Twenty-Six Fortnights – 4

Two unaccompanied numbers for the fourth fortnight of the year.

When I heard The Lowlands of Holland for the first time… I can’t have been listening very closely. But when I heard it for the second time, I was spellbound; I played it three or four times in a row (and I was listening to an LP, so that took dedication – not to mention a fair degree of dexterity) and started learning it on the spot.

I recorded it for the Yellow album. I liked the way it came out; the delivery is plain and unassertive without being meek or mumbly. That’s what I think, anyway – see what you make of it.

The Lowlands of Holland is from the 52 Folk Songs – Yellow album.

Banks of Yarrow, a.k.a. The Banks of Green Willow, is a song I’ve always found fascinating and frustrating in equal measure – frustrating because the story is so bafflingly fragmented and because the usual tune is so inappropriately jolly. I decided to learn it myself when I came across Debra Cowan‘s recording, which is terrific – she’d used a fuller text than usual (pieced together from different variants) and set it to an appropriately downbeat tune. This is my main source here, although I’ve gone back to the texts and fleshed the song out a bit more.

I’ve re-recorded the song for this project. Originally I recorded it for the final, Red album; in fact this was the 52nd of my 52 weekly folk songs. Listening to it back I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way I’d sung it; I hadn’t let myself trust the pace of the melody (in other words, I’d speeded it up as I went on). This is a fine tune, which can stand a bit of tugging about, but it doesn’t want to be brisk. The re-recording takes it a bit steadier; I think it works better. (As always, the price to download of the re-recorded version has been adjusted down to zero.)

Banks of Yarrow is from the 52 Folk Songs: Red album.

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Twenty-Six Fortnights – 3 (slightly delayed)

Sorry this is late – it’s day 43 of the year today, so the first day of fortnight four. In my defence I was struck down by a cold last week & I’m still waiting for it to get its nasty phlegmy paws off my voice.

So no new recordings this time round. I’ve taken the opportunity to pick out two of my favourite recordings from the 52, one unaccompanied and one not.

Geordie was a song I heard for the first time in a singaround, and I only started going to singarounds a couple of years ago. This one is based on Peter Bellamy’s version, which is of a variant called “Georgie”. The occupational hazard with learning songs from Bellamy’s recordings is that you assimilate everything about his inimitable delivery and sound like a poor man’s Bellamy forever after. I haven’t always managed to avoid doing this; I think I did all right here, though.

Geordie is from the 52 Folk Songs – Red album.

Blackwaterside is a song I haven’t known for very much longer than Geordie, although it feels as if I’d known it forever. Here it is in quite an elaborate arrangement, indebted to Jon Hopkins and recorded using a really inordinate amount of virtual scissors and tape. Features zither and part-improvised whistle.

Blackwaterside is from the 52 Folk Songs – Green album.

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Twenty-Six Fortnights – 2

Three tracks this fortnight, two of which are new recordings.

In the month of January was collected from the singing of Sarah Makem. My original recording of this one baulked at the poly-modal weirdness of the tune and backed it with a simple drone. This time round I’ve fitted concertina chords to it, although the singing was recorded separately.

In the month of January is from 52 Folk Songs – white

The second song this week is True Thomas, a Child ballad which I recorded last February. Not all my experiments with drones came off, but this one I still think works rather well – the contrast between the drone and the drumming is particularly strong.

True Thomas is from 52 Folk Songs – Blue

Lastly, this week I’ve re-recorded another song. The Lady Gay wasn’t one of the core 52 folk songs, but another of the traditional songs I put up along the way. This one does have live concertina accompaniment of a rather loud and insistent kind, plus some overdubbed recorder.

The Lady Gay is from 52 Folk Songs – Red

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Twenty-Six Fortnights

Throughout 2013 I’m going to be revisiting the 52 folk songs I uploaded in the twelve months to September 2012, one a week. Or rather, two a fortnight.

Each fortnight of the year, I’ll put up a post linking to two of the fifty-two songs. There will be an emphasis on marking significant dates and the passage of the seasons; I’ll aim to have songs about Waterloo appear in June, for example.

