Black is the Colour | Los bilbilicos | I Held My Love | The Praities | The Selkie of Sule Skerry | My Lagan Love | La llorona | Neither Fire Bright Nor Candle Light | L’on dit q’amors est dolce chose | The Bonny Boy | Requiem Waltz | The Low Lowlands of Holland | Who Knows Where the Time Goes (bonus track)
Please click on the underlined track titles to hear an MP3 excerpt of that track…
This is a limited edition digitally remastered reissue which quickly sold out on its first release in 2002. It’s now available again!
Beautifully filmic, these performances of folk songs from Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Mexico and France have a dark and timeless quality. This reissue also includes a bonus track, a stunning version of the Sandy Denny classic ‘Who knows where the time goes’.
Sally’s warm and pure voice is sometimes accompanied by just Spanish guitar and flute and at others by piano, rich cellos and violins.
“Quite unlike any other ‘folk’ record currently out there. The restrained use of Spanish guitars, Indian percussion, piano, cellos, clarinet and Sally’s occasional Eastern vocal intonations invest the album with a spiritual and soulful hue. Dark and haunting, ‘Black is the Colour’ is as absorbing as it is beautiful”—Get Rhythm, UK
”Only a voice as sublime as that of Sally Doherty’s has the ability to take on ‘Black is the Colour’: a superb collection”—Blow Up, Italy
”A precious gift to all lovers of stirring music and essential purity. My special recommendation”—Zinnober, Germany
“This CD is a bit of a mixture for me. It combines my nostalgia with my desire to visit new musical territories. My aim was to interpret these folk songs (and one 12th century song) in a way that would not jeopardise their original beauty and would also allow space for me to maintain my own sound.
A lot of these songs are songs that my mum used to sing, accompanied by my dad on guitar, in their folk band when I was tiny. I remember one song in particular, ‘The Praities’, very clearly, but I couldn’t really recall the others until now. Revisiting these songs has been very significant for me.
Of course most of the songs are quite sad as the sad folk songs always seem to have the most beautiful melodies. As a result, lyrically, the CD will have quite a melancholic atmosphere, although hopefully the music will feel uplifting. There are also a few contrasting moods. ‘Black is the Colour’ stands out as it is a love song. This song has quite a timeless sound to it and I hope that people who already know it will enjoy my interpretation of it. The first version that I heard was sung by Nina Simone and that was stunning, in my opinion.
Two of the songs are sung in Spanish; ‘Los bilbilicos’, from Spain and ‘La llorona’ from Mexico; one is in early French. This song, ‘L’on dit q’amors est dolce chose’, was written by an anonymous female poet in the 12th century.”
Reviews of Black is the Colour
“Anyone unfamiliar with Sheffield’s Sally Doherty and the Sumacs’ music should suspend all expectations when approaching their new album. A collection of folk tunes from Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, and Mexico along with some original songs it is quite unlike any other ‘folk’ record currently out there. The title and first track sets the atmosphere and style of the album. One of the most popular and most covered traditional ballads of all time, Doherty’s treatment of it is unique. Slowed right down it is both haunting and ethereal with understated strings, flute and clarinet underpinning the stark and tragic beauty of Doherty’s voice. The restrained use of Spanish guitars, Indian percussion, piano, cellos, clarinet and Doherty’s occasional Eastern vocal intonations invest the album with a spiritual and soulful hue. One of the most beautiful cuts has to be ‘I Held My Love’—a purely vocal track in which Doherty’s solo vocal soars above a choir of her own multi-tracked voice. Elsewhere ‘The Praities’ is sublimely moving, and Doherty’s version of the medieval ‘L’on dit q’amors est dolce chose’ mixes traditonal instruments with tabla and an ‘Eastern’ vocal to great effect. Dark and haunting ‘Black is the Colour’ is as absorbing as it is beautiful.”—Colin Hall, Get Rhythm, UK.
