The Wanderlings Volume One

by Leslie Hudson

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about

These are the Wanderlings. Songs that celebrate the wanderers with wanderlust and wonderment, wondering. The women we love to read about, worthy of their tales. Those who travel from their homes, their lives, their safe places, and choose a path.

I am sculpting their journeys in music. I am painting a mosaic of the feminine. I am honouring she who is preserved, keepsake of oral traditions. Goddess and witch, source and mother, daughter and narcissist, lover and guardian, creator, destroyer, intoxicator. A true portrait of everything we are.

Upon completion of this project there will be 52 songs – one for each week – recorded in four volumes – one for each season. Volume One is largely inspired by European traditions, and its 13 songs were primarily written while I was cloaked in winter’s darkest shadows.

credits

released April 16, 2015

All songs written, performed and produced by Leslie Hudson at Scarlet Oak Studio, Burlington, ON

Mastered by Charlie Jacklin at Kerr Village Productions, Oakville, ON

Album design by Karl Stahl & Leslie Hudson

Cover photo by Leslie Hudson – art installation representing the eponymous goddess Ériu on the Hill of Uisneach, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, following the Bealtaine Fire Festival, May 2011

Back cover photo by Karl Stahl – taken at Webster’s Falls, Dundas, ON, October 2014

Drawings by Leslie Hudson – copied from George Bain’s Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973)

Special thanks to Karl Stahl, Devin Melanson & Charlie Jacklin for the crash courses in Mixing 101; the Filk community at home and abroad for encouraging this project and loving these stories as deeply as I do; the Moonshine open mic community for listening to me hammer these songs out over the past year as they found their voices; Jane Yolen for her collection of Favorite Folktales from around the World; The Grimm Brothers, J.K. Rowling, Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren, the Irish bards, and all those who have kept and continue to keep the darkness, the pain, and the madness in storytelling

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about

Leslie Hudson Burlington, Ontario

Leslie Hudson is an independent musician, based in the Toronto area of Ontario, Canada.

A unique blend of styles and influences, she can beat the piano into submission or lull it to sleep, depending on her mood.

Armed with a powerhouse voice and more than 25 years of songwriting, she performs solo and with her various bands.

Visit lesliehudson.com for music, bookings and more info.
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Track Name: Red Bird
Verse 1
Brother dear, I’m filled with longing
And it’s eating up my life
We’re as grey as we’re forgotten
Two indentured orphaned mice
If I have to milk another cow
Or fill this barn with hay
I am certain that I will not live
To see another day

Chorus
Red bird, oh red bird
Deliver me from this
Let me feel once more the spring’s caress
A mother’s gentle kiss
Red bird, oh red bird
Deliver me from this
Little forest flame, my only hope
O messenger of bliss

Verse 2
Brother dear, my belly’s aching
We have nothing much to eat
And my tiny frame is freezing
There is frostbite on my feet
If I have to walk to school again
Along the snowy track
I am certain that I will not live
To make the journey back

Chorus
Red bird, oh red bird
Deliver me from this
Let me feel once more the spring’s caress
A mother’s gentle kiss
Red bird, oh red bird
Deliver me from this
Little forest flame, my only hope
O messenger of bliss

Bridge
Take me home to Sunnymeade
Underneath the cherry trees
With their boats the children play
The sun is shining every day
Take me home to Sunnymeade
With birches green- and curly-leaved
We’ll laugh and dance and dress in red
And live on in joy instead

Chorus
Red bird
You have brought me to this
A forevermore of spring’s caress
A mother’s gentle kiss
Red bird, oh red bird
You brought me to this
Little forest flame, my sweetest hope
O messenger of bliss
Track Name: But Not Too Bold
Verse 1
There was a lady, young and fair
Her given name was Mary
Of all her lovers, she did care
For one and him she’d marry
Her lover’s name was Mister Fox
She knew not whence he came
But he was brave and wealthy, sure
As cunning as his name

Refrain
Be bold! Be bold! But not too bold
Your blood will soon be running cold
Be bold! Be bold! But not too bold
Your blood will soon run cold

Verse 2
The day before their wedding
Mary stole up to his house
A-hunting for his secrets there
As quiet as a mouse
The signs above the gate, the entryway
And o’er the door
That led into her lover’s room
These words of warning bore:

