DUIR! Lincolnshire Folk?
You might be right in thinking that writing songs about the quirks and charms of rural Lincolnshire has rather a niche appeal. DUIR! however, (they recently added the exclamation mark to distinguish themselves from Italian metal-heads with the same moniker) have produced three albums that not only capture the underbelly of this rural county, but have unearthed themes that have universal appeal and influence.
Band member, Terry Welbourn, explains how his group utilises the bucolic county of Lincolnshire as a stage for shape-shifting, time-warping theatre.
DUIR!’s music celebrates the folk-memories of the county of Lincolnshire. It is our intention to explore the myths, legends and topographic features of our rustic homeland. Our most recent album–’DROME’, although I say it myself, is indeed a strange affair. Following similar themes to its sprawling, predecessor, ‘Sodden Dogs and Blind, Winged Horses’ (2019) and experimental debut, ‘The Stout Guardian of the Door’ (2007), ‘DROME’, is a tight, compact blast of psych-glam-folk with post-punk attitude! It reveals a topsy-turvy journey through Lincolnshire tradition, told through spoken word and song and where fact and fantasy become embroiled in time-warping drama. The album also features the track, ‘By Hook or by Crook’ – a collaboration with legendary rocker, Edgar Broughton.
‘DROME’, was released in the Autumn of 2021, but what about the strange title? You may well ask! The Greek word “hippodrome” translates as “a stadium for horse racing’” The dromos suffix means a road, path or simply, a race. It is a venue that can be linked to the Roman Circus. Likewise, a palindrome is a word that reads the same backwards or forwards – a narrative of recurrence or running back. On the sundial on the south porch of St Margaret’s church at Somersby in the Lincolnshire Wolds, a profound inscription reads, ‘Time Passeth’. I read this legend many years ago and initially dismissed it as being somewhat self-evident, perhaps naive. Strangely, as the years passed by, the ingenuous motto stayed with me and as I got older its message became increasingly significant. So much so, that I was compelled to re-visit the church in the summer of 2020. It is curious how the ageing process changes the connotation of things and creates a sense of urgency. On my return home, I pondered on The Mad Hatter’s pertinent quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “If you knew Time as well as I do you wouldn’t talk about wasting it”.
Through the music we have created on this album, we have attempted to address the conundrum of time passing. We have endeavored to turn time on its head by visiting places in the East of England whilst indulging in fictitious flights of fancy and embarking on adventures that, like in dream-sleep, do not respect the boundaries of either time or place.
For the listener, the environs of Lincolnshire become a theatre of possibilities where truth and fiction become conducive bedfellows and the myth of time passing and the memories associated with the landscape become, for the duration of this recording, an illusion.
In nearby Boston, there is an entertainment venue that, over the years, has hosted some of the biggest names in show business. These include, T.Rex, The Who, The Yardbirds and Otis Redding, to name but a few. It is called the Gliderdrome. But before it became a roofed venue it was once an open-air skating rink. An un-roofed temple of dreams? Those that partook in this equable pastime would have glided the circuit of the drome; lost in their own little worlds, lost in time. The tracks on our most-recent album follow a similar course to our skaters of yore, for it was our intention to briefly distract the listener and for a short while, we hope you can indulge with us and put aside the disquiet of time passing, time slipping and time running its course. Through our endeavors we have, in effect, sought to create our own, timeless ‘DROME’.
