The first solo record from Chris Wood
Why 'The Lark Descending'? | About the tracks | Press | Order now

Why 'The Lark Descending'?
When I appeared on Verity Sharp's Late Junction program back in April she asked me where the title came from. As the album is my first solo I had no established template to work to so the whole thing was like an infant who knows it wants to get to the other side of the room but has no technique for getting there, just bags of will. It was only after the album was near to finished that I started becoming receptive to a possible title and the title presented itself in the form of a John Dipper comment after a particularly awful rehearsal:
Me - "Well that was crap, don't you think?"
John - "Hmmm... definitely the lark descending."
'The Lark Descending' is an 'English' icon turned on its head.

Let's go back to a time when there was no 'England' and there were no 'English'. A class of people came along and decided they wanted to rule over this place and these people but before they could rule over somewhere they needed to give it a name. And before they could govern the people who lived there they had to give them a name too. 'England' and 'the English' were a necessary construction for a governing class and remain so to this day.

June: Radio 3 World Roots Playlist No. 1
July: fRoots Playlist No. 1
August: MOJO Folk album of the month

'The Lark Descending' celebrates a few of the stories of the people who are governed and you ought not to be surprised at how rich and compelling some of the stories are. Our indigenous population have been unravelling the universe for us in music and song for millennia while the governing class have been ridiculing our folk music for only a couple of hundred years. Back to Top

Track Notes
1. Hard

I was sat up watching Jimi Hendrix night on channel 4. Just me and the dog and a couple of beers and it included some super 8 footage taken from the back of a Limo. Hendrix was riding up front with the driver and between them was a beautiful California blond head of hair. The man with the camera must have said something because the girl suddenly turned around and in a split second, something inside me decided she looked just like my daughter would look if she was to grow up and start knocking around with Jimi Hendrix! Who knows how the brain works at 2am but one thing is for sure, she would have given Jimi Hendrix a run for his money.

2. Albion
Another true story. This track lead to a brief courtship with Warner Classics but we soon both realised our inherent incompatibility before any damage was done and went our separate ways. Both incidents are true, the young man and the twittering Mums discussing which school they would be sending their children to (Kent still has the eleven plus).

3. Bleary Winter
A Wood/Lupton collaboration for Sian Croos's Norwich-based choir Big Sky this commission was originally arranged in four parts. The English Acoustic Collective has also recorded a version on the GHOSTS album of last year.

4. Lord Bateman
This is a song I have lived with for nearly 20 years. Anyone coming up through the school system in Kent during the 1960's and 70's would have known all about Thomas Becket. It's considered a local story down here and we were all taken on school trips to the Cathedral. As a choir boy I got to sing in the Cathedral and with hindsight I now realise it was some of the finest music making I've ever done.
Martin Carthy was a great help with filling in much of the background detail. I have an old answerphone tape message of him whittering on about different versions in different books. It is all that wonderful detail that comes with this sort of material which makes the research at least as compelling as the music.

5. One in a Million
The second Wood/Lupton collaboration. Hugh sent me a set of words which he had written as a ballad and asked me to put a tune to them. This is not the sort of tune I think he was looking for but it seems to work well. Verity Sharp was very taken with the relationship between the words and music and also had the vision to ask me to sing the two songs together (preferably in one take) when I did her Late Junction session. I do have a modus operandi when it comes to writing music for lyrics. I try hard to make sure there is nothing else much in my head and then turn over the page for the first time. I'll be very trusting of any first reactions and then I'll go through a few times more, often with a dictaphone or something. Then let it sit for a few weeks. Then do it.

"The new CD by Chris Wood (The Lark Descending) seems to us to be one of the best out of the English folk scene in living memory. There has been much animated discussion on our message board about his recent live appearance on Late Junction playing tracks from it. I think its appeal goes way beyond people who think they like English folk, even to those who think they don't - especially because some of the modern songs on it are awe inspiring. ...the album's going to be a milestone up there with the likes of Penguin Eggs and A Handful Of Earth and so good it's absolutely guaranteed to not win a Folk Award. Sensational!"
Ian Anderson - Editor, fRoots Magazine

6. Our Captain Calls All Hands
This comes from Topic Records' 20 CD set 'THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE' and was sung by Pop Maynard at Copthorne, Sussex in 1956. Norma Waterson steered me towards this song with understanding and generosity. It is of course the tune which was later squared up and used for the hymn He Who Would Valiant Be. The tune is so full of soul and the words too but there is one line which I feel explains what is behind so much of 'England's' history - 'How can you go abroad fighting for strangers?'

7. John Barleycorn
As I say in the sleeve notes for the album, this song was learnt by acompanying Martin Carthy as he sang it night after night on a tour a couple of years back. It just sank in and wouldn't let go. What's really great about it is that it just sits right into the guitar and swaggers (though I've only discovered that since the recording). I have sung this song in Eire and been told that there is no tradition of the song, the character or the imagery.

8. Walk This World
This was supposed to be a commission for a choir but they never found the money so I wrote it for myself and they got to sing it anyway. It's not finished. If you think you have a verse or two you'd like to add then have a go. Back to Top