April 29, 2016

Week 245 – Dido, Bendigo

Learned from Mike Waterson, on The Watersons’ eponymous 1966 LP (the red one).

As A.L.Lloyd pointed out in his sleevenotes “the name of the sporting duke may vary, the list of hounds stays much the same”. Although, in the three broadside versions which you can find on Broadside Ballads Online, the second hound’s name is not Bendigo but Spendigo, or Spandigo.

The Sportsman's Companion - including 'Dido, a favourite hunting song'. Printed by Pitts of Seven Dials, London, between 1819 and 1844. From Broadside Ballads Online.

The Sportsman’s Companion – including ‘Dido, a favourite hunting song’. Printed by Pitts of Seven Dials, London, between 1819 and 1844. From Broadside Ballads Online.

There was a time when I used to sing this quite a lot at Oyster Morris music sessions. But up until a few weeks ago, when I decided to revive the song for this blog, I probably hadn’t sung it for twenty years or more. And I have to confess that it took me a while to remember which fox went for its cover and which for the river, and what their respective fates were. In fact, as a result of a simple mishearing of what Mike Waterson was singing, I think I must always have reordered the sequence of events. The Watersons’ third verse – according to this transcription at least – runs

Well the next fox being old and his trials fast a-dawning,
He’s made straight away for the river.
Well the fox he has jumped in but an hound jumped after him:
It was Traveller who straited him forever.

Actually the line on the Yorkshire Garland site seems to make more sense

It was Traveller a-striding in for ever.

and listening again to the Watersons version, I think what Mike sang was

It was Traveller who strided him for ever.

Either way, I’ve always sung

It was Traveller destroyed his life forever.

After which, of course, there was no possibility of said fox running across the plain in the next verse. Hence my reordering of the verses.

Dido, Bendigo

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April 24, 2016

Week 244 – Fare thee well dearest Nancy

I learned this from the singing of Fi and Jo Fraser on the Old Swan Band’s second LP, Old Swan Brand.  Although the release date given on the sleeve of that record is 1978, my recollection is that it didn’t actually come out until much later, around 1980 or 1981. I bought my copy at the Bracknell  Folk Festival in, I’m fairly sure, 1982. It was a secondhand copy. A signed, secondhand copy. Which always rather amused me: presumably someone saw the band, and enjoyed their music so much that they not only bought a copy of the record, but got the band to sign it; only to find, when they got it home, that it really wasn’t what they were expecting. Actually, that’s quite feasible, as the signatures on the cover are those of the Swan Band circa 1981 (including Richard Valentine, and “the invisible Paul Burgess”), and the band had a rather different sound by then – much fuller with the addition of the piano and. dare I say it, rather more polished. Also, it’s possible that the purchaser liked the tunes, but couldn’t stand all that singing…

Anyway, I was pleased to give the record a home, and I was particularly taken with this song. I imagine that the record originally had, or was intended to have, a booklet or insert giving details of the provenance of all the songs and tunes. My secondhand copy had none, and neither did the second copy which I inherited from my Mum last year. So maybe this was cut as a result of Free Reed’s financial problems at the time. Whatever the reason, the lack of an insert meant I had no information about where Jo and Fi got this song from (and I’ve never got round to asking either of them).

This was one of the songs I used to sing with Chris Wood in the 1980s, and I remember Chris saying that he thought they’d probably learned it from Mick Hanly’s A Kiss In The Morning Early. That’s one of those classic 1970s LPs which, for some reason, I’m pretty sure I never heard. Poking around on Mudcat and elsewhere, it seems that most of the songs on that album came from Colm O Lochlainn’s book More Irish Street Ballads. But Hanly seems to have used a different tune to the one found in O Lochlainn, and indeed O Lochlainn’s verses may well have been collated from various sources, such as printed broadsides.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter – it’s just a great song. So thanks Jo and Fi.

The sailor's adieu. Broadside printed by  J Pitts of Seven Dials, between 1819 and 1844. From Broadside Ballads Online.

The sailor’s adieu. Broadside printed by J Pitts of Seven Dials, between 1819 and 1844. From Broadside Ballads Online.

Fare thee well dearest Nancy

April 16, 2016

Week 243 – When Spring Comes In

It has felt truly Spring-like this week, which prompted me to record this song for the blog. The song seemed rather less appropriate when I woke up today to find it was a cold, grey, wet morning – apparently it had been snowing earlier – but I decided not to let that put me off and, indeed, like many a dark and a cloudy morning, it has turned out to be an OK sort of afternoon.

