The Epic 2017 Project #052: 170221
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)
The Crane Wife is an old Japanese folktale. While there are many variations of the tale, a common version is that a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep and takes it in and nurses it back to health. After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. They begin to sell them and live a comfortable life, but he soon makes her weave them more and more. Oblivious to his wife’s declining health, his greed increases. He eventually peeks in to see what she is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.
This fourth album, released by The Decemberists in 2006, was inspired by this tale. It centres on two song cycles, The Crane Wife and The Island, the latter inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
The album cover was designed by the Portland artist Carson Ellis, Colin Meloy’s wife, who has created artwork for each of the band’s albums. Colin Meloy is the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist.