Regular readers of these pages will be familiar with Peter Richard Adams from the glorious clattering punk pop of his bands And What Will Be Left of Them?, Hey You Guys!, Lost Boy Scout and many more besides, so you may be somewhat surprised to read today about a folk-rock historical documentary concept album about a village in the west of England that he’s created with his wife Rosie Green.
Across The Fields tells the 2000+ year story of the village Peter grew up in (with a degree of poetic licence to fill in the gaps) through the medium of beautiful, warm folk songs and is being released in three acts over the course of 2023 ahead of a full LP in next year. We caught up with him for a track by track guide to the first act.
In 2018, instead of going on honeymoon, Rosie and I went to Sound Terrace Studios to work with the supremely talented Sam Thomas on what became our first Christmas record, Christmas In The Market Towns. It’s a tradition we kept up. We’ve now made five Christmas records and one non-festive EP. However, rumbling underneath all of this has been a much bigger project.
Finally, after half a decade of work, we’re ready to put out what I sometimes half-jokingly refer to as my masterpiece. Even if it’s not that, it‘s definitely our most ambitious project to date.
Across The Fields is a folk rock concept album covering the 2000-year history of my home village, White Ladies Aston in Worcestershire. We’re releasing it in three Acts during 2023 before being bringing the whole thing together with additional songs as a complete version in January 2024.
A big part of the project was promising myself that I would write something to accompany what is, at heart, an incredibly personal record for me. Whether what follows will give extra context, deliver insight into what Rosie and I were considering creatively, or just come across as exactly the sort of arty crap that my teenage self would slap me in the face for is up for debate. All bets should be probably be placed on the latter though… for shame.
To the best of my knowledge there are no folk songs about White Ladies Aston, even though there are a whole raft of great things such songs could have been written about. If they ever did exist, they’re long lost. Therefore, Rosie and I decided to have a go at creating those songs ourselves.
Act One, as you would expect, starts at the start. But when does anything truly begin? I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had to take a few liberties with this one.
Across The Fields
I grew up at Aston Hall Farm. Look for it on a map, it’s there. Records indicate that there’s been a farm of some sort operating there since the time of Christ. Given that it’s the most easterly farm in the village, and the Aston part of the village name derives from the word ‘Eastun’ which means East Farm, it was probably the first (or at least most important) dwelling in that particular part of Horewell forest… as it would have been then. But who were the first people to arrive and call it home? I have no idea. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’ve decided it must have been young lovers running away to live happily after, potentially called to the land by some faintly supernatural force. All rubbish of course, but it appeals to my sensibilities.
Placing my childhood home at the centre of a record about a whole village is arrogant, I’m aware. The village has many more tales to tell than those stretching from Low Hill to Sawbrook and many will be covered in Acts Two and Three. But Aston Hall Farm has been the centre of my world for decades, and I have no doubt that it was to many that came before my family as well. Whoever the first arrivals were, and for whatever reason they came, one thing is for certain; it couldn’t have been an easy life. It would have been backbreaking work just to keep going year after year. Harvest Moon is about just that, praying there’s enough time to gather in the crops before the weather turns.
But it can’t all have been toil and grief. I hope not anyway. Cuckoo steals its lyrics from Sumer Is Icumen In, one of the oldest English folk songs first set down in 1261 and likely to have existed long before that. I have no proof that it was ever sung in the fields that I grew up in, but then you can’t prove it wasn’t either. If it was, it certainly wouldn’t have been sung to the tune we’ve pasted it to. But that’s artistic licence for you. I hope it brings a moment of joy betwixt the bleak.
The first of two instrumentals that bookend the acts, The Saltway hints at one of two points in history that I see as being instrumental in the development of the village as a whole. The Iron Age Saltway, a road now called Edwards Lane, linked Droitwich to Oxford and would have brought with it people and coin. The village proper would have been born.
Across The Fields – Act One is out now as a digital download via Bandcamp
Introduction by Paul Maps
Photo by Rosie Green