July 7, 2016 Leave a comment
Today’s song is two strikingly different interpretations of a traditional tune. Queen of Hearts (Roud 3195), comes from English broadsides collected near Plymouth. The tune dates back to the reign of Charles II. It’s a song of romantic peril and obsession, told with sparse detail but deep emotion.
Martin Carthy included a stirring, spare version on his debut album. In clear, bell-like tones, he offers the narrative as a lament. Nearly 50 years later, the Unthanks included their version on their fine album Last. Lush and quiet, it’s evocative in a completely different way. The sisters offer an urgent aching vocal over a swirling bed of strings and piano, conjuring up the turmoil of abandoning a safe life for a risky romance. Both approaches work extremely well, showing the power of a traditional tune, open for interpretation.