FS08: Hughie the Graeme

Time for a tribute to one of my very favourite singers of traditional songs, and one who’s generally overlooked these days: Tony Capstick. He’s remembered, when he’s remembered at all, as a comedy-folkie from the Billy Connolly/Jasper Carrott/Mike Harding school, who (like them) eventually hung up the guitar and found stardom in comedy. This is half-true, but I think Capstick was a real loss to the folk scene – not least as an interpreter of traditional songs. This is a case in point; it appears as the last track on his second album Punch and Judy Man, in an arrangement that could pass for Horslips – all weird time signatures and electric guitar solos.

I haven’t emulated that arrangement – to put it another way, it’s taken me two years to stop emulating it – but what I have tried to take from Capstick’s singing is his timekeeping. Accompanying himself, he would let the guitar keep the beat and sing all around it, but unaccompanied he would nail every bar. There are worse ways to sing.

The song’s a terrific, defiant gallows speech, carrying on from Lord Allenwater last week. Again, I’ve skipped some of the more outlandish parts of the lyric – if you want Hughie the Graeme jumping fifteen feet from a standing start, I’m afraid you’ll have to sing it yourself. These lyrics are partly Child, partly Burns, partly MacColl and probably part Capstick. It doesn’t make much odds; there are lots of variants of this one, but they don’t fall very far from the tree.

Unaccompanied again – could have done with a drone, perhaps, or a bit of variation? Maybe next week.

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Filed under Child ballad, folk song, O my name is, Tony Capstick, traditional

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