Lulling us with soothing songs
Dartington Hall, Totnes, Friday
When folk star Jackie Oates was a little girl, her mother used to sing her lullabies, soothing her gently to sleep at the end of each day.
Jackie's favourite was a sweet and simple ditty called Alexander Beetle – an AA Milne verse set to music – and it now takes pride of place on her latest 15-track LP Lullabies.
The album is the focus for her autumn tour which starts on Friday with a benefit show for Save the Children at Dartington. The collecttion represents the tip of a very deep iceberg of English lullabies that the singer and celebrated violinist uncovered during extensive research into the genre. Little Boy Blue sits alongside Shakespeare's Philomel from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Paul McCartney's Junk and The Worthy Wood Carol, penned in the 1920s by an Exmoor gypsy.
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Like Jackie's other passion – the craft of knitting character dolls – these songs were passed from generation to generation on the knees of mothers and grandmothers, and it's this warmth and connection that she has been sharing as she in her performances and workshops over the summer.
"It has been lovely because there have been lots of new mums as well as grannies coming; the music does connect and it has a very interesting effect on the children. If you watch them being sung to it's as if they go into a trance. They become very focused and attentive. It's a primitive and timeless bonding thing."
Jackie's latest download single, The Housewives' Lament, which is already attracting a lot of radio airplay, is a pretty song she discovered while researching and archiving for the Lullabies project.
"It's from the Appalachian mountains, around the time of the Civil War, and it's about the monotony of everyday life from the perspective of a housewife; man or woman, to survive as a human, I think we all have to do the same thing over and over again," muses Jackie. Having said that, on this tour she is ringing the changes by concentrating entirely on Lullabies rather than a wider set of the songs she has made her own over the past 10 years. "I wanted to do songs that people hadn't heard before."