• Day #101/365: Gently Johnny, Sproatly Smith, The Woodbine & Ivy band and lilting intentions…

    Gently Johnny-Sproatly Smith-The Woodbine & Ivy Band-Static Caravan-The Wicker Man-Magnet-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #13/52.

    Well, here we are a-returning once again to the pastures and culture that surrounds The Wicker Man…

    There have been a fair few versions of Gently Johnny over the years (and not always in the film itself in some of it’s shorter versions), these are two of my favourites.

    Why? Well, I think this quote from Static Caravan who released this split 7″ puts it quite well:

    The Idiom Of The People-James Reeves-folk-folklore-A Year In The CountryIn his 1958 exploration of the more ribald aspects of English folksong*, The Idiom of the People, James Reeves suggests that Gently Johnny has its roots in medieval minstrelsy. However, it is better known as the slightly sinister song of seduction sung by the regulars in the Green Man pub in the cult British horror film, The Wicker Man. The song has continued to exert an influence over musicians, but many of the recordings that have been made of it are a little reverent and bloodless – either too faithful to the film version or treating the song as a precious and fragile faux-pagan remnant, maybe these two versions will go some way to redress the balance.

    Sproatly Smith’s version has a lilting, gentleness to it that doesn’t bely it’s salaciousness… including some found sounds and wanders off into a touch of dialogue which you may well be familiar with…

    …while The Woodbine & Ivy Band has a graceful delicateness that’s all English Rose and soft wantonness with just a hint and twang of dustbowls across the sea here and there…

    Wantonness definition-A Year In The Country

    Well worth a listen to and parting with a few pence or more. Indeed.

    As a slight aside, while I was looking up things for this page I came across different sheet music versions of the song, including one recorded by folk archivist Cecil Sharp. Interesting to see the variations on the song and just how… well, lively shall we say, the song is or has been… which brings us back to James Reeves and the ribald lyrical content of native English song (more details on his book here.)

    Gently Johnny My Jingalo-traditional folk-The Wickerman-A Year In The Country

    Gently Johnny My Jingalo-Cecil J Sharp-folk-The Wickerman-A Year In The CountrySproatly Smith’s version can be listened to here.

    The Woodbine & Ivy Band can be listened to via Folk Police Recordings here. The Alt Mix for Folk Radio UK version by The Woodbine & Ivy Band, which has a particular lush quality can be heard here.

    The Static Caravan of the vinyl single (on appropriately green vinyl**) can be read about here, where you will no doubt be told it’s sold out but a bit of a rummage around the ether may find a copy in that now rarity the physical record shop such as here and possibly still via Reverb Worship here.

    Day-16-Willows-Songs-b-Finders-Keepers-A-Year-In-The-Country-1If you delve back into the earlier days of A Year In The Country there is a consideration of the roots of the music that became The Wicker Man soundtrack. View Day #18/365: Willow’s Songs here. And more recently the vessels and artifacts that have carried the modern(ish) folklore of The Wicker Man at Day #90/365 here.

     

    *”Where shall I meet you my pretty little dear 
    With your red rosy cheeks and your coal black hair 
    I’m going a milking kind sir she answered me 
    But it’s dabbling in the dew where you might find me.

     

    **”Some things in their natural state have the most vivid colours” (Willow McGregor)

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  • Day #100/365: Ms Delia Derbyshire and a day of audiological remembrance and salute

    Delia Derbyshire Day 2014-Delia Darlings-A Year In The Country-1File under:
    Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether. Case #10/52.

    Well, recently a note arrived through my digital letterbox for an intriguing looking event: Delia Derbyshire Day.

    If you should not know who this lady is (was), she was an electronic music pioneer who worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, was particularly renowned for her recording and arrangement of a piece of music which has topped and tailed all kinds of childhood dreams and nightmares over the years (the original Doctor Who Theme), which was one of the first ever electronic signature tunes used on television, created the first electronic music to accompany a fashion show… and well, I expect the world of music might well be quite a different place without her work and it’s not hard to draw a line back from some of the more electronic composers who appear amongst A Year In The Country.

    Delia_Derbyshire-1970-A Year In The CountryI never knew the lady but I always feel quite moved and sad when I read about her life and her passing away at a relatively early age. I feel the world lost a great talent and there’s a sense that her work has never been correctly allowed to flourish, be heard or documented fully (indeed 267 reel-to-reel tapes were discovered after her death, which have been digitised but have not been released due to copyright complications, her released work seems to be patchily represented in official forms).

    The Delia Derbyshire Days are a nod towards and a mark of respect for her and her work and hopefully will play a part in assigning the respect she and it deserve.

    Delia Derbyshire-A Year In The Country-delia-darlings-tour-posterleafletOf note and well worth a wander: well there could well be quite a few but Dreams, her work with Barry Bermage, where people described their nocturnal stories to an electronic accompaniment is well worth a visit, there’s Mathew Sweet’s radio documentary Sculptress of Sound (listen here), the Audiological Chronology Delia Derbyshire site here, Blue Veils and Golden Sands, a radio play based on her life which can be visited here and The Delian Mode, a documentary about her by Kara Blake can be perused here. Well, that’s a start at least… and that soundtrack, well, I expect you can easily visit that in your mind.

    Delia Derbyshire-A Year In The Country-1Visit Delia Derbyshire Day here (quick quick, it’s coming soon), which will be starting at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, before wandering off to Hebden Bridge, The Horse Hospital in London, Norwich and Oxford.

