by Rick deYampert
The Wind, the Reeds, and the Seven Woods
(Barbarous Generation Music)
Talk about dysfunctional relationships . . .on his new CD The Wind, the Reeds, and the Seven Woods, Douglas Lee Saum has this to sing about a lover: “Were you but lying cold and dead, and lights were paling out of the West, you would come hither and bend your head, and I would lay my head on your breast. And you would murmur tender words, forgiving me, because you were dead . . . O would, beloved, that you lay under the dock-leaves in the ground, while lights were paling one by one.”
Is Saum a Marilyn Manson protégé? A new millennium, vampiric goth rocker?
No. Actually, Saum didn’t write any of the lyrics for the 45 songs on his two-CD set. Instead, when the folkie guitarist and multi-instrumentalist went in search for a lyricist, he decided to hook up with a rather capable wordsmith named William Butler Yeats. Yes, that Yeats – the Nobel Prize-winning Irishman whom many critics consider the greatest 20th-century poet writing in the English language.
So what's up with that death fetish? The lines come directly from the Yeats poem “He Wishes His Beloved Were Dead,” written from the point of view of Aedh, the Celtic god of death.
Likewise throughout the album, Saum doesn’t merely adapt or otherwise monkey with Yeats’s words as he puts them to music. The Reno, Nevada, folkie is utterly faithful in preserving these poems, written in the early part of Yeats’s career in the 1890s and early 1900s.
As for the music, Saum and the many guest singers and musicians on guitar, flute, fiddle, and bodhran (Irish hand drum) don’t conjure traditional Irish folk music a la the Chieftains or Altan. Instead, Saum employs his slightly ragged but lively tenor over sounds that variously recall the Celtic-tinged folk rock of the Waterboys or the folky side of Neil Young.
As for the lyrics – hey, that Yeats guy could turn a phrase, whether he was writing about Irish mythology (“The Song of Wandering Aengus”), the mystical side of love (“He Hears the Cry of the Sedge,” “The Cap and Bells”), the labyrinthine ways of love (“Adam’s Curse,” “The Folly of Being Comforted”) or apocalyptic, esoteric works (“The Valley of the Black Pig”).
And this Saum guy has a knack, and obviously a passion, for taking Yeats’s stirring poetry and recasting not just the Irishman’s words but his spirit into song.