Remember me my deir: Jacobean songs of love and loss
The album is something of a lost art in our age of digital fragmentation. ‘Remember me my deir’ is an elegant throwback: a recital conceived as a whole. Rather than clamouring for attention, individual tracks contribute to a single unfolding arc of musical narrative – and what a captivating story Scottish troubadours Fires of Love have to tell us about their nation’s musical history.
Dating from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, this music is a world away from the Italianate madrigals of Dowland and his English contemporaries. Though unmistakably Scottish, there’s a strong French accent to these dances and ballads. The addition of percussion, recorders and a wonderfully percussive Renaissance four course guitar to the usual voice-and-lute forces gives this small ensemble the flexibility to move from stamping, rustic exhilaration (‘O sweet Oliver’) to eerie sophistication (‘And will he not come again’), and give the evocative texts of Shakespeare, Campion and Scottish courtier-poet Alexander Montgomerie their match in music. There’s wit as well as despair here, and when they overlap (as in the casual tragedy of ‘St Valentine’s Day’) the result is loaded with dramatic friction.
There’s a sense of eavesdropping on something private and intimate, so delicately understated are the performances. Concealed behind a half-open door we hear Frances Cooper’s soprano (often coloured with a Scottish accent) ring pure, catching the ear like gilded thread against the woven instrumental textures, and, underpinning everything, the rhythmic tug and sway of Gordon Ferries’s guitar and lute. Clear an evening and settle down for this vivid musical tale of kings and courtiers, love and loss.