About the Songs Found on:
I first recorded a folk-rock version of this border ballad on my 1992 CD 'The Garden of Love' which came out on Folksound. Its a variation of the ever popular 'Lord Randal' - which Dylan, of course, used as the basis for his song 'Hard Rain'. Co-incidentally the Folksound CD also featured a cover picture by my daughter Maria. The sleeve notes say that I got the song from 'Songs of Scotland' pub. by Boosey and Co. - Must be right, I guess.
Here is the folk rock version of Lord Ronald performed by myself and my occasional backing band Rootdogs.
It's very popular on my You Tube channel here is the re-mastered version:
13th Century Motet - Veritas Arpie
I originally heard this 13th century tune played by David Munrow and Gillian Reid on six holed flute and medieval bells on Munrow's introduction to early music 'The Medieval Sound'. The L.P. came out on Argo - but you can now listen to it as a download at: Baroque Music Club.
I went to see Steeleye Span at Cardiff, when I was 16 and Gryphon were supporting them - I immediately bought Midnight Mushrumps and Gryphon after the gig and my already growing linterest in early music was sealed.
I suspect my version of the tune owes something to John Renbourne and Bert Jansch - it's all inthe chord changes!
Young Girl Cut Down in Her Prime
At the end of the 18th century a street ballad spread throughout England concerning the death and ceremonial burial of a soldier who was 'disordered' by a woman. It was called 'The Unfortunate Rake' in Ireland but many English singers knew it as 'Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime'.
I got the words to this song from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' and this time it is the woman who is 'disordered'. The tune is a varieant of the song 'Sweet Lemeny'.
When the song crossed the Atlantic it was seized on with glee by jazz and blues musicians as well as folk singers and was renamed as 'St James Infrimary' . The cowboy song 'Streets of Laredo' is yet another spin off from this hugely versatile source song which has been re-incarnated more times than Dr. Who.
Here, again, are the Rootdogs on You Tube performing the blues version of St. James Infirmary this time Paul Critchfield takes the lead:
Hughie The Graeme
I love this song. Its one of the reasons why this CD got recorded. A couple of years back in 2008 I was fortunate enough to play on the same bill as Martin Carthy at the Lewes Saturday night folk club. That night was a road to Damascus event for me. Carthy was brilliant - the room was perfect, good sound, small and intimate. It was my first night in a folk club for 10 years and I had a ball! The event of the gig encouraged me to dust off a couple of the numbers I used to do in the all to distant past ...and I saw them with new eyes. This was one of the songs I sang that night and it led a direct path to the 'Folk Songs & Ballads' CD. The tune I use came from Ewan MacColl's version which he sang on an L.P. he shared with A.L.Lloyd on Topic called 'Border Ballads'. The words are a composit of several overlapping versions found in Francis James Child's monumental collection of border ballads.
Before I became a community musician I was a regular gigging musician and one of the perks of the job was that people often gave me cassettes and, later on, CD-R's of music they liked and thought that I would like also. More often than not they were right. 'Emma' comes from one such after gig present - an unmarked cassette of unaccompanied traditional singing. Amongst the twenty or so tracks on the tape there were some people I recognised June Tabor ...Maddie Prior... and the singer of this song Martin Carthy. Emma still stands out as the largest gem in a collection of gems and, of course, song is not called Emma but 'Edwin (Who Died in the Lowlands Low)' but I got to know it as Emma (as I felt the song strongly sympathises with girl's perspective in the story) so Emma it will remain. Incidently my mother used to sing a version of Edwin, in polish, but in her version the unfortunate lover was called Edmund.
Oh and the name of the mysterious recording ...
It was 'Voices' on the Fellside lable.
Saro is another song which I also previously sang on 'The Garden of Love'. Then I sang it as a duet with Fran Wood, a singer I still love towork with when I can. It also featured Dyleth Evans on the harp. The version I sing was collected by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles and published in their mammoth 'English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians.
This is what Wikki has to say about Sharp's visit:
During the years of the First World War, Sharp found it difficult to support himself through his customary efforts at lecturing and writing, and decided to make an extended visit to the United States. The visit, made with his collaborator Maud Karpeles during the years 1916–1918, was a great success. Large audiences came to hear Sharp lecture about folk music, and Sharp also took the opportunity to do field work on English folk songs that had survived in the more remote regions of southern Appalachia, pursuing a line of research pioneered by Olive Dame Campbell. Travelling through the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Sharp and Karpeles recorded a treasure trove of folk songs, many using the pentatonic scale and many in versions quite different from those Sharp had collected in rural England. Generally, Sharp recorded the tunes, while Karpeles was responsible for the words.
Here is Hedy West one of my favourite singers from the mountains:
From time to time I play with Charles Spicer of the Mellstock Band and this is one that he takes at a sprightly pace. The tune is Elizabethan and has been recorded by Julian Bream with a series of stunning variations. My version is much more modest through necessity. It is based on a performance by Ef Zeggarman and Jilda Abbott - which I tpaed from the radio many years back. They played it on early instruments and treated it pretty much as a folk tune - which is what I do too.
Here is what Robert Cummings says about it on the Rovi web-site:
• Date: before 1596
• Composer: English Traditional
• Period: Renaissance (1450-1599)
Packington's Pound is a traditional dance tune traceable to Renaissance-era England. It first appeared in William Barley's New Book of Tablature in 1596. The tune will sound fairly familiar to many folk and traditional song enthusiasts, since it has served as the melody for a number of songs, including A Caveat for Tiplers, The Bountiful Knight of Sommersetshire, City Justice, London's Lamentation, Prince of Orange's March, and a good two dozen more. One could call this moderately paced tune a sort of all-purpose creation, its seemingly chameleonic character adaptable to many moods. Still, played in a straightforward manner with limited accompaniment, it vaguely resembles the serene and catchy Greensleeves, though it is a bit livelier and more folk-like in spirit. Where Greensleeves is warmer and tinged with a melancholic sense, Packington's Pound mixes a somewhat mysterious and lonely manner with a jaunty and carefree sense. The second subject of the melody is perhaps a bit more rhythmic and exotic than the opening half. Packington's Pound, whether in song or in instrumental form, will appeal to a broad range of traditional music enthusiasts. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
Couldn't put it better myself!
Here are Charles Spicer and myself indulging in La Rotta as part of West Berkshire's community band Time Spanners:
I don't know why I know this song and where I got it from. I do know that I used to sing it with Rootdogs in the early 90's, when Fran Wood was in the band and that we used to sing it as a meddley along with 'Hangin' Johnny' and 'Haul on the Bowlin' - so it must be a shanty ...
The Young Tradition sing 'Chicken on a Raft' with the eternal Peter Bellamy:
Get Up and Bar The Door
Here is another song I don't know much about ... not doing too well am I? The only thing I can say is that I have known this almost as long as I have been singing folk songs. It is well known among singers of my age and I am pretty sure I may have picked it up at one of the many Wednesday afternoon sessions I attended at the Queen's Arms in Hereford when I should have been at college!
Lady Maisry is a hybrid. The words come from Child, apart from the last two verses which I nicked from a singer called Peter Harvey who used to sing regularly around Sussex, Berkshire and Cheshire. We ran a club in Reading for just over a year in the late 70's and were constantly trying to 'out folk' each other with our earthy looking clothes, our visits to to groovey places like C. Sharp House and competitions at who could sing the longest ballad before a live audience - and that's not mentioning the real ale and potato orgies ... ah youth ... it really is wasted on the young isn't it!
The tune comes from Cecil Sharp's 'Folk Songs From the Southern Appalachians'.
Me in 1970's folk attire
I've used a lot of folk music in my work as a community musician over the last twenty years. Early in 2010 I was asked to create a sing cycle around the theme of earth, air, fire and water and I used John Barleycorn for the earth. I've used the song a lot in projects over the years and it always seems to fit the bill. There is something slightly unworldly and new agey about it even though the song pre-dates all that stuff.
Once again I defer to Wikki the Oracle:
Scholar Kathleen Herbert draws a link between Beowa (a mythical figure stemming from Anglo-Saxon paganism that appears in early Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies whose name means "barley") and the figure of John Barleycorn. Herbert says that Beowa and Barleycorn are one and the same, noting that the folksong details the suffering, death and resurrection of Barleycorn, yet also celebrates the "reviving effects of drinking his blood."
Barleycorn, the personification of the barley, encounters great suffering before succumbing to an unpleasant death. However, as a result of this death bread can be produced; therefore, Barleycorn dies so that others may live. Finally his body will be eaten as the bread. A popular hymn, "We Plough the Fields and Scatter", is often sung at Harvest Festival to the same tune.
the other hand, in their notes to the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (London,
1959), editors A L Lloyd and Ralph Vaughan Williams ponder whether the ballad
is "an unusually coherent folklore survival" or "the creation
of an antiquarian revivalist, which has passed into popular currency and become
'folklorized'". It is in any case, they note, "an old song",
with printed versions dating as far back as the reign of James I.
