Posts tagged ‘Norfolk’

August 11, 2012

Week 51 – Raking the Hay

In the Spring of 1980 my friends Ian and Jane put on an excellent series of folk concerts in Oxford: Nic Jones with support from Crows; June Tabor and Martin Simpson; Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick. The latter were in fact joined by trumpeter Howard Evans, and when I saw them the following year at the Lewes Folk Day, they were billed as Carthy, Kirkpatrick & Evans. I can’t remember if they sang this song in Oxford, but they certainly did in Lewes, and I was very taken with it. I learned the song shortly afterwards, when I found the words and music in Roy Palmer’s Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs. And not long after that I first heard the original source, Sam Larner, on the Topic LP A Garland for Sam.

A live recording of Martin and John singing the piece – unaccompanied, in unison – was included on the 4-CD box set, The Carthy Chronicles.

I had the pleasure of singing this yesterday during an all-too-brief visit to the lunchtime session at The Volunteer in Sidmouth.

Raking the Hay

August 5, 2012

Week 50 – In Scarborough Fair Town

Blue plaque on the wall of Sam Larner’s cottage in Bulmer Lane, Winterton (from the Winterton-on-Sea website)

Blue plaque on the wall of Sam Larner’s cottage in Bulmer Lane, Winterton (from the Winterton-on-Sea website)

You can’t go far wrong with a “drowned lover” song, and this is a particularly fine example. From the great Sam Larner of Winterton in Norfolk. There are slightly different recorded versions on The Voice of the People Volume 2 and Now is the Time for Fishing (also on Topic).

In Scarborough Fair Town

June 5, 2012

Week 41 – The Wild Rover

The version of this song popularised by The Dubliners, with it’s “Nay Nay Never” (clap – clap – clap) chorus, is probably the most widely known British folk song.  Which was always reason enough for me not to feel any inclination to learn it. I was aware that there were other versions out there – Dave Townsend has a nice Hampshire version, while the Scottish singer Sylvia Barnes recorded a wonderful version with the band Kentigern (well it’s certainly wonderful when she sings it).

But I was only inspired to learn the song when I heard it sung by Norfolk fisherman Sam Larner, on the Topic CD reissue of the 1961 LP Now Is The Time For Fishing.

Sam’s tune is very closely related to that commonly used for ‘The Blackbird’ and it seemed to me quite different from the usual version. However Brian Peters, on the TradSong forum, has presented a very credible argument that in fact, just as The Dubliners got ‘Black Velvet Band’ from Norfolk singer Harry Cox (via Ewan MacColl) Sam Larner’s version may well have been  the source of  their ‘Wild Rover’. The Dubliners are thought to have learned it from Louis Killen, and it seems likely that he got it from Ewan MacColl, who had recorded the song from Larner in the late 1950s. Brian writes

The MacColl / Dubliners melody sounds to me precisely the kind of thing you’d expect, if the Larner melody had been tweaked to turn it into something subtly different – I’ve done that kind of thing myself and know the tricks, and I understand that MaColl had form on that score. The changes (a slight narrowing of range, a more frequent resolution on the tonic, for instance) serve to make the tune simultaneously less interesting musically, and more accessible.

Whatever the truth, The Dubliners produced a popular classic, and I prefer the way Sam Larner sang it!

The Wild Rover

May 27, 2012

Week 40 – The Female Drummer

I learned this from Peter Bellamy’s 1969 solo LP  The Fox Jumps Over the Parson’s Gate. Bellamy learned the song from the great Harry Cox of Catfield in Norfolk (you can hear him singing it on the Topic double-CD The Bonny Labouring Boy) while Walter Pardon, from nearby Knapton, had a very similar version. Obviously this is a song which ought really to be sung by a woman, but with such an impressive list of male precedents, I won’t let this worry me. In any case, it’s a joy to sing.

The Female Drummer

December 3, 2011

Week 15 – One Cold Morning in December / The Drunkard and the Pig

December is here, and before I launch into a slew of Christmas Carols, here’s a couple of comic songs set in December, and where the narrator ends up in the gutter.

‘One Cold Morning in December’ is from my favourite traditional singer, Walter Pardon of Knapton in Norfolk. I learned it from the Topic LP A Country Life, but you can now find it on Voice of the People Volume 15: As Me and My Love Sat Courting. The song has not been collected from any other traditional singer.

I first heard ‘The Drunkard and the Pig’ sung – many years ago – by Doug Hudson of Tundra. The final line (rather like the line “Someone called out: Daddy, don’t go down the mine!” from ‘Rawtenstall Annual Fair’) stayed with me, even though I couldn’t remember the rest of the song. So I was very glad to find it included in Roy Palmer’s A Taste of Ale, and even more pleased when Magpie Lane were asked to record a CD to go with the book, so that I got the chance to record the song. Roy doesn’t print a tune, but notes that it’s to be sung to the tune of ‘The Wonderful Crocodile’. I took my recollection of ‘The Wonderful Crocodile’ and bent it a bit to fit these words. It’s very satisfying to sing; if you only have 30 seconds to spare and are desperate to burst into song, this is a good one to have in your repertoire!

One Cold Morning in December

 The Drunkard and the Pig