    Read her obituary by a friend and work companion here (a touching, evocative, moving piece).

    Read more about Delia Derbyshire here.

    Ms Derbyshire, I salute you. Rest in peace.

    Delia Derbyshire in Room 12, along with her full panoply of equipment-A Year In The Country

    I shall leave the final words to her, quoted from the above obituary: very prescient and also humble:

    What we are doing now is not important for itself but one day someone might be interested enough to carry things forwards and create something wonderful on these foundations.

     

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  • Day #99/365: 14 tracks – “Hauntology: A peculiar sonic fiction”

    Leyland Kirby-Sadly The Future Is Nolonger What It Was-A Year In The Country 2File under:
    Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether. Case #9/52.

    Now, as I may have said before but the digital world is a home just full of stuff; the cupboards, pantry, drawers, cellar, under the stairs, in the garage, on that hard to reach shelf above the bed, under the bed, hung on the coat hooks – all are overflowing with creative work.

    So, in such times the need for selection, filtration and curation can sometimes be all the more necessary.

    Along such lines, this page is another small piece of curating the curators…

    Belbury Poly-from an Ancient Star-Ghost Box-14 tracks hauntology-A Year In The CountryAlthough I know there is some debate about whether hauntology exists as a music genre (if memory serves correctly it’s Wikipedia page was deleted after such a debate) and musically/culturally the people/records that have been associated with it can be quite diverse, it can still be quite a hand loosely defined label for a certain aesthetic. Along such lines…

    I’ve had a soft spot since I came across it for 14 Tracks’ “Hauntology: A peculiar sonic fiction”, as an idea as much as the music: essentially it’s a primer or introduction to the loose genre of music that has been deemed hauntological. Each track has a brief one sentence description and the selection is accompanied by a concise essay on all things sonically spectral, which I have reproduced in full below:

    The discourse developed around Jacques Derrida’s concept of ‘Hauntology’ and its application to music in the minds of writers like Simon Reynolds, K-Punk and David Toop is one of the most discussed philosophical and aesthetic musical ideas of recent years. Derrida’s original use of the phrase can be linked to a sense of ‘threading the present through the past’, or a ghostly re-imagining of the past defining our existence. But in its musical sense, Hauntology has been used to describe a gathering of disparate artists dealing in “haunted” sonics; music resonating with the emotions and feelings of past analog, and digital ghosts. While there are many interpretations of the concept, we’ve taken it to cover artists who have tried to to re-engage with intangible musical feelings and experiences that have affected their formative years or that have become forever ingrained on their sonic psyche, without merely rehashing them as pastiche. Looking specifically at the British musical landscape of the early 21st century, it’s been said that after the ‘death of rave’ we’re experiencing a sort of creative comedown, where the dubbed ectoplasmic traces of the musical past are caught in an ever-decreasing feedback loop of nostalgia seeping through music and other artistic forms, resonating echoes of intangible elements from days gone by. Our selection veers from The Caretaker’s apparitional sample morphology, through Ariel Pink’s exquisite MOR narco-pop, the Ghost Box label’s miniaturised vision of middle England, onto Burial’s mournful rave dreams, all leaving an abstract yet indelible mark on this very particular musical landscape we find ourselves in today.

    Leyland Kirby-Sadly The Future Is Nolonger What It Was-A Year In The Country

    The selection includes tracks by The Advisory Circle, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti, Nite Jewel, Burial, Leyland Kirby (Sadly The Future Is Nolonger What It Was is probably one of the better record titles which has been put out into the world), Demdike Stare, Ghost Box overseers Belbury Poly, Roj, Mordant Music, Kreng, ISAN and Leylad Kirby in a different form via The Caretaker (or is that the other way around?)… plus I’m glad to see treasures from the past via Vernon Elliot (the gent responsible for the music for Ivor The Engine and The Clangers amongst others) and the Arthur Birkny Barbara Moore Singers by way of Trunk Records Fuzzy Felt Folk.

    Demdike Stare-14 Tracks Hauntology-A Year In The Country,jpgNow, you could easily spend many waking hours (and a fair few in your dreams) wandering through 14 tracks… here are a few other collections which have caught my eye and ear: A ferric attraction (digital recordings of tape recorded releases), Eldritch Electronics (avant-folk, industrial, ambient and hauntological sounds), Chamber Drift (“songs with an elemental, folksy awareness which share a rarefied, surreal atmosphere“), Quarrying Strange & Heavy Rocks (“Psyche-Folk, Noise, Avant Jazz and experimental Rock“), Midnight Nomads (“searching under rocks for desolate drone, introverted Americana and occult artefacts to while away baltic nights“), 14 tracks under the spell of Fonal Records (“Finland’s celebrated psych folk shamens“), Psychedelic Wanderlust (“the fringes of lo-fi, freeform folk, blues and experimental electronics“)…

    Well, there’s a fair old bit of listening and trails to wander down.

    Visit “Hauntology: A peculiar sonic fiction” here.

     

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  • Day #98/365: Artifact #14/52 released: The Gateway print

    Artifact #14/52: The Gateway print. £8.00.

    The Gateway-A Year In The Country

    The Gateway-Numbering Detail-A Year In The CountryThe Gateway Print-Signature detail-A Year In The Country

     

    Artifact 14-Main Image-The Gateway-A Year In The Country
    Limited edition of 31. Each print is signed and numbered.
    Print size: 28 x 10.5 cm / 11 x 4.1 inches (includes 1cm / 0.4″ border).
    Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on Hahnemühle fine art 100% cotton rag paper.

