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Suggested Albums : Robin Williamson - "The Iron Stone" (2006)

Robin Williamson: “The great adventure of life”. (Excerpt of the Review Published in “La Mano” Magazine, Argentina, in 2007). Interview in conjunction with the release of the album "The Iron Stone" (ECM, 2006) by Alfredo Rosso and Pipo Lernoud. Translated from the original post in Spanish featured at mundorosso.blogspot.com

Williamson faced an active career during the last decade. Besides participating in the brief reunion of the Incredible String Band original trio (2000-2002), Robin recorded a remarkable number of albums on his “Pig's Whisker” label and also joined the ECM catalogue, a hallmark for jazz and experimental music, renowned for generating a special atmosphere in their recordings, which are always performed live in the studio with minimal instruments and overdubs, in order to express the artist in his most natural and naked way as possible.

“The Iron Stone” is the third album for ECM Records, as in his previous two, “The Seed-at-Zero” (2000) and “Skirting the River Road” (2002), the repertoire for this album is a combination of his own works along some musical scores for poems from poets of the great Anglo-Saxon literature. However, the extent of their sources, the wealth of sensations and areas that recreate the fifteen subjects, The Iron Stone is far from being another album on Williamson’s discography, but it shows a peak of artistic sensibility.

From his home in Wales, Williamson recounts some details of “The Iron Stone”:
"Regarding the three albums recorded for ECM, the working concept was based on the creation with different types of texts and songs. In this case I wanted to take lyrical poems and improvise music to accompany them. In some works, such as the ballad 'Sir Patrick Spens', which is supposedly based on actual facts, I replaced some words of the original song, but altered the whole music, in order to address it from another angle. The sounds flow without a formal melody, as in jazz. I liked this, instead of working a song with chords and melody, making the music go step by step. Even the songs themselves on this album were faced in a new way. Arguably The Iron Stone in the text is fixed but the music is free, whereas in the old days of the'60s tended to let the words flowing like water, letting them move freely. Now I try to do the same with music. "

In conjunction with that spirit of spontaneity, The Iron Stone was recorded entirely based on first takes, with the help of Mat Maneri on violin and Viola, the bassist Barre Phillips and Swedish Ale Möller in a variety of instruments including mandola, accordion, clarinet, Jewish harp and various types of flutes.
The Iron Stone begins with "The Climber," an esoteric story about the last will of a climber, urging their three children to climb the clouds, nothing less. Two of them die in the attempt but the third gets the goal, using a rope made of light from the moon.

The metaphor of Williamson |is accurate for establishing the central motif of The Iron Stone: the eternal search for meaning for our earthly days and our compulsion to reach the heights in pursuit of that elusive dream. In turn, "Sir Patrick Spens" - a traditional story of sailors who stirred the ghost of predestination: Despite warnings, the king of Scotland insists on sailing in the middle of winter raging sea to complete the commitment of carrying the Norway’s king daughter back to her land. The gloomy atmosphere of the stanzas anticipate the predictable disaster: the ship sinks and along with it will also pique the real arrogance.

Clouds, waves, rocks, iron ... Williamson is the spell that makes the steam and the blue salty sea become as real to the listener as for the characters of those stories. But the core of his stories is always the man, any man, all men...

The Iron Stone’s content is also varied. "Wyatt's song of reproach" belongs to a sixteenth-century poet who was also a diplomat in the service of King Henry VIII. It is a poem that laments the inexorable passage of time and growth of children who will ultimately forge its own identity no longer dependent on their parents. Another poet that brings his work to this album is Sir Walter Raleigh, who many associate with that rather navigator and explorer of the court of Elizabeth I that introduced tobacco in England. "It would have to pay multiple accounts, right?" Says Williamson. "Some consider him a pirate, plain and simple. The poem that he recorded, 'Even such is time' (This is the time) wrote on the eve of his execution."

And what of "Bacchus", the Ode to the American wine composed of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was able to sponsor another great poet, Walt Whiltman. "In my opinion," said Robin, "a poem is not only about wine but about the spirit of life. I no longer drink, but I love this poem because it speaks of the wine and living the life .."

But while The Iron Stone refers to minerals such as iron and stone, is a charming presence in their animal subjects, such as The Badger, from the English poet John Clare. Robin: "It is a very sad poem because is about a very cruel sport which, fortunately, is no longer practiced, the hunting of badgers. Threw a pack of chasing the badger and seeing how many are reveling kill dogs cornered the animal and then kill him without mercy. Bloody sport that has disappeared, but the poem comes, by extension, how life is slowly eroding into a human being. In the same way that the badger is tormented, often human beings mortify to each other..."

The other animal present in the disc is the mountain hare, with which say that you need to be very nice if you found it, because it brings bad luck to be rude to her. Seamus Heaney inspired me on 'The praises of the mountain Hare', a famous Irish poet who won the inspiration from an Anglo-Saxon poem. For my part, I also took the liberty of writing my own version of the story. "

Williamson agrees with our view that the central theme of The Iron Stone is the human condition and the passage of time. "Life does not last forever," says former Incredible String Band. But in addition to the selected poems, Robin brings a handful of ideas, among which are "To God in God's absence" (God, in the absence of God) and "Political lies”, a topic was originally Robin composed for his album Ten of Songs, 1989. There is a Nuance existentialist in its stanzas, which include without bitterness but with a touch of irony, the passing of the years and the tripping of the Politicians that govern nowadays.

About the various outrageous political campaigns we asked him about his point of view of the Clash of civilizations and Cultures that put the world in check at this time. He said: "I think the world today requires to be optimistic, as if this would be an act of magic. Because if you look at the facts coldly, there is not much grip to be optimistic. But we must try to trust in the essential goodness of human nature, even when there is not much evidence to support this view. If one goes by the world realizes that humans are basically good, and when you find one, anyone can be your friend. It is only when they are together in large groups, committees and governments, when things start to go wrong. "

In recent times there was a Folk Revival in the British Isles. What does Robin Williamson thinks of the legacy of his old group, The Incredible String Band and their influence on emerging artists?

"I love much of the music we did in those days. They were good times, no doubt, but I'm always looking ahead. Now I'm recording a new album with my wife Bina, who also plays and sings. We want to make a record about the spirit of life, with music and mystical magic, without dogmas. Will the coming months and will have songs from India and also the subjects of traditional Celtic and American Folklore. All subjects held, in different ways, the magic of being alive. We have already Recorded nine songs and we finished in the next weeks. Also in my future plans is a recording of spoken works and the publishing of a book. "

By way of farewell we confess our feeling that Williamson has concentrated more in the spiritual life of late, talking again, as in the days of the Incredible String Band, "to the music of laughter, the song that water sings."

"That is very true," he says with a thoughtful tone. "I have sixty-three years and put my life in the hands of the Great Creator. I didn´t create the universe, so-just-me support in the very spirit of life. I am very happy to be alive. I think that birth is an adventure. Being alive is an adventure. And anything coming in the future will also be an adventure. "

-- A Quote from Celtic Sprite: “The Iron Stone” is also the title of a song penned by Robin Williamson and featured in the double album “Wee Tam & The Big Huge”, hereby it’s first stanza, that in fact reflects the spirit of the above commented Iron Stone album.

A long wind a weaving mind
Over all the land the wild flowers grow,
Echoing kind to kind
On that day when I found the iron stone
Heavy in my hand in the sloping rain
Ever the seas rolled on and o'er my heart
They roofed their slates of grey
The iron stone I found it on that day

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