Dunwich Bells: A Modern Folk Song
The Suffolk Coast has a thriving folk music scene, which reaches its zenith every summer with the FolkEast Festival at Glemham Hall. And not only is the Suffolk Coast the perfect environment in which to write and perform folk music: with its mythic history, ruinous abbeys and mysterious legends, the Suffolk Coast also makes excellent folk song subject matter.
The ghostly town of Dunwich is the latest Suffolk Coast location to have inspired a folk song. Union Jill, a female duo whose melodious harmonies have been winning hearts across the UK folk scene, wrote Dunwich Bells after learning about the eerie legends surrounding the town.
“Our songwriting often incorporates stories, historical and mythical, and we were very intrigued by the mysterious tales attached to Dunwich,” they tell us. “The idea of the song came from a number of conversations at our local folk club with people who have visited Dunwich. They told us of the old part of the town under the waves, and how bells from the church could still be heard. After a bit of research we realised that there were a number of legends that made Dunwich an interesting subject for a song.
When we play it live we often ask the audience if anyone has visited, and there are always a number of hands that go up! Some people will even nod their heads when we talk about the mysterious legends and agree that Dunwich has a really special atmosphere.
The song itself is fairly melancholy; it talks about a tragic love story, ghosts in the wood and the famous bells from under the sea. The harmonies are spine tingling, and Helen [one half of Union Jill] plays a mournful concertina that gives the song a feeling of mystery. In the context of the album, we think it’s a powerful pause in the flow, feeling dark and tragic in the midst of some of the more upbeat tunes – we love it!”
Dunwich Bells is taken from Union Jill’s album, Respectable Rebellion, which will is available to buy from iTunes and Union Jill’s website. The album tells a set of stories, from the 1645 Suffolk witch trials to the women pilots of WWII and the militant days of the Suffragettes, and the music is brought to life by a team of fabulous musicians who have previously played with Van Morrison, Nick Drake and Nanci Griffith. In the words of music journalist Neil King, Respectable Rebellion “has the power to cause reverberations and be sung in folk clubs for years to come.”