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Sleeve Notes for Mischief Afoot by Mischief Afoot

Mischief AfootMischief Afoot are a folk trio based in the Cotwolds in the UK. We play a mixture of English, Irish and American folk songs and tunes, as well as self-penned compositions.

We set out to entertain an audience with music for the heart, mind and feet and with songs to make them laugh, cry and sing along. The instrumental work can be dazzling, inventive, sensitive, playful or downright mischievous!

Our line-up consists of Becky Dellow on fiddle, John Davis on recorder and bodhran, and Jeff Gillett on guitar, mandola, mandolin, English concertina and vocals.

Track Notes

1 Bennachie Sunrise / Willie’s Trip to Toronto

We first heard this set from the Scottish fiddle-player Alasdair Fraser, accompanied by Paul Machlis, who wrote the first tune. The second was written by the late Jerry Holland. Over the years that we have been playing them, Becky and I have developed our own distinctive take on the tunes, to which John has added an extra musical strand and an extra dimension.

2 Blow the Candles Out

Adapted from the version in Stephen Sedley’s ‘Seeds of Love’ – an excellent source of traditional songs from the British Isles. A night-visiting song with a (possibly) happy ending: the man pledging that they will be truly together ‘when three long years are over’. More unusually, he ponders the possibility that the two of them may ‘prove successful’, indicating that a child would be the hoped for result, rather than an unintended by-product of their union.

3 Thomas Hardy’s Slow Waltz / Morgan Rattler / Battered Hake

I learned Thomas Hardy’s from Phil Rush. Morgan Rattler is a popular session tune in Gloucestershire, but fellow-musicians tend to be somewhat surprised if I throw in my preferred chord progression (which is, I think, half-remembered from Pete Coe). Battered Hake is by Colin Cotter; Becky learned it from Sam Sweeney.

4 Cats of Camazen / Pressed For Time

Cats of Camazen was written by Brendan Ring; Pressed For Time was written by Gordon Duncan. John learned them both from Flook, but, as usual, we’ve reinterpreted them. (Well... I think we’ve speeded them up a bit!) After we’d recorded them, Doug Bailey described the performance as ‘insane’. ..

5 The Deserter

I learned this upwards on thirty years ago from Chris Beaumont of Cheltenham; I understood from him that it has elements of versions from Fairport Convention and Bernie Cherry. The story perhaps owes something to circular folk-tales, where the end is also the beginning. The arrangement is intended to reflect the considerable doubt as to whether or not it really is a happy ending when Prince Albert gives the deserter a pardon and sends him back to the army (yet again...)

6 The Star of Munster / Pigeon On The Gate

Two Irish session tunes that we tend to enjoy playing a little faster than is probably sensible. (The cross-rhythms in Pigeon are fun, too!)

7 History Man / Lost in Washing

A well-known tune by Andy Cutting, to which we give a slightly playful reading, coupled with an exuberant tune of Becky’s, named after her experiences of motherhood and domesticity. It was written when she was stranded at home with two toddlers. I can’t resist under-pinning it with the occasional minor chord.

8 Bridget O’Malley

I first learned this Irish song of unrequited love from Laine Davies over thirty years ago. I used to perform it with the late Paul Stanbrook in our duo, the Penultimate Straw. Becky and I worked out the basis of the current arrangement when she was still in the sixth-form (and I was quite a young teacher).

9 Tell Her I Am / Out On the Ocean

Both of these tunes came from the incomparable Martin Hayes (and his wonderful accompanist, Dennis Cahill). Tell Her I Am is credited to Michael Coleman, who used to play it at a much greater tempo: we slow it down even more than Martin Hayes did, but I like to think that it sings very sweetly that way, whilst Out On the Ocean, which is another well-known session-tune, dances.

10 The Golden Willow Tree

An American version of The Golden Vanity which I learned during the all-too brief time that I was working with Sarah Morgan. I describe it, as she did, as a delightful little song about Turk-bashing: but it’s all right, because the Turks in question were obviously all evil people, given to sinful occupations like playing cards. Doug Bailey suggests that the name of the Turkish ship (somewhat improbably, the Reveillé) might be a corruption of ‘razee’, which is a two deck ship cut down to make a very powerful one deck ship, very popular with the Turkish navy and pirate vessels.

11 Paddy Fahy’s Reel / Mulhaire’s #9

Two session tunes played at a more sensible pace. The first was certainly learned (again) from the playing of Martin Hayes. Paddy Fahy is a highly-regarded and influential fiddle-player from Kilconnell in East Galway. He is known to have written around 60 tunes in traditional Irish style, to which he has chosen to give no names. Martin Mulhaire, many of whose similarly untitled tunes have passed into the tradition, also came originally from East Galway but emigrated to the United States in the middle of last century. Principally known as a fine accordionist, he is also an electric guitarist with, as I understand it, a penchant for rock!

12 Knock On Wood / Oddpiece Jig / Firelight

Knock on Wood was written by Welsh flautist Greg Morgan and is so-named because you can hear Woody Woodpecker's call in the B section (allegedly). The Oddpiece Jig was written by Becky in 1989 and that’s all she’s saying about it. Firelight was written by John, who suggests that it is best listened to while imagining yourself sitting round a campfire at a festival, probably with a didgeridoo playing somewhere in the background.

13 Jimmy and Nancy

The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. P. Wiggett at Ford in Gloucestershire in 1909. I found it in The Crystal Spring, edited by Maud Karpeles. Looking back at the manuscript, I see that over the time when I have been singing it the folk process has been at work, resulting in a few minor changes - all of them, obviously, typifying the operation of that process by being improvements on the song as collected and published!

14 Ruskin Mill

Written by Becky during a week’s course with the English Acoustic Collective in 2014, this is the only track to feature a solo, unaccompanied fiddle for a complete time through the tune. When John and I join in, the accompaniment is deliberately under-stated. Intended as a gentle, reflective conclusion...