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Sleeve Notes for Dead Maid's Land by Paul Wilson & Marilyn Tucker

Dead Maid's LandTraditional songs from the 19th Century collection of Sabine Baring-Gould.

The songs on this album have been selected from the hundreds collected by Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould over a century ago in Devon and Cornwall and have been chosen for the way they enrich and inform our lives now. As collected the songs have a rough, magical beauty like the moorland landscapes from which they come; now, like stones brought in from the weather to  adorn a living room, they have been trimmed and polished for a new audience. The musical arrangements embrace harmony singing, fiddles, concertina, a touch of brass and other ideas borrowed from living traditions in England, designed to make these gems sparkle like the crystals in moorland granite.

Singers and Musicians

Paul Wilson (PW) voice - fiddle - accordion
guitar - cittern - tabor
Marilyn Tucker (MT) voice
Chris Bartram (CB) fiddle - cello - voice
Tim Laycock (TL) voice - concertina

Chris Foster (CF) guitar
Martin Graebe( MG) voice
Phil Humphries (PH) serpent - trombone
Ellen Thomson (ET) recorder
Bob Tinker (BT) trumpet

Wren Chorus
Paul Kemeny (PK), Dawn Newton (DN), Anne Perry (AP)
Julia Perry (JP), Marilyn Pinn (MP), Jenny Southam (JS)


Sabine Baring-Gould (1834 - 1924)

Sabine Baring-Gould spent the last 43 years of his life as Squire and Parson of Lewtrenchard, in West Devon and for much of this time he was active in the collection of traditional song in Devon and Cornwall and published Songs of the West in 1889. This was, as Cecil Sharp put it, The first serious and sustained attempt to collect the traditional songs of the English peasantry. Because he was trying something new Baring-Gould did it his way and brought into his work all the prejudices and conceits that mark his character as well as the scholarly interest, phenomenal memory for detail and ability with words that make it an exceptional collection.

He also brought his deep interest in people and in Characters. His published work contains many word pictures of the singers from whom he collected and these accounts leave us a unique insight into the lives of these men and women. What he has also left is a mass of manuscript and printed materials that he assembled during the course of his work and, particularly, his personal fair copy of his collected songs, from which most of the items on this album have been taken.

Other songs from the collection of Baring-Gould are on the album Parallel Strands by Martin Graebe & Shan Cowan.

Track Notes

1 Blue Muslin

This song is known to thousands by one or other of it's many titles - The Keys of Canterbury, The Keys of Heaven, The Paper of Pins. Published widely in the 19th Century this version, from John Woodrich of Thrushleton, comes with a fresh twist.

2 Dead Maid's Land

It was from Thomas Paddon in December 1889 that Baring-Gould took down this early version
of the song which Cecil Sharp later collected as The Seeds of Love. The powerful flower symbols climax with the rose where the allegory has a strong basis in fact - slow-growing roses are the most poisonous.

3 Frog and Mouse

Delighting children and adults alike for centuries, here is the full story of Froggie went a Courting/Anthony Rowley that Sam Fone of Lewdown gave to Baring-Gould. The tune is very complete and beautiful and the song has resonances of the Elizabethan England in which it was published.

4 The Mower

Although Baring-Gould 'cleaned up' this song of sexual encounter for publication in A Garland of
Country Song, the words and tune as sung here were taken from James Parsons of Lewdown and are recorded unedited in his notebooks. A printed copy of the song can also be found in Baring-Gouldıs personal collection of broadsides.

5 Herrings Head

From the village of South Zeal, here is a version of The Herring's Head where images of Dartmoor
hill-farming have replaced the usual fishing symbols. Sung by Lucky Fewins at the Oxenham Arms, this is from the 'argumentative' strain of the song - as opposed to the 'cumulative.'

6 Drunken Maidens

In a disagreement with Cecil Sharp about this being a 'proper' folk song, we find Baring-Gould, as so often, on the liberal side of the argument, advocating it's inclusion into the folk canon. The version on this recording is from thatcher Edmund Fry, collated with other texts in the collection.

7 Gipsy Countess

Sabine reconstructed some of this version of the Gipsy Laddie (Wraggle Taggle Gipsies). Exactly how much we may never know. What is important is that the story is well told and what is fascinating is that there are autobiographical echoes of Baring-Gould's own courtship - though his story had a happier ending!

8 Golden Vanity

The ballads offer a special opportunity for singers to develop and change the song in live performance, adding verses, modifying tunes while the kernel of the story remains. James Olver's version provided the departure point for this treatment of this ballad.

9 Georgie

Sung amongst the travellers, popularised by Joan Baez, Geordie becomes Georgie, Bohenny
becomes Broadhembury as singers have localised their stories. This stunning tune has relatives in other Westcountry collections and was given by John Woodrich whom Baring Gould sent on collecting missions for his ability to hear and retain a tune on one hearing.

10 The Old Ewe

An entrepreneurial trip to Guernsey turns out all right - a small slice of local life collected from John
Radmore at South Zeal on August 9th 1894.

11 W. Andrews Hornpipe No. 1

One of around 25 tunes from the tune-book of local fiddler William Andrews of Sheepstor.

12 When I was Young

A remarkable gazetteer of jobs and place names provides yet another twist on the Jack of All Trades theme from William Cann of South Tawton. No tune was noted, so Paul has grown a new one from local roots as a vehicle for some great lyrics.

13 Haymaking

Something like this song is found alive and well in the repertoire of several country singers like the
Coppers of Sussex, while the poetry suggests more urban stage play origins. John Woodrich sang tune and words to Baring Gould in 1890, but claimed it was an imperfect remembering of his fatherıs favourite song from 40 years earlier.

14 Harvest Song

Charles Arscott of South Zeal and Harry Westaway of Belstone both sang this song to Baring Gould
but for some reason he did not include it in the manuscripts he sent to Plymouth.

15 Robin Redbreast

Baring-Gould, through his writing and his lectures, encouraged people to send him songs. This Cornish Wassail song text is based on one sung in Jacobstowe and sent to him by Mrs. Batchellor as taken down from a local wassailer. Mrs Batchellor provided no music so a tune sent in independently from G. Lewis Maitland seems to fit the bill.

16 W. Andrews Hornpipe No. 2

Dartmoor fiddler William Andrews tune-book has quite a few pieces in Bb and F with echoes from other English regions. Do these pieces represent a lost strain of Devon tradition or were they grafted on from elsewhere? In any event, great tunes like this have just got to be played.

17 My Ladys Coach

A song Baring-Gould learnt from his nurse, Mary Bickell. Lady Mary Howard was a 17th century figure who outlived four husbands, getting a divorce from the last for cruelty. Folklore has made her a wicked woman who murdered all four and as a penance rides nightly from Tavistock to Okehampton and back in a coach made of their bones, a headless horseman and a huge black dog running in front.