Two very different Scottish music legends have teamed up to release an album which details the relationship between another pair of cultural icons.
Chris Connelly – of Finitribe, Ministry and Revolting Cocks – has recorded 18 track opus ‘The Birthday Poems’, along with Monica Queen, previously of Thrum and sometime Belle and Sebastian guest vocalist.
The album concerns what is described as a fictionalised account of the romance between Orkney-born poet George MacKay Brown, and his muse Stella Cartwright in what would have been the former’s 100th year.
The release also covers Cartwright’s friendship with Edinburgh-born poet Stanley Roger Green, spanning three decades (from the mid 1950s until Stella’s untimely death in 1985).
The album takes its name from the poems that MacKay Brown would write for Stella every birthday until she died, while Cartwright’s voice is sung by Monica Queen.
The album is accompanied by two short films – the video for ‘Tae The Poets’ was filmed on location at Chicago’s GMan Tavern and created by photographer Derick Smith and Matt Walker, while ‘My Father Took Me Everywhere’, starring Monica Queen as Stella, was created by Iain W. Mutch / Walkerandwilliam and, inspired by the 1964 short film ‘Palindrome’ by Margaret Tait, features some of the only known footage of Stella Cartwright.
“While she had relationships with many of the poets who would haunt the bars of Edinburgh’s Rose Street during the ’50s and ‘early ’60s, her love of literature, art and culture was insatiable,” Connelly explains.
“She was never given credit or encouraged in her own art and expression. I hope that this album illuminates the beautiful treasure that she was, and how hugely significant she is to Scottish literature of a certain era,” he adds.
“As a child and younger man in Edinburgh, I walked the same streets, drank in the same bars and walked the same hills. I was also lucky enough to be close friends with Stanley Roger Green’s children, who, highly creative in their own ways, greatly informed and inspired my life”.
This album was produced by 30-year Connelly collaborator Chris Bruce, a long-time musical partner and band member of Meshell Ndegeocello, who has also worked with Seal, Aaron Neville, Bob Dylan, The Waterboys, My Brightest Diamond, Cheryl Crow and Sam Phillips, amongst others. This album also features strings by Dave Eggar and sax by Levon Henry, as well as contributions by Blake Collins and Phil Faconti.
Monica Queen fronted 90s band Thrum and released two albums with partner John Smillie as Tenement & Temple, but will perhaps be best-known to many as the vocalist on Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’.
Since beginning his musical career in with FiniTribe in his native Edinburgh, Connelly has put out over twenty solo releases, as well as collaborations with Ministry, The Revolting Cocks and Pigface, as well as, more recently, Cocksure and The Joy Thieves.
‘The Birthday Poems’ is available on Bandcamp, as well as Apple Music and Spotify. It can also be ordered, on CD and download, directly from the artist via Bandcamp.
1. My Father Took Me Everywhere (feat. Monica Queen)
2. Stella, Stan & Dostoevsky
3. A Minor Hoolie (feat. Monica Queen)
4. Cigarettes At Dawn (feat. Monica Queen)
5. A Maze Amongst The Tenements
6. Tae The Poets
7. What Strangeness Of Light & Dark
8. The Lowland Fulcrum (feat. Monica Queen)
9. A Rain Soaked Idyll
10. A Phantom Marriage (feat. Monica Queen)
11. O Blessed Saint Magnus
12. The Poet Herself (feat. Monica Queen)
13. A Desolate Spell
14. Let Us Be Hushed (feat. Monica Queen)
15. My Heart Is A Plough On This Wilderness Field
16. Smiler Wi’ A Knife
17. The Birthday Poems
18. From A Dreamer’s Shore (feat. Monica Queen)
Connelly plans a series of limited-seating shows in Chicago, performing songs from ‘The Birthday Poems’, as well as stories associated with his discovery and investigation of the relationship which inspired the album. An online event is also in the works. Links to all events can be found at www.thebirthdaypoems.com.