Angeline Morrison delivers the historic Black British experience missing from her nation’s folk music with her latest single, “Go Home,” which is out today on the prestigious Topic Records.
Morrison is one of the freshest voices in English folk music today, and a recent winner of the Christian Raphael Prize, awarded to her by the Cambridge Folk Festival. RCU readers may also recognize her name from being a member of the psych-folk-inspired Rowan : Morrison project.
On her upcoming LP for Topic Records, The Sorrow Songs: Folk Songs of Black British Experience, Morrison tells the forgotten or overlooked narratives of England’s Black population through folk songs. As she mentioned in some of her recent interviews, traditional British folk music is known for reflecting and capturing the way of life for everyone from mill workers to royals. Yet, England’s Black population, which goes back thousands of years, is conspicuously absent from the national folk cannon. So Morrison composed songs like “Go Home” to rectify that.
“Go Home” is a brooding tune that is sadly as relevant now as it could have been hundreds of years ago. It’s about facing violence, vandalism and microaggressions that are intended to make you feel unsafe and unwelcome where you live. It’s a powerful piece with dramatic choral singers, mournful violin and funereal piano that together create a strenuously anxious atmosphere. Morrison’s vocals unfurl slowly and carefully, revealing an almost trembling croon that is rich with dread and woe. This is a track that will haunt you from beginning to end (and long after it’s over).
The single’s other two tracks, “Black John” and “Unknown African Boy (d. 1830),” are equally strong compositions. The latter of the two is a courtly ballad about the pain and cruelty of losing a child to slavers. Like many classic British folk songs, the melody and arrangement sound beautiful, but the lyrics provide words to unspeakable pains and horrors.
Meanwhile, the former is a tribute to John Ystumllyn, a former slave that became a renowned gardener, and would eventually be recognized as England’s first Black horticulturist. The song commemorates this figure from England’s Black history as a kind of folk hero, celebrating his life and successes to ensure that he’ll never slip away into obscurity again.
Produced by Eliza Carthy (who also provides violin work), and featuring other stellar names from the folk community, such as Rosie Crow, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and even Martin Carthy, this is a single that every UK folk fan needs to hear. Check it out below:
Click here to preorder The Sorrow Songs: Folk Songs of Black British Experience, from Topic Records ahead of its October 7th release.