Category Archives: Blue

Week 23: Little Musgrave, Shady Grove

Little Musgrave, the main song for this week, is a Child ballad; not the longest by any means, but at 27 verses it’s quite substantial. I sing it unaccompanied. This version was recorded straight through in one take, with minimal editing.

Shady Grove is an American song, learned from the recorded singing of the great Jean Ritchie. I started out with one arrangement in mind but ended up with something quite different. Melodica (chords), zither (melody) and bongoes.

PS A succinct explanation of the title of the second song, seen on Mudcat.

Q: Is Shady Grove a person or a place?
A: Yes.

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Week 22: The outlandish knight

For week 22 I’ve once again recorded two different versions of the same song (otherwise known as Child 4E).

The outlandish knight is a song for belting out, complete with a refrain and harmony vocals. Tune: traditional. Alterations and arrangement: mine.

By contrast, The outlandish knight is a late-night close-up song, with half-spoken vocals accompanied only by the melodious twang of the zither. Tune and arrangement: Nic Jones.

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Week 21: True Thomas, The keys to the forest

For week 21’s recordings, I merrily forgot all about going back to unaccompanied singing and made with the melodica, whistles, recorder, drums and (for the first time) zither. What can I say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

These songs share the same basic plot, which you can also find in Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”; boy meets girl, girl has supernatural powers, boy discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

True Thomas is a frustratingly partial retelling of an old Scottish folk tale; some great bits, but some big gaps as well. Accompanied on all of the above apart from the zither.

The late Jackie Leven’s The keys to the forest is a song like few others. The narrator’s blissed-out awakening in the penultimate verse is haunting and genuinely shocking – and I awoke and found me here…? Mostly unaccompanied, some zither.

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Week 20: Sir Patrick Spens

We’re getting into the Blue album now, which is going to be mostly Child ballads and mostly unaccompanied; no harmonies, no multi-tracking, just the song.

This is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens. (If you’re going to do Child ballads, where else would you start?)

And this is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens.

This is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens. (NB different from the other two. May contain original material.)

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