Albums & lyrics

Secret Sky: Opium

Opium, the highly anticipated follow-up to Secret Sky's eponymous debut. Featuring the evocative vocals of Caroline Lavelle and the masterful guitar work of Brian Hughes, Secret Sky weaves together a tapestry of Pop and World music with exotic textures of the Middle Eastern Oud, Puerto Rican Cuatro, and the hypnotic Greek Lyra played by a contemporary master of the Lyra, Sokratis Sinopoulos. Opium takes the listener on a remarkable musical journey accompanied by an all star cast of musicians.

Secret Sky

1. Black Is The Colour – 6:41
2. Searching For Lambs – 8:08
3. Winds And Shadows – 8:14
4. Nor All Thy Tears – 6:28
5. When I Was On Horseback – 6:01
6. Moorlough Shore – 9:58
7. The Dim-Moon City Of Delight – 5:29
8. Lady Howard (A Tale Of Dartmoor) – 6:55
9. Sun In A Black Sky – 3:12
10. When I Was In My Prime (Bonus Track) 4:42

Secret Sky is a band project together with Brian Hughes (guitars, oud & bouzouki), Hugh Marsh (fiddle) and myself on vocals and cello. We met some 20 years ago and have played together in Loreena McKennitt’s band since. Our first album is produced by Brian Hughes and features both traditional and self-penned songs.

A distant bell

A Distant Bell

1. Gently Johnny – 3:05
2. So Uncool – 4:24
3. Innocence Sleeping – 3:12
4. Banks Of The Nile – 6:10
5. Simple Lyric – 3:46
6. No More Words – 2.27
7. Too Late – 3:40
8. The Trees They Do Grow High – 3:14
9. Greenwood Laddie – 7:58
10. Timeless – 3:14
11. Handful Of Ashes – 4:45
12. Farewell To Music – 3:08
13. Gently Johnny (Extended Version) – 3:52

I started recording A Distant Bell after meeting up with the very talented composer and arranger Harvey Brough. He plays some unlikely instruments such as the psaltery that features on Banks of the Nile and also has a beautiful, pure voice with an otherworldly quality to it that appears on Gently Johnny. He came down to where I was living in the depths of the country and we crafted the delicate and pastoral songs in a way that came to be known as Chamber Folk. 

We went up to Scotland to record the strings on it as another old friend of mine, a wonderful violinist called Jacquie Norrie was playing with a great group of strings up there and they were wonderful, playing great and being very enthusiastic about the music. It was a lovely time.

One of the tracks on there also had some guest musicians from the Chieftains with whom I’d done some touring, Triona Marshall on harp and the legendary Paddy Moloney on whistle. If you listen closely you can hear the birds joining in from outside the window. 

Gently Johnny

Trad Arr Lavelle/Brough

He put his hand all in her hair 
and she said ‘I like it there’ 
He put his hand all on her lips 
and she said ‘please tell me this: 

Gently gently gently Johnny, 
gently Johnny my jingalo, 
gently gently gently Johnny, 
gently Johnny my dear.’ 

He put his hand all on her knee 
and she said ‘do you want to see’ 
He put his hand all on her breast 
and she said ‘do you want a kiss? 

Gently gently gently Johnny, 
gently Johnny my jingalo, 
gently gently gently Johnny, 
gently Johnny my dear.’ 

He put his hand all on her thigh 
and she said ‘do you want to try?’ 
He put his hand all on her belly 
and she said ‘do you want to fill me? 

Gently gently gently Johnny, 
gently Johnny my jingalo, 
gently gently gently Johnny, 
gently Johnny my dear.’



I’m so uncool that my fingers almost burn. 
They’ve been known to strip the skin like the sun. 
Come & touch me brave heart with your velvet skin; 
you’re playing games with me you’ll never win. 

You spill tempting lies, silver, like fishes on the sand, 
and tell me that heaven lies in the smallest touch 
of your hand, and I’m almost believing you; 
you’re playing games with me and you will lose. 

