Bush Gothic Interview (Fiddle, double bass, percussion, vocal) - The Blarney Pilgrims Traditional Irish Music Podcast

Episode 10 · August 13th, 2019 · 1 hr 5 secs

About this Episode

First off, thanks to everybody who’s nipped over to


and subscribed to the podcast. If you’ve not yet done it, and have been meaning to, there’s never been a better time. Your reward will be great in heaven. And thanks.

Now, this episode is a slight departure for us in that nobody mentions Planxty. Not once. And there’s less of a strictly traditional Irish feel to this one. But basically we had a chance to record Bush Gothic at Portarlington, so we said ‘Yes please.’

If you’re not yet familiar with them, Bush Gothic reimagine traditional songs - from Australia, Ireland, England, wherever they find them - in the deepest sense of that word ‘reimagine.’ What happens when that happens? Songs are suddenly visible in new light, with new contours and meanings evident. It’s pretty amazing. You think about words you’ve heard maybe hundreds of times before in a whole new way.

And as I mention in the intro to the episode, they leave space in their arrangements, so you can really hear the songs, the music, unfurl. So listen, with headphones if possible, cos this is seriously beautiful music.

And here’s some things to get you going after you’re done listening:

Darren mentions one of the band’s films, which you can see here – their version of the (I think) English song, Jim Jones:


Then there’s the toxic masculinity of Kenneth McKellar. (I know, right?) Here he is singing ‘The Wee Cooper of Fife’, the song I referred to…nickety nackety noo…


…The Ould Triangle, as sung by Brendan Behan…


…and following on from our chat about Burns, some thoughts on the great Scottish poet as a ‘Weinsteinian Sex Pest’:


…and a suggestion that Veronica Forrest-Thomson might be a poet more worthy of your attention:


So, why were we (me and my pals) celebrating Burns, as discussed in the episode? At the time I took shelter in the notion that what I felt we were celebrating was not Burns the man, with his qualities and his failings, but the idea of Burns. A man, a poet, a romantic and an espouser in verse of liberal ideals of the kind found in ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’:

Is there for honest Poverty

That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave – we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure and a’ that,
The rank is but a guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that…

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Sung, in an amazing, emotional moment, by Sheena Wellington at the official opening of the Scottish Parliament:


But maybe my explanation was a cop out, I’m not sure. Also, I’ve just realized, I fell in love with Burns’s song Now Westlin’ Winds, as recorded by Dick Gaughan, at the same time as I fell in love with a girl who didn’t fall in love with me. If you’re looking for the poem from which the song derives, it’s called Song Composed in August, and it’s gorgeous:


Check out that nature imagery ya bas. Here’s Dick Gaughan’s version:


So I’m sure my unrequited teenage love had something to do with something. And, finally, you can’t ignore the fact that if nothing else, Burns Night is a great excuse for a massive, ceremonial piss-up in the middle of winter. So there’s that.

And then there’s the English band The Unthanks:


I first came across their music through their…what…heart-stopping version of the King Of Rome:


…which sends shivers through me every time I hear it, and puts me in mind of both Elbow, and Kate Rusby’s ‘My Young Man,’ which is also completely heart-stopping:


And finally, Darren references Turkey In The Straw and the debate that comes and goes in the Old Time world, I suspect, about whether it’s possible to unweave a melody from the words it has traditionally been attached to.

This is the NPR feature on the song’s origins:


I wonder too, as Jenny says, if there are some songs, melodies – whatever – that we should just bury once and for all, because they’re so damaging. Which, when all’s said and done, seems fine to me.

Jenny M Thomas, Dan Witton and Chris Lewis, thanks again.

Bush Gothic’s live filming is happening on Monday September 2nd at the Retreat Hotel in Abbotsford. You can get tickets here:


And you can get hold of their albums at their bandcamp page:



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Till next time.
Darren & Dom