The Queen of Hearts is a collaborative studio album by English musician Olivia Chaney and American band The Decemberists, under their project name Offa Rex. It was released in July 2017 under Nonesuch Records. The album was nominated for Best Folk Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in 2018.
Andy Gill of the Independent writes an excellent review here, describing the album as, “a sublime collection of old songs given contemporary heart transplants without ever betraying their essential original truth and spirit.”
Sarah Greene at Exclaim says:
Portland indie rockers the Decemberists — who have always sounded like Anglophiles and have cited Anne Briggs, Nic Jones and Shirley Collins as influences — have teamed up with a British songwriter to make a record indebted to the ’60s British folk revival.
The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy struck up a Twitter correspondence with singer and multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney after hearing her debut album, The Longest River. That led to touring together and, eventually to Offa Rex, the band’s collaboration with Chaney.
Recorded live to tape in Portland by Tucker Martine, The Queen of Hearts sees Chaney, at the Decemberists’ invitation, carrying well-loved British folk songs back to America and dusting them off with a delightfully non-purist backing band. Like a lot of great records, it’s imbued with the magic of hearing the musicians and the singer mid-process of figuring things out or having just nailed it.
Not that it lacks seriousness or austerity. Chaney’s voice is as stately, clear and strong as it is beautiful, and you can hear in her interpretations that she is standing on the shoulders of Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Lal Waterson and especially Anne Briggs.
Lee Zimmerman at Paste Magazine gives a fair review of it here.
The poetic selection from this exquisite album today is The Gardener.
Proud Margaret stood at her father’s doorway
As straight as willow wood
By there came a gardener by
With a red rose in his hand, his hand
With a red rose in his hand
You shall have my rose, fair maiden
If you’ll give your flower to me
Among the flowers in your father’s garden
I’ll make a gown for thee, for thee
I’ll make a gown for thee
And it shall be of sweet smelling thyme
Your apron celandine
Your petticoat of the chamomile
Come kiss sweetheart and join, and join
Come kiss sweetheart and join
Your glove shall be of the clover flower
Your shoes of the rue so fine
I’ll line them with the cornflower blue
So join your love with mine, with mine
So join your love with mine
Since you have made a gown for me
Among the summer flowers
I will make a suit for thee
Among the winter showers, the showers
Among the winter showers
The milk-white snow will be your shirt
That lines your body next
And the night-black rain will be your coat
With a wind gale at your breast, your breast
With a wind gale at your breast
The horse that you shall ride upon
Will be of the wintry grey
And every time that you pass by
I’ll wish you were away, away
I’ll wish you were away
Songwriters: Traditional / CARMICHAEL RALPH