You drape mystery lightly, like gauze around your head, 
and capture the midday sun in your eyes; 
the sweetness in your face it lies so easily – 
if I believed in you I’d lose me. 

I’ll eat you alive, oh & you can hardly wait, 
but I know that your fate holds you with a surer touch 
than I ever could, or ever wanted to; 
believe me we’re on our own. 

And it’s just you.



Trad arr. Lavelle/Brough

Oh hark, the drums do beat my love, I can no longer stay. 
The bugle horns are sounding clear, and I must march away. 
We are ordered down to Portsmouth, and it’s many’s the weary mile, 
to join the British army, along the banks of the Nile. 

Oh Willie dearest Willie, don’t leave me here to mourn. 
Don’t make me curse and rue the day that ever I was born; 
for the parting of our love would be like parting with my life – 
so stay at home my dearest love, and I will be your wife. 

Oh Nancy darling Nancy, sure that would never do. 
The government has ordered and we are bound to go; 
the government has ordered and the queen she gives command, 
and I am bound on oath my love to serve in a foreign land. 

Oh then I’ll cut off my long hair, and I’ll go along with you. 
I’ll dress myself in uniform & I’ll see Egypt too; 
I’ll march beneath your banner while fortune she do smile 
and we’ll comfort one another along the banks of the Nile. 

But your waist it is too slender, your fingers they’re too small; 
the cruel sun of Egypt your rosy cheeks would spoil. 
Well the cannons they do rattle and the bullets they do fly, 
and the silver trumpets sound so loud to hide the dismal cries. 

Oh then cursed be those cruel wars since ever they began, 
for they have robbed our country of many’s the handsome man. 
They have robbed us of our sweethearts, while their bodies they feed the lions 
on the dry & sandy deserts, which are the banks of the Nile



I give you no more words; you take them hostage 
and bring them back in negative – in Stockholm they’re convinced 
by their captors in the opposite of reason, so twisted, 
they smile at me with logic saying, look, get outta that. 

You take my simple words far beyond logic, 
and lose their truest meaning, infuse them with your pain. 
You pull them to yourself like a miser with his money, 
and serve them up so pretty, eating cold revenge again. 

The words they coil around like so many snakes, 
you let your guard fall down – I see Oz behind the drapes – 
with one great bound I am free & I am running. 
No longer can you say to me, haha get outta that!



I knew you could not forget me, couldn’t if you tried. 
You’d spoken truth on Upper Street: I was your soul & you were mine. 
But the fire was too hot for you & you took your burned hand away 
and gave it to an ordinary love to soothe it every day: 

And now you come to me too late too late, 
and now you come to me too late. 

Where there were no barriers you’ve grown up ghosts between us now; 
their cold fingers pull me back – they hunt my courage down. 

And now you come to me too late. 

You sold your lovely soul while I never found the one who had the currency for mine. 

And now you come to me too late.



Trad Arr Lavelle/Brough 

The trees they do grow high & the trees they do grow green, 
but the days have gone & passed my love that thou & I were seen. 
It’s a cold winter’s night my love, it’s now that I must lie alone: 
my bonny boy you were young, but a-growing. 

Oh father dearest father I fear you’ve done me harm, 
for you’ve married me to a bonny boy but you know he is too young. 
Oh daughter dearest daughter if you will stay at home with me 
a lady you shall be while he’s growing. 

We’ll send him to the college for one year or two 
and then perhaps in time my love, a man he’ll make for you. 
I’ll buy you white ribbons to tie around his bonny waist 
to let the ladies know that he’s married. 

At the age of sixteen he was a married man, 
at the age of seventeen he was the father of a son; 
at the age of eighteen my love, his grave it was a-growing green 
and death had put an end to his growing. 

I made my love a shroud of the holland o-so fine, 
and every stitch I put in it the tears they did run down; 
oh once I had a sweetheart but now he’s lying in the ground, 
but I’ll nurse his bonny boy while he’s growing. 

