On Blue Stockings

by Lauren McCormick

Lauren McCormick is making waves on the folk scene with her live trio line up, weaving traditional and contemporary song with original tunes and intricate arrangements. With Dave Delarre - guitar, James Delarre - violin, Roz Gladstone - cello



Effortlessly combining spellbinding storytelling with vocal prowess, Lauren’s song choices are perceptive, speaking of the condition of woman both historical and modern, and delivered in her own mischievous fashion. Once a member of vocal harmony group The Devil’s Interval (2007 BBC Folk Award nominees) along with (recent star of the Under One Sky project) Jim Causley, Lauren has also toured with Waterson:Carthy for five consecutive years as part of the annual Frost and Fire Christmas show and she was recently invited to appear at the South Bank Centre in London as part of The Shirley Collins Folk Roots New Routes series. She has also co –promoted the influential folk club ‘The Magpies Nest’ in London over last couple of years, booking and performing alongside many great names.

The bluestocking circle were a group of women and men in the mid 1700s who believed in education for everyone, making it possible for many women to become recognised in fields that were otherwise dominated by men. They paved the way for the political commentary of the ‘radical intellectual’ Mary Wollstonecraft and many who came after. They were rather modern for their time, replacing demure amusements with the delights of alcohol, tea and literary conversation. I admire their attitude that you can do what you want, whoever you are. To be a bluestocking was very highly thought of at the time, but some people couldn’t handle it and the term was turned derogatory by Victorian stiffs in the 1800s. This is my tribute to their ideas.

1 A Game of Cards 
Trad arr McCormick 

From Betsy Renals. The girl in this song knows what she wants and takes it. Very good advice I think, although she is a bit naughty. 

2 Trees Grow High 
Trad arr. L McCormick 

This tune comes from May Bradley via the listening room at Cecil Sharp House. Her take on the story was rather happier than usual - nobody died and the young couple just had a nice chat for two verses. As lovely as this is, I thought I’d flesh it out with some verses from the George Butterworth Collection. 

3 One too many mornings 
B Dylan 

I heard this on somebody’s Desert Island Discs (I can’t remember who!). It took me ages to track it down as I had in my head that it was called One too Many Mondays. It cast such a vivid image in my mind that I couldn’t rest until I’d found it. I’ve changed a word in this song, which has caused surprising outrage amongst aficionados of the original! Terribly sorry; artist prerogative. 

4 A sprig of thyme 
Trad arr. L McCormick 

This might be my all time favourite song. Tune and verses from Joseph Taylor and extra verses from Pop Maynard. Emily Portman, Jim Causley and I realised that between us we knew about 7 versions of it, but I believe this is the most beautiful. 

5 Everybody Knows 
L Cohen 

Leonard Cohen is one of the world’s great wordsmiths. This song says everything. 

6 The Old Garden Gate 
Trad arr. L McCormick 

I have loved this song since I was lucky enough to be involved in the Song Links II project with Shirley Collins and Martyn Wyndham Reed. Martyn sang the version on the English CD and the very wonderful Kieron Means sang the American version. Martyn’s version had a more complete narrative but Kieron’s version had such lovely lyrical verses that just broke my heart. I loved them both so much that I stole Martyn’s version in its entirety and also quite a few verses from Kieron. 

7 Lady Isobel 
Trad arr. L McCormick, D Delarre, J Delarre 

This is taken from Child 4, version A. I found the tune in the Take 6 archive, in the Gardiner collection. Gardiner collected it from one Charles Bull Snr. in Marchwood, Hampshire on 12th June 1907, for those of you interested in such things. He sang it to a version of the Outlandish Knight, also Child 4. Huge thanks to EFDSS for such an amazing resource. 

8 A song for my Mother 
L McCormick 

The first verse of this song fell into my lap one day. It took me about 3 years to decide what the rest of it wanted to be. I’m not sure if I’ve got it right yet, but I thought I’d let you hear it as my Mum deserves a song. 

