Steer by the Stars

by Telling the Bees

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  • Compact Disc (CD)

    Beautiful cardboard gatefold sleeve designed by Rima Staines, with astrolabe design on CD. Lyrics included.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Steer by the Stars via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

     £7 GBP  or more




Winner of the fRoots Editor's Album of the Year Award 2015!


released May 1, 2015



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Telling the Bees Oxford, UK

Telling the Bees are an innovative acoustic band making a unique and original music they call darkly crafted folk.
They met in 2007 at Oxford's legendary Catweazle Club, and as a four piece released two acclaimed albums, Untie the Wind and An English Arcanum. In 2011 they expanded to the current five-piece line-up. Steer by the Stars is their third album.
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Track Name: A Puppeteer Came Into Town
A puppeteer came into town
He set up his booth and the children they gathered
Around to hear stories of old Mister Punch
How the fox got away with the gamekeeper’s lunch
Of star-spangled lovers and hapless buffoons
How the cow jumped right over the silvery moon
And the shadows, they grew never longer
No the shadows came not through the door

And so who will come see my puppet show tonight
I have tramped many miles with my box of delights
With the curtains pulled back and the puppets revealed
We’ll give old Fortuna a crank of the wheel
With Bango, Beelzebub, Old Mister Punch,
I will jiggle the arcana round to my touch
Lest the shadows they grow ever longer
Lest the shadows they come through the door

Somebody threw the first stone
‘We don’t want your sort here, you’re causing a nuisance
Corrupting our children with stories and lies
This is not fiction, this is real life!
Pack up your puppets and get out of town’
And they rattled their pots and their pans as he ran
And the shadows they grew ever longer
Yes the shadows they came through the door

The puppeteer fled to the woods
Nursing his bruises, two rabbits a-roasting
When out of the gloom came a girl and a boy
Hungry for sorrow, ravenous for joy
Fire in their bellies and stars in their eyes
And the lines on the puppeteer’s face came alive
And the shadows they grew never longer, no no no
The shadows came not through the door
Track Name: Oxford May Song
Arise, arise, greet the break of day-o
For summer is a-comin’ in
In the merry month of May-o

Now Padstow has its ’obby ’oss
And Bristol has its Green Man
But Oxford has two dragons strong
At the centre of this island
Now red and white they have to fight
Each springtime and each fall-o
But when the scarlet dragon wins
The trees they do grow tall-o

The students jump from Magdalen Bridge
And we say let them fall-o
The common man together stands
United one and all-o
The choir sing from Magdalen Tower
And brightly cut the day-o
But we will play our rough music
And celebrate the day-o

So down your tools, don’t go to work
It is a holy day-o
Plant your feet on Oxford’s streets
In the merry month of May-o
And hear the morris dancers crack their sticks together, hey-ho
We will wear the green and dance
In the merry month of May-o

And when the day is done and all the dragons put away-o
Men and maids go to their beds
And celebrate the May-o
So old and young come join our throng
It is a holy day-o
For summer is a-comin’ in
And winter’s gone away-o
Track Name: Windflower
Up so late it’s early and the night it overhangs
Standing in the tall grass I reach out and touch your hand
Midnight birds are stirring now, they jettison the ground
Tie the sky in ribbons of their immaculate sound

Lying on our backs we see the grass goes to the ceiling
And sometimes words are not enough to say what I am feeling
Sometimes words are not enough
Whoah, Windflower

All those years he painted you, we haven’t got your name
Reaching through the canvas to you, again and again
Aching beauty, he knew every contour of your skin
Rendered you in oil so not to render you in sin

There’s a feeling that I get, it doesn’t have a name
A cuttlefish emotion, like a pleasurable ache
If I could I’d paint you, I would wear it on my skin
’Cause I know you feel the same when skylarks start to sing
Track Name: Astrolabe
Last night I saw Rachel turn into a bird
She chose a golden cage
Two speckled eggs she laid
Much brighter than the sky