In 2007, DUIR! released, ’The Stout Guardian of the Door’- a collection of tracks consisting of songs, spoken-word and instrumentals that loosely traced a journey along the limestone escarpment known as the Lincoln Edge. The trail commenced at the market town of Grantham and progressed north to the great river Humber. The project was led by myself, Simon Brighton and Stephen Coalwood. We had all previously collaborated on the double-album, ’A Giant’ (ARC, 2003), by the Sons of TC-Lethbridge which also featured Tony ”Doggen” Foster and Kevin Bales of Spiritualized along with the late writer and philosopher, Colin Wilson. In effect, ’The Stout Guardian of the Door’ became a bi-product of our inactivity after the release of A Giant. The album was remastered and re-released in spring 2020. The full story can be read on our Bandcamp page:
After a 10-year hiatus, when real life got in the way, DUIR! reconvened in 2017 and began work on writing and recording on what would become the double-album, ’Sodden Dogs’ and Blind, Winged Horses’. The recording was released on our own, Songs from the Oak label in February 2019. Like its predecessor,’ Sodden Dogs’…focused on Lincolnshire and its environs and explored the myth, folklore and history of the county.
“We wanted to create an album that not only mixed fact and fiction, but also turned the concept of time and how it is perceived in the landscape on its head.” Simon Brighton
The result was a shapeshifting, prog-psych-folk behemoth that ran for approximately 90-minutes. Not wanting to take ourselves too seriously, we threw in a few whimsical tracks about the difficulties of selling a pig in the village of Dry Doddington, fly-tipping and an angry pub landlord who becomes riled by the heavy drinking, Norse, trickster god – Loki!
The archaeologist, T.C. Lethbridge once said, that if you scratch beneath the surface, even your own backyard becomes an infinitely interesting place and Lincolnshire is no exception. Sometimes, the devil is in the details. On the track, The Hills of Slain, we revealed how a boundary gate that opened the wrong way, resulted in the mass slaughter of Royalist troops during the Battle of Winceby on 11th October 1643. History is littered with many such, prosaic episodes that have had a profound effect not only upon outcomes, but also upon the very landscape in which we exist. Likewise, the scars and ghosts of such events have left their mark and have become embroiled in the myth, legend and folklore of the county.
A Mid-Afternoon at Horseshoe Point, pinpointed a tranquil spot on the mouth of the Humber estuary that was once home to Bloodhound Surface to Air Missiles that were trained on Russian cities. During the 1980s, at the height of The Cold War, it was considered the frontline of Britain’s air defences. At the same time, revellers at nearby Butlin’s Holiday Camp were blissfully unaware of the existential threat that existed on their doorstep.
Similarly, the giant radar dishes on the ridge at Stenigot in the Lincolnshire Wolds – part of The Chain Home Radar defences – formed part of the scenery for almost 60 years, until they mysteriously disappeared one autumn day in 2018 when they were sold for scrap metal. Luckily, we visited and filmed the gigantic edifices before their demise and one of Simon’s fisheye drone photographs appears on the inner sleeve of Sodden Dogs and Blind, Winged Horses. It was strange to think that something so iconic, and ingrained in the landscape, could simply disappear overnight. Our track, ’Stenigot Whispers’, tries to evoke the momentous influence these mighty dishes had, not only on the topography of The Wolds, but on the minds of those that lived and farmed in their shadow.
In 1936, an almanac was published called, Lincolnshire Folklore. Written by Ethel H. Rudkin and with a Foreword by Dr Margaret Murray, the book details the bygone customs and “old ways” of village life in the county. Our tracks, ‘Ran-Tan-Tan’, and ‘Riding the Stang’, spotlight forms of persecution that once took place in the village of Willoughton, where wrong-doers were subjected to an infernal racket that was generated outside their homes over the course of three nights. Often the torment concluded with the burning of a “straw man” or effigy of the victim. The burning of the avatar is echoed in the track, Fen, where Edgar Broughton delivers a bleak, fenland dirge that highlights the loss of soil through natural erosion
The band name DUIR! is a reference to the Celtic Oak king -he of the oak – a midsummer icon who straddles the calendar year. Like the Roman god Janus, he looks both ways and therefore, it was considered appropriate to place two of our stories, Loki Had Been Drinking and Events at the Halfway House Inn, a spoken word track about the northern trickster, Lokiat a gastro-pub in North Thoresby called The Halfway House Inn. The absurdity of a Norse god drinking in a local hostelry appealed to the whimsical nature of our project. Hopefully, listeners who tuck into their scampi and chips at the hostelry will be able to break from their meal and imagine a scene where an angry landlord scalds a mischievous Norse god for switching their salt and sugar condiments! Likewise, those who should happen to spill their beer into the North Sea, should be made aware that they are likely to have appeased the sea god, Shony, who inhabits the northern waters. Such an act is reflected in our track, ‘I Dream of Shony’.
