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Fern Knight - Music for Witches and Alchemists

Music for Witches and
Alchemists

Fern Knight

VHF-101

VHF
PO Box 7365
Fairfax Station VA 22039

Available from VHF Records web site.

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.
(frank.gutch.jr@gmail.com)

Margie Wienk may live in our world, but it may not be hers. She inhabits a world of magic, black and otherwise, and she may very well be a witch or an alchemist for all we know. She weaves spells over band and listener with an unusual array of songs and movements form fit to the instruments she chooses: cello, harmonium, harp and bowed saw, to name a few. Picture her in long, flowing robe beneath hooded cape, much as we picture Maid Marian of Robin Hood legend, and you may have a glimpse of her persona. At least her musical persona.

One might expect the the music to be dark and brooding—and it is, in spots. At times, though, it is more melodic—at others, simply transcendent. The obvious influence is late 60s and early 70s UK folk/psych, but Wienk reaches into the past and adapts a variety of influences to her needs: classical, traditional folk, progressive, psych. Holding it all together is Wienk's focused view: fantasy and science fiction in like doses.

Song for Ireland is about as close as Wienk gets to standard folk and, strange as it is, it is a great start to the album, especially with its plodding and psychedelic "Pirates make good lovers sometimes/If they fall into the sunshine" ending, sung in rounds. Fast forward to the end and Lullaby ends the album as it began, flowing folk voice over folk's answer to electronic feedback. Great stuff.

In between, there is much to discover. "There's a murder of crows blackening the skies at night," Wienk sings. "Pretty soon they're gonna block out the moon." So begins Murder of Crows, a haunting song made more-so by the simplicity of the arrangement and made even more eerie courtesy of Greg Weeks' apt "acid lead", his fuzz guitar weaving in and out of the chorus. A number of tracks later, it is What the Crows Left Behind (that would be eyes), a dark wedding under a weeping willow with light Gryphon-style break in 3/4 time. Cello underrides the slightly upbeat (by Wienk's standards) Lintworme, Pt. 1, teaming with accordion and harmonium until bowed saw and God knows what else takes you on a sci-fi ride.

Those are just the highlights. This disc is packed with adventurous twists and turns which the arrangements make totally accessible to the ear. This is not just for freaks. This is plain good stuff. Assuming you have the discipline for multiple listens, this could even be great stuff, for a lot of what you at first hear is much more than what it seems.

Credit goes to Wienk and Weeks for their restraint. With all of the bells and whistles available these days, it would have been very easy to bury the music under electronics. They instead present the music pretty much as you would hear it in your living room, if you could talk them into playing there. It is almost as if, when Wienk sings, she is sitting next to you. No reverb, no electronics. Just Margie Wienk. Up close and personal.

You may get a chance to see her up close and personal this Fall. They are presently booking an extensive UK/US tour, hopefully coast-to-coast so that potential fans will get a chance to see as well as hear. If you see them listed anywhere near you, it would behoove you to pay a visit. Fern Knight's music is out there enough and, who knows? The next time through, you might have to see them in a bigger venue—not always a good thing.

Track List:

  • Song For Ireland
  • Awake, Angel Snake
  • W. Memphis
  • Murder of Crows
  • Lintworme, Pt. 1
  • Marble Grey
  • Shingle River
  • The Dirty South
  • Summer of Throg
  • What the Crows Left Behind
  • Lullaby
All songs written by Margie Wienk (BMI), 2006.

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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