9 Dear Mary 
L Thompson and T Thompson 

I was attracted to this song because of the hidden motivation of the narrator character. I’m not sure whether she is concerned for the Mary character, or whether she is actually a manipulative bitch, although the latter is rather more convincing. I have various ideas about who she might be and what her connection to Mary is, which makes interpreting it interesting. 

10 Lucy: meaning light 
L McCormick 

I seem not to be able to stop myself signing up for various courses that are always very interesting, but turn out to be much more work that I had anticipated! I became really interested in the Blue Beard tale type when writing an essay on short stories for a course about The Creativity of the English Language. This is my version, which was inspired by retellings from the Grimms, Perrault and Margaret Atwood. The tune is stolen from The Rambling Comber, which I kind of wanted to sing but I don’t actually like beer that much... 

11 The Cuckoo / Le mas noyer 
Trad arr. L McCormick, D Delarre and J Delarre / J Delarre 

From The Seeds of Love book. This was quite a pretty version until it was Delarred. It’s much better now! 
A Game of Cards
From Betsy Renals. The girl in this song knows what she wants and takes it. Very good advice I think
Sample not available
Trees Grow High
This tune comes from May Bradley via the listening room at Cecil Sharp House. Her take on the story was rather happier than usual - nobody died and the young couple just had a nice chat for two verses. As lovely as this is
Sample not available
One too many mornings
I heard this on somebody’s Desert Island Discs (I can’t remember who!). It took me ages to track it down as I had in my head that it was called One too Many Mondays. It cast such a vivid image in my mind that I couldn’t rest until I’d found it. I’ve changed a word in this song
Sample not available
A sprig of thyme
This might be my all time favourite song. Tune and verses from Joseph Taylor and extra verses from Pop Maynard. Emily Portman
Sample not available
Everybody Knows
Leonard Cohen is one of the world’s great wordsmiths. This song says everything.
Sample not available
The Old Garden Gate
I have loved this song since I was lucky enough to be involved in the Song Links II project with Shirley Collins and Martyn Wyndham Reed. Martyn sang the version on the English CD and the very wonderful Kieron Means sang the American version. Martyn’s version had a more complete narrative but Kieron’s version had such lovely lyrical verses that just broke my heart. I loved them both so much that I stole Martyn’s version in its entirety and also quite a few verses from Kieron.
Sample not available
Lady Isobel
D Delarre
Sample not available
A song for my Mother
The first verse of this song fell into my lap one day. It took me about 3 years to decide what the rest of it wanted to be. I’m not sure if I’ve got it right yet
Sample not available
Dear Mary
I was attracted to this song because of the hidden motivation of the narrator character. I’m not sure whether she is concerned for the Mary character
Sample not available
Lucy: meaning light
I seem not to be able to stop myself signing up for various courses that are always very interesting
Sample not available
The Cuckoo / Le mas noyer
D Delarre and J Delarre / J Delarre
Sample not available

bright young folk

Karin Horowitz

Lauren McCormick's debut solo album, On Bluestockings, is an homage to its namesakes: 'They were rather modern for their time, replacing demure amusements with the delights of alcohol, tea and literary conversation. I admire their attitude that you can do what you want, whoever you are.'

Best known for her role in the trio Devil's Interval with Jim Causley and Emily Portman, Lauren's pure and true voice makes you stop and listen. Her musical versatility as she moves between arrangements of traditional folk songs, 1960s and more recent songs including her own compositions, shows that she can certainly do what she wants.

Supporting Lauren who sings and plays flute, are the Delarre brothers from Mawkin, James on violin and Dave on guitars, and Roz Gladstone on cello. The care and inventiveness of the arrangements and accompaniments gives these songs a strong and memorable base.

Lauren's interpretations are reminsicent of other great female folk singers such as Judy Collins, because of the emotional depth and energy of her voice. She is equally at ease in acoustic settings, with the backing of guitar, and traditional settings supported also by strings and flute.

