Devin Hoff has reinterpreted the songs of Anne Briggs alongside musicians Sharon van Etten, Julia Holter, Howard Wiley, Shannon Lay, Alejandro Farha, Emmett Kelly, and Jim White for his upcoming album, Voices From the Empty Moor (Songs of Anne Briggs). It's out November 12th. We get one more taste of the album's contents in the single and video for "Willie O' Winsbury" ft. Jim White - out now.
All songs come from a certain time and place. Some transcend both.
Willie O’ Winsbury is a very old song (maybe a few hundred years), allegedly from Scotland. The lyrics are odd, and it’s hard for me to relate to their casual nod to patriarchal royalty. But the melody is enigmatically transcendent, like an ouroboros circling in on itself. I altered a couple of the chords to enhance the lydian tug on the heartstrings, and then just let the cycles play themselves, a la Yo La (Tengo) but with a bunch of Double Basses.
The interesting thing with this arrangement is that it is an instrumental version of a vocal song (that i learned from an Anne Briggs recording) featuring a drummer as lead soloist. But this will make sense to anyone familiar with Jim White’s music; singing on the drums is what he does, and like no other. All of the instruments on this record: Alejandro’s oud, Howard’s tenor sax, my Double Bass, are meant to sing the songs Anne Briggs sang, and Jim’s drums are no exception. Drums are not just dull time keepers—time keeps itself—but sonorous and resonant melodic instruments, with a history as deep as humankind. Jim White’s drumming, here as everywhere, exemplifies this.