The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle The Thistles Undone…
The art of storytelling is alive and well within Colin Meloy and the musicianship that his fellow bandmates display in the Decemberists enhances the listeners journey. Past albums like Castaways and Cutouts and The Crane Wife definitely shows the growth and build up to the bands most ambitious album The Hazards Of Love. Taking the title from an Anne Briggs EP, Meloy created a fantasy world for the rock opera/concept album that lies in the same vein of the fairy tales we enjoyed as children. With a nice mixture of folk and rock as the backdrop for such a tale, listeners are taken on a one of a kind musical adventure.
The Hazards of Love follows our heroine Margaret who one day while riding out finds a wounded fawn. After tending to the fawn, the creature suddenly turns into a man named William. The two are quick to make love and Margaret soon becomes pregnant. Our heroine runs away to the forest to be with her true love William to live in bliss. However William‘s mother, the Forest Queen, discovers what has happened and accusses him of being ungrateful after saving him as a child and making him immortal. William begs the Queen to let him be with Margaret and she agrees that for one night he can be with his love. In another part of the story, we meet the Rake, a ruthless widower whom after the death of his wife killed his children to be freed from the burden left upon him. The Rake comes upon Margaret and kidnaps her. Out of anger for William wanting to leave, the Queen allows the Rake to violate Margaret and gains him safe passage across the raging river. William finds out and exchanges his own life to cross the river to save Margaret. Before he rescues his love from her abductor, the Rake is haunted by the ghosts of his murdered children leaving time for the two lovers to escape. They both vow to marry each other by drowning in the river where the hazards of love can no longer trouble them.
This album boasts much more than just the story with Meloy playing the voices of both the narrator and our hero William plus guest appearances from Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond portraying Margaret, Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond acting as the Forest Queen, and both Jim James of My Morning Jacket and singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock providing guest vocals and guitar. The songs themselves seems to be extremely thought out as much as they’re spontaneous with live performances still being able to duplicate the sound and feel of the record. Even the list of instruments used on the album being ranging from simple like guitar and piano to more traditional and out of the box such as marxophones, bouzouki’s, and hurdy gurdy’s.
The Hazards of Love boasts a beautiful blend between folk and rock while still maintaining the feel of songs along the lines of Irish traditionals and hard rock radio. For the lover of anything fantasy, it would be a pity for this album to not be a part of your repertoire. Take a look at the youtube playlist below and lyrics to the songs are also available here to follow along. Enjoy!