O now my love is dead and in his grave doth lie, 
the green grass that covers him, it groweth up so high; 
o once a had a sweetheart but now I have got ne’er a one; 
so fare thee well my own true love for ever.



Ye muses assist me, there is none can resist me 
save only that fair one whom I do adore. 
And the more that they tease me the more he would please me, 
he’ll be my my greenwood laddie til time is no more. 

Have you seen my dearest whose eyes shine the clearest, 
whose lips like the red blood new dropped in the snow; 
he is neat tall and handsome, his arms warm and gentle, 
he’ll be my greenwood laddie til time is no more. 

My parents my darling, they slight you with scorn 
because you have no riches wrapped up in a store. 
But the more that they slight you the more I’ll entice you 
to be my greenwood laddie til time is no more. 

Twas down in yonder bower I spent many hours, 
a-plucking wild flowers on yon winding shore; 
twas his stolen kisses caused my fondest wishes. 
He’ll be my greenwood laddie whom I’d always adore. 

If I had the riches of the east or west indies, 
or if I had the gold of the African shore, 
or if I could gain thousands I would lie in your sweet arms 
and you’d be my greenwood laddie til time is no more.



Young love is honed so sharp 
that the blade can snap embedded in your heart, 
and when you move you feel the ache, 
though the face that caused it fades. 

But old love grows so long 
that the part above the ground has less effect, 
and time can wither tender shoots, 
but leaves those roots secure and strong. 

But the best love has no time; 
no forwards, backwards but only now. 
It’s strong arms hold you when you walk 
and if you fall you’re always caught. 

Though I know this to be true, 
yet I still believe I love you the best; 
the way that you turn your head, 
it twists my heart so tight it hurts.



Words: Siamant’o, Music: Caroline Lavelle 

Alas, you were like a grand and magnificent mansion. And I, from the white summit of your roof, in the light of the star-studded night, listened to the fearsome flow of the Euphrates below. I heard with tears, with tears, that on a day of horror massacre and blood, your broad walls were shattered stone by stone, and thrown on the gardena around you. Did the blue room also turn to ashes, where, within it’s walls and carpets, my happy childhood rejoiced, my life grew and my soul took flight? My fathers’ home! Be assured that when I die, my soul will come to you as an exiled turtle dove to sing in tears its song of sorrow over your black ruins.

But tell me. Who will bring to me a handful of your sacred ashes the day I die, to put in my grave and mix with my ashes, a singer of the homeland? A handful of ashes with my own, ancestral home. Who will bring a handful of ashes from your ashes? Of your memories, your suffering and your past. A handful of ashes to scatter over my heart. 

Translated from the Armenian by Garbis Yessayan.



Music: Turlough O’Carolan, arr. Caroline Lavelle




brilliant midnight 2.0

Brilliant Midnight 2.0

Add text1. Lost Voices – 4:18
2. Karma – 4:02
3. Anima Rising – 3:51
4. Firefly Night – 4:18
5. The Fall – 2:51
6. Siamant’o – 6:45
7. Anxiety – 4:06
8. Farther Than The Sun – 6:42
9. She Said – 4:30
10. Le Pourquoi – 4:04
11. All I Have – 3:28
12. Mangoes 3:41
13. Home Of The Whale – 4:57
14. Universal – 6:09
15. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – 4:42
16. Twisted Ends – 1:52


Lost Voices was inspired by both a radio play about the musician and poet Ivor Gurney and the book ‘Lost Voices of WWI’ by Tim Cross. Ivor Gurney was an extraordinary and sensitive person who never mentally recovered from his experiences of the first war and, until his death decades later, often believed it still to be going on.