Time and tide
We’ve an astrolabe inside
And it keeps us bound in service to the Moon
But Age dictates, he’s a gloomy magistrate
So she bids us keep on dancing to her tune

Hey ho, the river is running and you can’t put your foot in the same stream twice

Last night a young woman turned into a reed, out of reach
She bent at the waist
Such melodies she plays
Now the wind is blowing

Last night a whole generation turned to stone
They forgot the golden rule
You don’t look back you fools
The ending gets you just the same
Track Name: One More Mazurka
And how will we know
When it comes to a close
Will the stars tumble down one by one?
The festival’s done
The punters are gone
As fleet as a midsummer moon

So take me dancing, like it’s the end of the world
The beautiful freaks are still dancing
Like it’s the end of the world
The toothless old man with the squeezebox is playing a tune, like the end of the world
So darling one more mazurka
’Til it is time to go

The relics are back in their boxes again
The drunks are asleep where they fell
We laughed at the priests
Threw mud at their feet
We did the old carnival well

And where will we go?
Which is our road?
The hare’s path lies over the downs
But ours is the way
So travellers say
That keeps the whole thing spinning round

The lie of the land
An old caravan
We are ready to leave with the light
So tether the lark
Haul back the dark
Just one more dance for the night
Track Name: Saint Kevin and the Blackbird
I was no saint, I could not bear
To break another’s heart
Too much grieving for a life
That never had a start

So when she chose my upturned hands
Raised like a begging bowl
I put my self aside and watched
The miracle unfold
You would’ve done the same

She laid her eggs and settled down
To raise her precious brood
She took the blackness out of me
Made it blackbird food

I watched the chicks grow feathers
I watched them as they flew
But when they blessed me with their song
I found my heart could move
Track Name: Babylon
And here comes the morning star
She wonders where we are
We called the heavens down
But you wanted to steal the crown

Who told the story?
Who stole our glory anyhow?
Whose was the victory?
Who wrote the history anyhow?

Criticise all you like
The demons that you fight
Are inside
Cause civilisation was our creation
Let’s get it right

We done you wrong Babylon
For too long Babylon
And on and on Babylon
And still we bomb Babylon

And we raised the crooked towers
But you wanted earthly powers
You called us decadent
But we shouldered your discontents
Track Name: I Fear These Tory Radicals
I fear these Tory radicals
These out of season patriots
That are so loud in their insults
’gainst the present ministry

They only want to make paddles of the people
And sail into harbours of old sinecures

And they will be themselves
As silent of our suffering
As an old maid of her age
Or a Borough Monger of his honesty
Track Name: The Scholar Gypsy
Now there’s a story from Oxford town
Of a scholar gypsy of high renown
He grew weary of college hymns
No preferments were granted him

And I want to follow in his footsteps
Godstow down to Bablock Hythe
And though I think I’ll never find him
I must try
The scholar gypsy

Now what he wanted above all else
Was Nature’s secret commonwealth
And he heard rumours of gypsy lore
And in college cloisters was seen no more

So he went travellin’ down droves and lanes
And he learnt the secret gypsy ways
And now he wanders a spirit free
And he reads from Nature’s breviary

Now some have seen him, his rakish air
Of a summer’s evening at Godstow Weir
Or up at Fyfield in his hat and his coat
Dance a gypsy hornpipe round ancient oak

So if you’re travellin’ be sure to ask
If the scholar gypsy was in these parts
And though I live here in Oxford town
I will keep on searchin’ ’til he be found
Track Name: Steer by the Stars
This ship is set to sail
It’s time to leave the harbour
We burnt our maps so long ago
How will we go further?

Aha, we’re gonna steer by the stars

The wind is running with the tide
I see the sky is darkening
A comet calls and an empire falls
It’s time we were departing

So tired of all these bloody wars
Hypocrisy and human flaws
It’s time to sweep the stable clean
It’s time to leave

Come rain or golden sun
We’ll whistle for a fair wind
And wherever we land
The stars will guide us safely in