Lakes tales and local stories inspire Cumbrian's ambitious album project

29 September 2017 4:54PM

CUMBRIAN multi-instrumentalist Mike Turnbull has released his ambitious new album, inspired by the Lake Districts and the local area.

The seven-track record, Circlet of Gold, tells the region's well-known tales, each set to Mike's diverse alt-folk music.

The self-taught performer, originally from Grange but now based in Kendal, plays acoustic guitars, tenor guitar, mandola and ukulele on the album, which was recorded at the Heavy Rain Sound Studio in Windermere recently, and released on a CD digipack.

Having been in various bands throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, he gradually headed down a more acoustic-oriented route.

Mike says: "I have been an active member of the South Lakes Guitar Club but I began to lose interest in playing around seven years ago. This project really is my 'comeback'."

Inspired by some of his new acoustic and indie folk discoveries, his material began to draw heavily from Lake District influences plus other historic and interesting themes, weaved into catchy, melodic and music.

"I'd had the lyrics to The King of Dunmail Raise for a while after reading about it but I had to wait until the right time to put it to music," says Mike.

"It has become the flagship song as the lyric does contain the phrase Circlet of Gold and kind of establishes where I'm from.

"This is where I've spent most of my life but certainly the stories are the intriguing part and naturally lend themselves to being made into a song.

"I don't actually know if this has been done before - certainly not in an accessible indie, pop-folk way at least, such as Seth Lakeman has done with Cornwall and Somerset."

Other songs on the album tell the stories of the sunken village of Mardale (Drowning Valley), as well as those with connections to the fells, such as Mallory and Irving who climbed Everest in 1924 (The Mountaineers).

A sheet of stories to accompany the record can be downloaded via Mike's website.

Mike tried his hand at the unconventional tunings of the tenor guitar and mandola, and the new songs quickly flowed out of him.

"It has all come together so easily really," he says.

"I had the songs, I had all the guitar parts, I knew Colin Margison, who I'd mentioned the project to and was keen to take on the challenge of the artwork.

"I knew it was only going to be quite a simple recording process, so the challenge for me comes with lyrics, as the music and chord structures flow from my fingers after playing for so long.

"I had always recorded by myself using recording software but I decided to seek the stimulation of some else doing the 'knob twiddling' for this so I could concentrate on playing the songs.

"Andris (Kiss) at Heavy Rain was a good choice as he's in Windermere, so not too far to go, and I felt it would be nice to be able to say the album was recorded in Windermere.

"Being from Hungary, Andris had no prejudices about British music culture and was so excited to be recording something new to him. He has a unique way to record acoustic guitars so he was really keen to do that for my material. The sound he gets is so great.

"I have to say the feedback so far is amazing. I have tried to make the songs melodic, accessible and interesting all at the same time."

The album is now available physically and digitally online, and the next step for Mike is to take the songs into a live setting.

A few of the tracks have had an airing at the Lake District Folk & Acoustic Club, in Staveley, this month, and Mike is working on a full set for 2018.

He continues: "Having been out of the playing live loop for a while, I am keen to play live again.

"I guess because of the genre of music I'm doing, it lends itself best to folk and acoustic clubs, perhaps guitar clubs, other acoustic session events and the acoustic roots festivals in the area.

"I'm after a slow burn on this to get back to playing live so I would also be keen to hear from any other artists who likes what I'm doing and is happy to offer me a support slot for their gigs too."

Circlet of Gold is now available to buy via

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