My friend Mike and I used to sing this together having learned it circa 1979 from Bob Copper’s book A Song for every Season – at that point we’d not actually heard the Coppers singing it. In later years this is a song which I’d often sing on a night out with my friend (and occasional commenter on this blog) Adrian. Unfortunately nights out and sing-songs with Adrian happen all too rarely these days, but this is a song which I can’t really envisage not being sung in harmony. So, with the help of Audacity, Dropbox and an iPad, here’s me singing with a bunch of doppelgangers (quintuplegangers?). With a bit more time, this could have been quite a lot more polished. But I didn’t have more time and, besides, I don’t think it suffers too much from the slightly ramshackle feel (or the fact that I was making up most of the harmonies as I went along).

You can hear Bob and Ron Copper singing this on the Topic CD Come Write Me Down: Early Recordings of the Copper Family of Rottingdean. It was also included on the 1995 CD Coppersongs 2: The Living Tradition of the Copper Family, sung by Bob, John, Lynne and Jon Dudley And there’s a 1971 recording of Bob, John and Lynne singing it at the Lewes Folk Club on the British Library website.

When Spring Comes In

Andy Turner – vocals

April 9, 2016

Week 242 – Long Looked For Come At Last

I learned this from Caroline Jackson-Houlston. She and I used to sing it together – performing as Flash Company – in the early 1980s, and it’s one of several songs from that period which she and I both retain in our individual repertoires. Mind you, Caroline has always made quite clear what her reaction would be, if a suitor buggered off for a year then came back claiming “you’re the one I really want” – and it wouldn’t be to drag him off to church.

I still have Caroline’s typed copy of the words. Unusually, they don’t give her source, but looking at the Full English it must be this version from the 85 year old William Winter, collected at Andover by H. Balfour Gardiner, and which forms the basis of the version printed in Frank Purslow’s The Wanton Seed.

'Abroad as I was a-walking' from the Gardiner MSS, via the Full English

‘Abroad as I was a-walking’ from the Gardiner MSS, via the Full English

Long Looked For Come At Last

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

April 1, 2016

Week 241 – Do Me Ama

One of the good things about maintaining this blog is that it’s made me remember songs which I used to sing thirty or even forty years ago, and which I have neglected – often unfairly – for twenty or thirty years, or maybe even longer.

This is one such. I first heard it in the late 1970s on the 1967 LP Byker Hill by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick. Martin’s sleevenotes to the LP say

It is, incidentally, the only song I have ever learned on one hearing only (without the aid of tape-recorder or pencil and paper).

He doesn’t say who he got it from, but I should think there’s a strong likelihood that it was Bert Lloyd.

I can’t claim to have learned the song at one hearing, but I think I did just absorb the words back in the seventies, rather than having to write them down and learn them. I sang it around the house at the time, then forgot about it until a few weeks ago – at which point, again, I was able to recall the words without recourse to printed (or online) versions. Having revived the song, I’m now planning not to forget about it again.

Do Me Ama

March 25, 2016

Week 240 – Sleep on beloved

I first sang this at a West Gallery workshop at the Sidmouth Festival, circa 1995, led by Gordon Ashman. I then learned it from the 1997 collection West Gallery Harmony, which Gordon edited with his wife Isabella. Gordon was clearly very fond of the hymn, as it’s stretching things really to call it a West Gallery piece. The words were written by the English novelist and poet Sarah Doudney. First published as a poem in 1871, the words were then set to music by Ira D. Sankey (of Sankey & Moody fame) and included in his Sacred Songs and Solos (first published in 1873).

Sankey - Sacred Songs and Solos

Sankey – Sacred Songs and Solos

Such was the popularity of Sacred Songs and Solos that it grew progressively in size, from a mere 24 pages in 1873, until by 1903 it contained 1200 songs. When you see them on the printed page – well, when I see them on the page, at any rate – most Sankey & Moody hymns appear to be dreadful nineteenth century sentimental slush, with page after page of hymns with exclamation marks in the title: ‘Closer, Lord to Thee!’, ‘Then shall my Heart keep Singing!’, ‘I am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus!’, ‘Resting in the Everlasting Arms!’, ‘Ring the Bells of Heaven!’. But they were immensely popular at the time, at least in part, I’m sure, because so many of them provided the opportunity for a jolly good sing. The expanded editions included many popular pieces not written by Sankey or Moody – ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’ and ‘Nearer, my God to thee’, for example – but I’m sure the book contains many other lesser-known belters. And fortunately some people on the folk scene – notably members of the Waterson:Carthy/Swan Arcade/Blue Murder/Coope Boyes & Simpson axis – are able to sort the wheat from the chaff: the 1200 pieces include such gems as ‘Will there be any Stars in my Crown’, ‘Only Remembered’, and ‘Deliverance will come’.