I am a Russian doll Layers beneath the skin I have no interest to see how I keep all that stuff in Cause now I’ve found you faithless same as me It waits just like an animal patient like an animal eyes in the trees looking for me all of Dali’s children wait and see And all the times I did this same thing All the times I Karma karma karma… Then I had no reflection now I live in a glass along with all those sweet eyes I made so red in the past Now they’re smiling while they’re dragging me down. It leans on me til I can’t breathe among the free I suffocate and all the times I did this same thing all the times I Karma karma karma 


This is about what you would expect it to be about…. 
I wanted the huh huh repeated backing vocals to be a recurring theme in this song; to be unstoppable and just going round and round . I had fun with the operatic backing vocals in what you might call the chorus. The screaming sound is the cello.



On the edges time is still forever waiting for your sign choosing like a child Brilliant midnight selfish in pleasures knowing when to know to turn or go alone On the water you hold a face reflected paler than the hands measuring the sands. Silver water bright as a thief easy of belief a stillness in release 


This song is about the oneness of everything. 
I used the string orchestra here again, with the layered-up cellos also in the chorus. I like the simplicity and naivete of the arrangement. My manager, Ian, had the great idea of using brass instruments later in the song where I was feeling that it needed a different colour. I had worked with the Black Dyke Mills Band earlier in the year when I did a tv programme with Peter Gabriel, and I loved the sound they made, so I wanted a sort of colliery band sound to fit with the innocence of the song. I used some players from the local town’s silver band, and recorded them with engineer Ben Findlay in the local church.


Caroline Lavelle / Clare Kenny 

I was drawn to the light just a little curious then I grew to needing it bright I began to speak of us by the time you realise you’re on the losing side it’s too late for regrets too late for regrets I was caught by the light of a firefly night of a firefly night. It was the girl on the cover not the living breathing me and for once I can take no pleasure in my getting it right finally by the time you realise you’re on the losing side it’s too late for regrets too late for regrets I was caught by the light of a firefly night on a firefly night Like a magic trick once explained when you hold the secret in your hand the magic’s tamed There are no lights in my eyes now and I sit for hours in a daze cos I’ve lost the sweetest madness that could baffle and amaze By the time you realise you’re on the losing side it’s too late for regrets - too late for regrets I was caught by the light of a firefly night on a firefly night 


The music of this was written with a friend of mine, the bass player Clare Kenny. We had a great laugh writing and recording it, and I particularly love Dave Power's drums on this; he has wit and energy when he plays. 
Another dear friend of mine, the singer Ingrid Schroeder (check out her great album ‘Bee Charmer’) sings some fabulously weird stuff in the middle eight.


I found the fall beguiling my body hanging in the rushing air but when my daylight had shrunk I wished to all life that I wasn’t there And speaking in the darkness I tried to make a joke And to my shame was answered by a hundred ragged voices who spoke; you get used to it, we did you get used to it, we did And sure enough my sight returned so many crowded the walls some even getting near the top and fighting for a new foothold there was no way up that I could see no light and no ladders, but I believed in the dice and snakes cos I was at the bottom sadder You get used to it, they did you get used to it, they did And down would come the gentlemen to do their good each day and talk to me with softened voices protected by their suits of grey and they would give me presents if I wanted them or no so I could make more sense of all the stupid things that I’d let show You get used to it, they did You get used to it, they did


Siamant’o is the well-known Armenian poet of protest and rebellion. He travelled a lot during his life, educated in Istanbul and the Sorbonne in Paris. He spent a year in Boston as editor of the Armenian paper ‘Hayrenik’ (The Homeland), returning home when he thought a new and better era for Armenia was emerging, but he was killed among 761 other Armenian intellectuals massacred in 1915. I have taken phrases from his poem ‘A Handful of Ash’ and used them as a soundscape rather than as a whole poem, and I wished it to be a kind of lament for Siamant’o himself. The poem in its entirety speaks of his hearing that his old childhood home has been destroyed and how he wishes to have a handful of its ash for his grave. I
was helped in my attempts at pronunciation by a wonderful Armenian academic called Mr Yessayan, who was very patient and helpful, even though my efforts were not always successful.



