Category Archives: James Yorkston

AS32: Son Davie

Child 13. Also – and more commonly – known as ‘Edward’, although the only source in which it has that (distinctly un-Scottish) name is a thoroughly literary version, rewritten in fake medieval Scots (Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid) by an unknown hand.

The tune and most of the words are after Nic Jones, although I went back to Child & made some modifications myself. I first learned the song from a recording by James Yorkston; he and Kieran Hebden (no less) slowed it down and gave it an eerie, sepulchral production, the better to get the point across that someone has been murdered!!1!! I don’t know; it seems to me now that this (i.e. Nic Jones’s) arrangement, with its jaunty tune and cheerily un-emotive delivery, frames the song just as well if not better. There’s a certain bluntness about a lot of traditional songs: they don’t ease you in or give you many signposts. You won’t necessarily know what you’re getting just from the tune or even from the first couple of lines – so you’d better be prepared for what you might get if you keep listening.

Accompaniment: D whistle, drums, concertina.

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Filed under Child ballad, folk song, James Yorkston, Nic Jones

FS20: Sir Patrick Spens

This is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens.

…and as such, really needs no introduction. A Child ballad, and one of the most famous of them.

I learned this not from Nic Jones’s version (which it resembles) but James Yorkston’s, on the 2005 mini-album Hoopoe; when I first sang it in public I hadn’t yet got hold of any of Nic Jones’s recordings. (Nor when I wrote this; the last line was an educated guess.) Seems like a while ago now.

There are many other versions (here’s one); one of these days I’ll work up the one where they try to save the ship by tying it up with string. (If you don’t want to know the result, look away now.) For now, let me tell you about where the King was, what he was drinking and what happened next.

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Filed under Child ballad, folk song, James Yorkston, Nic Jones, O my name is, traditional