Cautionary Tales For Daughters – Songs Your Mother Never Taught You

music review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 08 Aug 2015

Although wearing the brightest, jauntiest clothes and plenty of hats with strange objects glued to them, Tanya Holt is a fierce satirist. She’s composed a series of songs filled with advice for her young daughter, taking inspiration from the Hilaire Belloc book Cautionary Tales for Children, but updated for the 21st century.

Holt covers a wide range of styles and subjects in her songs: a warning about the way tattoos look once the skin starts to sag is set to an '80s power ballad complete with DIY wind machine and a glittery mic. Old English folk music is channelled for a song about a fame-seeking “comelie she” who sells her story to ‘Ye Newes of Ye Worlde’. And along with the variety in style come varying degrees of quality. Not all the songs hit the mark. 

It’s easy to forget that behind Holt’s whimsy and humour there’s a sharp bite. Songs often take a dark turn, and the pressures on young women today–from slut-shaming to victim-blaming–are tackled with ferocity and wisdom. There’s beauty here too: ‘Ip Dip Sky Blue’, about indecision plaguing a woman to a lonely old age, turns playground rhymes into a modern fairytale. 

This is a wholesale condemnation of an image-obsessed world that pressures young women to conform or be rejected. It’s a message we’ve heard often enough, but not often with such wit and warmth.