Richard Ruane: Crazy Man Michael
I have mentioned before how I once did a guest post on Boyhowdy’s excellent blog, Cover Lay Down. That post included the original version of Crazy Man Michael by Fairport Convention, as well as an American version by Natalie Merchant. There, you can also find the story of how Crazy Man Michael came to be written. All of the other versions I could find at that time were by artists I had never heard of. To change that, an artist I am familiar with could have done a version since then. Or, I could have found out about an artist who had already done the song, and that is what happened. I discovered many artists this past summer at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, including a wonderful band called Bread and Bones. The band includes Richard Ruane, Beth Duquette and Mitch Barron. Although Crazy Man Michael appears on an album by Richard Ruane, recorded before the band officially got together, all of the future members of Bread and Bones are heard here, and the album is available on their website. All of this matters only because Ruane and company have taken Crazy Man Michael and made the song their own, with beautiful results. Beth Duquette appears elsewhere on the album, but the female singer here is Patti Casey.
But what about our theme? In the case of this song, it’s a good question. You could say that the song describes a man’s madness, and no magic is involved. But I prefer to think that Michael or his true love have gotten on the bad side of a sorcerer, who clouds Michael’s mind and causes him to carry out a terrible curse. Indeed, once this happens, Michael’s mind clears, and he discovers what he has been driven to do. Also, when the raven utters his curse, Michael calls him a sorcerer. So this is a different kind of magic than we have been seeing so far this week, but it is consistent with the traditions of the British Isles.