Echoes of Alfred

by Bob and Gill Berry

All of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to people like Alfred Williams who recognised the value of the songs, saw that they were disappearing and made records of them before their echoes finally passed into oblivion. As artists, we have been greatly influenced by the research and singing of Len & Barbara Berry (Bob’s parents) of songs which Alfred Williams collected in Oxfordshire. This album has songs mainly from the collection, but from Wiltshire - the county that we have made our adopted home. Many of the songs had no tunes, so they have been adapted to fit new tunes or arranged to suit our own interpretation. We make no apologies for altering words and tunes and feel that Alfred would have ‘echoed’ our sentiments. The image on the album front was inspired by a line in the song “Out with my dog in the morning” which describes the joy of singing by the fireside. There is nothing better to connect us to the rural people for whom singing songs like these was an integral part of their lives and labours for hundreds of years.



Musicians

Bob Berry          Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin, Bouzouki, Coconuts

Gill Berry           Vocals

Lewis Wood      Fiddle, Piano, Mandolin

Gill Redmond    Cello

Richard Rees     Melodeon

Nigel Owen  Vocals 

Christine Owen   Vocals 

Rickard Rees  Vocals 

Mick Hiscock   Vocals 

1.      No Followers (trad/G Berry)

This came from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of Old England. Originally called ‘The Young Man from the Country’ it describes the much frowned upon habit of servants having ‘followers’ (boyfriends) since a young sweetheart just might prove to be a thief which, in this case, is true.

2.      My Jolly Waggoner Drive On (trad/R Berry)

A fun little song from the singing of David Sawyer from Ogbourne St Andrew. It would seem that this song should actually be sung by the horse!  A new tune from Bob brings the song to life as the horse tries to decide who he’d prefer as a master.

3.      I’ll Weave Him A Garland (trad/B Berry)

A beautiful song of pure love. Collected from William Bartlett, Marston Meysey and set to music by Bob’s mum, Barbara. 

4.      Chickens! (trad/R Berry)

This song is a version of ‘All the Little Chickens in the Garden’, a lovely song collected in the Cumbria region and the singing of the Waterson family. Further research and information from Jeff Warner (USA) shows it to have been penned by African-American, James A. Bland in 1879. This version has been taken from the collected songs of Mrs E King, Castle Eaton and a new, but strangely familiar tune from Bob. The last verse is an attempt to finish the song’s story.

5.      Sweet Queen Of May (trad/R Berry)

The words of this song were collected by Frank Kidson, sung by Elizabeth Parkes in Trowbridge in 1906 and set to a new tune by Bob. The tune was inspired from the beautiful Catholic Hymn “Bring Flowers of the Rarest (Queen of the May)” This is as near to a Parlour Song as we get.

6.      My Old Wife’s A Good Old Cratur (trad/B Berry)

From the singing of Len Berry, this is a great little song of the love of a man for his wife. And why not! Collected from Prucilla Brunsdon, of Clanfield, Oxfordshire. Tune by Barbara Berry.

7.      Days Of Summer (M Campbell)

This is a relatively new song, not from the Wiltshire area but one that can easily be transposed into any area of natural beauty. This evocative song instils thoughts of times in the summer sitting next to Dew Ponds on Salisbury plan watching nature go about its business. Our thanks to Miggy Campbell for her excellent word-smithery and singing.

8.      Broken Down Gentleman (trad/Rees/arr R Berry)

A version of “Epsom Races” collected from Timothy Tassel, Wanborough, Wiltshire. A jaunty tale of the downfall of a young gentleman drawn into debt by the racing of horses. The small “bridge” tune in between the songs was written by Richard Rees and called the ‘Highworth Hop’.

9.      Deny No Man His Rights (trad/B Berry)

A good example of a late 19th century protest song. It is from the singing of Thomas Smart of Blunsdon and sounds very much like a Chartist piece. The “Fustian Coat” was a garment regularly made in the area around Ramsbury, Wiltshire. It is a very old type of material mentioned in writings as far back as the 12-13th Century. The song could have been written for many periods of civil unrest and interestingly, for some, the sentiments still hold true today

10.    Sarah Gale (trad/B Berry)

This song, collected from Charles Tanner, depicts the desperate situation and gruesome murder of Hannah Brown. A lot has been written about the actual case and the fate of the perpetrators. Chilling stuff!

11.    Through The Groves (trad/arr R Berry)

This is an interesting version of the Holmfirth Anthem but we think it comes from earlier than that. Bob has arranged it to be more introspective rather than the usual big chorus version.  From the singing of Mr W Shergold, Amesbury, Wiltshire.

