Songs from Yorkshire & Other Civilisations

by Graham Metcalfe

Recently re-released as a CD after re-mixing and re-mastering. A mixture of traditional and music hall songs with a Yorkshire flavour. All the tracks are sung unaccompanied by a Yorkshire man with real conviction for the material, some in dialect and some with additional harmony voices. Graham says of himself - Born at an early age in a Yorkshire village, the only music to follow was rock n roll. However, it lost something in the dialect, so after trying this and that, I stumbled into folk music, which at first I treated like an old sock - at arms length - but it soon grew on me and its been downhill ever since.



DALESMANS LITANY 
An evocative poem by F W Moorman, 1872-1919, who was Professor of English language at Leeds University.    Tune by Dave Keddy from Bradford.

 


SWEET PRIMROSES 
First heard from Fred Jordan on a visit to York folk club in 1970. Some songs give you an extra buzz when singing them.   This is my buzz!

 


CAWD STRINGY PIE 
A song spelling out the meaness of Yorkshire men, which we all know isnt true, dont we?. Source- the late Mrs Ada Cade from York.

 


THE IMMIGRANT 
As a stranger in this country (Canada) he didnt waste time. This song became known around Oxford as Timmy Grant, I cant think why.

 


FORTY MILES 
In the days when journeymen travelled the country, finding accommodation after their regulation 40 miles wasnt always as fanciful as in this song.  Source - Frank Kidson, collected from Mr. Holgate, Leeds.

 


HOWDEN TOWN 
Politics aside, the hunting world has given us some great songs.  This version is from the singing of Joseph Taylor, Lincolnshire.

 


ALLANDALE 
A Victorian parlour ballad worthy of any singers collection. Words: Charles Jefferys  Music: S. Nelson

 


SCARBOROUGH SANDS 
This song has aquired other titles, Salisbury, Bamburgh, even Liverpool. It appears in Holroyds Ballads of Yorkshire 1892.   Tune: Dave Hillary, Ripon.

 


THE TREES GROW HIGH 
Some say the story relates to the actual marriage of the boy Laird of Craigton to an older girl in 1631. Some people say anything!

 


BILL BROWN 
This song tells of the true events that occured in Brightside near Sheffield in 1769. From the late Arthur Howard near Holmfirth.

 


FAITHFUL JOHNNY 
This is the only song I know which mentions Halloween. From an early Dransfield record.

 


HOME MADE REMEDIES 
Years ago, if you couldnt afford a doctors visit some very dodgy methods were used to effect a cure. 
Source: Charlie Wills 1877-1971, Somerset.

 


WENSLEYDALE LAD 
A song in my own tongue. This is a combination of a version collected by F. W. Moorman around 1900, and two verses from Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Translation available on request.

 


NELLIE O' BOB'S OF CROWTREES 
From the pen of John Hartley, a weaver from Halifax. This was in a pamphlet of 1896. Tune: Dave Hillary.  Note: Nellie of Bobs (her father) of Crowtrees (their home) 
DALESMANS LITANY
For track notes
SWEET PRIMROSES
For track notes
Sample not available
CAWD STRINGY PIE
For track notes
Sample not available
THE IMMIGRANT
For track notes
FORTY MILES
For track notes
Sample not available
HOWDEN TOWN
For track notes
Sample not available
ALLANDALE
For track notes
Sample not available
SCARBOROUGH SANDS
For track notes
Sample not available
THE TREES GROW HIGH
For track notes
Sample not available
BILL BROWN
For track notes
Sample not available
FAITHFUL JOHNNY
For track notes
Sample not available
HOME MADE REMEDIES
For track notes
Sample not available
WENSLEYDALE LAD
For track notes
Sample not available
NELLIE O BOBS OF CROWTREES
For track notes
Sample not available

The folk mag

Roger Tyler

My first impression is of a rich, mellow voice singing folk songs as perhaps

they were always meant to be - sung well by an ordinary man in the way he

wants to sing them. The style is true Yorkshire and typical of Graham. Grace

notes come naturally without pretence or affectation so that you hardly

notice them. Variety is supplied by the wisely-chosen pair who provide the

excellent harmonies. Both Moira Craig and Ian Giles have the quality of

voice to draw attention away from the lead and it is much to their credit

that they do not.

I dont think that this is a commercial give us a booking attempt. Neither

is it, as far as I can see, Graham showing off how brilliant he is (although

those who know of his harmony singing in combination with Ian Giles and

others will appreciate that he would be justified in so doing). That being

the case, this succeeds well in that the content does indeed reflect the

offerings that we have come to expect of the hairy bloke who leans

inconspicuously on the bar smoking and then wakes us up when he is called

upon to sing.

The selection is good, ranging from standards such as Rose of Allandale,

Sweet Primroses and The Dalesmans Litany to some interesting variants of

Scarborough Sands and The Trees They Do Grow High. My favourite? Faithful

Johnny - the song I most wanted to sing along with as I listened to the CD.

