beeswing appears, at this Salut! Live Amazon line

***** And Richard Thompson's album Acoustic Classics - buy it here - contains not only Beeswing but Galway to Graceland

Comments

Bill Taylor

Oh, jeez, I'm gonna disagree with you again (though I fully concur with your horror at iTunes regarding "Beeswing" as C&W). Not that I hate or even dislike Christy Moore's version - it's lovely. But the texture is a little TOO warm for my taste and his inflection is almost theatrical. It all serves to soften a song that is essentially very hard-edged.
Thompson doesn't compromise; he delivers the tension that the song needs. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Colin Randall

Lovely comment. I naturally knew you'd disagree ...

Joan

I take Bill's point but if I could only have one version it'd be Christy's... I like the softness and the diction

Colin Randall

Completely different, but I have just discovered and really enjoyed a version, accompanied by her exquisite harp playing, by Maeve Gilchrist, a Scotswoman living in NYC ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xiW72V4S5s

Doug

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtN0te3ls1M

Colin Randall

Very nice version, Doug. One of those songs that cry out for being done differently, Among the many runners up, I am torn between the Galway Street Club, Maeve Gilchrist and your Ruari

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