12.    I Was Much Better Off In The Army (Butler/Lubin/Gay /arr R Berry)

Bob has been singing this song for over 40 years without remembering where he originally heard it. The wonderful Roy Hudd proved more than a match to recover the origin and two extra verses! Bob sang this song in Salisbury Folk Club in 1980 on the day he signed off from his Armed Forces duties. It seemed an appropriate song then and still enjoyed today. You can imagine this song being sung in the post war skits and shows put on by the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), amusingly also described as “Every Night Something Awful”.

13.    Sprig Of Thyme (trad/arr R Berry)

This song is widely popular and is generally sung as a sweet ditty. We see it as a more despairing style of song with some great herb lore depicting the frailties of the human condition. This version was collected by Alfred Williams from David Sawyer with the first verse by George W Gardiner from Mary A (Polly) Gurd in the Tisbury Workhouse

14.    Shearers Song (trad/R Berry)

Another David Sawyer song from Ogbourne St Andrew. David was a sheep shearer on the Marlborough Downs and this song captures the fun the shepherds had when they met up after the shearing. Bob wrote the tune in the shepherd’s tradition of northern France where all the songs are sung in unison. The other singers on this track are the men from Tinkers Bag, a band which Bob & Gill led for over 20 years.

15.    Salisbury Plain (B Dransfield/D Howes/arr R Berry)

This is a very popular song and depicts the exercises of the Royal Horse Guards (known as the Blues) on the plain many, many years ago. Robin and Barry Dransfield sang it in 1970 as the title track of their album “The Rout of the Blues”.  This song was put together by Barry from the book “The Idiom of the People”, Ingledew’s “Yorkshire Ballads”, and a vaguely remembered tune learned originally from Dave

16.    Out With My Dog In The Morning  (trad/arr R Berry)

Inspired by the singing of this song by Keith Kendrick, Bob was delighted to find it nestling within the manuscripts of the Williams collection. It describes the sort of simple life to which we wish we could return, a nice little cottage, a loving wife and singing whilst sat next to the fire. Another song collected from Mrs King, Castle Eaton

1
No Followers
This came from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of Old England. Originally called ‘The Young Man from the Country’ it describes the much frowned upon habit of servants having ‘followers’ (boyfriends) since a young sweetheart just might prove to be a thief which
2
My Jolly Waggoner Drive On
A fun little song from the singing of David Sawyer from Ogbourne St Andrew. It would seem that this song should actually be sung by the horse! A new tune from Bob brings the song to life as the horse tries to decide who he’d prefer as a master.
3
I’ll Weave Him A Garland
A beautiful song of pure love. Collected from William Bartlett
4
Chickens!
This song is a version of ‘All the Little Chickens in the Garden’
Sample not available
5
Sweet Queen Of May
The words of this song were collected by Frank Kidson
Sample not available
6
My Old Wife’s A Good Old Cratur
From the singing of Len Berry
Sample not available
7
Days Of Summer
This is a relatively new song
Sample not available
8
Broken Down Gentleman
A version of “Epsom Races” collected from Timothy Tassel
9
Deny No Man His Rights
A good example of a late 19th century protest song. It is from the singing of Thomas Smart of Blunsdon and sounds very much like a Chartist piece. The “Fustian Coat” was a garment regularly made in the area around Ramsbury
Sample not available
10
Sarah Gale
This song
Sample not available
11
Through The Groves
This is an interesting version of the Holmfirth Anthem but we think it comes from earlier than that. Bob has arranged it to be more introspective rather than the usual big chorus version. From the singing of Mr W Shergold
Sample not available
12
I Was Much Better Off In The Army
Bob has been singing this song for over 40 years without remembering where he originally heard it. The wonderful Roy Hudd proved more than a match to recover the origin and two extra verses! Bob sang this song in Salisbury Folk Club in 1980 on the day he signed off from his Armed Forces duties. It seemed an appropriate song then and still enjoyed today. You can imagine this song being sung in the post war skits and shows put on by the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA)
Sample not available
13
Sprig Of Thyme
This song is widely popular and is generally sung as a sweet ditty. We see it as a more despairing style of song with some great herb lore depicting the frailties of the human condition. This version was collected by Alfred Williams from David Sawyer with the first verse by George W Gardiner from Mary A (Polly) Gurd in the Tisbury Workhouse
Sample not available
14
Shearers Song
Another David Sawyer song from Ogbourne St Andrew. David was a sheep shearer on the Marlborough Downs and this song captures the fun the shepherds had when they met up after the shearing. Bob wrote the tune in the shepherd’s tradition of northern France where all the songs are sung in unison. The other singers on this track are the men from Tinkers Bag
Sample not available
15
Salisbury Plain
This is a very popular song and depicts the exercises of the Royal Horse Guards (known as the Blues) on the plain many
16
Out With My Dog In The Morning
Inspired by the singing of this song by Keith Kendrick
Sample not available

Folk North West

Giff

'It has been a long time coming' are the final words on the sleeve notes of this latest album from Bob and Gill but, as Doug Bailey says on the publicity notes, '..and is well worth the wait'.

