Prevailing Winds

by Tom and Barbara Brown

Songs with a West Country Flavour

This collection brings together a broad range of accompanied and unaccompanied songs, mostly from Englands West Country traditions, but spanning some four hundred years. Some of them, Tom and Barbara grew up with, others have been acquired along the way during nearly forty years of involvement with English songs and tunes. The strong supporting cast includes: Ralph Jordan Duet Concertina, guitar, mandolin, bass guitar Keith Holloway Melodeon, Melanie Barber Percussion feet Barry Lister Tuba and chorus vocals Francis Verdigi Fiddles and viola and an all too rare appearance of Charley Yarwood Bones and chorus vocals Plus other chorus vocals by Cathy Barclay, Brenda Bernside, John Garrick, Rowan Walker-Brown

Coming-in Song
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Cottage Well Thatched With Straw
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The Farmer & His Wife
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Devon & Somerset Staghounds
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Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime
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Soap Starch & Candles
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Louisa’s Journey
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Down In The Diving Bell
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Bitter Withy
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Tithe Pig
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Egloshayle Ringers
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The Man of Dover
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Nancy Myles
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Sir Francis Drake/The Bold Privateer
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Pleasant & Delightful
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Martin Stimson

Tom and Barbara have produced this super CD, mainly of songs from the West Country. I like regional collections and this one is very well done. Dont get the impression that this is a themed collection - the fifteen songs are so varied that they cover many aspects of life, both contemporary and historical, and the CD has copious sleeve notes to keep you informed.

Other musicians and singers help on the record, but everything is subtly and beautifully done with Tom and Barbaras harmonies really shining through ? they really nail the harmonies! The instrumentation is also tasteful.

The CD opens with Coming in Song, Barry Temples welcoming song, and progresses with the jaunty A Cottage Well Thatched. The Farmer and His Wife tells the tale of marital competition in the work department, with the wife winning hands down! From there on we have a hunting song, some serious material like The Young Girl Cut Down ... and Bitter Withy. Also, humorous songs like Soap, Starch and Candles, and a really good Barbers shop version of Down in the Diving Bell.

Nautical and country songs, serious and humorous, this excellent collection is brought to a close by Pleasant and Delightful - which it is!

Dirty Linen

Steve Winick

Tom and Barbara Brown have been singing West Country songs for donkeys years. Their latest album, Prevailing Winds, brings to bear all their experience in selecting and arranging some of the regions best and most interesting songs. Apocryphal lyrics like The Bitter Withy, in which the child Jesus through negligence drowns three young lords and then gets a beating from Mary, were rarely collected but make great performance pieces, and Toms rich voice and concertina do an unusually satisfying and singable version. Barbara does a similarly round?voiced rendition of The Tithe Pig, the tale of a parson demanding a pig from a farmer, and the hilarity that ensues. Purely local songs like Egloshayle Ringers and Devon and Somerset Staghounds rub shoulders with widespread ballads like The Young Girl Cut Down in her Prime and Pleasant and Delightful. A few songs, like Down in the Diving Bell and Soap, Starch and Candles smack of the music hall, while a couple of others are frankly modern songs by local composers. With a few friends to add harmonies and instrumental accompaniments, the Browns handle it all with style, producing a simple but delightful folk album.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

No, the album title has nothing to do with Tom's digestive system but, at the time of writing having just come back from a mini-tour of the West Country, I can fully agree with their sleeve comments that the wind certainly does prevail from the west! In fact it prevailed from the north-west while I was there so it  was a little 'cool'. So much for summer!

However, I can assure you, dear reader, that this CD is full of warmth and homeliness as the opening tracks 'Coming-in Song' (Barry Temple) and the traditional 'A Cottage Well Thatched With Straw' confirm. Their continuing Battle of the Sexes is well represented both in the sleeve notes and the song 'The Farmer and His Wife' where Barbara maintains that men have problems with multi-tasking. Rubbish (the concept, not the song), of course, proved by the fact that I am cooking breakfast, ironing and writing this review while cutting the grass!

Whatever your thoughts on hunting  there is no doubt that there are a number of excellent songs on the subject including Tom & Barbara's older version of 'Devon and Somerset Staghounds'. There are a number of unusual versions of fairly well known traditional songs on this carefully researched album including probably the nearest you'll get to the original 'Pleasant and Delightful' as sung by the legendary Charlie Bates an interesting variant of  'The Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime'.