Refrain

Verse 3
His room was filled with skeletons
And bodies red and rotten
All lovely ladies when they’d lived
In piles now lay forgotten
She would have fled, but who should come
A-dragging someone in?
Why, Mister Fox! So Mary hid
Her lips pressed tight and thin

Refrain

Verse 4
The dead girl wore a diamond ring
That caught the robber’s eye
So with his sword he cut her hand
And upwards it did fly
And landed there in Mary’s lap
But she was hidden well
So off her lover dragged the corpse
And Mary ran from hell

Refrain

Verse 5
When Mister Fox arrived
The morning after, to be wed
She said she knew his secret
And she’d never share his bed
He met her accusations
With an arrogant denial
'Til she produced the hand
And he was slaughtered as he smiled

Refrain (x2)
Track Name: Sedna of the Sea
Verse 1
Long ago, when the sea was void of life, a vacant swell
When the people hunted only on the land, the stories tell
I was raised in an igloo by my father on the shore
And refused to marry any of the hunters who implored me

Verse 2
Kayak-borne, came a man to me one day who promised more
And I sailed off with my chosen one beyond familiar shores
But alas, he was a spirit-bird and not a man at all
Island-bound and living lonely as the loon’s elusive call

Chorus
Oh, the sea she is churning
Down where the medicine men go
To comb out her long hair
They comb out her long hair
Her long, tangled black hair
And soften her so

Verse 3
So I prayed that my father would deliver me from there
And he came and took me home from that cold place of my despair
But the sea became a black and angry boiling underneath
As our boat was tossed upon the waves that rose and fell beneath our feet

Verse 4
All at once I felt my father push me hard and in I fell
Overboard into the frigid Arctic waters of the swell
“Father, please!” I screamed in terror as the sea-ice sucked me down
But in his eyes I saw his fear and knew he’d rather let me drown

Bridge
Clawing, I clung to the edge of his kayak
The storm would not be quelled
Swinging his paddle he cut off my fingers
In agony I yelled
But the sea took me under
To the dark ocean floor
And I started to wonder
What dying was for
Surviving on rage
I remember the pain
For this water’s my cage
And these animals stained
They are pieces of me
That were severed and bled
All the creatures you see
Are now my companions instead

Chorus
Oh, the sea she is churning
Down where the medicine men go
To comb out her long hair
They comb out her long hair
Her long, tangled black hair
And soften her so
They soften Sedna so
Track Name: Seafoam
Verse 1
Underneath and below
And caught in the undertow
Water-weighed
My seaweed hair long
My voice like a siren song
Underplayed

Lift
Trade it in for a chance
At a doomed romance
My soul for a dance on the shore

Chorus
Take me, I’ve laid it all out at your feet
And sold who I was for this moment
I am walking on the points of swords
Wrapped in a silent heat
It’s too late to retreat from the wave line
Far from home, on my own
I am seafoam

Verse 2
Look in my eyes
I am living this pretty lie
Masquerading
Thinking you would see through it
And know that I knew it
Mutely fading

Bridge
Sister, your salvation is at hand
Spill out his blood on the sand
Leave him to die and recover your life
Look, we have brought you the knife

Chorus
Leave me, I’ve laid it all out at his feet
And lost who I was for this moment
I am walking on the points of swords
Wrapped in a silken sheet
It’s too late to retreat from the wave line
I will throw myself out beyond the wave line
My sisters, won’t you go on home
Leave me alone
I am seafoam
Oh, I am seafoam
Track Name: Eleven Feathered Sons
Verse 1
To be born into light
To be raised for a fight
To be stained like a blight
On a rose
To be out in the wood
To pretend that I could
To believe that I should
Follow this road

Lift
Oh, please, are you hearing my pleas?
Help me, please

Chorus
Brothers, I am coming
Will you call me on?
What are you becoming every dawn?
Mother, you have cursed them
Eleven feathered sons
Beneath the shadow of their wingspans
I will run

Verse 2
To be found on the sand
To be given a plan
To be crushed in my hands
As they burn
To be silent and strong
To be jeered by the throng
To be caged for my song
Like a bird