Doug Bailey should be mentioned. The recording and balance are impeccable as

always and you can rely on the fact that any mistakes will not be his when

you record at Wild Goose.

Heres a track from the album

Celtic & Folk Music CD reviews

Dai Woosnam

There are few solo folk voices that can carry a 14 track CD, with every track just unadorned solo �a cappella�. Graham Metcalf's voice however is one such.

But wisely, whilst he eschews musical instrumentation for accompaniment, he does have the nous to call upon the voices of Moira Craig and Ian Giles on approximately half the tracks. And what a glorious sound the trio produce.

But that's not to say that Metcalfe NEEDED them. He doesn't. He has a magnificent instrument for a voice: by the sound of it, a voice that can easily encompass a two and a half octave range. A voice that is like a chocolate bar with alternate milk and dark chocolate squares. What a divine timbre it has! And a particularly convincing lower register.

But he wisely brought his two �backing singers� along for the ride, knowing as he surely does, that there are folkies lacking the concentration to listen to the best part of 40 minutes of a solo unaccompanied voice. Not only do they lack the concentration, they subconsciously seem to think such a singer is a �Billy No Mates� who other artistes have deserted like the plague. (So why should THEY have to listen, they figure!)

When his two colleagues come in on track 4, �The Immigrant�, they immediately add an aura of sublime symmetry to Metcalfe's own earthy gravitas. And on �Allendale� the trio reach their artistic zenith. It is a truly beautiful sound that they produce.

The songs are mainly A-list ones from the Tradition. None of them miss the mark, but if I am to be HYPER critical, then I have to say that I would have preferred Graham trying to rein-in his obvious admiration for the late Fred Jordan! He manages to sing �Sweet Primroses� not just as a phrase-for-phrase copy of his idol, but he even succeeds in developing a Shropshire accent! He manages to resist this mimicry when singing from the work of Lincolnshire man Joseph Taylor. And he also retains his Yorkshire accent  rather than the Dorset burr of Charlie Wills  when delivering �Home Made Remedies�.

Incidentally, the WildGoose liner notes show Charlie Wills as a Somerset singer, but I have always associated him with Dorset. And not even the border area between the two counties, but as far away from Somerset as it is possible to go: Chideock, just outside Bridport.

But hey, that is a minor thing. It is a quality album from a quality label.

I wish it well.

Netrythms

David Kidman

The music on this disc was first released by WildGoose on cassette back in the late 1990s, and no doubt it will reach a whole new audience (generationally too?) by being reissued now in CD format. As it fully deserves to, I believe. Songs From Yorkshire And Other Civilisations (to give the collection its full title) is a mixture of traditional and music hall songs with a Yorkshire flavour, all sung unaccompanied by a singer from Yorkshire. Now I just know I've come across Graham on my travels around festivals and singarounds, but I can't place him exactly in any one location (blame that on my advancing years!). Some of you may know Graham as one-third of trio GMW (with Magpie Lane's Ian Giles, and Ian Woods), others as half of duo Folly Bridge (again with Ian G), but the plain truth is that Graham's an impressive singer in his own right, with a marvellous voice possessing a wide range and an especially attractive lower register. He is naturally relaxed and totally at ease with his chosen material, which he performs with real conviction and not a trace of complacency. He has a very distinctive style, with a natural flow in the delivery, a control of melodic line which incorporates a sweet and infectious passion; this passion is expressed without sentimentality or over-emoting.



Now it's received wisdom in the folk recording business that you can't � or shouldn't � release a whole album of unaccompanied singing that's mostly by one single voice. Well I believe that exceptions can be honourably made when the singer concerned has vocal character in abundance and a healthy variety of repertoire (and expression); and I believe that Graham is one of these exceptions � I could certainly have listened to him singing solo for longer than the 38-minute span of this CD! But to be fair, Graham's not completely solo here, for a little into track 4 (The Immigrant), in come some sublime harmonies courtesy of Ian Giles and Moira Craig which both enhance Graham's own line and unroll the tapestry to reveal a majestic aural spread. Although just under half of the tracks benefit from such harmonic embellishment, it's still Graham's own delicious singing which stays in the memory. His renditions of many now-time-honoured club staples like Scarborough Sands (familiar to many revivalists as a primary source for the Dransfields' Rout Of The Blues) prove second-to-none: Allandale is refreshingly un-dirgelike, with an unabashed relish in the unfolding of the melodic line, whereas several songs, like Dalesman's Litany and Cawd Stringy Pie, benefit from being done authentically in dialect. Graham also shows a deep-seated delight in his material and in the act of telling the story, with notable features in his singing such as that �catch� or chuckle in the voice (a little redolent of Mike Waterson perhaps, or Lancashire's Sid Calderbank) � features which can in lesser singers sound stylised or else mere affectation. Whatever the type of song � and Faithful Johnny and (the Somerset music-hall ditty?) Home Made Remedies provide a neatly contrasted pairing toward the end of the CD � Graham's intelligent shaping of line, and lively sense of pace and flow (and control), is exemplary, and his interpretations can be listened to again and again without tiring. Finally (and perhaps unusually for a Yorkshire singer), Graham sometimes relies quite heavily on ornamentation or decoration � listen to his fine version of Sweet Primroses for instance. Graham says in the booklet note, �some songs give you an extra buzz when singing them�, and that certainly comes across here, for although the measured approach Graham takes is quite closely modelled on that of his source, Fred Jordan, whom he heard sing it at a York folk club in 1970, Graham definitely has a better control of line and none of Fred's intrusive warbling vibrato! Bottom line: for anyone who appreciates fine singing (and that also includes singers wishing to develop their craft), this CD is an essential purchase.

