My Bardic Pursuit: “Four Branches”

I’ve been pretty silent about this, and only a handful of people know about this. I feel it is maturing enough for me to speak about it.

I’m recording an album.

Four Branches is the title for my upcoming album. It explores the stories of the Four Branches of The Mabinogion in song.

I’m recording the album in my home studio, and it should be near completion in a few months. It’s really a labor of love, and I honestly don’t have much faith in my ability to play. Some days I feel so stoked about this, and some days I feel like a sham, deluded into thinking I can make music. I’m an amateur, it’s true, but I do it because I love it, and I want to share this as a gift with those who are willing to tolerate my imagination.

I set out to record an album nearly a year ago, setting down ideas. For the last few years I’ve written song after song, and it wasn’t until a year ago when I realized I had enough songs to tell almost all of the Mabinogion. I knew I had to put them together in an album of some sort!

In the grand tradition of folk storytelling, this album tells the story of the Mabinogion through my eyes, and I try to tell the tale in a way similar to how I view it.

If you aren’t familiar with The  Mabinogion, it is a book of Welsh myth and legend telling the tales of the likes of Pwyll, Rhiannon, Pryderi, Bran the Blessed, Lleu Llaw Gyffess, Blodeuwedd, Gwydion, Math, Ceridwen, Taliesin…the list goes on. To me it truly is an epic tale. It’s been one of the biggest influences of my pagan and Druidic path. This album is my attempt to tell the stories.

I’m afraid some people might get lost in my retelling of the Mabinogion in song, but I also hope the tales I sing about inspires others to go read it and explore the tales for themselves. This is, by the way, how I came to the Mabinogion, through the songs of Damh the Bard and Spiral Dance and Emerald Rose that tell the tales from the Mabinogion. I would hear a song (for example, Damh’s Oak, Broom, and Meadowsweet), and be entranced by the names and events taking place. I needed to know where this came from! And so I searched and found that it came from a book with a confusing title, The Mabinogion. I was hooked. So I hope this album of mine might do the same, and also for those who do know the Mabinogion, I hope this adds another layer to the experience of it.

Some of the songs are somber and haunting, like Face Changer, Bran’s Head, and The Owl and the Eagle.

Some are more romantic and mellow, like Catch Me if You Can, Invocation of Blodeuwedd, and The Awen.

Others, however, stand out to me as the backbone of the Four Branches, the tales that tell strong stories with superb imagery. These stories, to me, are what the Mabinogion is all about. The stories they tell are filled with oddities and absurdities that make you laugh, grin, and shake your head in a mixture of amazement and a sense of “What in Ceridwen’s Cauldron did I just experience?” They’re wacky and “out there,” and in the end just plain fun.

These stories I try to capture in the same fun, wild moods in such songs like Badger in the Bag, Pryderi’s Birth, Steady Hand Lion, Pigs Pigs Pigs, and, Good Day to Hang a Rat.

Together, I hope the songs blend together to create an audio painting of one of my favorite stories. Together, the songs bring together what the Mabinogion looks like to me.

10 of the 11 songs on the album tell the tale of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, but I couldn’t stop there. I had to throw in just one more from the uncollected stories included in the Mabinogion.

So check back here for more information on the upcoming album and extra goodies to follow.

Track List for Four Branches:

Face Changer

Catch Me If You Can

Badger in the Bag

Pryderi’s Birth

Bran’s Head

Good Day to Hang a Rat

Pigs Pigs Pigs!

Steady Hand Lion

Invocation of Blodeuwedd

The Owl and the Eagle

(bonus song)

The Awen

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