Lift
Oh, please, are you hearing my pleas?
Help me, please

Chorus
Brothers, I am coming
Will you call me on?
What are you becoming every dawn?
Mother, you have cursed them
Eleven feathered sons
Beneath the shadow of their wingspans
I will run

Bridge
Witch, they cry, my work lament
Now my strength is all but spent
Tens of limbs with one wing bent
Save me, I am innocent

Lift (x2)
Oh, please, are you hearing my pleas?
Help me, please
Oh, please, are you hearing my pleas?
Help me, please

Chorus
Brothers, I am coming
Will you call me on?
What are you becoming every dawn?
Mother, you have cursed them
Eleven feathered sons
Beneath the shadow of their wingspans
I will run, I will run

Outro
I will run
I will run, oh
Mother, you have cursed them
Eleven feathered sons
But the shadow of their wingspans
Came undone
Track Name: Abandon This
Verse 1
I fell in love with an ideal
But I believed with all my heart that it was real
And when we met he felt the same
There in the light of love, true lovers we became

Verse 2
Our other lives melted away
We had no care but for ourselves from day to day
We were consumed by our desire
Of our embrace we promised never we would tire

Lift
Until the moment she reminded you
Who you had first been promised to

Chorus
Farewell, my love
You have turned your back
Without you, love
I am painted black
My greatest loss
I am torn from bliss
You’ve chosen, love
Abandon this

Verse 3
I will embrace oblivion
The only place where you and I can be undone
And when the veil between us falls
We will be deaf to one another’s calls

Verse 4
I could only say, “It will always be this way”
I could only hope against inevitable slope
I could only live with giving all I had to give
I could only show the love I wanted you to know

Lift
A line that’s permanent divides us now
Yet life goes on, some way, somehow

Chorus
Farewell, my love
You have turned your back
Without you, love
I am painted black
My greatest loss
I am torn from bliss
You’ve chosen, love
Abandon this

Outro
Be happy, love
As you forget me
We may be broken, love
But we are free
Track Name: Drink Up
Verse 1
I’ve never had a man
Without another waiting in his shadow
I’d never take a man
Who was greedy or jealous or callow

Lift
For I am a woman of wealth and fame
A daughter of kings without fear or shame
Intoxication is my name
Aren’t you the lucky one, lover?

Chorus
I am the mead and this is my cup
Drink up, my love, drink up, drink up
I am the mead and this is my cup
Drink up, oh, my love

Verse 2
I’ve never been afraid
To cause a little bit of trouble
I’ll never be afraid
To burn it right down to rubble

Lift
For I am a woman who plays the game

Sweeter than honey, as hot as flame
And if you get burned then you’re to blame
Aren’t you the lucky one, lover?

Chorus
I am the mead and this is my cup
Drink up, my love, drink up, drink up
I am the mead and this is my cup
Drink up, oh
Drink up, oh
Drink up, drink up
Drink up, my love

Verse 3
I’ve never been the kind
To leave it all up to the men
I’ll never be the kind
To put it all off until then

Lift
For I am a woman no man can tame
Sovereign when into the world I came
Your life will never be the same
Aren’t you the lucky one, lover?

Chorus
I am the mead and this is my cup
Drink up, my love, drink up, drink up
I am the mead and this is my cup
Drink up, oh
Drink up, oh
Drink up, drink up
Drink up, oh, my love
Track Name: The Rift
Verse 1
When we were both young
We did everything together
Breathing and beating as one
So deeply entwined
I was counting on forever
I couldn’t see that the rift had begun

Lift
And you called me weak
When you told me the distance between us
Would be permanent, permanent

Chorus
So cut me out ‘cause I will hurt you
Lock me up ‘cause I will make you fall
Turn your back ‘cause I’ll betray you
For love or loss I’d give my all

Verse 2
When you walked away
I lay bleeding in the silence
Ragged and ravaged and raw
Abandoned at last
I dug deep and found defiance
There in the darkness I started to claw

Lift
I know I can be stronger than this
I don’t need your affection to quicken my pulse
Anymore, anymore

Chorus
So cut me out ‘cause I will hurt you
Lock me up ‘cause I will make you fall
Turn your back ‘cause I’ll betray you
For love or loss I’d give my all

Bridge
Now that you need me
I have changed in the dark
If you embrace me
I won’t let go until I’ve made my mark
You didn’t want me
Because I made you burn
And I have been driven to madness
Waiting for you to return

