AS21: The banks of the Mossom

A wonderful song which I know from Shirley Collins’s version. It’s another song where it’s not entirely clear whether it’s a woman that we’re singing about or a place (“down by some shady Nancy”?) The overall effect, as with Master Kilby, is of somebody so deeply in love that they can’t even think straight – everything reminds him of lovely Nancy, from the lark to the birds in the trees and even the trees themselves. Of course, it wasn’t written like that or with that effect in mind; as with Master Kilby, what we’re looking at is a song pieced together from half-forgotten memories, with frequent use of repetition in this case to fill the gaps. But at least it means we’ve got half (a quarter?) of the words of a song, and a terrific tune to go with it.

The original plan with this one was to sing it unaccompanied, recorded in the open air. I tried it once, with slightly disappointing results; although I heard quite a bit of bird song while I was singing, including the scolding of a pair of great tits who came to see what I was doing, nothing got picked up. Also, by the time I listened to it back I’d decided I would dub on a bit of accompaniment after all, and it turned out I’d spontaneously pitched it in the interesting key of Db. So I went back out in the garden and sang it in D. By this time there wasn’t a bird in sight, although in the first few seconds you can faintly hear the sound of my next door neighbour using an angle grinder. Hey ho.

Having learnt it from Shirley Collins I’ve automatically pitched this song high before, and decided to go to the other end of my range for this recording. As for the accompaniment, it just grew.

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Filed under folk song, lovely Nancy, Shirley Collins, traditional

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