Some tracks will be the ones I originally recorded, others will be re-recorded for the occasion. All tracks on 52fs have now been given individual prices, but re-recorded tracks will be available for download free of charge, out of fairness to those people who have already paid for an album download.

Here are the first two tracks, for the first fortnight of the year.

About the Yule when the wind blows cool, Young Waters met his fate; “keep your head down” would seem to be the moral. The inexorable petty brutality of this story is enduringly shocking; it’s like something out of the Sopranos. But I’m picking this recording this week because it was a bit of a leap forward for me: my first use of recorder and drums, my first harmonies, my first ‘band’ arrangement. I could probably do a better job now, but this isn’t so shabby.

Re-recording of the fortnight is Lord Bateman. The 4:45 version of this was the song with which I launched 52 Folk Songs, and has had by far the most plays (although not downloads) of any of my songs. Fifteen and a half months later, stand by for… the 8:337:47 version. The original recording was based almost entirely on version L of Child’s text. For this one I consulted the other versions (there are fourteen in all) and imported some verses that make for more vivid scenes or make the story work better. My original version of the song had 18 verses; this one has 35. Go on, give it a go, it’ll fly by.

Update I’ve re-recorded it since first putting up the revised version; I’ve got the rhythm off better now, particularly between verses, with the result that I’ve shaved 46 seconds off the total running time. I’ve also pitched it up a bit, which I think also works better.

Young Waters is taken from the 52 Folk Songs: Indigo album.

Lord Bateman is taken from the 52 Folk Songs: Violet album.

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Fifty-Two Folk Songs

Here they are, in order of appearance: folk songs 1-52.

From the Violet album:
Lord Bateman Child 53L (mostly), sung unaccompanied; still my biggest hit in terms of plays.
The death of Bill Brown Unaccompanied, after Peter Bellamy
The unfortunate lass Unaccompanied, after Jon Boden; one of my favourite songs
The cruel mother Unaccompanied
Lemany Unaccompanied and in 3/4 (possibly a mistake); another of my favourites
The London waterman Unaccompanied, after Bellamy; followed by a whistle tune which I thought went well with it.

From the Indigo album:
Derwentwater’s Farewell With reed organ drone and D whistle
Hughie the Graeme Unaccompanied, after Tony Capstick
Grand conversation on Napoleon With reed organ drone and flute; dedicated to showing that this is the same tune as The Bedmaking
The bonny bunch of roses Another favourite song, with D whistle and reed organ (drone)
The death of Nelson Unaccompanied, after Bellamy
Two sisters A multiple-vocal overdub, using the short-ish version of the song sung by Jim Moray
Young Waters First use of melodica, bongoes and recorder, and my first ‘band’ arrangement. I was very pleased with this one at the time, and a year later I think it’s stood up OK.

From the white album:
A maid that is matchless With reed organ, melodica and flute, and simultaneous translation from the original Middle English.
The holly and the ivy A first venture into three-part harmony.
Shepherds arise More vocal harmonies, after the Coppers.
In Dessexshire as it befell Three-part harmonies, melodica drone, three-part melodica harmonies and more vocal tracks than is entirely comfortable.
The King Vocal harmonies: model’s own.
In the month of January Melodica drone and no harmonies. Fairly heavily ornamented by my standards, although it’s dialled down a bit from the originals (Sarah Makem and June Tabor)

From the Blue album:
Sir Patrick Spens After Nic Jones, unaccompanied.
True Thomas Drums, melodica and stuff. A nice, weird, insistent arrangement of one of the classics.
The outlandish knight A quiet, late-night Outlandish Knight, with zither.
Little Musgrave Straight through, no messing, no accompaniment.
The bonny hind At the time of recording I couldn’t hack Tony Rose’s concertina accompaniment, so I did my best with flute and melodica. I think it works.
George Collins A weird, supernatural song, with melodica and a rather squeaky G whistle.
Mary Hamilton A very sad song, unaccompanied (and with a tune more often used for Willie O Winsbury).

