Posts tagged ‘false-hearted lovers’

June 23, 2016

Week 253 – Fare thee well cold winter

So take a good look at my face
You know my smile looks out of place
If you look closer it’s easy to trace
The tracks of my tears

I’ll be all smiles tonight, boys, I’ll be all smiles tonight
If my heart should break tomorrow I’ll be all smiles tonight

It has always seemed to me that this song was inspired by the same sorts of emotions as Smokey’s classic…

Mike Yates recorded the song in 1972 from George ‘Tom’ Newman of Clanfield, near Bampton, in Oxfordshire. I first heard it sung by Lal and Norma Waterson on the LP Green Fields and subsequently learned it from the transcription of Mike Yates’ recording in Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs, edited by Roy Palmer.

Only a few songs recorded from Tom Newman have been made available on record: ‘The Tree in the Wood’ appeared in the seventies on the Topic LP Green Grow the Laurels, and then again – along with ‘Sing Ovy, Sing Ivy’ – on the Musical Traditions CD Up in the North, Down in the South. Meanwhile Tom’s song ‘My Old Hat That I Got On’ (which Magpie Lane recorded on the CD Six for Gold) was included on Volume 13 of The Voice of the People.

This song, however, has unfortunately never been made available. Mike Yates’ recordings can be accessed at the British Library Sound Archive, but are not available to listen to remotely. One day I must make a trip there, and this will certainly be on my list of recordings to check out. In the meantime I have absolutely no idea if the way I sing ‘Fare thee well cold winter’ bears even the slightest resemblance to the way Tom Newman sang it.

 

George ‘Tom’ Newman was in his 90th year when I met him and, sadly, I only knew him for the last six months of his life.  Originally from Faringdon, he was living in a small bungalow in the village of Clanfield, near Bampton.  I was told that Tom used to occasionally turn up at the Bampton Whit Monday ceremonies with his one-man band and would proceed to accompany the traditional morris team around the village.  John Baldwin, whose [1969] Folk Music Journal article again introduced me to Tom, had described Tom thus: He is an old man now and tends to become very excited when singing; sitting in a chair and pumping the floor with his feet alternately, and similarly his knees with clenched fists.

Mike Yates – notes to Up in the North, Down in the South

The song itself is a bit of a mixture of ancient and modern. On this Mudcat thread Malcom Douglas pointed to a seventeenth century printing of a ballad containing the “let her go, farewel she” motif, and there are nineteenth century  broadsides with very similar lyrics to Tom Newman’s version. Except they don’t have the “All smiles tonight” refrain.

It must be twenty years ago that I sang this song at a folk club and someone pointed out that the chorus crops up in a Carter Family song. Mike Yates has written that, when he collected ‘Fare thee well cold winter’ he assumed that Tom Newman had picked up the chorus from an old  recording – by the Carter Family perhaps, or Kitty Wells. But in fact Cecil Sharp collected a version from Lucy White, of Hambridge in Somerset, which included a “We’ll be all be smiles tonight” chorus.

The chorus comes from an American song written by T. B. Ranson in 1879, which may well have gained popularity in Britain at the time. Lucy White’s version proves that Ranson’s  chorus had been added to the older British song by 1903 at least, some decades before it was being recorded by various American performers (there were several recorded versions before the Carter Family recorded their ‘I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight’ – see the Traditional Tune Archive for details). I’m not aware of any connection between Lucy White and Tom Newman, so these two collected versions suggest that the song – with this chorus – must have had some kind of wider currency in Britain in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century.

 

Fare-thee-well cold winter. 19th century broadside ballad from the Bodleian collection.

Fare-thee-well cold winter. 19th century broadside ballad from the Bodleian collection.

Fare thee well cold winter

May 21, 2016

Week 248 – Sally Free and Easy

I’m not entirely sure where or when I learned this song. Almost certainly not from Cyril Tawney himself, although I did see him two or three times in the early eighties. I think I must have picked the song up from a floorsinger at the Faversham Folk Club. These days you can find the words to pretty much any song with a quick web search, but in those pre-Internet days I just sang the words as I remembered them.