In fact, it's been just under 12 years since I last reviewed a CD from these two experienced and seasoned performers who are also good friends. They are joined by a number of their friends and associates to produce an album of varied traditional songs from Wiltshire and Oxfordshire the latter of which is Bob's native county.

'Echoes of Alfred', a title suggested by Canadian Steve Ritchie (ex Tanglefoot), is a reference to Alfred Williams who was a poet, author and a collector of folk song lyrics from Swindon, Wiltshire who collected many of the songs herein and, as Bob states in the extensive sleeve notes, 'deserves a huge debt of gratitude' from all modern day singers of traditional song.

So, what of these songs? Well, for a start, many of them are versions of well known ditties such as Chickens! (All the Little Chickens in the Garden), Sprig of Thyme, Salisbury Plain (Rout of the Blues), Through The Groves (Holmfirth Anthem) and My Jolly Waggoner Drive On although this version differs quite a bit from Jolly Waggoner!

There is but one 'interloper' amongst the traditional material from the writing of Miggy Campbell (a member of the Midland group 'Guffaw') whose evocative song called Days of Summer would fit into any part of the country and is delightfully sung solo by Gill. This is a lovely song but even this is no match for Bob and Gill's superb rendition of I'll Weave Him A Garland, which was collected from one of my favourite source singers William Bartlett, and brings out the close harmonies that these two do so well. I also really liked Deny No Man His Rights which is as relevant today as it was in the late 19th century.

Bob and Gill are given great assistance in the choruses with vocals from Nigel and Christine Owen, Mick Hiscock and Richard Rees who also plays melodeon. Lewis Wood (Granny's Attic) provides fine instrumental accompaniment with fiddle, piano and mandolin and Wild Goose 'regular' Gill Redmond adds her usual imaginative cello playing.

Largely due to the ecletic mix of songs, their programming on the CD and the careful musical arrangements this album is a very pleasant listen and never palls. It's available from the Wild Goose web site and is distributed by Proper Music.

Shire Folk

Barry Goodman

When Alfred Williams published his book, Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, in 1923, he wrote that the songs he had collected were practically defunct and that there was no need to revive them   they should be preserved 'in order to have records of that which amused, cheered, consoled and ... affected the lives of the people of an age that has forever passed away.

Bob and Gill Berry's collection of songs from Wiltshire confounds his assertion by giving us a wonderful variety of songs, many collected by Alfred Williams in the early part of the twentieth century, that are as enjoyable, amusing and relevant today as ever they were.

Songs like 'My Jolly Waggoner Drive On'; 'I'll Weave Him a Garland'; 'My Old Wife's a Good Old Cratu'; 'Broken Down Gentleman'; and 'Shearers' Song' have an energy and poetry about them that continues to chime through the years, and when performed as excellently as they are on this CD there is no question that Williams did us all a great service!

Many of the tunes are new, some by Bob and Gill, others by Bob's mum, Barbara, and there are a couple of songs by other writers. The arrangements suit the songs very well, with Bob's guitar, mandolin and bouzouki, Lewis Wood's fiddle, Gill Redmond's cello, and the melodeon of Richard Rees accompanying Bob and Gill's fine singing.

The CD, produced by Doug Bailey, comes with a very attractive booklet containing informative notes about the songs and their sources, but the real joy is the lovingly crafted interpretations of these songs which are by no means 'defunct'!

Around Kent Folk

Bob Kenward

Right from the start you know you're in for a good time: a brisk snatch of Lewis Wood's fiddle, then straight into Gill's powerful No Followers, a story sung clear and warning of thieving young men... Then Bob lilting his tune to Jolly Waggoner in the persona of a horse... It'd be easy just to go right through listing the pleasures in store, but you've got to have some surprises to look forward to! Suffice to say that the songs are often given lively melodies by Bob or his mother Barbara which fit the trad credited lyrics delightfully. Interesting arrangements with plenty of space in them keep the narratives strong- you'll be fascinated to find out how many different ways there are to keep any audience joining in- a thoroughly well-crafted collection using acoustic instruments well captured ( well, you can't say well Goosed...) by Doug Bailey. There's some radical C19 protest in there, and the joys of Army life alongside superb versions of Salisbury Plain and Miggy Campbell's Days Of Summer... What comes over most of all is sincerity and the joy which Bob & Gill bring to singing. Highly recommended.

The Living Tradition

John Waltham

This is a very pleasant collection of eminently singable songs from a couple whose devotion to traditional song stretches back through their parents and embraces both singing and their pivotal role in the running of Chippenham Festival. �Alfred�, of course, refers to Mr Williams of that ilk, whose collection of songs from the upper reaches of the Thames has never (for some unaccountable reason) attracted quite the attention that others have, but which it richly deserves � as this album proves.