Once again I have no idea where I got the tune from but the words were cobbled together from a range of sources including internet song searches and Penguin.
Some Recordings Which Directly Influenced the recording of 'Folk Songs & Ballads'
I was fortunate enough to be able to play a floor spot at the Lewes Saturday folk club the night that Martin Carthy was on in 2008.
His performance was truely inspiring and led me down a path I had not visited for many years.
The seeds of 'Folk Songs and Ballads' were sown that night.
His 'Sweet Wivelsfield' L.P. was the reason I first started listening, seriously, to folk music when I was about 16.
His performance at Lewes was the reason why I came back to it.
I love good unaccompanied singing and in the 60's and early 70's A.L. Lloyd and Anne Briggs pretty much had it sown up between them.
Bert Lloyd supplied the academia, tunes and texts and then handed the baton on to Anne who supplied the soul.
Listen to 'Tam Lin' and you will see why she is still worshiped 40 years on!
It doesn't take a musicologist to notice that I have a tendency to slip the odd blues influenced lick into my playing.
Although I have been partial to the odd blues chop since my early teens it was only when I met Mike Cooper in the early 80's that I realised what a fantastic and versatile platform the blues makes for expressive music in its widest sense.
Many of those bar room blues bands you see at your local boozer are really doing the music a diservice - there really is so much more you can do with it.
Papa Madeo is my favourite Cooper blues album. Recorded live in Germany - just him and his national tri-cone.
I am not usually a fan of live recordings - but this beats most studio cuts - just listen to his take on Fred McDowell's 'Worried Life' - its true to the spirit of country blues, and the original, but also at the same time an evocative re-construction.
Find out more by clicking here: Mike Cooper
At the same time I discovered folk music in my teens I also discovered early music and spent many hours in the old Hereford County library listening to David Munrow's introduction to early music -The Medieval Sound'.
One cut on the CD comes from 'The Medieval Sound' - 'Motet Veritas Arpie'.
I play it on guitar tuned D B G D A D (a sort of dyslexic D A D G AD) .
Munroe played it on 6 hole flute, accompanied by Gillian Reid on Medieval Bells.
Musica Reservata was introduced to me about the same time when I spent the Summer of 1975 camping at Glastonbury.
The manager of Gothic Image at that time was a beautiful 20 year old hippie chick who was totally clued up on early music.
She told me I had to buy it because the lady lead singer 'had balls' and sang like a Bulgarian version of Janis Joplin - sounded pretty good to me, so I bought a copy!
Tir Na Nog were one of those acts who, inexplcably, never went much beyond cult status - even though their single 'The Lady' reached the lower levels of the charts.
Although, in many ways, their first album had the best songs, which were recorded with exceptional clarity by Bill Leader, their second LP 'A Tear and a Smile' introduced a full sonic range and warmth that made their two guitars sound like an orchestra!.
I don't think I 've heard a better acoustic guitar sound. Even with modern digital techniques - good 16 track analogue is hard to beat.
A listen to the closing track 'Two White Horses' it says it all.
Hats off to producer Tony Cox and engineer Paul Tregurtha!
There is a very complete quality to American folk music when it is accompanied by stringed instruments.
More than any other folk music they marry exceedingly well.
And has there ever been a better example of the solo troubadour with only guitar and voice as a his sole means of expresssion than 'The Freewheelin Bob Dylan'?
All at once Dylan is story teller, lover, folkie, hick, blueser, protester & commentator ... not to mention a capturer of the zeitgeist ....the voice of a generation.
Although he later came to disavowe his protest years it is clear from his singing here that, for a while at least, he meant it man.
The whole package is so complete right down to the iconic cover picture and the beautiful warm production overseen by the legendary John Hammond senior.
Even fifty years down the line it's gonna be a hard one to beat.
And how old was he at the time, 21?
If you didn't like the bouzouki and harmonium towards the end of the CD - well now you know who to blame!
Here are a few more folk and acoustic CD's I was listening to a lot during recording though they don't necessarily have a direct influence on the final sound. I haven't included non-folky, rootsy music in this list because it would then get plain silly... NWA anyone?
HFree Music Downloads
Out takes from my last two albums 'Where Are You Going' & 'Folk Songs & Ballads'
From 'Where Are You Going'
An EngAn English traditional song given a Dylan / Albion Country Band treatment
with Paul Critchfield on Bass, Fran Wood on Vocals, Keith Holloway on Box & Mark T. - Vocals, guitar & drums.
The Recruited Collier (2.53 MB)
Out take from 'Folk Songs & Ballads'
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