I let him in he won’t stay out; the wrong one he loves me unshakable doubt. He waits for me, to wake me up til he wrings me out every drop Under sun while I race he waits patient in my bed a smile on his face til he wrings me out every drop I dreamed last night that he let go he was falling in circles I laughed as he froze but there he’ll be revenged on me til he wrings me out every drop yeah every drop. 


Anxiety is about insomnia. If you have it, you’ll know what I mean. 
Originally, I wrote this with just drums, voices and cellos making all the sounds, but then I got together with Hector Zazou in Paris and he came up with some great noises that added so much to the song.



Strung in the wind I called you, but you did not hear; you’re a plant that needs poor soil and I have treated you too well to give up flowers Oh I have been too rich for you. Farther than the sun from me, farther than I’d have you be, And I go north, I get so cold My heart is lava under stone; You are not worthy, you are not worthy. With your calculating eyes spinning figures You cannot see me, And if I tell myself enough I’ll believe it you are not worthy. The sea it freezes over to trap the light, And I’m in love with being in love and you were never quite the one; in Gerda’s eyes, fragments of what you’ve become. And all the moths that fly at night believe electric light is bright you are not worthy, you are not worthy With your calculating eyes spinning figures you cannot see me and if I tell myself enough I’ll believe it 


With this song I wanted to use images from the natural world. I wrote this song originally on the piano, adding the cello parts at an early stage. In the verses I use a string orchestra recorded in London, but the cellos (recorded in an ancient church near my home) creep through and take over for the chorus when the string orchestra stops playing. I love the sound that high layered up cellos give and I use it quite a lot. At the end I wanted the cello to be left in solitude when the string orchestra drops away. The piano is a child’s piano played by Charlie May in his studio in Switzerland.



When I heard that golden voice in my head she said come away from windows of glass; if you don’t wanna follow then leave them there and you’ll find that the feeling will pass, she said you don’t know me yet, but you will find I’ve been with you all the days of your life, when I took on the job I didn’t realise you were such a difficult type and she said I’m so tired of fighting your wildest of ways and she said I’m so sorry taking your longest of days Then she took me by the hand and showed me ‘do you see those lights up ahead, can you feel all the voices pulling you; I can’t save you from what you dread ‘ and she said I’m so tired of fighting you, it’s why you’re here now and she said how I’m fading fast, you must say goodbye now I feel this is the place I leave you you’ll find that your road is down there if you’re feeling too warm take your clothes off I assure you that there’s no-one will care and she said I’m so tired of fighting your wildest of ways and she said I’m so sorry taking your longest of days you don’t know me yet but I’ve been with you all the days of your life when I took on the job didn’t realise you were such a difficult type 


She Said is a song about a guardian angel. 
Charlie May did some great stuff with guitars at the beginning of this song, and there is an amazing solo by a french guitarist called Pierre Chaze at the end; it sounds like he is playing backwards but he’s not. He achieved a sound that I had never heard before and I love it. 
The drums are played by Dave Power and were recorded in my studio by Ben Findlay. We all had a great time when Dave came over; he is a human dynamo.



Words: Marc de Larreguy de Civrieux,  Music: Caroline Lavelle 

Depuis les jours de Charleroi 
Et la retraite de la Marne,
 J’ai promene partout ma ‘carne’
 Sans en comprendre le pourquoi…
Quand je demande autour de moi
 Quel est le but de ces tueries,
 On me repond le mot: ’Patrie!’
 Sans en comprendre le pourquoi…
 Mieux me vaudrait de rester coi,
 Et quand viendrait mon agonie,
 De m’en aller de cette vie
 Sans en comprendre le pourquoi… 
February 1916 at the front 

I found the two poems that I used in Siamant’o and Le Pourquoi in a great book called ‘The Lost Voices of World War I’ by Tim Cross, published by Bloomsbury. It inspired me even more in my interest in the writing and art of the First World War. Tim Cross has collected poems from all the nationalities who fought; not just those who ended on the winning side. All the writers who appear in the book were killed during the period 1914 -1918, mostly very young, and it is even more astonishing that the work they leave us is of such a high standard, as they had had little time to develop their talents. 