    Free UK/International shipping.

    Available in our Artifacts Shop.

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  • Day #97/365: Ms A. Cooper, Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and the various nestings of Magpahi…

    Magpahi EP-Alison Cooper-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #13/52.

    The work of Alison Cooper has appeared in various forms in A Year In The Country before (see Folklore Tapes at Day #7/365, Wyrd Britannia at Day #32/365 and Day #9/365) but I’ve had it in mind for a while to return to her various nestings…

    Her recorded work travels from her take on traditional folk on the Magpahi EP/the Bird Songs compilation, which feels like it exists in and has tumbled from a fairytale world all of its own, gathering poems from previous centuries under its wings as it fell: a set of songs that wander into the mind and well, nest there…

    David Chatton Barker-Folklore Tapes-Magpahi Paper Dollhouse-A Year In The Country…via the leftfield glacial otherly folk pop and dusty, lost recording mechanisms instrumentals on Devon Folklore Tapes Vol.IV-Rituals and Practises and through to…

    Day 7-Devon Folklore Tapes Vol IV-Magpahi and Paper Dollhouse-A Year In The Country 2

    …well, through to the folkloric soundscapes of Natural/Supernatural Lancashire/Supernatural Lancashire Volume Two, where she worked with Sam McLoughlin (Samandtheplants/Echo Of Light).

    These are largely instrumental works (though just occasionally Ms Cooper’s voice will fleetingly appear) which feel like a soundtrack or an audiological tribute to the northern landscape and it’s stories, whether pleasantly bucolic or of the friends and fiends found in the furrows and fables around those parts.

    Natural Supernatural Lancashire-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-DiM-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryAlthough the first recording is split into Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and draws from folk music/folklore, neither part is a straightforward pastoral view and listening to it you can be immersed in the wheezing almost carny past world of Stream Power one second and then transported to the meadows via Edder the next. As I type I’ve realised that this juxtaposition seems to highlight a certain duality with regards to the landscape and nature that they consider (hey, I’m being quite academic for relatively early in the day here); it is something both pleasantly dreamlike and bucolic but also just around the edges – sometimes much nearer in – there is something unsettling amongst the trees, beneath the meadows, at the edgelands of towns, cities and along the canalways…

    …not a million yards away from some of the intentions of A Year In The Country I suspect…

    People talk sometimes of music being a soundtrack to an imaginary film. In parts Supernatural Lancashire Part Two seems like a soundtrack to an imaginary TV series, one which was probably made deep in the deepest 1970s, aimed at children but which had arrived as a curiously unsettling thing. The first time I listened to it, some of the tracks I could swear I’d heard before and my mind seemed to try and conjure the slightly smeared, grimy colours of faded spectral transmissions from another era, particularly on Hexagons Above Dovestones. Each time I listen to it I want to find and watch the series it belongs to…

    This links to the previous record as by the end of Supernatural Lancashire there is a suite of Supernatural Lancashire pieces (#8, #9, #10, #11) which seem to segue into what is to come. #10 is the start of the soundtrack to that semi-forgotten television series from my youth and #11 quietly, disconcertingly wanders off into the edges of things…

    Echo Of Light-Folklore Tapes-Wyrd Britannia-A Year In The Country

    In the Echo Of Light live performance (featuring Alison Cooper, Sam McLoughlin and Folklore Tapes co-ordinator David Chatton Barker, see image above) the music is possibly often improvised and utilises self-created instruments; listening to the three installments of Natural/Supernatural Lancashire made me revisit that event, with many of the sounds sharing the sense of being made via arcane and lost music boxes (sometimes when listening I found myself holding my breath, not knowing if I wanted to see what popped out of the top of these jack-in-a-boxes when they were fully wound).

    Natural/Supernatural Lancashire/Supernatural Lancashire Part Two are decidedly experimental pieces of music but with a melodic understanding and listenability, which is something that’s much appreciated around these parts. Music that you can drift off with and into. Lovely stuff.

    The Fallen By Watch Bird Jane Weaver-Magpahi-Europium Alluminate-The Watchbird Alluminate-A Year In The CountryAnd to return to the folkways of Magpahi, a particular highlight for me of Alison Cooper’s work is on the Watchbird Alluminate, whereon songs from Jane Weaver’s Fallen By Watchbird are reimagined… her take on My Soul Was Lost, My Soul Was Lost And No-One Saved me is a piece of music which never fails to transport me… to where? I’m not quite sure but it’s a magical place.

    Much of the music mentioned above was released by Bird Records, who you can find here, in conjunction with Finders Keepers Records. Visit Magpahi there here, hereherehere and here.

    Bearded Ladies-Bird Records-Finders Keepers Records-Magpahi-Jane Weaver-A Year In The CountryMagpahi can also be found on the Bearded Ladies Bird Records compilation which can be visited here and the Twisted Nerve A Kind of Awe and Reverence and Wonder compilation which can be perused here (and see the tumbling cottage below).

    Rather nice writeups on Devon Folklore Tapes Vol.IV and Natural/Supernatural Lancashire at Boomkat here and here.

    Magpahi at Folklore tapes here (but best hurry as who knows for how long).

    Samandtheplants (and some Echo Of Light) in audio form here, in visual form here.

    Jane Weaver and Fallen By Watchbird can be found here and at Day #6/365 of A Year In The Country.

