Archive for May, 2020

May 24, 2020

Three songs from the Bridge

Just over a year ago I found myself in Newcastle for a few days. Arriving on a Monday evening, I took the opportunity to go to the Bridge folk club, which I’d last visited when I was a student at Newcastle Poly back in 1983/84. The club used to be in the basement back then, now it had moved to an upstairs room. And none of the array of 1980s residents that I remembered was there: Ray Fisher and Colin Ross have sadly passed on, although apparently Johnny Handle still looks in occasionally. But Jim Mageean was there, and a number of other good singers, and actually I have to say I felt far more welcome than I ever did back in the day.

It was a singers’ night, and I got to sing three songs. Which you can now watch or listen to, should you have the inclination, as there’s a chap sat in the front row who records all of the performances, some of which subsequently get uploaded to the club’s YouTube channel.

So here they are. All three songs have featured in previous blog posts, if you’d like more information about the songs.

see Week 1 – Riding Down to Portsmouth


see Week 52 – The Crockery Ware



May 17, 2020

Week 289 – The Ghost Ship

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I have rather an ambivalent attitude towards Peter Bellamy’s singing. But I can’t deny that hearing his album The Fox Jumps Over The Parson’s Gate at the age of 17 or 18 had quite an effect on me. I learned several songs from the LP – certainly ‘The Female Drummer’ and ‘Saint Stephen’. And at a time when my singing style was heavily influenced by those I heard on record (Martin Carthy, Mike Waterson, Tim Hart, Cathal McConnell) I couldn’t help picking up some of Bellamy’s vocal tricks too. I learned this one with the aid of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s The Singing Island – an important book for me, as it was one of the few books of folk song in my local library.

It was quite a few years later before I heard the song sung by Bellamy’s source, the Norfolk fisherman Sam Larner. That was on the Topic CD Now Is The Time For Fishing, which features recordings made by MacColl and Seeger between 1958 and 1960. It’s a great record, fully deserving of its classic status. But in fact you can get all of the 1958-60 recordings of Sam Larner made by Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker on the award-winning Musical Traditions double CD Cruising Round Yarmouth. If you root around on the Musical Traditions website you’ll find a Downloads page, where you can buy a copy for the price of a pint (actually less than the cost of a pint, if you’re used to London and SE England prices – and anyway, all the pubs are shut at the moment).

I’m very clear that I learned this from Peter Bellamy, not Sam Larner. Indeed there are certain points in the song where – although I’ve probably not listened to Bellamy’s recording of the song more than half a dozen times in the last 30 years – I feel I have to consciously restrain myself, to stop myself throwing in a Bellamyesque yelp. But having just listened to my recording alongside that on The Fox Jumps Over The Parson’s Gate I think I might finally have arrived at my own way of singing the song.

The Ghost Ship