The album opens with A Game of Cards, a traditional song about a girl who knows what she wants, delivered with confidence. The next song, The Trees They Grow High, is an old favourite, that has been sung by so many. Yet Lauren manages to bring a new feel to it in her version.

Lauren sings Bob Dylan's One Too Many Mornings so simply, without any affectations, and this brings back memories of Joan Baez. The strings give the song a completely different feel, with folk riffs interspersed in between the verses.

That is the beauty of this album, that her approach is authentic yet also original, and without overlay. The supporting musicians add texture yet enable the listener to experience the stories of the songs without interference. Everybody Knows is another modern folk song by Leonard Cohen which Lauren sings with gusto.

A Sprig of Thyme is a traditional song that might be her favourite, and it includes verses by Pop Maynard, Emily Portman and Jim Causley. Her a cappella delivery of both this song and a self-written song for her mother show the quality and intensity of her voice.

There are other fine traditional songs too, arranged by Lauren. One of the most striking is The Old Garden Gate where Lauren's voice melds and interweaves beautifully with violin and cello.

There is also a lovely interpretation of Lady Isobel and an interesting version of the Bluebeard fairy tale, Lucy: Meaning Light. The album ends with the well-known song The Cuckoo in a new version by the Delarre brothers.

On Bluestockings has the simplicity and crafted care of a classic - don't miss it.

Mardles

Mary Humphreys

Lauren McCormick has gathered about her a group of highly talented musicians: the Delarre brothers James and Dave who are well known locally from the Mawkin band and Roz Gladstone who is a cellist with the Royal Philharmionic Concert Orchestra. The musicians take a prominent role in this album. Many of the songs have elaborate instrumental breaks, sometimes in surprising places and with surprising tempi and rhythms. Lauren doesn't restrict herself to her forte of traditional material. She includes cover versions of songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Linda & Teddy Thompson (exwife and son of Richard Thompson). She also includes a couple of her own compositions. She seems to be seeking for her own niche in the huge repertoire of acoustic performance.

The first track, The Game of Cards is from Betsy Renals, aunt of Vic Legg and a member of the Orchard traveller family, recorded by Pete Coe. Lauren's interpretation bears very little resemblance to the original, having an extended instrumental break that robs the song of its continuity, although the musical invention is quite breathtaking. The Trees Grow High starts as a fairly faithful rendition of May Bradley's song until it gets to the instrumental break when it changes tempo and becomes uncomfortably inconsistent, with too many rhythmical changes in such a short space of time. Dylan's One Too Many Mornings has a fabulous James Delarre fiddle backing. A Sprig of Thyme is unaccompanied and a necessary respite in the programme, not being surrounded by instruments. Everybody Knows ( Cohen) is a cynical comment that is still applicable today. The Old Garden Gate is, in my opinion, the most haunting track on the CD. Knowing the original Martyn WyndhamRead and Kieron Means versions I can understand why Lauren has conflated them for they are each superb songs in their own individual rights. With the instrumental accompaniment they soar to new and more anguish ridden heights. Lady Isobel is an inventive reworking of Child Ballad 4.The Song for My Mother is a lovely melody, sung unaccompanied and lovingly. I would love to have the lyrics available to decipher one or two of the words that are tricky to hear on the recording. It takes a lot to emulate Linda Thompson. Lauren's voice is too soft and sweet to bear comparison with the original on Dear Mary but this is a brave attempt. Lucy:Meaning Light is an enigma written by Lauren. The Cuckoo isn't a version that you will have heard before in this interpretation it has a tango rhythm underlying the English words.

You may remember Lauren from defunct Devil's Interval group and Martyn Wyndham Read's Songlinks _ 2 project. She tours every Christmas with Waterson:Carthy's Frost and Fire show and has headlined at many national festivals. Undoubtedly Lauren has a prestigious CV for such a young performer. Surprisingly this is her first solo CD and it has been a long time coming. It isn't to everyone's taste   perhaps it is a little too experimental in places for the old traddies out there, but the overall production is, as usual with WildGoose albums, superb. I liked it.