    A Kind Of Awe Reverence And Wander-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-Twisted Nerve-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country 2

    A Kind Of Awe Reverence And Wander-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-Twisted Nerve-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryBird Songs-Bird Records-Jane Weaver-Magpahi-Alison Cooper-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country

     

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  • Day #96/365: Image B/2: And Lo The Gateway Was Opened

    Image A2-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

    I’ve started using titles in some of the A Year In The Country gallery/work images, alongside the titles I’ve been using since the start for the Artifacts…

    I think that with both they are serious in intent but also not intended to be po-faced or overly serious; generally they are an affectionate tip of the hat to the tropes, language and conventions of a certain kind of fantastical/otherly film, fiction etc…

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  • Day #95/365: Image A/2: Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Image B2-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

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  • Day #94/365: Found0bjects: The ghosts of transmission installations and remanants of a secret past

    found0bjects blog logo-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether. Case #8/52.

    Now periodically I like to have a good old wander through the found objects of the blog Found 0bjects.

    Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-1If your taste should run to the shape of the future’s past (nice to see that book on the blog just recently, it was something I had in my youth) via visions of post-war planning, lost recording mechanisms, more than a dash of hauntology, esoteric charity shop finds and the like then this is one particular pathway that’s well worth a visit.

    I’m not sure who actually runs found0bjects, the posts seem to be by various people, though at Rob Young’s Electric Eden site he mentions that it’s one of his blogs… answers on a digital postcard…

    One of my favourite recent posts was Neil Fellows’ photography and text record of a visit to a derelict BBC broadcast monitoring station… well, spectres of the past in the present indeed.Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-2
    The site was built in order to monitor the quality of domestic transmissions but became involved  in wartime and cold war espionage and in the photographs there’s a real sense of this being a hidden site of subterfuge, it looks more bunker like than innocent monitoring centre.

    Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-3Looking at the photographs reminded me of my childhood fascination with air raid shelters scattered on the edgelands of the town I grew up, which still remained several decades after conflict had ended.

    We would dare one another to enter, half expecting there to be ghosts or hoping to maybe find some leftover military ordinance (but more likely finding hundreds of old beer bottles and cans or maybe slightly unsettlingly for us at that age with headfulls of imagination and malevolent spirits, the red splash from where a ketchup bottle had been smashed against the wall).

    Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-8Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-4

    Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-6Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-7

    Neil Fellowes-BBC Tatsfield Broadcast Monitoring Station-found0bjects-derelict photography-hauntology-spectres-A Year In The Country-5View the full post here.

     

     

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  • Day #93/365: Seasons They Change and the sweetly strange concoctions of private pressings…

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Touchstones.
    Case #18/52.

    When I was connecting the dots between all things more leftfield folk music, one particularly informative book was Jeanette Leach’s Seasons They Change, a book which to quote the back cover “tells the story of the birth, death, and resurrection of acid and psychedelic folk.”

    …which it does indeed do, dropping a trail of breadcrumbs largely chronologically through that particular story.

    There are only really a tiny handful of books on such or interconnected things (the A Year In The Country friendly ones would probably be Seasons They Change, Rob Young’s Electric Eden, Shindig magazines Witches Hats and Painted Chariots and the 1970s The Electric Muse: The Story Of Folk Into Rock). Although a wander through the digital ether can help to inform and make connections, there’s something about a well put together book that codifies and coheres a story…

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country-2From what I remember I made a particular trip to buy it from an actual bookshop (a rarity nowadays in the land) and with the sun shining down sat next to a pond to begin quite a journey… which I seem to recall ended with an almost palpitatory experience of sitting with headphones scan-listening to just about every band, record and song that was mentioned as I came across it in the book.

    …and it was something of a fine education which did indeed help me to connect up the aforementioned dots between everything from 1960s psychedelic folk to the 2000s arrival of freak folk via Current 93 and…

    …well, the world of privately pressed folk music.

    In these days when it’s a relatively easy task to record and then put out into the world creative work via everything from music hosting sites to print on demand everything, it’s almost hard to imagine the dedication and commitment that was once required to do such things; the expense, expertise and access to equipment which was required to privately press vinyl records provided a heavy-handed filtering system…

    But some made it through and a handful of the results have become rarefied, treasured artifacts, totems and tokens of semi-hidden and once almost lost culture.

    A Year In The Country-Early Morning Hush folk compilation-A Year In The CountryIn Seasons They Change the chapter Sanctuary Stone is dedicated to such things. Some of those featured I first stumbled across via one of the early touchstones of A Year In The Country: the compilation Early Morning Hush (Notes From The Folk Underground 1969-76) but at the time I never got to read the sleevenotes and I didn’t look up any information on the songs or those who recorded them, possibly I was just enjoying letting my wander amongst this world of a folk music that was a far sweeter and stranger set of concoctions than anything that I had come across under the label of folk before…

    Midwinter-The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow-acid folk psych folk-Early Morning Hush-A Year In The Country 2Midwinter-The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow-acid folk psych folk-Early Morning Hush-A Year In The Country-bSo, who are we talking about? Well, on the Early Morning Hush album it would be Midwinter, the connected Stone Angel and Shide And Acorn. Further afield I would probably look to Oberon and Caedmon (whose Sea Song I didn’t consciously know that I had listened to it before but when I first heard it on vinyl it was like discovering a long-lost friend that I thought I never knew).