Checking now what the composer himself sang, I see I’ve introduced some minor variations, but nothing to alter the spirit of the song. And in fact I think Cyril Tawney approved of variation, as part of the song’s absorption into the collective consciousness (or folk tradition, if you prefer). You can read about the background to the song here.

As Cyril noted, the song is lyrically, though not melodically, structured like a blues. And possibly this is the closest thing I’ll be posting here to a twelve-bar blues, as I don’t think I have any examples of the real thing in my repertoire.

Sally Free and Easy

September 25, 2015

Week 214 – The Blacksmith

Song number 8 in Classic English Folk Songs, formerly the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, and few would argue that this is a classic of the genre.

It’s actually a song which I’ve almost certainly never sung in public, and which I’ve never really considered to be part of my repertoire. Partly because I’ve always planned to learn Tom Willett’s magnificent version (and having got this version of my chest, so to speak, maybe I finally will), but also because it’s just one of those songs which everyone knows. Still, I seem to know the words without having to think about them, and it is a classic, and it’s a great song to sing; so it seemed daft not to post a version here.

I would have first heard it as the opening track of Steeleye Span’s Please to see the King. Where – like a lot of songs on the two Carthy / Hutchings Steeleye LPs – it’s given a wonderfully sparse, austere, atmospheric and totally effective arrangement. Shortly after hearing that recording I would have heard the OK but far less interesting arrangement on the first Steeleye LP, and then Andy Irvine’s take on the song, on the debut Planxty album. I suspect most of the words went in by osmosis, but having them in the Penguin book would have helped – no need to transcribe them from tape or vinyl.

Vaughan Williams noted the tune, but no words, from Mrs Ellen Powell, at Westhope, near Weobley in Herefordshire. Malcolm Douglas, in his additional notes for Classic English Folk Songs, suggests that Vaughan Williams and Bert Lloyd used Peter Verrall’s version, or possibly the Such broadside shown below, as the basis of the verses given in the book.

The blacksmith: broadside printed by H. Such, between 1863 and 1885. From the Bodleian collection.

The blacksmith: broadside printed by H. Such, between 1863 and 1885. From the Bodleian collection.

The Blacksmith

May 30, 2015

Week 197 – Hurricane Wind

In recent years an incredible number of 18th and 19th century musicians’ tunebooks have become available, either in printed form or on the internet. This is excellent news, of course. But, faced with yet another collection, containing dozens or even hundreds of tunes, and clearly not having the time (or patience) to play through them all, spotting tunes which are worth playing can be a bit of a hit and miss affair. So, more often than not, my initial trawl through a new physical or virtual tunebook will involve looking for tunes with interesting or unusual titles: ‘Pup in the Parachute’, ‘Love laughs at Locksmiths’, ‘Pass around the Jorum’, ‘Peas on a Trencher’, ‘The Fly-Flappers’. Frankly, it’s probably as good an approach as any other.

The same applies, to a lesser extent, with song collections, and I’m quite sure that it was the unusual title which first drew my eye to ‘Hurricane Wind’, when browsing through Roy Palmer’s excellent book Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  I think I expected it to be a song about a shipwreck, or some other misadventure at sea. But actually it’s the tale of a lover spurned, and the title comes from a memorable phrase used by the female protagonist (the one doing the spurning):

As she was a walking down the street
Her young sea captain she chanced to meet
She looks at him with a scornful frown
Says ‘What hurricane wind blowed you to town?’

 

Hurricane Wind, page 1. From Ralph Vaughan Williams' notebook, via the Full English.

Hurricane Wind, page 2. From Ralph Vaughan Williams' notebook, via the Full English.

Hurricane Wind. From Ralph Vaughan Williams’ notebook, via the Full English.