From the Green album:
Searching for lambs Another of my very favourite songs. Whistle, melodica, zither.
The streams of lovely Nancy Not to be confused with “Come all you little streamers”. Vocal and drums.
When a man’s in love A classic from Sam Henry’s collecting.
I live not where I love Another favourite, here spliced with “Sir John Fenwick’s” and some odd audio effects.
Once I had a sweetheart A ‘band’ arrangement with melodica, zither and drums.
Blackwaterside My first and so far only attempt to play a finger-picked chordal accompaniment on zither. Also features recorder.

From the Yellow album:
The valiant sailor Concertina, after John Kelly but slowed down.
The lofty tall ship With melodica, drums and concertina drone.
William Taylor Just drums and zither. I worked from a frustratingly incomplete text – I’d use a fuller version if I was doing it now.
Two pretty boys Unaccompanied, after Bellamy.
The lowlands of Holland Unaccompanied, after Martin Carthy.
I would that the wars were all done Recorder and concertina.
The dark-eyed sailor Concertina, C whistle, zither and drums.

From the Orange album:
Queen Jane Just flute and recorder; after Martin Graebe.
Earl Richard Mostly but not exclusively unaccompanied. After Tony Rose and Alan Grace, but with some modifications.
Rounding the Horn Another ‘band’ arrangement (recorder, concertina and drums), after Jo Freya.
Come down you bunch of roses Vocals and improvised percussion; after Gibb Schreffler.
The trees they do grow high Another of my very favourite songs, sung here in the open air (and with some recorder).
Dogger Bank A vigorous burst of unaccompanied nonsense, after Bellamy.

From the Red album:
The holland handkerchief Another Desert Island Folk Song, with concertina.
The poor murdered woman With concertina and zither.
Brigg Fair With recorder, concertina and mixed emotions.
Queen among the heather Unaccompanied, after June Tabor.
Grey goose and gander Harmonised nonsense.
Geordie Unaccompanied, and my most recent new acquisition.
Banks of Yarrow Unaccompanied, heavily modified, after Debra Cowan.

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Fifty-Two Folk Songs: Not Only But Also

As well as 52 folk songs (numbered FS01-FS52), I’ve published 42 “also folk” songs. Here they are:

From the Violet album:
Over the hills and far away A seventeenth-century recruiting song which almost certainly sounds more rueful now than it did at the time; sung unaccompanied.
Spencer the Rover Unaccompanied, after John Kelly; followed by a whistle tune which I thought went well with it.

From the Indigo album:
Lord Allenwater Unaccompanied, after Shirley Collins
Sam Hall Unaccompanied, after John Kelly
Plains of Waterloo Unaccompanied, after June Tabor
Boney’s lamentation Unaccompanied, after Nic Jones
The wind and the rain Accompanied on melodeon (a one-off); after Johnny Collins

From the white album:

The boar’s head carol Much harmony
A virgin most pure After the Young Tradition, which in this instance meant after Shirley and Dolly Collins.
Poor old horse Multi-tracked weirdness, with melodica and a burst of “The man in the moon”.

From the Blue album:
Sir Patrick Spens After Bellamy, unaccompanied.
The outlandish knight A tune of my own, with a harmonised chorus
Shady Grove Very distantly after Jean Ritchie, with zither, melodica and drums.
Sheath and knife Another of the saddest songs in the world; mostly unaccompanied.
Jamie Douglas Unaccompanied, after June Tabor.
John from the Isle of Man Unaccompanied, after Robert Cinnamond.
Tom the Barber Unaccompanied, after Tony Rose but using a different tune.

