Music Monday: Sister, Sail

August 25, 2014

In an effort to force me to write, I’m starting a Monday Music post series. I have to generate the post in 20 minutes tops and post it on Monday, preferably in the morning where I see light. I would not be surprised if most of these were about Zoe’s songs, for a plethora of reasons.

I hereby start as I mean to go on, with Sister, Sail from her album, Coyote Wings.

The sky was red at morning
Above the brooding bay
And the cannons cried a warning
But still you slipped away
To gain your lofty vessel
And fly before the gale
From peril into peril, sister, sail!

This is a pirate song about a female pirate. Some time before writing this song, Zoe and I had seen two pirate celebratory works, an experimental theatre thingy called The Pirate Project and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! Both were pretty dire, though the Pirate Project was trying to use (little known!) stories about women pirates in a feminist way. I was pretty down on pirates even putting aside the artistic failures here: I felt alienated from these lionisations of people who murdered for a living.

And so defy them all
With a bounty laid upon you
In every port of call
Oh sail
Rejoicing as we may
Through the world and all its wonder
Til the day we all go under
Through another plundered sunrise
Sister, sail! Sail another day

Sister, Sail is facially a song about a female pirate, but the song was written for and about a friend of Zoe’s on the folk scene. This friend has a lot of, as the kids say today, complicated and distressing life issues and yet lives a joyful, energetic, brash, and defiant life. Each day is not a gift, but a treasure wrested from the forces arrayed against her.  Every sunrise is stolen.

It’s a wonderful, upbeat song with some great instrumentation from the opening chords to the sonorous viola at the climatic rendition of the chorus to the jaunty fife tune at the end. The exhortation and celebration

One of my favourite bits (which, if I recall correctly, I slightly contributed to):

Leave behind a legend
A tale for all to tell
But better still to tell the tale yourself
Sister, Sail!

I love the combination of fatalism and exhorting optimism. In dire moments, defy, defy, and sail.

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