Le Pourquoi is from a poem by a Frenchman, Marc de Larreguy de Civrieux called (in English) ‘The Soldier’s Soliloquies’, and it tells of the unanswered question of why all this horror is happening. It comes from his book ‘Le Muse de sang’ which went to four printings after his death, although he is almost unknown today. He was killed on 18th November 1916 at Verdun.



Words & Music: Caroline Lavelle / Eleanor McEvoy 

There was a time I gave too much away And many times I craved a touch too deeply Now I stand on my own alone There was a time, but that has gone for me cause all I have is me and all I need you can see So if you choose to lose yourself to me Keep in mind to save your mystery and my soul stays mine stays mine and you can grow entwined yet still be free Cause all I have is me And all i need you can see 

All I Have was co-written with a talented lady called Eleanor McEvoy. We wrote it in about two hours and went straight on and wrote another one the same day! 

I wanted to layer up vocals in the choruses, and when my friend Bella (a great engineer) heard it, she asked, ‘Who’s doing the high backing vocals?’ I said that they were all me, and she replied, ‘Oh, you do your own stunt singing, then!’



And maybe this time I should And maybe this time it would and maybe I’ll forget what history persuades it wants of me You taste of mangoes in the darkness spinning time in chaos the flooding hours like a minute’s essence so pure and sweet My voice is dark and broken so much I leave unspoken There must be a right time to give in; In losing, how might I win how might I win. 

The piano is played by Michael Nyman, and there are a lot of notes! This song could have been sub-titled ‘the revenge of the cello player’, as I have played so many of his notes! Ben and I recorded it in Michael’s house in London on his gorgeous piano that has a sound all of its own.



Words & Music: Owen Hand 

Oh my love he works upon the sea 
On the waves that blow wild and free 
He splices the ropes and he sets the sail 
While southwards he roams to the home of the whale 

And he ne’er thinks of me far behind 
Or the torments that rage in my mind 
He is mine for only part of the year 
Then I’m left all alone with only my tears 

All ye ladies that smell of wild rose 
Think you for your perfume of where a man goes 
Think you of the wives and the babies that yearn 
For the man ne’er returns sleeping without a stone 

Oh my love he works upon the sea 
On the waves that blow wild and free 
He splices the ropes and he sets the sail 
While southwards he roams to the home of the whale 

I first heard this song by Owen Hands being sung by Mary Black when I was working with her and De Dannan in Ireland. It was the first song I ever sang for other people. I recorded it with Massive Attack and then with Marius de Vries and now with Bella Rodriguez.



There’s beauty in the dance of the cloud that is me and the cloud that is you in the rhythm of stars and the shining wet grass in the morning and we’re all born of a wish, an unlikely form of coincidences each one a bridge between stars. So small, universal each grain of sand a person I could fall in love with so small universal and every time I look up know I’ll be coming home Endless re-arrangement a tearing apart the gift of a spark; the clash in the cloud that spawned your heart out of turmoil a bright flash in the sky: a quadrantid as I thought of you the same stuff you and I. So small universal each grain of sand a person I could fall in love with so small universal and every time I look up, know I’ll be coming home. 

The music was also written with Clare Kenny; the guitar you hear was recorded as we were demoing the song – I am hand-holding the mic in front of her guitar as she thought she was doing a guide part, but I liked it so much better than the ‘real’ part that I kept it. I came out of my house thinking of the person whose words had inspired me to write this, and a bright quadrantid (from the meteor shower in January) streaked horizontally across a very dark sky. A lovely moment.



Words & Music: Ewan MacColl 

This is produced and arranged by my good friends Ingrid Schroeder and Barry Flynn. I love the simplicity of this song.



The cello laughs…