Carolyn Hillyer

This was Carolyn’s first solo album for 8 years, combining simple multi-voiced chants with more complex, richly-textured compositions. The songs span tender laments, dark initiations, rousing celebrations, love offerings and mystical prayers.


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“Then tender wass the wyched wombe layd into haer earthy tombe
returnd she to the blessed lande wonce held within haer wisen hande”

Songs harvested from the quietly tended tapestry of women’s ancient folk memories sit beneath the title of this album. They span tender laments, dark initiations, rousing celebrations, love offerings and mystical prayers. The music combines simple multi-voiced chants, often developed in Carolyn’s workshops and women’s gatherings, with more complex, richly textured compositions on which she has collaborated closely with Nigel Shaw.

The songs were created during Carolyn’s Shaman Weavers project, a cycle of life-size paintings, loom cloths and workshop journeys that took place on Dartmoor over four years. The paintings describe ancient weavers sitting around a vast bowl-shaped loom into which the sacred land is being woven. From their old hands have emerged songs for valleys, earth, mountains, rivers, forest, islands, caverns, wild hills, tundra, oceans, desert, sky and meadows. To see the images click here.

Landscapes to which this music was carried, and which directly inspired the finished work, include north Siberian tundra, Canadian Pacific northwest coast, Hohle Fels caves in southern Germany, Israeli Negev Desert, Scottish northwest highlands including the bone cave valley; and of course Dartmoor’s untamed hills, primordial cistvaens, wild waters, feral pony herds and the hearth of the Merripit ancestral roundhouse which gathers so many to its dreaming fires.

Carolyn Hillyer: vocals, frame drums, thunder drum, rattles, bone whistles, humming bow and many unusual percussions.
Nigel Shaw: piano, keyboards, wooden & clay flutes, traditional whistles, cigar box guitar, acoustic guitar, lyre, thunder drum and percussion.
Additional vocals: Ayla Shafer, Tegwyn Hyndman and Hiroki Okano.

SONGS: Beloved of the Heathered Hills, Blessed This Hearth, Mother Mountain Land, Come Into the Water Sister & When You Fly With Herons, Thunder Drum (stag and stallion song), The Wyched Wombe (island women’s lament), Reindeer Road, Beron’s Daughter (come to mama), White Horse Hill Woman (nomad herding song), Briny Knotting Song, Desert Wind, Drift and Hollow, Wild as Otters Are, Shaman Weavers’ Dance.

Released in 2015.

Excerpts from the songs

O mother mountain land you are an echo of my heart
you are an echo of my longing whenever we’re apart
in the stillness of your morning and the wildness of your night
you are an echo of the love that draws me back to mother mountain land… Mother Mountain Land

I give you this unfettered spirit for it is free and surely yours
I give you this ferocious courage left for you by those who came before
so lean into the steadfast darkness so prowl unsettled by this realm
my hunting dance enfolds you, daughter you must cross this threshold quite alone… Beron’s Daughter

Hold strong, sister of mine when the storms come crashing
when the bitter rains hit hard and the winds blow wild
feathered arms will hold you up as you search uncertain skies
hoping for a route to guide you through the churning night
when you fly with herons wearing your silver-tipped wings
you’ll remember the beauty of the woman you are and have always been… When You Fly With Herons

Bless the old men who pluck feathers from their hair and give them to the earth
bless the old women who never lose the prayers that feed the hidden hearth
bless the young men who protect the bundled bones and the shaman dance
bless the young women who tend the ancient fires with their ancient hearts… Thunder Drum

Our drum is a vessel of the reindeer road, we circle the edges of our drum
we sway to the rhythm of the reindeer road as we cradle its mystery in the drum
on the road to the shrine, dear sisters, come away
will you not walk with us on the cold harrow way
reindeer road always with us, hear the old women say
will you not walk with us on the cold harrow way?… Reindeer Road

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