    Most of those mentioned in the paragraph above are covered in Seasons They Change, alongside their privately pressed counterparts from over the seas…

    Oberon-A Midsummers Night Dream-folk-private press-A Year In The Country…and some of the songs which were put out into the world through personal endeavour now sound like folk which should have bothered the pop charts at the time, in particular the epic folk-pop of The Sea, Midwinter’s The Skater, Shide And Acorn’s Eleanor’s Song and Oberon’s Nottanum Town.

    So, if you should want to wander down the pathways of the undergrowths of folk music and map the crisscrossing strands that you come across, well, look no further than Seasons They Change. Ms Leech, a tip of the hat to you.

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change poster-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country-2Early Morning Hush compiled by author/St Etienne-r/musical archiver Bob Stanley can be perused here. Jeanette Leech can be found ornithologically here, archivally here, Seasons They Change here and a year of book wandering here. The story of Stone Angel here.

    Read more about Early Morning Hush and it’s travelling companion from earlier days of A Year In The Country here.

     

    PS Due to their scarcity and rarity, most of the original vinyl versions of the records mentioned above are well beyond the humble purse strings of A Year In The Country… so, this English Garden reissue of Caedmon’s album is the closest to such things that is likely to be visited around these parts.

    Caedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The CountryCaedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The Country 2

    Caedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The Country 3

     

     

     

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  • Day #92/365: Sproatly Smith – The Minstrel’s Grave and visions of a land rolling away just out of sight of the mind’s eye…

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 3File under:
    Trails and Influences: Touchstones.
    Case #18/52.

    Now, I know little about Sproatly Smith. It’s another case where I don’t really want or need to, the music they create exists in a land unto itself for me and reading all kinds of interviews and the like may well just disturb such things… sometimes you need to tread gently.

    I think looking back when I came across some of their songs I started to realise that I was on the right track towards… well, towards something that would become A Year In The Country.

    If I had to describe the music they create I would probably say, well, something along the lines of “spiralling pastoral acid folklore tinged music” (is this a new genre name?) and they have been described by fRoots magazine as “The mystery flagship band of the new wave of weirdlore”…

    For a while there didn’t seem to be any photos of them at all wandering around the ether. Now there are a few. I still don’t know all that much about them but I don’t really mind…

    (It’s curious how things have gone from a time in my youth where I could wait and hope for months or longer to see one photograph of a band/artist etc or a tiny article in the print media, maybe never seeing any at all to a time when I sometimes enjoy and hanker scarcity, obscurity and knowing little about such things in amongst the easy deluge of information which abounds in modern times… be careful what you wish for and all that…).

    In terms of how their music has wandering out into the world… Some of their albums have been put out in hand finished/sewn limited editions by Reverb Worship. Some by the now sadly departed Folk Police Recordings. The most recent has been put out by themselves via good old ferrous tape and its digital accompaniment…

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 2

    …and there was a split 7″ with The Woodbine & Ivy band on Static Caravan where they both covered Gently Johnny in a particularly fine manner (something I’ve briefly mentioned before and may do again).

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The CountryOn the Minstrels Grave album, I seem to have often revisited two songs in particular: Blackthorn Winter which seems to manage to be shimmeringly stark, dark and beautiful all at once. I’m a-listening to it as I type and my hair is stood on end… and The Blue Flame, which is gentler but still… well, I don’t know if I have come across the music of any other group of musicians while on my journey towards and through A Year In The Country which quietly builds into a vision of pastoral otherlyness to such a degree.

    Or to quote myself quoting The Gaping Silence their songs can be “like something from the Wicker Man, if the Wicker Man had been a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel” (see Day #85/365: Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground and legendary lost focal points…).

    Some of Sproatly Smith’s homes in the ether: here, here and here. At Folk Police Recordings here. On vinyl platters at Static Caravan hereReverb Worship here.  

     

    PS As a final point, I’ve just noticed that one of the songs on the album is a version of O Willow Waly, as heard in the film The Innocents. It’s strange how you can listen to/look at something so many times before your mind makes connections. Now, that is a song which I no doubt shall be considering at some point in the future around about these parts…

     

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  • Day #91/365: Artifact #13/52: Mind How You Go ribbon bound canvas book released

    Artifact #13/52: Mind How You Go ribbon bound canvas book. £12.00.Artifact 13-Front cover-A Year In The Country

    Limited edition of 52. Each book is signed and numbered.

    Artifact 13-Inside Page 3-A Year In The Country Artifact 13-Inside Page 2-A Year In The Country Artifact 13-Inside Page-A Year In The Country Artifact 13-Signature Page-A Year In The Country
    Size: 17 x 7 cm / 6.7 x 2.7 inch.
    Page count: 24 (12 pages printed).
    Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on textured matt canvas material.
    Bound with black ribbon.

    Free UK shipping.

    Artifact 13-all prints-A Year In The Country

    Available at our Artifacts Shop.

     

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  • Day #90/365: The Wicker Man – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore

    The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080File under:
    Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #12/52.

    I suppose there was a certain inevitability that The Wicker Man would come knocking at the door of A Year In The Country one morning…

    Over the years it seems to have become such a touchstone and point of reference for people and there seems to be an exponentially increasing amount of text, articles, referencing and so on which shows no sign of dwindling even a touch.

    Via storage and dissemination through various mediums and artifacts, such celluloid and (once) cathode ray stories could now be considered to be our modern-day folklore or folktales, allowing for a common cultural language in days when people no longer live and share such things with their geographic neighbours to as large a degree as in the past.

