Election night sadness inspires fresh songs for Southern Tenant Folk Union

Southern Tenant Folk Union. Picture by Sandy Butler
Southern Tenant Folk Union. Picture by Sandy Butler

The day after their Shoreham gig, Edinburgh-based string band Southern Tenant Folk Union will be waking up somewhere in a Shoreham B&B to the release of their seventh album.

They play the Ropetackle on Thursday, September 29 (8pm, 01273 464440), the day before they release Join Forces.

Written following the May 2015 general election result, then recorded in June and July this year, it offers a suite of songs that seem timelier still, they hope.

Southern Tenant Folk Union are Rory Butler (acoustic, lead vocals), Steve Fivey (cajon drum/percussion), Craig Macfadyen (double bass), Pat McGarvey (five-string banjo) and Katherine Stewart (fiddle).

Pat recalls the disappointment of election night: “We had a festival gig in Edinburgh. We had a bunch of stuff around town early May, and we were supposed to be playing a concert on May 9 or whatever date it was, a few days after the general election. And I thought I was going to write a new song for that gig, a song of hope. I hoped that Labour would win and that the Tories would lose. So I started writing this song. Then you had the exit poll and by the morning the Tories had won, so I had to scrap that song and started writing new songs, completely-different songs.

“I just wrote five or six songs straightaway. I felt depressed. I didn’t think the Labour party had offered anything crazy or too radical. But the media had done a good job of making Ed Milliband seem like a left-wing crazy guy.”

Since then, of course, we’ve had the referendum: “Edinburgh voted to remain quote strongly. I guess that’s similar to some of the other big cities. Big cities are much more multi-cultural; people have lived a lot alongside people of all different types and are a lot less worried by what seemed to be the defining issue, which seemed to be immigration.”

These kind of thoughts informed the album: “The album was written before the current situation with the referendum, but the songs are about dishonest politicians, about the media attacking itself, against that backdrop of newspapers struggling to make a few pounds. In terms of political songs, they’ve only really been on the last three albums. The songs reflect my own tastes. I have always been interested in politics. But the songs also reference sci-fi, which I am interested in – and horror movies. If you want to be your own person and have some degree of originality, you have got to be writing about the things that interest you rather than just copying what other people are doing.”

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