Today I want to share the opening track on Hidden Gold. Though it was included on the latest Knowne World Bardcast, I hadn’t planned to put it in the opening spot–I sometimes think of this as “the little song that could”. I perform it less often than most of my other original pieces, for reasons that have little to do with its merits as a song.
I came home from Pennsic 41 in 2012 excited at having very consciously launched a career as a bard. That fall, I began the project that would become Hidden Gold in earnest, and realized I was going to have to spend a lot of energy until Pennsic 42 writing new songs if I wanted to get from the 3 songs I’d written previously to an album’s worth of material. “The Name of the King” was the first of what ended up being 6 new songs I wrote over the course of those 12 months.
The song and its story were a fun challenge (how do I, as Drake, handle the bard’s mandate to praise war-kings?). To this day I’m pleased with the piece and it tends to go over well. But as I stretched myself as a writer over the next few seasons, I ended up writing a suite of songs that were more, well, targeted in their audience: “Changeling”, “Tam Lin of the Elves”, “The Last Plantagenet”, “Lady of the Rose”, and “Mug Your Gate”. Each of these ended up being pieces I chose to perform at particular venues.
“Plantagenet”, in particular, with its specific historical focus, ended up being a large part of why I performed “Name of the King” so seldom. In my mind, the songs are so similar thematically (a king whose reputation is buried by the historians) that I don’t want to perform them together, lest people accuse me of repeating myself. Of course, they’re really not that much alike: “Name of the King” is a fable and something of an adventure story, while “Plantagenet” is history and a deconstruction of Shakespeare. Musically they’re very different, and while they both have five verses, “King” clocks in much shorter because of its faster tempo (which is why I chose it over “Plantagenet” for the 30-minute Pennsic 43 concert).
But it wasn’t until I was polishing Hidden Gold that my small-council of advisors pointed out how strong the recording was, and that it was actually a good choice to open the album. The tempo shift from the opening verse (which I only decided on a few days before recording the song–this is the one piece that has Don Levey on guitar throughout, rather than Dave Lambert) ended up being a fun decision. But to this day, I’m a little iffy about performing a piece where a farmer’s widow gives a king a tongue-lashing in front of royalty. 🙂