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Sleeve Notes for New Road to Alston by Dave Townsend and Gill Redmond

New Road to AlstonA collection of tunes and songs with very exciting arrangements


Dave Townsend is a virtuoso concertina player and is probably best known for his work with The Mellstock Band. Gill Redmond has played with many bands over the years but this duo of unlikely instruments is a very well matched pair.

Track Notes

1 New Road to Alston & Trip to Cartmel

Two stalwart dance tunes from Northern England. The first comes from a manuscript dated 1816, possibly Darlington area, once owned by the Victorian musicologist Frank Kidson, who thought it was a piper’s book. Kidson wrote ‘Alston is a wild and remote district of Cumberland’. The inventor of modern road-building, John Macadam, made a road to Alston from Penrith in the early 1800s. This pennine market town now has five roads going there, from Penrith, Carlisle, Hexham, Durham & Barnard Castle. Trip to Cartmel is from the Browne family manuscripts, compiled from 1778 onwards. Like John Peel, the Browne family were from Troutbeck in Cumbria.

2 The Lousy Tailor

As always, the woman is beautiful, the butcher is lustful, and the tailor is ineffectual. Married men will be reminded of those moments when their wives say ‘I’ve had this really good idea . . .’ The tune was collected by Vaughan Williams from Mr. Gothard of Wilburton, Cambs., in 1906, and Roy Palmer very conveniently matched it to a broadside text printed by Harkness.

3 Shaker Tunes - Father James’s Tune, Mother Anne’s Tune & Encouragement

The Shakers were a religious movement founded in Manchester by Mother Anne and her brothers Father James and Father William. Among other extraordinary beliefs, they held that Mother Anne was the reincarnation of Christ in female form. They were hounded out of England and settled in America, where they suffered more persecution – the first tune bears the chilling epigraph ‘this tune was made by Father James after he was whipped at Harvard’. They danced as part of their worship, to the accompaniment of songs, as they believed instrumental music was the Devil’s work (true).

4 Banks of the Sweet Primroses, Country Stepdance & The Monkey Hornpipe

Phil Tanner ‘The Gower Nightingale’ sang this vital rhythmic version of the song more familiar in the Copper family’s Sussex rendition. Favourite line – ‘and don’t be so deceitful!’ We have tagged on a couple of step-dance tunes from the Sussex concertina player Lewis ‘Scan’ Tester.

5 Schottis, Engelska efter Captain Lindholm & Chokela och Bullar

Three Swedish tunes. Gill learnt the Schottis from Thomas Steenweg, a Dutch sackpipa player, the Engelska (“English”, therefore a hornpipe) from Goran Premberg, Riksspelman, from Gothenberg, and has known the schottis Chocolate and Buns for years.

6 The Captain’s Apprentice & The Chinese Dance

This Dorset song tells again the tragic consequences of a man who abuses his power over those under him, in a version collected by Henry Hammond from Mrs. Sartin of Corscombe, Dorset, in 1906. In this version he remains to the end a pitiless uncomprehending bastard whose only concern is his own neck. The following tune seems to capture the mood of an angry restless sea. It comes from the book of Lakeland fiddler Matthew Betham (1815), and its odd title may refer to a long-forgotten stage play, or steps taught by one of the Lakeland dancing-masters. Special thanks to Carolyn Francis for spotting what a great tune it is.

7 Washington Hornpipe & William Irwin’s

Two hornpipes found in the manuscripts of William Irwin ‘The Elterwater Fiddler’, a composer and teacher (1822- 1889) – for more on him take a look at Greg Stephens’ excellent article at

8 The Shepherds’ Song

The fiddler and collector Chris Bartram reports that this familiar text, a sort of national anthem for shepherds, was sung to the tune ‘Dives and Lazarus’ in West Oxfordshire and the Vale of the White Horse.

9 Boroughbridge Rant, Berwick Lasses & Love for Ever

Tunes from Yorkshire fiddlers’ books. The first is from Joshua Jackson of Burton Leonard (about six miles north of Harrogate), dated 1798, and the other two from Lawrence Leadley of Helperby (about twelve miles north-east of Harrogate), compiled around 1840 - 1850, which has some tunes with concertina notation. Thanks to Geoff Bowen, Robin Shepherd, James Merryweather & Matt Seattle for making this music available in modern editions.

10 Old Age and Young & Variations on Johnny Cope

More Cumbrian tune - the first is a triple-time hornpipe from the Browne Mss. (see track 1), and Dave has collated variations on the well-known Scottish air from three different Cumbrian sources, Matthew Betham’s book (see track 6), the William Irwin Mss. (see track 7) and the manuscript book of Henry Stables of Walthwaite, 1881, a pupil of William Irwin.

11 Rolling in the Dew

A hesitant lover, a compliant milkmaid - and another bun (in the oven this time)! Rural frolics from Sussex, collected by Francis Jekyll.

12 Ffarwel Marian (Farewell to the Shore) & Aberdaugleddau (Milford Haven)

Music from the vast repertoire of traditional Welsh harp and dance tunes, culled from the collection Blodau’r Grug published by the Welsh Folk Dance Society.

13 The Banks of the Nile

The soldier goes away and leaves the one he loves behind, hoping for the time when they will be reuinted and all wars will be ended. The story and the hope are as true today as when it was first written. From Keith Summers’ recording of Suffolk singer Jumbo Brightwell.

14 I’ll Touzle Your Kerchie, All Around the World & Whip Her and Gird Her

Rounding off with three more tunes from Joshua Jackson (see track 9). Is the ‘kerchie(f)’ to be ‘touzled’ worn on the young lady’s head or her bosom? We hope the last title refers to a horse and not the young lady.