They haven't been afraid to give life to a set of words by grafting on a tune of their own, nor to complete a story by adding a verse. In neither case is this noticeable, blending seamlessly with the original parts. As you'd expect from these two, the singing and musicianship are impeccable, aided by a very competent group of backing singers and musicians. The songs jog happily along with a vein of light humour and a love of life running through the tracks.

There really isn't much to criticise, and there's a lot to enjoy on this CD, and if you like examining the slightly less popular backwaters of the English tradition, and if you enjoy good singing, you'll like this.

EDS EFDSS

Spencer Taylor

For their first album since 2006, Bob and Gill Berry, organisers of Chippenham Folk Festival, dip into songs from Wiltshire as collected by

Alfred Williams.

The gatherer of folk songs did much to capture the rural working lives of those who lived in the Upper Thames area, and Bob and Gill do him proud.

The music is often jaunty, as exemplified by My Jolly Waggoner Drive On, while the traditional I'll Weave Him A Garland is an unadorned acapella highlight, led

by Gill, with backing from Bob: simple, and simply lovely.

Some songs veer towards the twee, perhaps, including My Old Wife's A Good Old Cratur, while Sweet Queen of May is prettily arranged and pleasing.

Not for those who like a sharp edge to their folk, but it's delivered with robust passion.

fRoots

Vic Smith

If the English folk scene were a skeleton then the vertebrae would be those people, often couples, who take it on themselves to become the organising activists within their own area who carry out the tasks of mounting festivals, running clubs, promoting dances, trying to take the music out of its ghetto into the community and generally generating enthusiasm in their own area. A prime example would be Bob and Gill in Wiltshire. They deserve praise and thanks for all their achievements alone but we have to add to that the fact that they are engaging performers live and that they produce enjoyable albums.

This is their second on the Wildgoose label and the emphasis is on material from their own area of the Upper Thames. This makes their obvious major source the great work of Alfred Williams. Not discouraged by the fact that he only noted the words, they have borrowed, reconstructed or made the melodies to carry the traditional words with consistently pleasing results. This makes their songs sound slightly different from the standard versions and it is these differences that enable the listener to appreciate the songs with fresh ears.

They have some talented musicians among their guest musicians including Gill Redmond and Lewis Wood  but accompaniments are kept straightforward and unobtrusive; they are also joined on some choruses by other members of their long running band, Tinkers' Bag.

Vic Smith for Around Kent Folk

Vic Smith

The EFDSS 75th Anniversary Award and the Exceptional Community service award from the Chippenham Town Council and The Wiltshire Council recognise the long ongoing contribution that the Berrys have made to folk life in and around Wiltshire but their decades-long commitment to organisation, encouragement and facilitation is only one aspect of their input into regional folk life; they are also very engaging performers as this second album on the Wildgoose label shows.

The "Alfred" of the title refers to the famed song collector of the Upper Thames region, Alfred Williams who is the source of the majority of the songs here. The fact that Williams collected only the song words has its disadvantages but its advantages as well for this enables the lyrics to be set to other traditional melodies or to tunes composed by Bob, Gill and by Bob's mother Barbara. Singing the some times slightly different words of familiar songs from this source and hearing them sung to different tunes brings a clear novelty to the songs and avoids any feeling of hackneyed treatment.

They are supported at times by long-term associates in their group, Tinkers Bag and a multi-instrumental contribution from Lewis Wood of Granny's Attic as well as the luscious cello playing of Gill Redmond.

RnR

Ian Croft

Stalwarts of the Wiltshire folk scene, Bob and Gill Berry have come up with their first album sinc 2006. Echoes Of Alfred consists mainly of songs collected in the area under a title that nods towards Alfred Williams who played a crucial role in preserving traditional song from the Upper Thames.

Bob and Gill wrote many of the tunes themselves, and others come from Bob's late mother, Barbara. They fit the material well, and are helped along by fine singing and playing, with spritely accompaniment particularly from Lewis Cook (Granny's Attic) on fiddle, mandolin and piano, and solid vocal support on several unaccompanied songs.

Included here are songs like 'My Jolly Waggoner Drive On' and 'Sprig Of Thyme' given a slight twist from better known versions, alongside less familiar material like 'No Followers', and 'Sarah Gale', about the real life murder of Hannah Brown in 1837.

'Through The Groves' is a version of the Holmfirth Anthem which may have pre dated that iconic Yorkshire song, and 'Salisbury Plain' puts a slightly different tune to what the Dransfields called 'Rout Of The Blues'. 'Out With My Dog In The Morning' longs for a simpler life, wrapping up this excellent album of English traditional song.