Vaughan Williams collected the song in 1907 from Mr Penfold, landlord of the Plough Inn at Rusper in Sussex (who, incidentally, was also the source of the rather lovely ‘Turtle Dove’ which Sophie sings with Magpie Lane). Mr Penfold’s text was fairly complete – Roy Palmer added just one couplet from a Scottish chapbook,  ‘The Perjured Maid’. However – unusually, as Roy always presented singable versions in his song books – I felt that the song didn’t quite tell the whole story. So, on a trip to VWML, I looked for alternative versions. There weren’t many to be found – at least not in those pre-computerised days – but I located some usable verses collected in 1939 by Alan Lomax and Helen Hartness Flanders from Josiah S. Kennison of Townshend, Virginia, and printed in The New Green Mountain Songster. Hopefully you won’t spot the join.

While the Roud Index lists only one English and one Scottish version, this song has in fact turned up a number of times in the United States. I particularly like the way the original “Nobleman near Exeter” has become “The Rich Man Extra Tire” in this version collected from Miss Laura Harmon, Cade’s Cove, Blount County, Tennessee, in 1928.

Having pieced together my version in the mid 1980s I then neglected the song for many years, but have recently resurrected it, and was able to give it an outing a few weeks ago when I went to see Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt at the Musical Traditions club in London.

'Two Old Songs- The Perjured Maid, The Waukrife Mammy' - chapbook printed in Falkirk, c1840. From the G. Ross Roy Collection of Burnsiana and Scottish Literature, University of South Carolina.

‘Two Old Songs- The Perjured Maid, The Waukrife Mammy’ – chapbook printed in Falkirk, c1840. From the G. Ross Roy Collection of Burnsiana and Scottish Literature, University of South Carolina.

Posting the song here gives me the opportunity, belatedly, to pay tribute to Roy Palmer, who died in February of this year. It would be hard to overestimate the influence Roy’s work had, over the last 45 years, on the repertoire of British folk singers. Certainly my repertoire, and that of Magpie Lane, would be considerably poorer without books such as A Touch on the Times, Songs of the Midlands, The Rambling Soldier and, of course, his RVW collection. We were honoured and thrilled when Magpie Lane were asked in 2000 to record a CD as a companion to Roy’s book A Taste of Ale. I don’t know if Roy later embraced the digital age, but at that time, when he sent me a draft copy of the book for us to start work on, all the musical transcriptions were done by hand, and the text was all typewritten, on a proper old-fashioned typewriter.

In the tributes which poured out following Roy’s death, common themes were praise for his scholarship, for his ability to present folk music and folklore in an accessible way, and that he was a lovely human being and a real gentleman. I only met Roy on a few occasions, but that was certainly my impression. He will be greatly missed.

You will find obituaries of Roy on the Guardian and Morning Star websites.

Roy Palmer. Photograph by Derek Schofield, from the Guardian.

Roy Palmer. Photograph by Derek Schofield, from the Guardian.

Hurricane Wind

May 16, 2014

Week 143 – The Seeds of Love

Famously, the very first folk song that Cecil Sharp collected was from the almost suspiciously aptly named Somerset gardener, John England. This is not John England’s version however, it’s from the great Pop Maynard. The song was included on the Topic LP You Subjects of England.

When Radio 2 launched their Folk Hall of Fame earlier this year, with Cecil Sharp as the first inductee, I was very pleased to find that Magpie Lane’s recording of ‘The Seeds of Love’ (from our Jack-in-the-Green CD) was included on their Cecil Sharp Playlist.

I concocted that arrangement sitting at the piano (an instrument I’ve never actually been able to play) a few days after the birth of my daughter in July 1996. With a new-born baby in the house, I assume I must have had my foot even more firmly on the soft-pedal than usual.

Below you will find a recording of me singing the song solo, and a recording of Magpie Lane performing it in Bampton Church last September.

