I came across Heather Dale’s work completely by accident.
While that holds true, in a general sense, for most of my music (and other entertainment), it’s even more so in this case. I’d never heard of Heather Dale before, wasn’t looking at any music, or anything, related to her work. As I recall, I stumbled onto a fan-made video about Kurama, from the anime Yu-Yu Hakusho. The videos was all right, and the song they used, as I discovered, was “Black Fox” by Heather Dale.
I found I really liked this music. She had a beautiful voice, and there was a certain personality to it. I could see her inner grin as she told the story these men out on a hunt, but with lean pickings. That is, until their leader made an offhand comment about how, at this point, he’d gladly hunt the Devil himself if the cretin would just show himself. Right on cue, a black fox pops into sight, and so they hunt. And hunt. And hunt. Until the fox achieved the far side of a river, and then turned around to speak, and mock the men, laughing “so low that the green woods shook.” And then the fox transforms into “the Devil himself.” And the hunt is suddenly reversed! Everyone is running. And to add insult to injury, the Devil, instead of maintaining his monstrous visage, has changed back into a fox, and chases them all the way back to town.
I must admit, the image of a hunting party fleeing for their lives from a single black fox had me cackling like a little devil myself. Heh!
With an introduction like that, I had to see what else this “Heather Dale” had produced. I was not disappointed, and I own digital copies of most of her discography now. (thank you, Amazon!)
She describes her own music as “Modern Celtic songs about world legends.” An apt summary, if requiring a little explanation. There’s a decided Celtic leaning to much of her music, but with modern influences and instruments. Her source material draws from several cultures and their stories, with which she is familiar. For instance, her album “Avalon” is heavily influenced by Arthurian legend, as are a number of songs on other albums. Each song either tells a story, or acts as a picture of some classic scene.
Dale obviously draws a great deal of inspiration from a variety of stories, including Robin Hood, the skeleton woman of Inuit legend, Greek myth, Christian stories (including the Crucifixion), and even some more modern tales. I thoroughly enjoy the spectrum, and how she brings these stories to life with her lovely voice. There’s always something of these characters’ personalities, their hopes and tragedies, within the lyrics. While S.J. Tucker might be more talented at creating different voices, Heather Dale conveys as much of her characters’ souls with only her own.
The only real complaint I have about Dale’s work is how, occasionally I’m listening to a song and straining to hear the words. I can theorize that when they were editing the track, they made the mistake of misjudging the relative volume between her voice and the instrumental section. The music is all very well-crafted and pleasant to listen to, but the final mix is just a bit off the mark.
Thankfully, that does not happen very often.
In short, the smooth, vibrant tones of Heather Dale’s voice are perfectly suited to bringing these old stories and characters to life.
And, as usual, a few favorites:
Mordred’s Lullaby, a song about the mother Morgan le Fay must have been to her son, obsessed and domineering
Skeleton Woman, retelling an Inuit(?) legend of a young woman drowned in the arctic waters, trapped and silent, until a fisherman inadvertently draws her up and gets quite a surprise
Ten Feet Tall, a tribute to science fiction stories, particularly the idea of a kick-ass female pirate captain
White Rose, telling the story of when elves ruled in endless summer, which it was necessary to end
Joan, telling of the ferocious defiance of Jeanne d’Arc
Trail of Tears, telling of one of the darker events in American history, from the perspective of a soldier
Fisherman’s Boy, telling the story of a fisherman who was always, even as a child, careful to take only what was needed, even returning everything else to the sea, and how he was spared the wrath of the sea in thanks
The Maiden and the Selkie, telling of a seal-man and his winning of a human maid as his bride, and how they managed to be together
Sir Gawain the the Green Knight, telling how Sir Gawain stood for honor and virtue and was blessed by his Master
Hero, what Robin Hood says to Prince John
The Greyhound, telling of the titular ship’s crew struggle for survival when their ship goes down
Black Fox, which has the simple moral of “Keep your big mouth shut.” LOL
Flowers of Bermuda, the tale of a courageous and dutiful ship’s captain seeing his crew to safety even at the cost of his own life
Medusa, a glimpse into the crazy, crazy mind of a most terrifying monster