September 2012

Folk Monthly

Bob Brooker

Lauren McCormick is a new name to me, but I am sure she will soon be a household name in the folk world. A graduate from the Newcastle University Folk & Traditional Music Degree course, it is plain to see that her time and learning here was put to good use.

With a beautiful voice, along with accomplished flute playing, Lauren delivers the songs, with accompanying tunes, with a grace and feeling that is not often heard these days. Lauren's apprenticeship in song craft has involved her with icons such as Shirley Collins and Martyn Wyndham Read et al and this experience has obviously had its benefits.

OK on to the CD itself, eleven tracks in all, the songs are thoughtfully arranged, with accompaniment from guests on violin, guitar and cello, all of which fit with Lauren's delicate delivery. There are old favourites, Trees grow High, A Sprig of Thyme and a beautiful

version of The Old Garden Gate. Lady Isobel (Child 4) is a particular favourite of mine, and shows the depth of research in finding suitable songs for her repertoire. Lauren also includes two of her original songs, thus bringing her song writing talents to the fore.

As readers of my reviews know, I always include a note on the production side of the CD, and On Blue Stockings is thoroughly professional. The accompanying booklet is superb c/w song notes. The quality of materials used is what you would expect from a recognised recording studio and production company.

I always give a nudge to club and festival organisers if, in my opinion, there is an artist worth pursuing for their venues and events. Lauren is just such an artist, and I'm sure she will be headlining festivals and the club circuit in the very near future. Any organiser will be foolish not to take advantage of this accomplished and delightful talent.

So   would I buy this CD ?? Absolutely   I love it !!

Spiral Earth

David Kushar

As part of The Devil's Interval alongside Emily Portman and Jim Causley, and touring with Waterson:Carthy, Lauren McCormick has been a significant voice in this generation of new folk stars. However, until now, Lauren lacked a project to put her own name in the spotlight. This debut announces that new chapter for the singer and flautist.



With the talented triumvirate of Dave Delarre (guitars), James Delarre (fiddle) and Roz Gladstone (cello) at her disposal Lauren's take on trad songbook was always going to offer something different: her striking version of 'The Cuckoo' draws out a bleakness seldom heard - even a repetitive flourish from Dave's guitar doesn't lift it from an inky well. It works.And it's a place where they conjure further results: 'Trees Grow High', an amalgamation of versions, gets a drawn out deathly conclusion with a darkly glimmering combination of strings and vocals. A feat repeated on 'The Old Garden Gate', a song learnt whilst involved in the Song Links II project with Shirley Collins and Martyn Wyndham Reed.



The title's theme is derived from 'The Bluestocking Circle', a Victorian movement of women and men who believed in education for all, and paved the way for many woman to progress in walks of life where men were dominant. The theme is visited during Lauren's own self explanatory intimate portrait, 'A Song For My Mother'. Another track credited to Lauren utilizes the tune of The Rambling Comber and teams it with the tale of Bluebeard. It probably shouldn't work but is played with such gusto and imagination it's somehow irresistible.



The contemporary selections are a mixed bag: 'One Too Many Mornings' has lost the washed out melancholy of Dylan's original but hasn't really gained a replacement. Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows' fares better as the Delarres combine with Lauren's impassioned reading to tune ears afresh to the striking words. And the bold arrangement of Linda and Richard Thompson's 'Dear Mary' also makes for a more than worthy inclusion in this sometimes uneven yet skillfully executed collection.



EDS (EFDSS)

Sophie Parkes

her debut album's subject matter: the bluestockings, who dared to question the social and political agendas of eighteenthcentury society.

It is the headstrong characters and their determined decision making, or the boldness of ideas and observations, which have evidently led to the singer choosing the material for this collection, and so Lauren's voice is very much brought to the fore.  Accompanying instruments are pared down and dropped back � if they appear at all. 'The Sprig of Thyme', for example, is beautifully presented unaccompanied, given all the credence of a national anthem. The listener can only imagine Lauren's head held high, her arms raised, as she reaches out for 'the lily'.  In light of this rendition, her thanks to Norma Waterson in the album acknowledgements make perfect sense, as does her proclamation that it might be her 'all time favourite song'.

