Song of the Week – At First She Starts, Lal Waterson & Oliver Knight

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

The Watersons was a famous English folk group that originally consisted of siblings Norma, Mike, and Elaine (known as Lal) along with their cousin John Harrison.  Their mid-60s albums received significant critical acclaim.  Their recordings were in the same general genre as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.

This music isn’t for everyone, but I’ve always enjoyed the simplicity of folk songs that tell interesting stories that survive because they are handed down from generation to generation.

In 1996, Lal collaborated with her son, Oliver Knight, to record and release the album Once in a Blue Moon.  Its songs, written by Lal, receive guitar accompaniment from Knight that is a perfect complement to each one’s mood.

My choice for the SotW is the lead track, “At First She Starts.”

In addition to Knight, Charles O’Connor provides fiddle accompaniment.  I interpret the lyrics to be about stage fright, or a singer’s struggle to interpret a song, but I could be wrong.

First she starts and then she’s startled.
I see that light in her eyes
Didn’t you realise you were a bird,
At dawn when you woke with air in your throat.

So far doe-ray-me
Sing to me loudly,
Serenade me,
Mess with the melody.
Light and shade
All my eyes can see.

Oh but you are the phrase at the end of the bar,
a long and high refrain.
Hanging around for the choir to strike sound,
So’s you can holler your joy and your pain.

In a recent Last Night a Record Changed My Life column in MOJO, Cathal Coughlan of the Irish band Microdisney was quoted saying that Once in a Blue Moon reminds him “… how the finest work can exist independent of ornamentation and commercial fanfare.”  That is so true!

Waterson died in 1998 of cancer at age 55, just a couple of years after the release of Once in a Blue Moon.

Enjoy… until next week.

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