The new album by Miolanos Roots team NUFFSED is a celebration of Celtic spirituality. Heather Bellamy reports.
The last time Cross Rhythms spoke to Nuffsed on the eve of the annual Roots & Branches festival with which the Midlands roots band are heavily involved they talked a little about their new album - following on from the successful 'Fields Keep Calling' and 'Forged In The Fire' releases through Kingsway. They're now patting the finishing touches to their third album and have made rather a surprising decision to direct it far more in a Celtic direction than its predecessors. Why surprising? Well, the seven-piece Nuffsed are Black Country born and bred and we normally associate 'Celtic music' as stemming from Ireland and Scotland. When I spoke to Terry Mills, the group's leader recently, I asked him about this.
"Yes, that is true" he replied, "but if you look back in history the facts don't show this. Celtic Christianity didn't just start in Scotland but in Northumbria too. In the Bible the Apostle Paul converted the first Celts in 62AD, the Galatians."
Nuffsed's album, probably being released in April, is called 'Celtic Visions' and was produced, as always, by Greybeard Cummings, though this time at the new Redland Studios in Bristol with "a brilliant" engineer Graeme Lambe. Some staunch evangelicals may be a tad suspicious of the Celtic thing as Terry Mills acknowledges. "You actually get a lot of hostility towards the Celtic music and spirituality mainly because people get confused as some of the symbols, like the Celtic Cross, are similar to the New Age symbols. There was a song on the last album called 'Stealing The Rainbows' which was about this, as the symbol of the sun, stars and the rainbow are Celtic, but the Devil has nicked them. A man actually walked out of a gig when we sang the song as the song offended his religion. New Age has also nicked the Celtic clothing style and their art."
Terry and his wife, Nuffsed's vocalist Jaci, have visited one of the centres of Celtic spirituality, Lindisfarne on three occasions. The place profoundly affected them. "The Holy Island is cut off by tides two or three times a day. Connected to Northumbria by sandy flat land, and then gets cut off. We stopped in Wooler. There is a real ambience, a sense of peacefulness there. With the ruins of the Abbey, it is a beautiful place. There is the feeling on the island of real honourable people, getting back to basics."
I asked Terry how the disciplines of Celtic spirituality have affected him. "Their tradition in contemplative prayer has been very valuable in letting God speak to me. The simplicity of the spirituality has made me realise the materialistic qualities in myself, the simplicity of their mind set making me more aware of music and how it can permeate you, with the words sticking in your mind. With the unity, it's made me question more the divisions in the Church and how they came about. It's made me more aware of what I've already got in the band with the family unity."
During the recording of 'Celtic Visions', the band received a visit from a TV crew filming for the new The Alpha Zone series for Channel 5. How did Terry find recording a lead vocal with TV cameras up his nose? "It was nerve racking before hand, but once you got into it you forgot they were there, even though the cameras were virtually up my nose while I was singing. It was a bit of a giggle, they were lovely people. While the TV folk were there, there was this lovely production assistant called Olive Howe who had this beautiful County Cork accent. So Tony asked her if she'd mind speaking some phrases over my singing on the song 'Hospitality Rune'. The song is basically about loving your neighbours, helping strangers. One of the lines in the song is a Celtic line which goes, 'Jesus Christ in some stranger's guise.' It's beautiful to think about someone helping you and you seeing Jesus in them.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.