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Week #26/52: Shirley Collins and further considerations of pastoral noir

Shirley Collins-No Roses-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

I can’t remember what order I came upon things in… did Pastoral Noir lead me to The Alchemical Landscape or did The Alchemical Landscape lead me to Pastoral Noir?


Anyways, I was recently(ish) reading about the work by the curator of the Pastoral Noir exhibition, Justin Hopper with and on folk singer Shirley Collins and his associated talk at The Alchemical Landscape…

..which made certain things fall into place.

Shirley Collins-No Roses-A Year In The Country-2

Pastoral noir is an intriguing phrase. The landscape doesn’t tend to make one think of noir related things…


It depends how you consider or define the word noir; in some ways it is a very city bound, often cinematic/fictional crime related, particular style and aesthetic…

Or you could take Otto Penzler’s view that noir works…

““…whether films, novels or short stories, are existential, pessimistic tales about people, including (or especially) protagonists who are seriously flawed and morally questionable. The tone is generally bleak and nihilistic, with characters who greed, lust, jealousy and alienation lead them into a downward spiral as their plans and schemes inevitably go awry… the likelihood of a happy ending in a noir story is remote… It will end badly, because the characters are inherently corrupt and that is the fate that inevitably awaits them.

I expect over the years, the use and meaning of noir has become something of a confluence of the two.

Which brings me back to Shirley Collins.

0001-A Year In The Country-Early Morning HushAn early point of reference for A Year In The Country were the acid/psych/underground folk compilation albums Gather In The Mushrooms and Early Morning Hush.

On Early Morning Hush is Shirley Collins version of the traditional folk song Poor Murdered Woman.

I never found this an easy song. Not the music or Ms Collins’ delivery – rather the lyrics and the story they told.

Considering Mr Penzler’s view of noir, this is as much a contextually disjunctured noir tale as say that folk tale from over the seas – Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues – is a contextually disjunctured noir-ish tale.

Along which lines, I think I should (almost) end on what could be considered another pastoral noir, traditional folk song re-interpretation: The Owl Service’s Cruel Mother and its end line;


I think I shall now go away and say have a nice cup of tea and maybe watch Bagpuss or some such thing to clear my mind and spirit (!).

Intertwined considerations and pathways around these parts:
Day #30/365: The Owl Service – A View From A Hill
Day #3/365: Gather In The Mushrooms: something of a starting point via an accidental stumbling into the British acid folk undeground

Elsewhere in the ether: Mr Hopper / Ms Collins.


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