As a guitarist and a songwriter I’ve been been influenced by many different styles of traditional folk music from around the world. Two of the main schools of influence through which I eventually found my own way of writing were the folk music traditions of England, Scotland and Ireland and those of West Africa, more specifically Mali. In the early nineties, I came across the music of Martin Carthy and Davey Graham at around the same time that I discovered the Malian greats, Boubacar Traore and Ali Farka Toure. As incongruous as it might be to compare the musical equivalent of a frosty winter morning on an English moor with that of sweltering afternoon on the Niger Delta, I’ve always felt there were endless points of comparison between the two worlds. I began my side project The River, with the Malian master N’goni player, Badje Tounkara and French guitarist Seb Martel in order to deepen this profoundly complementary dialogue.
Being the descendant of Italian, Irish, Ashkenazi and Gypsy immigrants, I don’t have a big claim to represent British or Irish Folk traditions any more than I do those of West Africa but what I do feel I can stake a claim to is the right to blend styles just as my blood has been blended with the trace of so many different languages. I’ve written several songs both for my own albums and for The River that explore the dialogue between northern European Folk and West African traditions but I wanted for the ongoing Vol II of Songs I love to find a cover that I could play with in the same way. Much has been made of the links between Mississippi blues and Mali but I find the ties between certain aspects of British and Irish and Malian folk to be just as strong. Martin Carthy is one of my all time favorite guitar players, I played Badje Tounkara his version of Cold haily, windy night and Badje said.”On dirait la musique de chez nous” “It sounds like music from my country”
With Kitty I’ll go is a wonderful song that I first heard sung by the extraordinary Norma Waterson. I fell in love with it when I discovered Waterson Carthy’s first album. Reading Martin Carthy’s original liner notes, I found out that it was an Irish song and that there is also a version in Gaelic. I live in the hills of the Cevennes, in a land that I left London for in order to ‘ramble over the mountains wild.’ so singing these wonderful words feels like a perfect match!