I was planning two songs for this week, but when I was doing some recording the other day this song crept up on me, and I realised what a good fit it was for the current ‘conscription’ theme.
Maddy Prior sings this, accompanied only by several other Maddy Priors, on Steeleye’s 1975 album Commoners’ Crown; I was impressed (it was only the first or second time I’d heard a folk song sung unaccompanied). It’s also the first song I ever sang in public*; I didn’t feel it went terribly well, and it was another twenty years(!) before I started singing out regularly. (Bit of a waste really, but there you go.)
Working it up for this recording I looked into the history of the song; it seemed incomplete. Apparently Maddy Prior got it from Ray Fisher, and the words we’ve got here are pretty much all there is. The tune is from a distant memory of the Steeleye Span version; I’ve put the 3/4 time back in and written some new harmonies. (Top tip for home recording: turn the volume on harmony vocals right down. When they’re about half the level of the lead they blend.)
*Unless you count an unfunny Victorian parody of the Witches’ song from the Scottish play, set to the tune of My Favourite Things, and frankly I’d rather forget that (although I haven’t managed yet).