Chorus (x2)
So cut me out ‘cause I will hurt you
Lock me up ‘cause I will make you fall
Turn your back ‘cause I’ll betray you
For love or loss I’d give my all
So cut me out ‘cause I will hurt you
Lock me up ‘cause I will make you fall
Turn your back ‘cause I’ll betray you
For love or loss I’d give my all

Outro
To feel it all again I’d risk it all
For love and loss at last I’ll take it all
Track Name: The Last Thing I'll Beg Thee
Refrain
Flounder, o flounder deep in the sea
Come and listen now to me
I have a wife with an iron will
And this is the last thing I’ll beg thee

Verse 1
They lived in a hovel right next to the sea
The fisherman and his wife
He was out on the water when down went his line
And the fish that came up said it wasn’t his time
“Oh please, won’t you spare me my life?”

Verse 2
The man he took pity and threw back his meal
And then he came home to his wife
He told her his story, not one to complain
“Go ask it to grant you a wish for your pains
“Husband, I want a new life!”

Refrain

Verse 3
“This cottage is nice, but could we have more?”
Wondered the fisherman’s wife
“I’d quite like a castle with crystal and cakes
“Go back to the sea, say you made a mistake
“I want a luxurious life!”

Refrain

Verse 4
“I want to be king and rule over this land
“To be much more than your wife
“Oh, I could be Emperor! Make me the Pope!
“It’s more than I’d dreamed but it’s less than I hoped
“Remember he owes you his life!”

Bridge
The sea went from shining to violet and grey
The waves rose like mountains and blackened the bay
Fearing reprisals before and behind
The fisherman cowered in body and mind

Verse 5
“What does she want now?” the angry fish cried
“Your greedy, implacable wife?”
“To be Lord of the Universe, rule moon and sun”
“Enough!” cried the fish, “It will all be undone!
“Go back to your miserable life!”

Refrain
Flounder, o flounder deep in the sea
Come and listen, pity me
I have a wife with an iron will
But this is the last thing I’ll beg thee
Oh, this is the last thing I’ll beg thee
Yes, this is the last thing I’ll beg thee
Track Name: Tantalized
Verse 1
Nine hundred years ago living in Spain
I married a man for his wealth and his name
I worried his relatives, frightened his friends
I angered his servants and made no amends

Verse 2
I gossiped with neighbours, delighting in spite
And never let on what I did every night
They thought me a witch or a wandering waif
But I kept my secret unbidden and safe

Chorus
I am ageless
By the power of my skin
I am seduction
I can draw a lover in
I am beauty
So look deep into my eyes
I’m your destruction
But I will keep you tantalized

Verse 3
My fury was potent and flattened my head
My eyes they grew narrow and terror was spread
Condemned if you crossed me, much worse than my bite
Embrace me, my love, and I’ll wrap you up tight

Chorus
I am ageless
By the power of my skin
I am seduction
I can draw a lover in
I am beauty
So look deep into my eyes
I’m your destruction
But I will keep you tantalized

Bridge
Don’t you want to play?
Side to side I’ll sway
I will haunt you night and day
There is nothing you can do or say
I am here to stay

Verse 4
A woman by daylight, a snake in the dark
As long as my skin doesn’t meet with a spark
For all you would need to break free from my spell
Is fire: a secret I never will tell

Chorus
I am ageless
By the power of my skin
I am seduction
I can draw a lover in
I am beauty
So look deep into my eyes
I’m your destruction
But I will keep you tantalized

Outro
I am ageless
I am beauty
I am seduction
And I’m your destruction
Look in my eyes
I will keep you tantalized
Track Name: Vasilisa Trilogy
PART I: LITTLE DOLL

Verse 1
When I was but eight years old
Mother gone and growing cold
Left a blessing in her stead
With her dying breath she said:
Vasilisa, take this doll
It will be your wherewithal
Share your troubles, wait and see
Heed the words it says to thee

Verse 2
Father married yet again
Being handsomest of men
To a widow with two girls
Jealousy beneath their curls
Vasilisa, they would say
Each and every single day
Do the work a servant should
More than what you thought you could

Chorus
Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
“Feed me morsels from your plate
“I will make the crooked straight
“Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
“Morning’s wiser than the evening”

Verse 3
Years went by of much the same
Such a beauty I became
Suitors came and banished, went
My stepmother’s rage was spent:
Vasilisa will remain
‘Til her sisters husbands gain
Not for her a happy life
Find yourselves another wife!

