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The story behind ‘Train Tracks and Travelogues Vol.2’- ‘Isis in Tunis’

‘Isis in Tunis’ is the third track taken from the ‘Train Tracks and Travelogues Vol.2’ album, and features Llewellyn Baker on guest vocals.

Lewellyn is a kind of Edwardian Rennaissance man- a proficient sailor, carpenter, boat-builder and yoga practitioner, and a man with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of English folk-song.

The song he’s singing on ‘Isis in Tunis’ is “As I walked out one Midsummer morning”, a traditional and fairly well-known tune. It should be pointed out that there has been a fair amount of poetic licence applied to this particular rendition, which was brought out by several factors. Firstly, Llew’s singing- which was recorded in the cramped but snug kitchen of Llewellyn’s Fisherman’s cottage in Porthleven in Cornwall, coal-fired Raeburn blazing away in the corner- was the culmination of a memorable night spent in the Atlantic pub, a few doors down from Llew’s house. Anyone familiar with the traditions of sea-faring culture will no doubt be un-amazed to know that Llew, like most sailors, has the capacity to down what would for any land-based mortal be considered fatal quantities of rum in a single sitting; on the occasions when this does happen, our intrepid seafarer, who has sailed round the Cape of Good Hope and beyond in a boat without an engine, is transformed from someone who can circumnavigate the globe by the stars alone to an individual who can’t find his own front door when returning from the pub at the end of the street.

The other reason for playing a bit fast and loose with the recording of the song is that it was necessary to edit out a lot of ‘ambient’ sounds that were on the original viz. the unsolicited ‘harmonies’ of fellow guests from The Atlantic Inn who had all made it back into the warmth of Llew’s kitchen, various cat noises, and interjections from exhausted small children wondering why the adults of the house were all so inexplicably loud this particular evening.

‘Isis’ is the name of Llew’s boat- the engineless yacht on which he has had so many adventures/near-death experiences- and it was whilst sailing it in the Mediterranean some years ago that he got caught up in a storm so violent that he had to limp into Tunis to get all his sails repaired, a costly and time-consuming operation which necessitated him keeping Isis in Tunis for several months.

The female voice on the track is a field recording of an African girl singing: the coincidence of the timing and key of her voice matching Llew’s singing was a wonderful bit of serendipity, and as she wasn’t surrounded by a dozen inebriated well-wishers, domestic animals and howling babes-in-arms whilst performing, literally no editing had to be carried out on her vocals.

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