Oh, what wonderful world have I stumbled into where my favorite Portland folk-rock band is working in collaboration with Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, of all people? And whatever alternate planet this is...please, sir, may I stay here? Because this is my idea of heaven.
In the video above, The Decemberists and Gillian Welch sing "Down by the Water," one of the new songs off their terrific new album The King is Dead. I particularly like Jenny Conlee's fine accordion playing on this one.
Below, the band's frontman, Colin Meloy, performs a solo, accoustic version of my favorite Decemberist song(s), "The Crane Wife, Parts I, II, & III," based on the very sad Japanese fairy tale of the same name. (Speaking of creative process, as we often do on this blog and in the comments section, it's quite interesting to hear this stripped down version of the songs, before the sounds and textures of the band were woven around it. ) If any of you are unfamiliar with the recorded full-band version, you can hear Parts I & II here and Part III (my favorite, I think; it just breaks my heart) here.
And while we're on the subject: I also recommend Jeannine Hall Gailey's poem "The Crane Wife," based on the same Japanese folk tale. I was lucky enough to have an advance look at Jeannine's new poetry collection, She Returns to the Floating World, coming out from Kitsune Books later this year. It contains a number of works inspired by Japanese folklore, and is simply gorgeous, so keep an eye out for it.
For a picture book version of the folk tale, try The Crane Wife by Odds Bodkin, with beautiful art by the great Russian illustrator Gennady Spirin. And for more information on bird/woman transformation in folklore, read Midori Snyder's excellent article, " The Swan Maiden's Feathered Robe." Oh, oh, that reminds me of another fine poem, "Swan/Princess" by Jane Yolen.
Art by Carson Ellis for the Decemberists