Few young performers putting out their first album would dare to showcase one of their own songs unaccompanied � but such is Lauren's skill and experience that 'A Song for My Mother' could quite easily be mistaken for a song passed down through the generations, should the listener not refer to the liner notes. Though the lyrics initially depict an uncertain protagonist, 'sometimes I wish I was young enough to hold my mother's hand', it soon becomes a celebration of the strength and prowess of her 'bluestocking friend', her mother.

On Bluestockings doesn't push any boundaries or seek to experiment with sounds or styles, but fulfils exactly what the listener envisages the singer set out to do: neatly arranged, confidently sung songs which explore a theme that intrigues and inspires the singer.

Folk World Germany

David Hintz

Fans of Barbara St. John, Frankie Armstrong, and even Sandy Denny take note here. Lauren McCormick is here to handle classic folk songs either a capella or with light instrumental accompaniment. McCormick is a graduate of the Newcastle University with a Folk and Traditional Music degree, which sounds a lot more fun than my accounting degree. But she can physically as well as intellectually carry these tunes far better than I or many others can, so she has moved on to working with Shirley Collins and has also toured with Waterson-Carthy. In fact, Waterson-Carthy fans will really take to this, as the folk spirit is very similar here in voice and arrangements. There some originals and a Dylan and Cohen cover, as well. But with solid versions of �Trees Grow High� and �The Cuckoo�, I know which tunes I will be gravitating toward.

R2

Oz Hardwick

Since the early demise of The Devil's Interval, Jim Causley and Emily Portman have each carved substantial niches for themselves, but Lauren McCormick seemed to have disappeared. That's finally rectified with the release of this solo debut, which stands every bit as tall as the best from her erstwhile bandmates.

Blessed with a strong, clear voice, McCormick delivers a compelling selection of traditional songs and contemporary material, including a fine brace of self penned songs. The traditional choices may not push the envelope, but 'Trees Grow High' plays nicely with pace and benefits from some busy flute and fiddle, while 'The Cuckoo' slips imaginatively into gypsy jazz territory courtesy of James Delarre's excellent guitar work. By contrast, A Sprig Of Thyme' is an exemplar of unaccompanied singing.

Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows' is the pick of the well chosen contemporary material, but the original material shows McCormick to be no mean songwriter herself. A Song For My Mother', from which the album takes its title, is touching without being cloying, while 'Lucy: Meaning Light' offers a spirited take on the Bluebeard folktale. All this adds up to a storming album that's been well worth the wait.

The Living Tradition

Kevin T. Ward

This is the debut album from the third member (with Emily Portman and Jim Causley) of the erstwhile but celebrated Devil's Interval.

Lauren's clear and pure English voice was a distinctive component in that trio's characterful vocal renderings of traditional material. Here on the six traditional songs, sourced and arranged with academic attention to versions and provenance, her voice and muse is well suited. Likewise on two self penned pieces, an enchanting a cappella piece for her mother and a Bluebeard 'fairy tale to unveil', both with some pleasing lyric touches incidentally, she equally ably applies her voice to the metric character of the more contemporary lines. However, covers of songs by Dylan, Cohen and the Thompsons, are much less convincing with some uncomfortably vulnerable elements in the phrasing.

One of the pieces is said to have been 'Delarred'. This refers to the outcome of the alchemical process of letting Dave Delarre (guitars) and James Delarre (violin), those malkins from Mawkin, loose on its arrangement   a magical process indeed! With Lauren's fine flute playing and, for lower atmospheric tonalities, the exquisite sounds of Roz Gladstone's cello, the backing to the songs is certainly excellent. Intricate in its orchestration, varied in its dynamic range, it combines classical, folk and contemporary elements with some unexpected and quirky twists (short diversions into klezmer/gypsy and Celtic for example) that cleverly befits the drama of the stories and offers humour and delight, often in equal measure.