LM Cooke - Nursery Rhymes For The Apocalypse (Album Review)
01. Poor Jenny
02. Yellow Eyes
03. False Lamkin
04. First interlude: Summer Is A-Coming In
05. (We Stand) Behind You
06. Murder Song
07. I Know A Place
08. How Do I Know
09. Blackbird Pie
10. Second Interlude: Winter Is A-Coming In
11. Moon Song
12. The North Wind
14. End of the World
LM Cooke (Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Violin, Strings, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Programming)
Jo Luckett (Oboe, Violin) On ‘Moon Song’
Steven C Davis (Additional Vocals) On ‘(We Stand) Behind You’ and ‘End of the World’
Say Folk Music to most people and they will instantly think of bearded men in Arran jumpers singing traditional songs about maidens, death and ships sailing from port never to return, with one finger in their ear and the other hand grasping a pint of some awful warm brown liquid that may have some vague resemblance to a drinkable ale.
But this style of music that originated in the 19th century has also evolved into sub genres that include progressive rock and even some styles of extreme metal.
In the late 1960’s a style known as Acid-Folk emerged with bands such as Comus, Saturnalia and Dulcimer.
Over the last decade this style has found a new generation to mesmerize with artists as diverse as Galley Beggar, Circulus and Blood Ceremony.
So now we turn to LM Cooke, one time violinist/ main songwriter in Broadarrow Jack, then singer/ songwriter with the folk-rock band Crimson Clocks.
Not only a superb songwriter but a much respected author of dark fantasy/ science/ mythic fiction novels and short stories.
It now seems we must add multi talented instrumentalist, music producer, mixer and engineer, as she makes her solo debut.
While there are indeed songs of ships and traditional songs with new arrangements, there is a wealth of totally original songs with a dark and twisted edge that mixes the various sub genres of folk to include gothic, horror, psychedelic and acid in her own style.
We start with ‘Poor Jenny’ a ghost-ship song based on the story of the English schooner, the Jenny which in 1823 became frozen in an ice barrier complete with crew. This song was originally written when Miss Cooke was with Broadarrow Jack.
This updated and rearranged version has some haunting dual tracked vocals over a simple but highly atmospheric backing, the use of wind and water samples adds to the overall feel as if you were listening to it by the seashore.
Next up is ‘Yellow Eyes’ a song about a wolf, or is it I ask myself, “A wolf in your mind” as the lyric goes brings to mind a hint of Robert Calvert’s musical interpretation of Hesse’s ‘Steppenwolf’.
Imagine if early Bauhaus had a female vocalist, if you can then this would be the result, from its near proto industrial drum tracking to gothic guitar and echo vocals this one blasts through the speakers and then towards the end turns to pure acid folk. Stunning!
Time for a traditional murder ballad, ‘False Lamkin’, adapted from the version from Cambridgeshire collected by Cecil Sharp. The song is sometimes also known as False Lincoln or Long Lamkin, among other names, and verses vary depending on the version. You may know this if you are a fan of Steeleye Span, Shirley Collins or Fire+Ice.
Wow beautiful moody vocal over a harp like musical backing, traditional in its execution yet the clever production makes it modern.
The interlude I shall leave to one side at the moment and move on to ‘(We Stand) Behind You’. This is a dark and twisted nursery rhyme warning that not everyone is who they seem. It may start off almost upbeat, happy with cute sounding instruments but then as this song progresses it gets darker, twisted, nightmarish, the vocal tracking becomes more unbalanced and disturbed and the demonic laughs will make you look behind just to make sure there is nobody standing there.
Maybe it’s just me I don’t think that the ‘Murder Song’ is about crows, yes they are the lyrical theme but I sense a pagan witchcraft influence with a group of girls out to lure some poor soul before the crow king for sacrifice.
One that could be on the soundtrack of ‘Blood On Satan’s Claw’ or even an outtake from the Comus album ‘First Utterance’, traditional in delivery it maybe, but this has a catchy almost hypnotic vocal pattern and all in all creates a creepy horror folk mini epic.
Following on from ‘Yellow Eyes’ is ‘I Know A Place’ it continues that them of the inner wolf.
Showcasing an impressive vocal range and clever mixing and production this sounds like a choral quartet, dark harmonies flow through the speakers whilst the wolf listens intensely.
‘How Do I Know’ seems to be an anthem for the insecure, but there is also a hidden depth here, after all what if the crazy are really the sane ones? Is the reference to money really about money, the use of the “Pounds, Shillings and Pence’ in the lyric could be a nod back to the mid 1960’s where bands like the Pretty Things used the £sd to refer to LSD.
The basic drum pattern follows a similar rhythmic madness of the 1966 hit ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’ by Napoleon XIV. The vocals are mad, the samples are madder and to cap it all off there is a great “Dr Phibes” sounding organ.
‘Blackbird Pie’ is perhaps as you might expect a new take on the 18th century nursery rhyme ‘Sing A Song Of Sixpence’. Miss Cooke has replaced the naughty boys or the more common blackbirds’ version and then added a beautiful element of plague and the black death! This is all wrapped up in a rather pretty little folk tune.
Another interlude, so perhaps I shall take a moment here and return to the first.
Thing is ‘Summer Is A Coming In’ at just under fifty five seconds and ‘Winter Is A Coming In’ at just over one minute, for me don’t work as separate pieces, I can’t help but feel that the opportunity to create one entire song with the other two seasons added would have worked better with the overall concept of the album being full songs.
Either that or the fact that both pieces have the same rhythm, when placed together they flow perfectly.
Pure poetry, perhaps even the moonlit ghost of Jim Morrison?
“the rivers of moon light flow into lagoons
Who dares to impugn her white-faced mis-tune
No song of the spheres is more inopportune”
The ‘Moon Song’ blends classical and folk influences that act as a perfect backdrop to, as I have already said, “Pure poetry”.
Adapted from the traditional nursery rhyme ‘The North Wind Doth Blow’, simply titled ‘The North Wind’. Beautiful piano and violin again give this a more classical feel and right at the end there is some orchestration that fades away all too quickly, I could have done with another two minutes of that before the fade out.
In 2010 Miss Cooke wrote a short story called Storm Watch A Tale Of the Sea, this was published in ‘Tales From The Asylum’ from Last Line Publishing House.
The song ‘Stormwatch’ is based on that story. As to be expected this is a lyric heavy piece with a near symphonic accompaniment.
What better way to end than ‘End Of The World’ a perfect apocalyptic tune, though I feel I should ask ‘Just wearing heels and vintage pearls?’ but there again why not it is after all the end! With it’s overtones of Edith Piaf this cabaret-esque finale is almost uplifting in delivery, one may almost think Miss Cooke is quite looking forward to an impending apocalypse?
So aside from my ‘Interlude’ issue this is a brilliant album, it draws on folk and classical influences, throws in some gothic elements and creates an album full of atmosphere. Very well produced, clever mixing and attention to detail a solo album of some magnitude.
LM Cooke Music
Album available from
A little promotional clip from Miss Cooke