Category Archives: Red

Week 47: The poor murdered woman, The scarecrow

Continuing the cheery, life-affirming mood so characteristic of folk songs, here are two songs about dead bodies.

The poor murdered woman is a straightforward account of a true story, bizarrely characterised by Martin Carthy as a ‘non-event’. It’s true that there isn’t much in the way of plot, but I’d still call it an event.

The scarecrow is one of Lal Waterson’s strangest and darkest songs, which is saying something. Lal and Mike, I should say – Mike (who sang it on Bright Phoebus) added the third verse to Lal’s first two, turning a painfully morbid near-hallucination into a song.

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Week 46: The holland handkerchief, The lady gay

Week 46 and we’re into the home stretch: the Red album which will bring 52fs to a close.

After the Violet album (starting up) and Indigo (getting going), we’ve had Blue (Child ballads), white (winter songs), Green (love songs – nobody dies), Yellow (war songs – everyone dies) and Orange (Kipling/Bellamy). The theme for this set of songs is simpler: these are songs I like too much to leave out.

We begin with two songs about ghostly – but curiously substantial – apparitions. The holland handkerchief is a strange and wonderful song with a heartbreaking story. It may be the only Child ballad with a punchline.

The lady gay is an American variant of The wife of Usher’s Well; this text comes from a performance by Peter Blegvad.

Both songs are sung with English concertina, recorded separately (and later). Ukulele next week, with any luck.

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