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Sleeve Notes for Through Lonesome Woods by The Askew Sisters

Through Lonesome WoodsEmily and Hazel Askew are one of the exciting young duos playing traditional English music in a modern style.

Track Notes

1 Saturday night / Through Lonesome Woods

This set begins with a morris dance tune called Saturday Night from the Longborough tradition, which we use to set the scene for the song. Through Lonesome Woods was very rare as only one version was ever found, so we are very lucky to have it! It was collected by George Gardiner from Henry Purkiss in Cadnam, NewForest in 1908, and mentions ‘Dibden town’ which is a small village in the New Forest. The song is in 5/4 time which was not as unusual as you would think, as it naturally fits the iambic nature of English speech. We love the beautiful imagery of the dark forests and the way that they change along with the mood of the narrative.

2 The Blue Eyed Stranger/Godesses/Mrs Casey

The Blue Eyed Stranger is a morris dance tune from the Headington tradition which we used to dance to many years ago– though we play it too fast for that now! We follow it with Goddesses from John Playford’s English Dancing Master, a collection of country dances and their tunes, first published in 1651. We end the set with another morris dance tune called Mrs Casey from the Fieldtown tradition.

3 Henry Martin

Our version is a mixture between one collected by Cecil Sharp from Jack Barnard in Bridgwater, Somerset in 1906 and Phil Tanner’s version which was recorded in 1936 with wonderful microtonal singing. It’s a version of Child Ballad no. 250 and is thought to be a retelling of the story of Sir Andrew Barton who was a High Admiral of Scotland in the 15th century, (who is also the subject of a separate Child Ballad no. 167).

4 The Bonny Bows of London Town

The words to this song are an amalgamation of various versions from the Child Ballad collection (no.10, The Two Sisters) and the last couplet was written by Pete Coe. The tune is based on one collected from ‘an old woman in Banffshire’ which can be found in Christie’s Traditional Ballads and Airs. There are versions of this tale from all over Europe (some of which are very grizzly!) and the story can even be found in tales from as far away as South Africa. The refrains we use are from Motherwell’s 1825 manuscript as we like the way it is set in London (but Hazel is hoping it hasn’t given Emily too many ideas!). We avoided this song for many years, but were won over when Jeff Warner suggested we should do a version whilst we watched someone sing it at Whitby Folk Week a couple of years ago... so here it is!

5 The Dusty Miller/ The Presbyterian Hornpipe

This set of 3/2 hornpipes can both be found in John Offord’s brilliant publication John of the Greeny Cheshire Way: The Famous Double Hornpipes of Lancashire and Cheshire. The Dusty Miller originates from Caledonian Country Dances, published by John Walsh in the 18th century, and the Presbyterian Hornpipe is from the Third Book of most Celebrated Jigs, Lancashire Hornpipes, Scotch and Highland Lilts, also published by Walsh.

6 Lord Bateman

Lord Bateman is perhaps one of the most beautiful and compelling ballads around with its vivid characters and gripping narrative. We originally heard this tune from a recording made in 1967 of John Reilly’s version - Lord Baker – but listening back it seems to have evolved quite a lot since then! The words come from various versions in the Child Ballad collection (no. 53, Young Beichan). The story is very similar to the legend of Gilbert Becket and Shusha Pye, parents of St Thomas à Becket, a tale which can be dated back to 1300. This narrative was also popular in Europe and versions have been found in Scandinavia, Spain and Italy. We like to think of Lord Bateman’s adventure as a bit of a gap year!

7 Sweet Lemaney

Our version of this beautiful song was first heard on a recording by Peter Bellamy, but we’ve also taken some words from broadside ballad versions. It originates from the south west and is also known as Lemonay, Lemady, Limmony, Limadee amongst others, and is thought to come from ‘Leman’,the archaic word for lover. The significance of the white robes in the last line is unclear, but sometimes appears as coloured robes in other versions. Emily has also let Hazel pluck a few notes on the fiddle for this arrangement!

8 Mundesse/ Paddy Carey’s

Mundesse is another tune from Playford’s 1651 English Dancing Master. We follow with one of our favourite jigs – Paddy Careys. Listen out for Hazel’s cheesy bassline!

9 If I was a Blackbird

This lovely waltzy version was collected by George Gardiner from Mrs Etheridge in Southampton in June 1906. However, the text was incomplete, so Gardiner placed an ad in the Hampshire Chronicle appealing for other verses. He received a reply from Mrs Lee of Whitchurch containing a full set of verses (which we sing here) and her letter can still be found in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House.

10 Jack the Jolly Tar

We found this version in Roy Palmer’s Book of British Ballads and it was originally sung by William Nott of Meshaw, Devon and collected by Cecil Sharp in 1904, although we’ve taken some words from other sources.

11 Valentine/ The Turtle Dove

We begin this piece with a short rendition of Valentine from the Ascot-under-Wychwood morris tradition, although we used to dance to it in the Fieldtown style. Coincidently, the title of this tune fits very well with the song that follows it, a beautiful version of the Turtle Dove sung by Edith Sartin (a distant relative of well known folkie Paul Sartin) in Corscombe, Dorset in 1906 (although we have slightly altered the tune). It was collected by brothers Henry and Robert Hammond and can be found in the reissued Marrowbones book.