Written by Alex Bledsoe
My Tufa novels, of which the upcoming Long Black Curl is the third, are all about music. They’re about other things, too, of course, but a central theme is how music touches people, affects them and brings them together. But I never expected that my novels would, in fact, bring me together with a tribe of musicians that could’ve stepped right out of those pages.
In 2013, I was a presenter at the Pagan Unity Festival (a.k.a. PUF) at a state park outside Nashville. Like many such festivals, there was a lot of music, including two appearances by a band I’d never heard of: Tuatha Dea.
I’ll admit to a bias here: some pagan-themed music strikes me as a bit overt, wearing its heart (and environmental concerns, and European folklore, and feminist agenda, and so forth) on its sleeve to its overall detriment. So I’d planned to skip the concert that first night and rest in my cabin.
Imagine my surprise when, from the pavilion down the hill, I heard a musical roar like nothing I expected. And I was even more surprised when I recognized the song as a snarling cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie.”
That was my introduction to Tuatha Dea, a band that, as I said, sounded and looked as if they’d stepped right out of one of my Tufa novels. They’re an eight-piece ensemble that rotates on the instruments, with an emphasis on heavy drums. Their performance that night was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Springsteen multiple times. They completely blew my idea of pagan music out of the water. I also was lucky enough to become friends with them, and to enthusiastically swap copies of my novels for their CDs.
Then came the biggest surprise: a call from band leader/songwriter Danny Mullikin, asking if he could write songs based on my Tufa novels.
I’m pretty sure my response boiled down to, “Yes, please.” Danny was kind enough to keep me updated on the process, sharing lyrics and early tracks with me, but I deliberately gave him no input; I wanted to be surprised like everyone else by the final product, which the band titled Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae.
And I was. I mean, I knew the songs would be good, and that the band would perform them well. But the surprise was how thoroughly they captured the atmosphere I strove to create in my novels. Feel is always an intangible quality, almost impossible to really describe or copy, but they clearly got it.
They did three tracks titled after my first three novels, and so far have two videos, for the songs “Long Black Curl” and “Wisp of a Thing.” (If you look very closely in the “Wisp” video, you might spot this author for about one and a half seconds.) They also do a rocking version of the classic folk tune “The Five Nights’ Drunk,” which they call “Granny’s Bedtime Tonic.” And there’s a wonderful instrumental called “Dance of the Tufa.”
I’m proud to be associated with this band, and I’m incredibly flattered that they felt so connected to my work. Creating art is always fun, but inspiring it may be the biggest rush of all.