    The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-Insert-A Year In The Country-2The title of the page mentions “future lost vessels”. Why you may ask? Well, one day in years to come it is quite likely that some of the physical artifacts, the digital discs and ferrous cassettes, that have been used to pass on our folk tales from the 1970s onwards may well still exist as objects but will the stories that they contain still be readable by all but a few? The current machines for such things will have more than likely returned once more to the ground from whence they originally came. The stories themselves may well have been re-recorded and transferred to other mediums but the original artifacts will quite possibly just have become symbols or ornaments that represent them…

    But who knows what may happen in the future and what the future story may be of a tale which is already possibly partly buried beneath passing cars (see here about half way down the page for more details).

    Hmmm.

    And so, this page is a document of some my favourite (or at least the ones I find the most interesting) of the vessels and artifacts of this particular slice of modern day folklore…

    (In memory of possible future lost vessels, only the casing that contains the discs and tapes are shown below, I’ve included a touch of actual vinyl as such things have proved a certain longevity).

    Here goes…

    I think one of my favourite of such things is the hessian bag release of the DVD… it just seems to fit…

    The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-A Year In The Country 2 The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-DVD-A Year In The Country

    One of the Dan Mumford poster designs for the 40th Anniversary re-issue of the film…
    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster-A Year In The Country
    …and some variations on the poster via Dark City Gallery
    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster detail-A Year In The Country
    Below on the left is what seems to be one of the rarer DVD issues of the film, featuring part of a still that seems to be something of a favourite out in the world (and which has been used by contemporary pastoral-psych-folk band Sproatly Smith, who also released a 7″ single of Gently Johnny)…

    Nice rarer paperback cover on the right below… well, when I saw nice, it’s in the context of somebody being thrown onto the altar so that people can grow some mildly exotic apples…
    The Wicker Man-The Cult Classic Film Series-A Year In The Country The Wicker Man-Pocker Fiction paperback-A Year In The Country

     

    Ah, the days of VHS (was this ever released on Betamax? Video 2000?)…
    The Wicker Man-1973 1972-VHS Thorn EMI-Pick Of The Flicks-A Year In The Country copy
    Now, I should really love the hinged wooden box edition of the film but there’s something just slightly off or maybe unloved about it…
    The Wicker Man-Wooden Box Edition-DVD-A Year In The Country
    Something which may well have been responsible for some of the increase in interest over the last decade or so… The Trunk Records vinyl release of the soundtrack album, the first time it had been commercially available…
    The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country
    If you should wish to read about how film cults came about in part because of the siren call of ladies in metal bath tubs to the cigar chomping folk behind the scenes…
    The Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The CountryThe Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The Country 2
    …and a return to VHS, this time with a slightly more sober cover (and more giving away of the plot)…The Wicker Man-VHS video cover-A Year In The Country
    Now this seems to be one of the rarer artifacts out in the world… the 2012 Record Store Day 7″ single release of Willow’s Song/Gently Johnny…
    The Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country 2The Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country
    …and (almost) finally, Richard Beckett’s poster for the 40th Anniversary (as seen on t-shirts, the aforementioned posters and a new differently edited version of the soundtrack)…

    …plus one of the lesser seen DVD releases. I like the simplicity of this one.
    The Wicker Man-Richard Beckett poster-silver hair variant-A Year In The Country

    The Wicker Man-Studio Canal DVD-A Year In The Country

    So, 12 artifacts to accompany A Year In The Country seems quite an appropriate number.

    I know what, let’s make it a baker’s dozen as I quite like the story behind that phrase…

    A double page spread from a copy of Film Review magazine back in 1974, showing The Wicker Man side-by-side with its cinematic partner Don’t Look Now:

    The Wicker Man-Dont Look Now-Film Review Magazine-A Year In The Country-1200

    (In case you’re curious the cover of that issue featured Sid James, Babs Windsor, Margaret Nolan and Valerie Leon in Carry On Girls… something of a favourite in the Carry On cannon round these parts, a point when the films began to change and reflect a country “gone to the dogs” but before the films just became seedy shams. Anyway, I digress…).

    As an (actual) final note: don’t watch The Wicker Man with an older relative, suggesting a viewing as your mind seems to have momentarily selectively remembered it as a bit of a knockabout light-hearted folkloric musical…

    Ah, we live and learn.

    A few trails and pathways: The appeal for lost Wicker Man materials here and at The Art Shelf here. Corn(flake) rigs via Johnny Trunk at Feuilleton, at Fuel and at Mr Trunk’s home in the electronic ether. A whole slew of Wicker soundtracks here. Richey Beckett’s hand of glory here. An interesting “behind-the-scenes” on the creation of the artwork for the 2012 Record Store Day Willow’s Song/Gently Johnny 7″ here and here. Sproatly Smith and the Woodbine & Ivy band split version of Gently Johnny (something of a favourite) at purveyor of vinyl artifacts Picadilly Records and Static Caravan.

    A baker’s or devil’s dozen here.

     

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  • Day #89/365: Image Z

    Image Z-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

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  • Day #88/365: No Blade Of Grass and a curious mini-genre…

    No Blade Of Grass 24-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #12/52.

    In the 1970s there seemed to be a curious mini-genre of doom-warning apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction films, which warned of the dangers of ecological collapse, battles for resources, out of control population growth, ways citizens might be controlled and so forth. You could include Z.P.G., Phase IV, Soylent Green, The Omega Man in amongst these, possibly in a more crowd and eye-pleasing way Logan’s Run and you could draw a line from them to later British television series along similar lines such as Noah’s Ark and Day Of The Triffids.

    No Blade Of Grass, based on John Christopher’s The Death Of Grass novel, was one such film. This is not really a piece of knockabout period kitsch, it’s a surprisingly bleak, brutal film (admittedly with some inappropriate almost sitcom music here and there and longstanding UK sitcom/soap opera actress Wendy Richards as a slightly out-of-place comic dollybird) about what happens when a new strain of virus kills the worlds grass, related plants and crops…

    …and what seems to happen is that society and normal morality/rules of law almost immediately break down and life becomes more a Lord Of The Flies/survival of the fittest/the best armed battle for food and control in the cities and amongst the fleeing gatherings of people in the countryside, while governments take to nerve gas bombing their own populations, killing hundreds of millions of people in order to have enough food for those who remain.

    Like I say, not all that cheery. I was a little shocked and silenced after the end of it and below is a look at some of what happens in the film when the veneer of civilisation doesn’t so much fade but rather is rent asunder.

    The title frames show a lone group of figures armed and on the run on a parched, cracked landscape, set against images of pollution and decay, which are soon followed by scenes of abundant food and conventional affluent middle class ways of life…No Blade Of Grass 1-A Year In The Country
    None of which lasts for long as the main protagonists flee the rioting city to try and reach the safety of a family member’s remote farm. Which leads them to…

    In the 1970s it often seemed to be wild gangs of bikers who were the recurring societal bogeymen who would take over when civilisation collapsed (John Christopher’s Pendulum novel takes a similar line, Psychomania sees the bikers become undead countryside hoodlums). In No Blade Of Grass this is shown to once again be the case they’re wrong uns and no mistake, en masse attacking refugees (although said refugees are shown to be no angels themselves)…No Blade Of Grass 2-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 2b-A Year In The CountryMeanwhile those sometimes symbols of bucolic English pastoralism, the good old tweed clad country farmer and the stone farmhouse become almost Deliverance style hijackers and scenes of troop insurrections (while in the cities the dependable British bobby has become an altogether different gas mask wearing, gun-toting symbol of authority)…

    No Blade Of Grass-3b-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country

    …and the spires of a land forever England now merely act as a backdrop to the chaos…

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 12-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 11-A Year In The Country

    Although in some ways quite a mainstream, possibly even exploitation piece of cinema, throughout the film there are quite non-mainstream moments/presentation and commentary on what has led the world to this place… the action will stop and be replaced by non-narrative sequences and stills: fields full of carrion, rivers strewn with dead aquatic life, smokestacks framed by leafless nature, rows of discarded cars are pictured on riverbanks,  a luxury car is shown abandoned in the countryside, an advertising voice over saying “You can do anything in a Rolls-Royce” while the almost unnoticeable specs of citizens fleeing the rioting and looting mobs in the cities can be seen on the hill behind it…

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 19-A Year In The Country
    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 17-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 16-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 15-A Year In The Country

    …and negative frames and flash forwards show the horrors which have happened and are to come…

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 18-A Year In The Country

    Over the years and different shores the novel The Death Of Grass has been sent out into the world in a fair number of different jacket designs… I think the film tie-in edition shown top left below wins a prize for being one of the book covers that I have come across during my A Year In The Country wanderings which gives me the heebie jeebies the most…

    No Blade Of Grass 20-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass 23-A Year In The Country

     

    No Blade Of Grass 22-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country

    Find the most recent UK publishing of the novel here, the Archive Collection release of the film here, watch the trailer here, a selection of lobby cards and posters here and here.

    …and the curiously out of place, upliftingly apocalyptic (two words you don’t normally see together) theme tune by Roger Whittaker can be listened to here.

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  • Day #87/365: Faded foundlings and Tender Vessels…

    Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-4File under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #11/52.

    Recently I was browsing through the weather-beaten, sun faded cheaper books outside one of the few remaining bookshops in the world and I came across a book on corn-husk crafts… the art of, well, creating figures, decorations, wreaths etc from corn husks.

    There was something both sweet, comforting and just a touch unsettling to some of the resulting faceless folkloric figures which peopled the book… they made me think they could have tumbled from a school project recreation of The Wickerman which had lain forgotten and gathering dust since it was made, something that Jonny Trunk would rediscover and release the lost soundtrack to years later…

    …or of the faceless monsters, intruders and mannequins come to life which seemed to populate so much of my childhood television watching and it didn’t surprise me to see that it was released around a similar time in the earlyish 1970s…

    Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-1

    Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-2Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-3

     

    The figures also put me in mind of some of the folkloric/”post-industrial folk art” (to quote Ken Hollings) work of Cathy Ward and Eric Wright, in particular the Home Rites wheat sculptures from their Tender Vessels project. Of these I shall say no more and let the images of them speak for themselves…

    Tender Vessels-Home Rites-Cathy Ward and Eric Wright-A Year In The Country

    Tender Vessels-Home Rites-Cathy Ward and Eric Wright-A Year In The Country 2
    The book which accompanied the Tender Vessels exhibition is available from Strange Attractor.
    A review of the book by Ken Hollings is here. Visit Cathy Ward and Eric Wright’s home in the electronic ether here. An interesting piece on the Trunk Records release of The Wickerman soundtrack here.