“First of all, this CD is based on oral legend. Many of the songs on ‘Black is the Colour’ were first performed to Sally Doherty by her mother when Sally was still a child. Seven of the twelve tracks stem from Irish and Scottish folklore—the title song might be remembered best from Joan Baez or Nina Simone, while ‘The Praities’, a song about the Irish famine of the 19th century, was featured in another version on Sol Invictus’ ‘In a Garden Green’. Sally’s sensual delivery of these folk songs corresponds to the approach that crystallised on her last ‘regular’ albums, especially on the exquisite ‘On the Outside’. The instrumental background is by no means a mere accessoire, but nonetheless leaves no room for doubt that Doherty’s voice is absolutely dominant and can stand on her own, as in ‘I Held My Love’. And as many folk songs are based on need and yearning, every single note of this record conveys authentic sentiments. The musical arrangements (strings, flute, clarinet, and piano) outline different moods ranging from ponderous drama (‘The Praities’ or the instrumental piece ‘Neither Fire Bright Nor Candle Light’, which reminds me a bit of Arvo Pärt) to melancholic, fragile lightness (‘My Lagan Love’, ‘The Bonny Boy’). Apart from the Celtic focus, Sally and her Sumacs are making forays into Spanish and Mexican folklore: ‘Los bilbilicos’ and ‘La llorona’ captivate with flamenco guitars and a Spanish delivery without an accent and should be enjoyed with a glass of Rioja wine. ‘L’on dit q’amors est dolce chose’, a 12th century song, transports us back into the times of the French Cathars and Troubadours and unites a medieval fiddle with Indian tablas. ‘Requiem Waltz’, a composition by Doherty, isn’t as sinister as the title might imply, but with its accordion and harp it invites the listener into a Parisian café of the 1920s, before the album comes to a wistful close with ‘The Low Lowlands of Holland’. With this CD Sally Doherty proves again that less is more (you won’t find any keyboards, synthesizers, or samplers here) and makes a precious gift to all lovers of stirring music and essential purity. My special recommendation.”—Andreas Diesel, Zinnober, Germany.
“On what is now their fifth album, Sally Doherty and her band the Sumacs have decided to rework twelve traditional folksongs from Europe and Mexico. With it they understand to cleverly reduce the very different pieces to their most important elements and to bring them into a context that maintains the original spirit, but this release is undoubtedly capable of being placed in the direct tradition of the previous albums of these musicians. Of course, one should expect here no folk-fiddling in the sense of popular Irish folk music, and in the end, it is exactly that that enthuses me so much about this music. Sally’s crystal-clear-produced voice and the beautifully mixed instruments such as strings, flutes, piano and the percussion instruments speak for themselves. It might come along as being too quiet for a few people, but the intensity and atmosphere that Sally and her female accomplices reach here is admirable. I doubt, however, that it wiIl experience the valuation and attention it deserves in a very fast moving music business, like we unfortunately have today. I can only recommend that everyone themselves picture this wonderful music, that proves that one can also make folk music today that looks forward without needing to borrow from folkloristic music eras long left behind in order to impress. Listening recommendations are ‘The Praties’ und ‘La llorona’. 9 out of 10 possible points.”—Gernot Musch, Black Magazin, Germany, Spring 2002.
“’Black is the Colour’ is the latest CD from Sally Doherty and the Sumacs. On her last CD Sally provided her version ‘Willow’s Song’ from the pagan movie ‘The Wicker Man’. For her fifth CD Sally has chosen to pursue this avenue and to perform her interpretation of a number of traditional folk songs from various cultures. In true folk tradition the voice of Sally Doherty takes precedence throughout the album, allowing lilting melodies to take hold. On ‘I Held My Love’ Sally’s voice is swathed by the mass voice of a female choir; and on ‘My Lagan Love’ it’s backed by piano, flute and cello. Throughout ‘Black is the Colour’ the Sumacs’ lush orchestration is stripped down to provide subtle embellishment to the vocal melody. Other tracks explore Spanish and Mexican cultures such as ‘Los bilbilicos’ which features flamenco guitar and Sally’s lone voice. Elsewhere ‘L’on dit q’amors est dolce chose’, a medieval song delivered in French with eastern percussion departs from the Celtic songs performed here. ‘The Praities’, a song Sally previously sung with Sol Invictus on ‘In a Garden Green’ features here in a more refined format. The highlight, however, of this reflective and melancholic set is the opening ‘Black is the Colour’. The simple beauty of this traditional song amply demonstrates Sally Doherty’s exquisite vocals and the musical prowess of the Sumacs. Without doubt Sally Doherty and the Sumacs are the most elegant artists on World Serpent.”—Tony Dickie, Compulsion Online webzine.