Barley Rigs: Songs of the Season
(Flowinglass, 2004)

Autumn is an easy season to overlook. Autumn's holidays go quickly, and the season itself, for those wrapped in the unchanging landscapes of cities or suburbs, is a minor resting place -- a break from summer's cooling bill and winter's fuel costs, a chance to recharge from the summer holidays before gearing up for winter festivities.

But autumn has its own glory, and Broceliande reminds us of them with Barley Rigs: Songs of the Season. A collection of traditional songs, Barley Rigs reminds us that in the fields and forests, autumn is the time of red apples and golden grains, when the worry of the growing season is rewarded by the bounty of the harvest. "The Barley Corn" is an honored member of the feast, even as he's murdered and used horribly by farmers, millers and brewers.

And, of course, all that fine autumn grain makes more than bread. "Good Ale" comes from the tragicomic slaughter of "The Barley Corn." It's debatable that "He Who Drinks is Immortal," but drinking songs throughout the centuries agree that it's better for you than a sober life.

Whether it's the changing weather or all that fine ale, autumn is also a time ripe with sentiment. "Dancing Bear" is a circus dream that calls for cool air and colored leaves. The prophetic chant of "The Magpie" invites plans for the future, and gives a faint link back to an old and more spirited way of thinking. "Three Ravens" is a ballad worthy of Halloween, with a love that goes to the grave. But "Three Ravens" is unusual; as songs from Scotland to France point out, the winds of autumn bring as much love as the rains of spring, and nice high "Corn Rigs" for a couple seeking privacy.

Broceliande strives to perform their traditional songs with historically correct instruments and accurate arrangements, but that doesn't keep the group from having fun with its music. Barley Rigs features haunting a cappella numbers, hypnotic chants and hip swinging Celtic-style instrumental numbers. Though the group always delivers a solid performance, they sing with an invitation for any enthusiastic listener to join in. Anyone able to feel the charms of autumn will be glad of that invitation, and take the chance to join the celebration while the ale flows.

by Sarah Meador
19 November 2005

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