The book, and the songs it contained, were not only popular in America and Britain, it appears. Here’s Martin Carthy, from the sleevenotes to the first Waterson:Carthy album, via this song’s entry on the Mainly Norfolk website:

In the 1960s, the Incredible String Band renamed a song called I Bid You Goodnight which they learned from Jody Stecher’s recordings of the great Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence and his family, the Pinder family, and the song became, for some folkies, one of those great standards. A year or two ago John Howson visited Staithes to record the Fisherman’s Choir, and was accompanied by Maggie Hunt who, at the same time, was interviewing the individuals involved. During conversations, a Mr Willie Wright sang a snatch of the Sankey hymn Sleep On Beloved which he described as a lowering down song at funerals, and which was clearly the same song as I Bid You Goodnight but in an earlier form, and when Norma heard it, she went to see Willie, who kindly proved her with the other verses. When we sang the song to Jody Stecher, he was enormously pleased, not least because its function as a funeral song in the Bahamian fishing community was identical to that in its North Yorkshire counterpart.

You can hear Joseph Spence and the Pinder Family singing ‘I Bid You Goodnight’ on YouTube (as well as numerous other versions, by everyone from The Grateful Dead to The Dixie Hummingbirds).

Sankey - The Christian's Goodnight

Sankey – The Christian’s Goodnight

Sleep on beloved

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

March 18, 2016

Week 239 – All things are quite silent

The first song in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, Vaughan Williams noted this on the 22nd December 1904, from Mr Ted Baines of Lower Beeding in Sussex. That’s just down the road from Monksgate, where RVW collected many fine songs from Peter and Harriet Verrall. He had only three songs from Mr Baines, but what a find this one was – like ‘Master Kilby’ and ‘The Brisk Young Widow’, it’s a song which has been collected only once from tradition.

Unlike those two songs, a broadside version has been identified – ‘I’ll mourn for my sailor; Or, The Compulsion’, printed in Hull, Manchester and London, but not yet (as far as I can ascertain) accessible on the web.

Vaughan Williams recorded that Ted Baines was an agricultural labourer, aged “about 70”. Malcolm Douglas, in his biographical notes in Classic English Folk Songs (the revised edition of the Penguin book) identifies an Edwin Baines in the 1881 census, aged 54, so quite likely our singer – except he doesn’t seem to be in the 1901 census.

‘All things are quite silent’ is one of those songs I’ve sort of known for years – since the late 1970s in fact, having first heard it on Steeleye Span’s LP Hark! The Village Wait. I’ve tried to sing the melody as collected – it’s a very simple AABA type tune, whereas most people, following Steeleye and Shirley Collins, sing an ABCA variation. The words, however, are a sometimes misremembered mixture of those found in the Penguin book, and some which have snuck in from other people’s versions.

All Things Are Quite Silent, as collected from Ted Baines, 22 Dec 1904. From the Full English archive.

All Things Are Quite Silent, as collected from Ted Baines, 22 Dec 1904. From the Full English archive.

All things are quite silent

March 12, 2016

Week 238 – The Faithful Sailor Boy

I always think of this as a Kentish song. I learned it from George Spicer, who was born at Little Chart near Ashford, and learned most of his songs as a young man in Kent. In the 1940s Francis Collinson noted it from William Crampon from Smarden. And in the 1980s, when I met Charlie Bridger, I found that he also knew the song – at least, he knew the first verse and chorus, and I was able to provide him with the rest of the words.

But of course the song was known throughout Britain, and further afield. In his notes to the Musical Traditions CD Plenty of Thyme by Suffolk singer Cyril Poacher, Rod Stradling writes

The Faithful Sailor Boy was written by George W. Persley towards the end of the 19th century. Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. It turns up again and again in tap-room sing-songs throughout Britain, even through into the 1980s. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of this century” (and, sure enough, Daisy Chapman had it in her repertoire), and we have heard it in both Donegal and Cork in the last few years. Two versions have been found in the North Carolina mountains (there’s a ’20s hillbilly recording by Flora Noles, Sailor Boy’s Farewell—Okeh 45037), while other other sets have been reported from as far away as Australia and Tristan da Cunha.

Actually, the authorship of the piece is unclear: the song’s entry in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs states

The song appeared on one or two late nineteenth-century broadsides, and was probably written about 1880. Several sources claim that it was composed by the well-known songwriters Thomas Payne Westendorf (1848-1923) and G. W. Persley (1837-94), but we have not been able to confirm this, nor have we found any original sheet music.

