Musically, an homage to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, “Kingmaker” tells the story of a powerful and devout medieval woman, Eadgyth, the granddaughter of King Alfred the Great, and often remembered in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions as “St. Edith” (one of a few St. Ediths, this Edith might have been known as “St. Edith of Polesworth; not surprisingly, many of the traditions are vague).
The sister of King Athelstan, she married King Otto of Germany in 929. Wildly popular, she promoted a devotion to St. Oswald, one of the most romantic figures of the high middle ages.
Only relatively recently, English scholars discovered her bones.
Listening to Greg Spawton’s masterfully poetic lyrics about this impressive medieval woman, it’s hard not to make the connection to G.K. Chesterton’s magisterial Ballad of the White Horse. And, of course, as stated above, the subject of Chesterton’s epic is the grandfather of Eadgyth.
Halfway through a month of Sundays/the rain at the window
Outside in the fields of the Chalk hills
Kingdoms may fall/but people remain
The fountainhead walks the same path
The low winter sun/the light is so old here
Shadows are cast by the stones
–Greg Spawton, “Kingmaker” (2011)
I might even give some of the highest praise I can—listening to David Longdon (certainly one of the best voices in rock today) sing these lyrics—I feel as though I am listening to Chesterton’s poetry given musical form.
Yes, no “might” about it. Big Big Train—Greg Spawton, Andy Poole, David Longdon, Dave Gregory, and Nick D’Virgilio—are, indeed, modern bards. In their art, they honor Eadgyth and Chesterton, as they bring together 1,000 years of tradition and give this profound story a modern framework. And, they bring us—the audience—a true joy.