The Holy Island

The Holy Island

Don’t you just love it when you accidentally stumble upon an amazingly beautiful song?

Holy Island is a track from the 2007 album Traces of Silver released by New Zealand legend Andrew White; a totally underrated artist in my opinion. Despite having worked with artists such as Karen Matheson of Cappercaille and Michael McGoldrick of the Afro Celt Sound System, White remains mostly unknown in the country in which he was born.

I first came across Andrew White’s music during a random search on youtube and bought this album on the strength of the first song I heard, the magical title track Traces of Silver. He has an arresting voice and wonderfully tender style of guitar playing, and there’s a refreshing sense of honesty and raw beauty in his lyrics, too.

I was utterly surprised, amazed and then struck with a fierce sense of pride to discover that this wonderful artist was born right here in the north-east of England in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It doesn’t look like he’s forgotten his roots either; though he hasn’t lived here since the age of 16, his music is full of cherished memories and odes to the beauty of the north-east.

Holy Island is a particularly heartfelt tribute to the island of Lindisfarne, home to the 7th century ruins of a monastery founded by Irish-born St. Aidan in AD 635, as well as a 16th century castle. It was here where the northern saint Cuthbert lived and the Lindisfarne Gospels were created. It was referred to in the 9th century Historia Brittonum as Medcaut, from the Latin Medicata, ‘healing island’. Thousands of visitors a year still cross the ancient causeway to the island, now considered an area of outstanding natural beauty.

We got caught by the tide so we slept on the dunes
Beneath the blanket of stars we sang her tunes
We laughed and we talked till the moon kissed our eyes
Fell asleep under Northumbrian skies

Restless dreams; I walk alone
Parthumdrian shores, ancient stones
I heard some daydem call my name
He said, “let your heart become a burning flame”

Holy island
Oh there’s a light for ships lost at sea
Holy island
Oh there’s a place for sanctuary

Woke in the morning with the mist in our hair
Tired and hungry but we didn’t care
A fishermen was mending his net by the sea
As we passed by he said to me

Holy island
Oh your life’s unconceived, just like one day
Holy island
Oh your heart can get swept away on the tide
On holy island, holy island
The mystery hides

We climbed the castle walls, I looked around
The sea went on forever, I swear I heard the sound
Of angels sing
“To holy island, to holy island
All your troubles bring”

Holy island
Oh there’s a light for ships lost at sea
Holy island
Oh there’s a place for sanctuary
Should your craft a-come upon that stony ground
On holy island, holy island
You’ll be found

Holy island

We got caught by the tide so we slept on the dunes
Beneath the blanket of stars we sang her tunes
We laughed and we talked till the moon kissed our eyes
Fell asleep under Northumbrian skies

Andrew White’s official website
Buy Traces of Silver @ CandyRat Records
Photo credit: Michael Shankshref

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