Frank Turner is using his voice & folk music to tell the life & stories of important, sometimes forgotten women throughout history on new LP.
[PC: Digital Beard, Frank Turner live, 2018.]
At it’s best, most simplest form, folk music is about telling a story. It’s about informing the listener of something personal, something political or worldly, or about something historical. Frank Turner has always succeeded at this, sharing with listeners his brightest moments, but also his darkest too. After undergoing CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) before his last record, 2018’s ‘Be More Kind‘, getting married, and just becoming more positive and more sure of himself, the English musician is stepping outside of his own self for his next record.
On his new album, ‘No Man’s Land‘ – out August 16th, 2019 – each of these 12 stripped-back songs will see Frank honouring important women throughout history and telling their fascinating, sometimes untold or sadly forgotten stories. Accompanying each new track will be a podcast series called Tales From No Man’s Land, where Frank will deep dive into the history, accomplishments, and life of the women he’s written this album about, chatting with artists and historians to find out the real truth. All starting out with Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Dora Hand in his new albums first two singles, ‘Sister Rosetta‘ and ‘The Death of Dora Hand‘.
The eccentric Rosetta Tharpe – a godmother of rock and soul – is a somewhat inaccurately portrayed figure of blues and rock’n’roll; she was one of the first individuals to use distortion on her guitar, and was a huge influence for Elvis Presley and many other rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll artists that would come about later on. Even getting into the Hall Of Fame just after Frank had written the song, coincidentally enough. As for Dora Hand, her song is about her rise to fame, her Shakespearean-like death at the hands of a scorned suitor (who never saw punishment for his crime, the bastard), but also her impact on dance hall music as a singer too. Both songs are sentiments to not forget these women nor what they achieved.
From these two first songs alone, Frank isn’t trying to take away from what these women did or their significance; he’s not trying to make it about himself. Instead, he’s using his platform to raise awareness about important female figures who aren’t being talked about enough to his audience, who may not know much about these people; women who helped bring beauty into the world. I mean, I sure didn’t know about Sister Rosetta and her impact on 20th century music until hearing the song and podcast episode about her. The very same goes for Dora Hand. As I said at the start of this article, that’s the great thing about folk artists like Frank Turner: you can learn something from the music. (You can read his thoughts on his forthcoming record over here and his approach to this release, welcoming all discussion for those who may have any miss-givings about his intent. Frank sharing feminist values is also no surprise if you know him and his music.)
Stream both ‘Sister Rosetta‘ and ‘The Death Of Dora Hand‘ below. Whilst not my personal favourite songs of his by any means, you can see Frank Turner getting back into some pretty traditional folk roots of his earlier years with these first two new singles, as well as the two latest cuts: ‘Eye Of The Day‘ (about 20th century exotic dancer Mata Hari) and ‘The Graveyard Of The Outcast Dead‘ (about the Southwark’s Cross Bones Graveyard, were medieval female brothel workers were buried in unconsecrated graves.)
‘No Man’s Land’ Tracklist:
1. Jinny Bingham’s Ghost
2. Sister Rosetta
3. I Believed You, William Blake
5. A Perfect Wife
6. Silent Key
7. Eye of the Day
8. The Death of Dora Hand
9. The Graveyard of the Outcast Dead
10. The Lioness
11. The Hymn of Kassiani
12. Rescue Annie
13. Rosemary Jane