The Return of the Renaissance Minstrels
When Candice Night approached Deep Purple and Rainbow rock legend Ritchie Blackmore for an autograph in 1989 she could not have imagined that not only would their personal relationship flourish, but that professionally they would discover a love of renaissance music. This shared passion has since produced 11 studio albums, the latest of which is Nature’s Light (12 March 2021; Edel Records).
As on previous albums, Blackmore generally seeks out a melody on his acoustic guitar, which he then might develop with his electric – or perhaps his mandolin, hurdy gurdy, mandola, or nyckelharpa. Night then adds lyrics that are evoked by that melody: “we are very inspired by nature, whether it is the light of the moon, the light of the sun… nature gives us so many miracles: a sunset, a shooting star, the wind through your hair, so that for me nature’s light can be interpreted in many ways,” she says. Critically, of course, she also adds her extraordinary voice as well her talent on various woodwind instruments.
Blackmore still enjoys ‘rocking out’ occasionally, but now says his “heart is in the purity of organic instruments because there is too much pressure in the world, and that is why I love the music of the 1500s… we’re trying to relieve the pressure from people’s lives.”
Their lineup has seen many changes over the years and has involved dozens of musicians, but on Nature’s Light it is worth highlighting the role of keyboardist David Baranowski. On the other hand, backing vocals were tasked to Bard David and the couple’s two children, Autumn and Rory Blackmore.
There are two outstanding cover songs on Nature’s Light: Second Element (that Sarah Brightman recorded on her 1993 Dive album) and Wish You Were Here (that was originally made known by Swedish pop country band Rednex). Regarding the former, Night says: “We've been big fans of Sarah Brightman for many years. And her work with Frank [Peterson] is just incredible. When we heard the song on an album that she had done many years ago, we instantly fell in love with it.” On the other hand, Blackmore does wonders for the music on this song, starting off on his acoustic and then passing over to his Strat, probably from Fender’s classic series, around half way through. Blackmore’s solo here is divine, his phrasing is spot on, and is likely to please any of his longtime fans.
Wish You Were Here was first recorded by the duo on 1997's Shadow of the Moon, and is a composition by Teijo Olavi Leskela. This version has more orchestration and stronger backing vocals and, again, the blend of Blackmore’s guitar and Night’s vocals make it another standout track. "Wish You Were Here" is a great song that we discovered while we were touring. It stayed on the charts in Germany for 17 weeks. Ritchie really just fell in love with it,” says Night.
The album opens, however, with a classic renaissance-sounding tune entitled Once Upon December, which is reportedly based on a very old Italian song. It conjures up the idea of freezing cold winter winds swirling outside, as people huddle around a blazing fire indoors. The theme of the breeze continues with Four Winds and Feather in the Wind, while the instrumental Darker Shade Of Black evokes the Bach-inspired Whiter Shade of Pale, and takes the music in a more jazz-oriented direction.
Shortly afterwards follows another instrumental cut, the blues-driven Der Letzte Musketier, which is a tribute to the two now deceased members of Blackmore’s first band, The Musketeers. The Deep Purple guitarist says it was his ‘favourite band of all time’, partly because he was playing with great friends, and without any pressure.
Nature's Light is a passion project for Blackmore and Night, with the songs not only embodying the music they love - but an entire way of life. The two ‘minstrels’ are joyous about the music and its organic connection with nature, and want to share that feeling with anyone who is open-minded enough to listen.