Song of the Day, August 3: Murder of Maria Marten by Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band

CollinsAlbionNoRosesToday’s song is the brilliant product of the marriage of two very different folk talents. Ashley Hutchings was pursuing a passion for English traditional folk music and traditions, building on the electric folk he helped develop in Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. Shirley Collins was best known for her unadorned traditional singing over sparse, haunting arrangements by her sister Dolly. The two met, found common musical ground, fell in love, and married. They moved to the country to explore their musical interests and the result was No Roses, an ambitious new approach to electric folk inspired by Hutchings’ creativity and grounded by Collins’ stunning vocals. They worked with over 20 musical guests, using the name Albion Country Band, the first of many Albion incarnations helmed by Hutchings.

The centerpiece of the album is Murder of Maria Marten, a traditional song [Roud 215] based on the historical Red Barn murder. Collins delivers a chilling vocal, channeling the murderer, William Corder. She changes inflection subtly as she presents his perspective, has him consider the views of his victim — his lover Maria — and tells of the ghostly visits to Maria’s mother. Hutchings broke the song into sections, changing the pace to suit each one, and fades out the action with the wheels of the cart taking Corder to the gallows crunching on the gravel.

It’s one of the most inspired moments in the careers of two very talented musicians. The various Albion members provide a stirring musical backdrop, helping realize Hutchings’ vision for the song. The result is flawless and haunting.

Enjoy this dark tale today.


About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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