The Decemberists and British folk singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney have joined forces as Offa Rex. The project was born out of Colin Meloy’s love for British folk “revival” music and finds the group covering a number of old standards. First came the title track for their forthcoming debut, The Queen of Hearts, and now the band has shared the in-studio video for “Blackleg Miner”.
If you weren’t told up front, you’d be forgiven for thinking Offa Rex’s take on the 19th-century political song was cut from a Decemberists record. With Chris Funk working his magic on the mandolin and Chaney squeezing the harmonium, the rest of the band sets down a lively dirge. The song is about the 1844 British national miners’ lockout, which ended with the miners’ defeat because of scab, a.k.a. blackleg, replacement workers.
“It’s an incredible song. I was immediately drawn to it and wanted to kind of bring it to a new audience,” Meloy told Billboard. “[Our performance] is really a picture sonically of how I envisioned the record really sounding and was an opportunity to kind of develop and explore a groove that goes into so many of those old folk records, particularly Fairport [Convention] records — really kind of a spare rhythm section and drums very much in a rock mode.”
Check it out via the video above.
The Queen of Hearts is out July 14th on Nonesuch. It was recorded at Meloy’s farm near Portland, Oregon with producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Neko Case). Pre-orders are going on now, and you can find the album art and tracklist below.
The Queen of Hearts Album Art:
The Queen of Hearts Tracklist:
01. The Queen of Hearts
02. Blackleg Miner
03. The Gardener
04. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
05. Flash Company
06. The Old Churchyard
07. Constant Billy (Oddington) / I’ll Go Enlist (Sherborne)
08. Willie o’Winsbury
09. Bonny May
10. Sheepcock and Black Dog
11. To Make You Stay