The Seeds of Love 

Andy Turner – vocal

 

Magpie Lane: Sophie Thurman, Ian Giles, Andy Turner, Jon Fletcher, Mat Green – vocals

Recorded in concert, Bampton Church, Oxfordshire, September 2013 (thanks to Jeff Dando for live sound mixing).

April 26, 2014

Week 140 – Down By The Shannon Side

I learned this song from the Cornish traveller Charlotte Renals, who is featured along with her sisters Betsy Renals and Sophie Legg on the Veteran cassette Catch me if you Can (now available in expanded form as VT119CD). Her version has several two and three line verses. I’ve filled in the gaps, and put the verses in a more logical order, with the help of a very complete set of words collected by Cecil Sharp in August 1905 from Captain Robert Lewis of Minehead in Somerset.

In Charlotte Renals’ version the male protagonist is Captain Walters. A perfectly respectable name. But in Captain Lewis’ version the bounder’s name is Captain Thunderbold:

My name is Captain Thunderbold
It’s a name I will ne’er deny

Well why would you deny a name like that? And how could I resist including it in the song?

Looking at the numerous broadside versions available via Broadside Ballads Online  the name seems to be universally given as ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ and this is the title Phoebe Smith has for her version of the song.

The Shannon Side – broadside from the Bodleian collection, printed by H. Such, between 1863 and 1885.

The Shannon Side – broadside from the Bodleian collection, printed by H. Such, between 1863 and 1885.

I had let this song lapse for several years, but recently relearned it, and I must say it’s good to have the song back in my repertoire.

Down By The Shannon Side

 

February 8, 2014

Week 129 – Jack Williams

Another robber meets a sticky end…

Here’s a very first outing for a song which I’ve only just learned. I discovered it a few years ago on a visit to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, leafing through the bound volumes of Cecil Sharp’s Folk Tunes and Folk Words. I think I first came across the song as noted from Harry Richards of Curry Rivel in Somerset, then sought out a fuller version, which led me to this version, from Mrs Elizabeth Smitherd (or is it Smilhard?) of Tewkesbury.

I am a boatman, noted by Cecil Sharp from Mrs Elizabeth Smitherd, Tewkesbury, 11 Apr 1908. Image copyright EFDSS.

I am a boatman, noted by Cecil Sharp from Mrs Elizabeth Smitherd, Tewkesbury, 11 Apr 1908. Image copyright EFDSS.

I have collated Mrs Smitherd’s words with texts from several sources – broadside printings from the Bodleian’s collection (such as the one shown below), and North American versions including one from Ballads and sea songs from Nova Scotia by William Roy Mackenzie, the words of which are reproduced on this Mudcat thread. A bit further down that same thread, Malcolm Douglas says “The song had reached America by at least 1835, when it appeared in The Forget Me Not Songster, between The Rambling Soldier and Canada I O.” And you can now see that version (in an 1840 printing) online, courtesy of the Internet Archive.

You can find several broadside versions of the song at Ballads Online and in the Full English archive.

Jack Williams, the boatman, from the Bodleian Broadside collection, Printed by J.K. Pollock, North Shields, between 1815 and 1855.

Jack Williams, the boatman, from the Bodleian Broadside collection, Printed by J.K. Pollock, North Shields, between 1815 and 1855.

As for the oral tradition, the Full English site has three versions collected in the early twentieth century by Sharp, one by Alfred Williams and one by George Butterworth, all from Southern England.

Most versions have a happy ending, but I just don’t buy that. No convincing explanation is given as to how Jack Williams manages to break free from prison, just “and then I escaped”. So in my version, I’m afraid, he is left not only complaining about his perfidious lover, but contemplating an unhappy fate.

Jack Williams

October 7, 2013

Week 111 – Worcester City

I learned this from the wonderful Joseph Taylor of Saxby All Saints, Lincolnshire, via the LP Unto Brigg Fair. Percy Grainger’s 1908 recording can be heard these days on The Voice of the People Vol. 3, O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green.