Chorus
Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
“Feed me morsels from your plate
“I will make the crooked straight
“Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
“Morning’s wiser than the evening”

Bridge
Little doll, I’m so forlorn
Weathered, weary, weak and worn:
“Vasilisa, take your ease
“Lay beneath the arching trees
“I’ll perform your every chore
“Even when they cry for more
“Faithful as a blessing, sure
“Of a mother’s love so pure”

Chorus
Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
“Feed me morsels from your plate
“I will make the crooked straight
“Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
“Morning’s wiser than the evening”

PART II: BLESSED IS BEST

Verse 1
Father’s a merchant, he’s going away
Here with my step-family I must stay
I know they hate me
They try to deflate me
But I keep on thriving anyway

Verse 2
Moved to a new house that borders the wood
They send me in gathering, unlikely for my good
Hoping I’ll cry there
Or lie down and die there
But I keep returning back home as I should

Lift
Out went the light, so my sisters said
“You, Vasilisa, will go in our stead
“Into the woods to the witch’s house
“Bring us a fire, you wretched mouse!”

Chorus
I am justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
I would be in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
Help me now to win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
If you will tell me what is best

Verse 3
Shaking I entered the forest alone
Walking the path that my doll had shown me
One step, another
Until I discovered
Baba Yaga’s home!

Verse 4
There were skulls on the fence posts with eyes all aflame
Femurs for doorposts and gates of the same
“Fie, I can smell her!”
A voice came to tell her
“Now give me the reason you came!
“Or I’ll eat you”

Lift
“Grandmother, I come to fetch home a light
“Grant me a favour this long, dark night”
“If you remain I will do as you ask
“If you fulfil without fault each task!”

Chorus
I am justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
I would be in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
Help me now to win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
For you will tell me what is best

Verse 5
Every bright morning the doll set to work
No little detail or duty was shirked
“How is this possible?
“This is impossible!”
Baba said, “Child, you’ve a curious quirk!”

Verse 6
“Well, I have a secret, a motherly blessing”
“Ah, that is the answer and no need for guessing
“Be off with you, dear
“I’ll have no blessed ones here
“But take home a skull with MY blessing”

Lift
When I arrived home they were still in the dark
“Yaga has gifted us all with this spark!”
Flaring its eyes the old skull stared them down
‘Til three piles of ashes lay cool on the ground

Chorus
I was justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
And I’d have been in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
You have helped me win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
For you will tell me what is best

PART III: I CAN TELL

Verse 1
There is nothing left
For me in this place
Haunting memories
And empty space
So I’ll go to town
Find somewhere to wait
For father’s return
At a future date

Verse 2
A kind-hearted woman
Childless and bent
Offered me shelter
And board without rent
I said, “Bring me some flax
“The best you can buy
“For if I sit idle
“Of boredom I’ll die”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Verse 3
Spinning so quickly
This thread so fine
“But how will I comb it
“Little doll of mine?”
“An old comb and a shuttle
“And a horse’s mane
“I’ll make you a loom
“If you bring me the same”

Verse 4
So I wove the linen
And bleached it so white
It passed through a needle
Like thread so light
“Grandmother, sell this
“Make back what I owe”
“No never, my child
“To the tsar it will go”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Verse 5
The tsar was amazed
And accepted the gift
Rewarded the woman
With all she could lift
He said, “Make me some shirts!”
But his seamstresses said
“You must find someone else
“To sew them instead”

Verse 6
So the linen was given
Back into my care
And I sewed a dozen fine shirts
Then I declared
“You can take these all back now
“To the tsar while I dress
“For I’ve known all along
“That my work would impress”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Verse 7
Down came the tsar
Demanding to meet
The woman who had sewn
His shirts so sweet
I said, “I am the lady
“For whom you seek”
His mouth went dry
And his knees went weak

Verse 8
“Vasilisa
“You’ll be my wife!
“And I will change forever
“Your dreary life”
“I could do far worse”
I thought, “than this
“All thanks to my little doll
“I have all I could wish”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text