The Living Tradition

Tony Hendry

This is a welcome re﷓issue of an album by a splendid unaccompanied singer who deserves to be better known. Graham Metcalfe is a Yorkshireman active on the Oxford folk scene. The CDs photos and notes (unchanged from 1996) reveal a man with an untamed Old Testament beard and a sense of humour. And thats all I know about him. Shocking ignorance. But I know that the quality of Grahams singing matches almost anything Ive heard around the clubs in recent years: assured, richly mature, resonant, expressive, with impeccable pitch and rhythm.

Dave Burland comes to mind, particularly as the first of the fourteen songs on this 38﷓minute album is The Dalemans Litany. Some other songs are well known, too: Sweet Primroses, first heard from Fred Jordan; Cawd Stringy Pie; Howden Town (The White Hare), from the singing of Joseph Taylor; Rose of Allandale; and The Trees Grow High. These familiars are clustered mainly in the first half, and as the album progresses we are treated to rarer songs including Bill Brown, about a poachers death avenged; Wensleydale Lad, about a country gowk come to Leeds; and Nellie O Bobs of Crowtrees, a love poem written by John Hartley, a Halifax weaver, in the late nineteenth century and put to song by Dave Hillary.

When a Radio 2 Folk Award for Unsung Singers is introduced, Ill nominate Graham. In the meantime, if he and his beard do a gig down my way I'll be the first in the queue.


Shreds & Patches

Chris (Yorkie) Bartram

I've admired Graham's singing since I first met him over 20 years ago but, to my great regret, I've only heard him a couple of times. The first time was at a Whittlebury Song and Ale weekend ﷓ where, amongst about a hundred of the best traditional singers in the country, his rich deep voice and distinctive Wensleydale accent made him stand out. His singing had that rare quality you can hear in the early recordings of traditional singers but rarely from most 'revivalist' singers. It's very difficult to describe (Rod Stradling calls it 'texture') but it's unmistakable when you hear it. The second time we met was at the Fred Jordan tribute day at Cecil Sharpe House a couple of years ago. On that occasion, I was pleased to note that his voice had not lost any of its power and depth. And I also noticed an endearing, old﷓fashioned, self﷓effacing attitude ﷓ even when pressed to sing, he was unwilling to sing anything that might be seen as 'other people's songs'. That's something else that many modern singers have lost.

Consequently, I was thrilled to see this CD release. (Although you might guess that a CD called �Songs from Yorkshire ﷓ and Other Civilisations� would have some attraction for me.) But then I was bit worried when I saw the track﷓list ﷓ it is disturbingly similar to my own CD.  Would this mean that, whenever we were in the same venue, that Graham might refuse to sing 'my' songs? I hope not because (a) he is such a wonderful singer and I would like to hear him a lot more often and (b) his versions of these songs are quite different from mine.

Track one is the well﷓known poem by F W Moorman A Dalesman's Litany sung to the tune that Dave Keddy wrote. Listen now, this is how to sing it properly! There's versions of (Banks of Sweet Primroses; Cawd Stringy Pie

(also known as Mutton Pie) Howden Town (The White Hare); (The Rose of) Allandale, Scarborough Sands (The Rout Has Come For the Blues); The Trees Grow High; (The Death of Poor) Bill Brown and Wensleydale Lad

(Leeds Fair) all of which would bear comparison with ANY version you've ever heard. This is absolutely 'top﷓notch'

traditional singing. There are some less well known songs too including a splendid Music Hall number called Home Made Remedies and strong support on some choruses by Ian Giles and Moira Craig. But, essentially, this is a CD of superb, solo, traditional singing�I can not recommend it highly enough. I'm told it is a reissue of tracks recorded a few

years ago which were only available on cassette tape until now. I wish I'd known about that tape ﷓ I'd have bought it without hesitation (and I'm a Yorkshireman, so I don't often spend money without hesitation!) This CD is ESSENTIAL for anyone that likes real folk music.  


Shire Folk

Paul White