Richard Shindell: On A Sea of Fleur De Lis
Richard Shindell: On A Sea of Fleur De Lis [live]
Solas: On A Sea of Fleur De Lis
Solas: On A Sea of Fleur De Lis [live]
One of the best-known songs in ex-pat Fast Folk-era singer-songwriter Richard Shindell's catalog, and one of the most cryptic, this song appears as the centerpiece to his 1992 debut album Sparrows Point, and - in its original form - it features the appalachian dulcimer, on which it was composed.
Like so much of Shindell's songs, On A Sea Of Fleur De Lis tells its tale in first person; as near as I can tell, the narrator is a nun, though it could merely be an autobiographical echo of Shindell's own time in the seminary before he set out to become a songcrafter. But truly, there are layers upon layers here. Perhaps it is enough to say that the narrator, seemingly caught in a web of religious trappings, longs to be a witch again, naked and cradled in the arms of the sacred elm or willow, and the song is her prayer.
But like a spell, an ex-witches prayer can take many forms. The vast difference in tone and mood between the hollow, ringing original and the rich, joyous celtic-tinged cover Solas brings forth in live performance is an exercise in transformation, turning pensiveness into celebration, completing the circle that four versions lay out for us, setting free the trapped soul of the tale.