AS24: My bonny boy

Like a lot of people, I fell in love with the singing of Anne Briggs when I was first getting into folk songs. Since then I’ve fallen quite decisively out of love with it, for whatever reason, but I wouldn’t deny that she recorded definitive versions of some traditional songs.

This being one of them. I’ve gone back to the version collected by Gardiner (in Marrow Bones) for the words, but I’ve kept Anne Briggs’ extraordinary tune and her last verse (“I’ll walk with that boy now and then”). This verse wasn’t in the Gardiner version, but (I’ve since discovered) it descends with only minor modifications from a seventeenth-century broadside ballad called “Cupid’s Trepan”. (Strange but true!)

I’ve made one further change to the words, to avoid suggesting that the singer is a girl. Normally I don’t mind a quick change of sex (or age) for the sake of a song – there are an awful lot more songs about teenage girls than there are about middle-aged men, after all. In this case, though, I thought it was more interesting to leave open the possibility that the singer actually was a middle-aged man. See what you think.

Accompaniment: well, there’s actually a flute in the song – how could I resist? Ethereal drone: melodica, heavily treated.

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Filed under folk song, traditional

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