A Far Cry: Jill Egland and David Nigel Lloyd
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A Far Cry: Jill Egland and David Nigel Lloyd

Band Folk Celtic


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The best kept secret in music


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Jill Egland (with Banshee in the Kitchen):
IF WE WERE US (2002)

David Nigel Lloyd:
AN AGE OF FABLE [w/his Mojave Desert Ceilidh Band] (1997)
DARK AGES (1984)



by David Nigel Lloyd

Jill Egland and I call ourselves A Far Cry. Since, that deliciously sad music of the British Isles is at the root of what we play, we are a far cry from that music's home. Of course, we could just as well say that we are A Far Cry from Bakersfield, California.

"We are A Far Cry from solvent," Jill likes to say.

We are an acoustic duo with a non-traditional approach to traditional Celtic music. We do the old ballads and dance tunes as expected but we often place them in such unexpected settings as old-timey songs, blues and sung-poetry. It's not the usual approach but neither is it without precedent, as I will explain.

There is a history, a poetry and a purpose to this music. Many people simply call it a lilt; and it has been my passion or obsession for most of my life. I've performed throughout the West, mostly as a solo artist, for 20 years.

Jill, on the other hand, is an astonishingly prolific and versatile ensemble player. She performs with many people and was at first my accompanist. What became apparent after a brief northern California tour was that there was something else stewing in the musical cauldron.

Jill is best known as a multi-instrumentalist. She plays accordion, flute, penny whistle and the distinctive Irish frame drum called the bodhran. I've always enjoyed the plaintive yet eloquent quality of her playing — the lilt. She never struggles to find the right notes to play with my high lonesome and broken music. Most players really can't figure it out. But, it is as if she had grown up with it.

She is also, to my mind, a wonderful singer. She sings in a low alto mostly and has delved into that style called sean nos in Ireland, meaning 'old style.' I like how effortless her voice seems, how at home with the old and far off things it sings of, and yet how unassuming it is. It is never shrill. A very rich, warm and natural voice.

My mentor and sometimes teacher was the Scottish singer, poet and harper Robin Williamson — the same Robin Williamson whom Led Zeplin said inspired "Stairway to Heaven." Well, I started off trying to sound like Williamson as he had started off trying to sound like the great Scottish traditional singers Duncan Williamson and Jeannie Robertson. Though I've long since found my own voice, there is still a thread of that lineage in my singing. My singing (or was it my music) was once described as 'feral.' That's quite apt and hopefully it was intended as a compliment.

Thirty-six years ago, like so many 16 year-olds, I took up the guitar. Over the last 15 years, I worked very hard to develop a distinctive sound. So I perform, mostly in finger style, with three different guitars, the most ordinary of them being a classical guitar. Folk music, is of course, rarely played on classical guitars. Last summer, when we were playing in Auburn, California, a guitarist in the audience could not restrain his curiosity and demanded to know how I tuned my steel-string guitar and what was the deal with the guitar with the eight strings.

"It's an octar," I explained helpfully and then recited its tuning secrets and that of my steel six-string guitar. He wrote it all down in ball point pen on his wrist. "Isn't this fascinating, Ladies and gentlemen?" I asked the audience as we got the performance back on the tracks.

Anyone curious about any of these technicalities mentioned herein should feel free to interrogate us after our Spotlight performance. After the performance!

Our repertoire consists of songs from my 1998 release, How Like Ghosts Are We and from my soon to be released CD, Rivers Kings and Curses. Jill brings a large number of traditional tunes to the mix; many are from Even Hotter Water, the latest release of her national touring band, Banshee in the Kitchen. (See: bansheeinthekitchen.com) More and more of our repertoire, however, consists of the unique products of our collaboration.

A Far Cry’s non-traditional traditional music is unique but not without precedent. During the 1960s, there was a wild group of players in Britain who heard the old ballads, Delta blues, beat poetry, and Zen teaching tales, for instance, as essentially the same thing. They were visionaries and they made some extraordinary music. We are firmly in that non-tradition. (For more on non-traditional traditionalists, go to my website: davidnigellloyd.com)