 

Blackberry Fold - Topic LP sleeve (from the Mainly Norfolk website)

Blackberry Fold – Topic LP sleeve (from the Mainly Norfolk website)

Although I learned this from the Topic LP Blackberry Fold I think the first time I ever heard it was at a meeting of the shortlived folk club which Alan Castle  (subsequently the organiser of the long-running Tenterden Folk Festival) ran at the Victoria in Ashford, circa 1979. On that occasion it was sung by Adrian Russell, at least one of the Creissen brothers (Terry and/or Gary) and probably Tim Bull. Adrian or Gary may remember – so if you’re remotely interested (and I can’t think why you would be, to be honest), keep an eye on the Comments below this blog post.

The Faithful Sailor Boy

March 7, 2016

Week 237 – Up in the North

If forced to name my favourite John Kirkpatrick album, I would probably plump for Shreds and Patches, his 1977 LP with Sue Harris. But The Rose of Britain’s Isle, their first duo album, would also be high up on the list. Incomprehensibly, neither of those records – nor indeed any of their 1970s output for Topic – has ever been re-released on CD. But you can get them as downloads, and I strongly suggest you do that if you’ve never heard them or if, like me, you’ve worn out your original vinyl copies.

‘Up in the North’ – a cautionary tale for any young men with commitment issues – is track 2 on The Rose of Britain’s Isle and that’s where I first heard it. I learned the words a few years later on a trip to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, from a transcription by John Baldwin in the 1969 Folk Music Journal. By that time I had already heard Mike Yates’ 1972 recording of the song being sung by Freda Palmer of Witney on the Topic LP When Sheepshearing’s Done. I have to confess though that, when learning the song, John and Sue’s interpretation undoubtedly influenced me more than Freda Palmer’s original.

Freda Palmer - photo by Derek Schofield, from the Musical Traditions website.

Freda Palmer – photo by Derek Schofield, from the Musical Traditions website.

You can hear Freda Palmer singing the song on – indeed it’s effectively the title track of – the Musical Traditions double CD Up in the North, Down in the South. Mike Yates’ notes say

Up in the North, or, No Sign of a Marriage as it is called in the Southern Uplands of the United States, appeared on several early 19th century broadsides and chapbooks, although it has seldom been encountered by collectors in England. The Hammond brothers noted a fine Dorset version, Down in the West Country, in 1907, while Alfred Williams found it sometime before 1914 at Brize Norton, only a few miles from Mrs Palmer’s home. In Scotland and North America it has been more popular and most of Roud’s 34 entries refer to these countries—however, Freda’s is the only sound recording of the song ever made in these islands.

For a few years, this was my party piece. It was the opening track on my cassette album Love, Death and the Cossack, and I also sang it as a solo piece at early Magpie Lane concerts – there’s video evidence of that, from our first ever concert, in 1993; although now that I come to look for this on YouTube it would appear that I’ve not yet digitised and uploaded it. Having sung the song a lot, I seem to have neglected it for the last 20 years or so. But at Christmas I decided it really was time that I revived the song. I notice that it lasted 4’20” on my 1990 recording, and 4’27” on this one, so it seems I’ve not changed it a great deal in the intervening quarter century – slowing down a little as I get older, but that’s no bad thing when it comes to folk songs and tunes.

 

Up in the North

Andy Turner – vocal, G/D anglo-concertina

February 27, 2016

Week 236 – One Night As I Lay on My Bed

I first encountered this song c.1977 on the debut Steeleye Span LP, Hark! the Village Wait, though it can’t have been very much later that I heard Shirley Collins’ version, on the LP Adieu to Old England, where the accompaniment switches between Dolly Collins’ portative organ and Ian Stewart’s plucked psaltery. Shirley’s version has a few extra verses, but when I learned the song I stuck to the five printed in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Those five verses work just fine, and as the Steeleye album notes suggest, “this ballad can perhaps claim to have the most discreet ending of any folk song”. I can’t remember whether I stuck to those verses simply because I liked the song that way, or because I’d already learned the song before I heard Shirley’s version. Or if, in my innocence, I thought I was preserving the purity of a single collected version. That’s something I’d set less store by these days (although if the words from a single source do hang together OK, I feel no need to start meddling with them). In any case, if I’d read the notes to this song in the Penguin volume properly, I’d have noticed that, while the tune and first verse come from Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset, the remaining verses were collected from Mr. George House, from Beaminster, also in Dorset, and also collected by Henry Hammond.

One Night As I Lay On My Bed, as sung by Marina Russell. From the Henry Hammond Manuscript Collection via the Full English.

One Night As I Lay On My Bed, as sung by Marina Russell. From the Henry Hammond Manuscript Collection via the Full English.

One Night As I Lay on My Bed

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