The Lady Aurora
Introducing the Lady Aurora
The Lady Aurora is Stephen Clark's first solo album. It will be released on digital platforms, the Birnam CD store and Amazon on 6 November. It is hoped the album will appeal to acoustic guitar and roots music enthusiasts.
The Lady Aurora includes blues-based grooves, Appalachian mountain tunes and a traditional Moorish maqam. Eleven of the Lady Aurora’s thirteen tracks are instrumental, eight are original compositions, three are new arrangements of traditional tunes and two are Stephen's interpretations of well-known numbers by J J Cale and Simon Jeffes (Penguin Cafe Orchestra).
The Lady Aurora was recorded at Jim Guynan’s 7 Sounds Studio in February 2020. The brief was to achieve a close miked ‘live’ sound, continuity and flow between tracks and a feeling of being in the room as the music was played.
The majority of the tunes are inspired by different aspects of nature. The album reflects Stephen’s years of absorbing many different styles of music and influences.
Stephen loves playing acoustic guitars - this album features an all mahogany Martin 00-15M, a spruce topped electro-acoustic Schertler SM and a 1979 vintage cedar and rosewood Fylde Caliban.
It was decided to record The Lady Aurora after the original compositions were played in live settings to good audience reaction and people asked ‘who wrote that?’. It was time to put the music down on record!
The following paragraphs describe the organisation of the album and the inspiration for the various tracks. Originally it was intended just to include Part A, The Lady Aurora suite, which is mainly comprised of original compositions, with a flow between tracks. Part B resulted from the recording equipment being left to run at the end of the second session with Jeff Porter also in attendance.
Part A; The Lady Aurora Suite
Jim produced the Introduction using samples from the recording days to reflect the feel of the album. Jeff’s harmonics and Jim’s electronics feature prominently
2. Rising Tide
Based on a groove merging blues and celtic music. Composed at the time of the great floods of 2014. Floods were in the news again when this album was recorded
3. Shimmering Light
Inspired by seeing the Northern Lights in Northern Norway in February 2019. The album cover photo shows the beautiful eerie light as it emerged
4. The Lady Aurora
The phenomenon was described by Northern Lights chaser Kjetil Skogli as ‘The Lady Aurora’. We waited several hours with him in temperatures of minus 24C to see her
5. Lama Bada Yatathanna
A contrast; this is a traditional 14th century Arabic/Andalusian love song/poem set in a modal scale (maqam) with an added bridge. The title translates ‘When She Begins to Sway’. The poem states ‘my beloved’s beauty is a tender branch caught by the breeze’
6. Looking Beyond
A musical imagination of the view into space
7. Daphne’s Song
A tune in memory of my mother, Daphne, who loved so many aspects of nature
8. Cosmos; Particles, Entropy and Chaos
The Universe is a combination of matter, energy and forces. The three tunes in this set were composed to reflect this
9. Muddlin’ Through Boogaloo
A blues groove incorporating Latin chord changes
10. Anyway the Wind Blows (Seven)
An interpretation of JJ Cale’s song, which was based entirely on a single chord. Like the breeze it just keeps blowing down the road!
Part B; Additional Material
11. Cluck Old Hen
A traditional Appalachian song given a blues feel by Stephen and Jeff (who provides spectral harmony vocals)
12. Little Sadie/Shady Grove
Two traditional ‘old time’ mountain tunes combined and arranged by Stephen and Jeff
13. Music for a Found Harmonium
Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s classic tune (with thanks to Andrew Walpole for ideas on the arrangement)
Purchase the album from Birnam CD Store
Stephen has been listening to different styles of roots based music for more years than he cares to remember!
Stephen loves playing acoustic guitars, which are left strategically placed around the house in various alternate and open tunings.
Important musical influences include (in no particular order) The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Levon Helm, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane and the folk music of the British Isles. In terms of this guitar based album they include John Martyn, Nick Drake, Chance McCoy, Juan Martin, Slim Harpo, John Fahey, Johnny Cash, and Alabama 3 as well as J J Cale and PCO.
Stephen plays guitar and mandolin in an acoustic duo with Jeff Porter, called One Man Down. One Man Down play mainly in south-west London, around Richmond, Kingston, Twickenham and Teddington. Their repertoire reflects wide influences, including jigs and reels from Ireland, Scotland and America, Gaelic songs, country music, Greek and Russian folk dance, as well as Lyle Lovett and Tom Waits songs, in addition to their own material. Jeff can be heard on three of the album’s tracks.
Check out some of Stephen's live performances.
Music for a Found Harmonium
One Man Down - Lamma Badda Ytethena
One Man Down - Rising Tide