The musical side of our work is left pretty much to Stephen and Simon, whilst I am responsible for the words, titles and overall imagery of the recording. DUIR!’s newest recruit, Andy Weekes, is responsible for our film and videos. Simon however, presented us with an almost complete track in, ’John Dee: King of Crows’, which tells of the Elizabethan Mathematician and Astrologer John Dee who, between 1559 and 1584, was once rector of St. Swithun’s Church at Leadenham village. Simon’s imagery suggests that Dee took time out from his duties to explore The Heath and the preceptory ruins at Temple Bruer. As the author of, In Search of The Knights Templar (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006), Simon utilised first-hand knowledge of the landscape to imagine the ‘magic’ that Dee would have encountered on his strolls across The Heath.
“By utilising song, spoken word and instrumental pieces it is our aim to paint pictures of the county and its environs that is captured in an entirety and not be defined by individual tracks.” Stephen Coalwood
It has therefore been difficult to classify what genre our albums fit into. Heavy metal, fuzz guitar sits alongside mellotron, whilst we have segmented ambient field recordings with guttural drones and strings. The three albums could be described as ‘progressive’ in the fact that we try to incorporate many different styles to compliment the imagery which is highlighted in our cover artwork, but at its heart is Folk. On the other hand, our music has ‘psychedelic’ elements were time and place are turned on their heads, like on the track, A Roadside Mound, where I ”observe” an archaeological dig at a mound in Leadenham Park that took place in 1908.
“You can tell, then, that this is not traditional music, but then neither is it modern folk music, nor progressive, nor ambient (nor any other labelled genre). That said, given the different emphases in each track, there are aspects of each. In many ways, though, it could be said that the album (‘The Stout Guardian of the Door’) is more traditional than most folk you will see on this website. DUIR!’s interest is in a deeper traditional, on where the music takes you back to the places where the land and humanity have touched for centuries, even millennia.” Mike Wistow, Folking.com
Many, like broadcaster and journalist Mike Wistow, have stated that DUIR!’s music is, in effect, Folk, for it deals with subject matters that form the backdrops to our prosaic lives. Our Latest album, ’DROME’, continues our folk theme and features tracks about a haunted farm (Headless Things), a nineteenth-century riot in a sleepy village (Bardney Riots), a lost stone (The Star Stone)and a celebrated Lincolnshire artist – Peter Brannan – whose timeless vision of the county is preserved on canvas (Peter’s Big Day Out). Listeners will make up their own minds as to how to classify our music, but its core values celebrate the folk-tradition. I consider it therefore appropriate to leave the last word to Dr. Margaret Murray, who wrote in her Foreword to Rudkin’s almanac,
“The recorder of folklore is born, not made. It is not given to everyone to have the insight and sympathy necessary to induce the Folk to impart their Lore.”
Terry Welbourn – Lincolnshire – Spring 2022
Duir! is: Simon Brighton, Stephen Coalwood, Terry Welbourn and Andy Weekes – film.
DUIR! Associates include: Kevin Bales, Daryl Baxter, Victoria Boorsma, Steve Bothamley, Florence & Theo Brighton, Edgar Broughton, Steve ‘the fiddle’ Daulton, Tony “Doggen” Foster, Anthony Hodgkinson, Katie Jacques, Kev Kirwan, Ruby McKee, Steve Orient, Tom Parratt, Jonathan Rhys-Lewis and last, but not least, The Beeston Kazoo Orchestra!
Headline photo: Andy Silhouette