The song is, as it were, of no fixed abode. Set here in Worcester City, the version which has been a staple of Magpie Lane’s repertoire for the last twenty years has the action taking place in Oxford City, It is also known as ‘Jealousy’ and (spoiler alert) ‘Poison in a glass of wine’.

Worcester City

September 29, 2013

Week 110 – The Gipsy’s Warning

Here’s another song I learned from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent. According to the Roud Index, it has not often been collected in England (as opposed to North America), but I can’t help feeling that is more a reflection on the prejudices of the early twentieth century collectors than of the song’s popularity. This seems just the sort of melodramatic little number that would have been hugely popular with country singers.

We know that the song was in the vast repertoire of Henry Burstow; more recently it has been recorded from Bob Hart and Fred Jordan. Indeed this was possibly the first song Fred Jordan ever sang in public: he sang it, aged six, in a competition held in Ludlow Town Hall, and won a prize of £1 (a considerable sum in the late 1920s). Fred learned the song, like many others in his repertoire, from his mother. You can hear Fred singing the song (as a man, not a six-year old) on the Veteran CD A Shropshire Lad.

You’ll find copies of the words on broadsides from the Bodleian’s collection, while you can see an example of the song published as sheet music on the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection site. That example was published in Brooklyn in 1864. However the song must have been published by 1860 at the latest, if we are to believe the 1860 publication date of ‘Do Not Heed Her Warning. Reply to the Gipsies Warning’. I’d like to think that song sank without trace – like most answer songs it’s not a patch on the original (the exception to this rule is of course ‘It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk angels’).

The Gipsy's Warning - from the Lester S Levy Sheet Music Collection.

The Gipsy’s Warning – from the Lester S Levy Sheet Music Collection.

The Gipsy’s Warning

July 20, 2013

Week 100 – Through Lonesome Woods

It’s the one hundredth week of the blog, so let’s celebrate with a rather lovely little traditional song, with a decidedly lovely guitar accompaniment from the perennially lovable Chris Wood.

I first heard this c1981 at the Heritage Society in Oxford, sung by Andy Cheyne, who had recently appeared on the Oxford scene. Andy immediately became a favourite at the club, as he had a range of really interesting songs with really interesting accompaniments. Mainly, he played acoustic guitar, but also had one of those electric guitars with a small speaker embedded in the body – a few years later Ali Farka Toure was shown playing one on the cover of Folk Roots.

Andy had had this song from Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs’ The English Folksinger, from where I also took the words. Andy recorded the song a decade or so later with Michelle Soinne on an excellent cassette-only release Fish Royal. Meanwhile, when Chris Wood and I started working up material in the summer of 1982, I’m pretty sure this was one of the very first songs to go into our repertoire. It was certainly one of my favourites, and when I came to record an album in 1990, this was always going to be on it. That album, Love, Death and the Cossack, was also cassette-only. And, retro-fans, I do still have a box of them knocking around the loft. But if you’d like a copy, you may prefer to download it from http://andyturner.bandcamp.com

Chris has subsequently recorded the song a couple of times, with the Two Duos Quartet, and with Jean-Francois Vrod. Chris learned it from me, as he has always acknowledged, although I seem to remember he’s changed the accidentals around a little.

'Through Lonesome Woods' from Henry Perkes, collected by George Gardiner. Image  © EFDSS

‘Through Lonesome Woods’ from Henry Perkes, collected by George Gardiner. Image © EFDSS

Like last week’s song, this appears to be the only collected version of Roud number 3461.

Last week, a friend’s comment on ‘Master Kilby’ was, simply, “Poetry!” . Well so is this

Through lonesome woods I took my way
So dark, so dark, as dark could be
Where the leaves were shivering on every tree
Which don’t you think ’twas grief for me

Through Lonesome Woods

Andy Turner: vocals
Chris Wood: guitar