From the Green album:
Cupid’s Garden Unaccompanied, under the influence of Bellamy.
Master Kilby Distantly after Nic Jones, but with drones à go-go. First and so far only appearance of ‘vocal drone’.
Come all you little streamers Not to be confused with “The streams of lovely Nancy”. Flute, melodica and zither.
Banks of the Mossom A drowsy, fragmentary summer song, with flute, melodica, whistle and zither.
One night as I lay on my bed Unaccompanied; a song to stop you in your tracks.
Out of the window A precursor of “She moved through the fair”, sung here with zither.
My bonny boy A sad song with flute and melodica.
Let no man steal your thyme Sung unaccompanied, in the open air.
When I was in my prime With whistle and flute.
On board the ‘Kangaroo’ A welcome bit of light relief, with melodica and whistles.
The outlandish dream A rarity, sung unaccompanied.

From the Yellow album:

The Dolphin With melodica and drums; after Tony Capstick.
Lowlands One of my best attempts at vocal harmonies.
The ghost song Unaccompanied, after Bellamy.
Son Davie With whistle, drums and concertina. Also known as ‘Edward’.
High Germanie With whistle, drums and concertina; after Pentangle.
The weary cutters Another sad song with vocal harmonies.
Sweet Jenny of the moor Concertina and C whistle.

From the Red album:
The lady gay With concertina, but mostly unaccompanied.
General Wolfe Recorder, concertina and vocal harmonies.
The green cockade With recorder and concertina; after Jo Freya.
When I set off to Turkey With flute, recorder, drums, whistles, zither, concertina and ukulele.
Gilderoy With recorder; after Shirley Collins.
Maid on the shore With concertina; after Carthy and Swarbrick.
Who’s the fool now? Unaccompanied, except by a cast of thousands at my local singaround.

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Fifty-Two Folk Songs: Not Folk Songs

As well as 52 folk songs (numbered FS01-52) and 42 “also folk” songs (numbered AS01-42), I’ve published 34 “not folk” songs. Here they are:

From the Violet album:
There are bad times just around the corner By Noel Coward; not easy to learn, but not easy to forget.
Us poor fellows By Peter Bellamy.
My boy Jack Kipling / Bellamy
Down where the drunkards roll By Richard Thompson; after Tony Rose
Hegemony By Green Gartside, but very much after Trad.
Child among the weeds By Lal Waterson.

From the Indigo album:
Danny Deever Kipling / Bellamy / Trad., although my delivery isn’t very heavily influenced by Bellamy (for once).
Serenity By, er, Joss Whedon.
The unborn Byron By Peter Blegvad; with flute harmonies. One of my favourites out of my recordings.
St Helena lullaby Kipling / Bellamy.
Percy’s song Dylan, after Trad.
Dayspring mishandled An unusual Kipling / Bellamy.

From the white album:
Come, love, carolling A song by the great Sydney Carter, with a ‘band’ arrangement (melodica, whistle and drums).
Gaudete By a mediaeval Finn, so perhaps doesn’t entirely belong here. Much harmony.
The January Man By Dave Goulder; unaccompanied, after Tony Rose.

From the Blue album:

This is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens One of my own. Unaccompanied.
The keys to the forest By Jackie Leven. Mostly unaccompanied, with some zither.
The leaves in the woodland By Bellamy, after June Tabor.

From the Yellow album:
Shirt and comb By Peter Blegvad, with concertina, whistle and drums.

From the Orange album:
Puck’s song Kipling / Bellamy, with concertina and whistle.
Sir Richard’s song Kipling / Bellamy, with zither.
Frankie’s Trade Kipling / Bellamy, with vocal harmonies.
Roll down to Rio Kipling / Bellamy, with concertina.
Anchor song Kipling / Bellamy, unaccompanied.
Roll down By Peter Bellamy, with vocal harmonies.
Follow me ‘ome Kipling / Bellamy, with concertina and drum.
Ford o’ Kabul River Kipling / Bellamy, with improvised percussion and vocal  harmonies.
Poor honest men Kipling / Bellamy, with concertina.
Big steamers Kipling / Bellamy, unaccompanied.

From the Red album:
The scarecrow By Lal and Mike Waterson.
Song composed in August By Robert Burns.
Old Molly Metcalfe By Jake Thackray.
A hard rain’s a-gonna fall By Bob Dylan.
Ballad of accounting By Ewan MacColl.

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