     

    PS It may be just me but the Home Rites sculptures also make me think of The Asphyx, the 1973 Hammer film where the spirit which comes to take people at the point of departing from this realm is captured under glass domes and this enables them to live forever (well, in my memory, that seems to be what happened)…

    …it’s curious how so many of the things that fascinate me, that I am drawn to and which have an otherly or slightly off-kilter, “what was going on there?” nature seem to have been put out into the world around 1973. Hmmm…

     

    Well, that seems like this one old-ish book has put my mind a-thinking about a fair few things…

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  • Day #86/365: novemthree-Scythe to the Grass and gentle pastoral melancholia that wanders under the skin…

    Novemthree-tshirt design-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences:
    Touchstones. 
    Case #17/52.

    Now, I don’t know all that much about Novemthree and it’s one of those times where I’m not sure I want to as for me this song seems to be something of a pinnacle of all things gently pastoral and yet quietly unsettling in folk music and I seem to want to leave it  undisturbed*.

    The song was released as part of a hand assembled split album with Arrowwood: You can listen to/purchase the song here or via Little Somebody here. The song was also featured on the John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth compilation release by Cold Spring.

     

    *As an aside, If you wander along the pathways that lead from novemthree you will soon wander into the meadows and territories of what could be called pagan folk, heathen folk, dark folk, wicca folk, doom folk, gloom folk and the like… tread gently…

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  • Day #85/365: Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground and legendary lost focal points…

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 3File under:
    Trails and Influences:
    Touchstones. 
    Case #16/52.

    Once upon a time there was an event called Weirdlore, which could well in future years have come to be known and constantly referred to as a focal point for a new wave of what could be called acid, psych or underground folk… or possibly weirdlore.

    Unfortunately said event was cancelled. Apparently there was an awful lot of enthusiasm for it but this hadn’t translated into the necessary parting with of lucre…

    However, there was still to be a document of this now never happened event, which was the Weirdlore compilation released by Folk Police Recordings (who were responsible for one of my favourite corners of the electronic ether, which also sadly is nolonger with us).

    The album has rather fine artwork by Owl Service compatriot/Straw Bear Band gent/Rif Mountain-er Dom Cooper, which reinterprets traditional folkloric imagery and iconography in a contemporary manner…

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 1

    The album is a snapshot of things musically, well, Weirdloric and includes tracks by Telling The Bees, Emily Portman, Rapunzel & Sedayne, another sometime Owl Service-r Nancy Wallace, Pamela Wyn Shannon, Katie Rose, The False Beards, Foxpockets, Boxcar Aldous Huxley, the aforementioned Straw Bear Band, Starless And Black Bible, Alasdair Roberts, Corncrow, Ros Brady, The Witches With Kate Denny, Harp And A Monkey, Wyrdstone…

    …and I think the standout track for me is Sproatly Smith’s version of Rosebud In June, which I think if I had to save my A Year In The Country Desert Island Discs from the waves, may well be scooped up for nights under the stars.

    It is a song which has been described by The Gaping Silence as being “like something from the Wicker Man, if the Wicker Man had been a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel”… which as a quote has always stuck in my mind and I think sums it up really rather well and so I shall say no more.

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 2The album is also well worth a peruse (and purchase?) for the accompanying text by Ian Anderson, of fRoots magazine, written with Weirdlore still a month away and still to be a future point in history. In it he rather presciently describes the album as “celebrating a day which has yet to happen and a genre that quite conceivably doesn’t exist.”

    Within the album’s packaging there is also an extended piece by Jeanette Leech (author of Seasons They Change: The Story Of Acid and Psychedelic Folk) where she discusses the use of genre names, how such music as that which is featured in Weirdlore came to be and the brief shining of media spotlights on its and associated practitioners:

    When light is not on a garden, many plants will wither. But others won’t. They will grow in crazy, warped, hardy new strains. It’s time to feed from the soil instead of the sunlight.

    I think that last sentence is one of the ones which has haunted and lodged in my psyche the most when I’ve been working towards, on and thinking about A Year In The Country.

    The electronic ether wisps of Weirdlore here. The electronic ether wisps of Folk Police Recordings here and an introduction to the album from them here. Dom Cooper here. Rif Mountain here. Seasons They Change by Jeanette Leech here.

    The Wickerman soundtrack as a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel via Sproatly Smith herehere and listen to or even purchase the soundtrack itself here.

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  • Day #84/365: Artifact #12/52 released: We Have Summoned Them And Now The Time Is Upon Us print

    Limited edition of 52. £20.00.
    Artifact 12-Image of Print-A Year In The Country

    Print Detail:Artifact 12-Print Detail 1-A Year In The Country
    Print Detail:
     Artifact 12-Print Detail 2-A Year In The Country
    Limited edition of 52. Each print is signed and numbered.

    Size: 42 x 14.85 cm / 16.45 x 5.8 inch (including 1 cm / 0.4 inch border).

    Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on Hahnemühle fine art 310gsm 100% cotton rag paper.

    Free UK shipping.

    Available at our Artifacts Shop.

     

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  • Day #83/365: Image Y – Hello Earth (A Midnight Dawn)

    Image Y-Hello Earth-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

    Something of a tip of the hat to both the re-emergence of Ms Kate Bush, 1970s science fiction films which concentrated on ecological/resource related societal collapse and control (i.e. Z.P.G., Soylent Green, No Blade Of Grass, Logan’s Run etc) and also quite possibly the light that is brighter than a hundred suns.

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  • Day #82/365: Image X

    Image X-A Year In The Country

    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

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