As befits the West Country from which most of the songs originate, Tom and Barbara have included a bell-ringing song, 'Egloshayle Ringers' (again from the prolific Mr. Bates) and a lifeboat song 'Louisa's Journey' which is about the boat being hauled over Exmoor to be launched in calmer waters on the other side - sounds like a similar story from the North York Moors?

Amongst these classic songs are a couple of 'fun' ones in 'Soap, Starch and Candles' and, one of my personal favourites, 'Down in the Diving Bell' which Tom sings with relish - it's the thought of those mermaids y'know!

As with their first album many of the tracks are accompanied by Tom's excellent guitar, mandola or English concertina arrangements and backed by a chorus that includes such luminaries as Charley Yarwood, Barry Lister and Cathy Barclay as well as daughter Rowan Walker-Brown. There are also extra accompaniments on some tracks from Keith Holloway, Ralph Jordan, Malcolm Woods and Francis Verdigi. Even one of our ex-local lassies, champion clogger Melanie Barber, gets to step on 'The Tithe Pig'!

All in all a fine follow up to their debut CD with the help of the team at WildGoose

Shreds and Patches

Carly Rose

'This is a delightful album, which neatly gives the lie to the theory that all folk songs have to be miserable. Tom and Barbara have chosen a well balanced selection from across the genre - from light hearted to serious, traditional to contemporary and all of them superbly well crafted. There is also a full supporting cast of singers and musicians - including Charley Yarwoods glorious bass, a cameo performance from

Melanie Barber on foot percussion and the ubiquitous Ralph Jordan whose multi-instrumental talents seem to be in great demand these days.  Im very conscious that I tend to warm to female performers with voices in the lower register - (probably because it makes it easier for me to join in the choruses!) and Barbaras is certainly a case in point.  The closing number is Pleasant and Delightful (which some will know as The Larks they sang Melodious/Melodeons - delete as required). Half way through the first chorus I suddenly discovered I was singing along at the top of my voice - which says it all, I feel.  Her rendition of The Farmer and his Wife has also inspired me to add it to my repertoire - and the sleeve note about the male of our species having a long-standing problem with multi-tasking really hits the spot as well! For me, this album captures the essence of a really good night in a Folk Club, with nothing pretentious or gimmicky about it - and what a refreshing change that is.'

Sing Out


Lovers of English folk songs will welcome this second recording from the forty?year West County veterans. Traditional songs like Sir Francis Drake, The Farmer and His Wife, and The Bitter Withy, some in their distinctive Cornwall or Devon variants, are sung here in a straightforward energetic style. They accompany themselves on, concertina, guitar, and mandola; with some fine guesting on melodeon and fiddle.  


Peter Stevenson

A sweep through the musical traditions of the West Country and beyond, songs largely traditional, some accompanied, some unaccompanied, what more do you want to know?

Well, I could be wrong but I fancy that Tom and Barbara Brown are not exactly household names, although this duos association with folk music and each other dates back to the late 60s and through to the 70s when they were active figures on the folk scene. While the diversions and pressures of life may have temporarily deflected them from their chosen path in more recent years, they are now firmly back on course with this their second recording for Wild Goose and are hoping to bring the traditional songs of their home area to wider attention

Prevailing Winds is a rich collection of varied songs, and given their regional origins, most were new to this London layabout. However, Tom and Barbara are so at home within the medium, that even the unfamiliar sounded reassuringly familiar. Both partners sing, sometimes alone, sometimes together, while a backing of guitar, mandola or concertina, as well as a smattering of guests, ensures a presentational variety, which is continued right through and into the songs themselves. Consequently, Tom and Barbara offer up songs full of tragedy, songs of social history, of naval tradition and lost love, with occasional interjections of humour to lighten the load.

In essence, the fifteen songs which comprise the CD are the epitome of the folk club tradition ?a thoroughly enjoyable collection of warm songs which you might even find yourself joining in with.

Whats Afoot

Music preferences are very much a personal thing, and folk music no less so. I had received this CD for review but it was still in its shrink wrap when a friend mentioned that they thought Prevailing Winds was very ordinary and uninspiring. Having got round ? eventually ? to listening to it I beg to differ. The album is every bit as good as their first one, with a well researehed and well?presented selection of material, some familiar ? even the very familiar Pleasant and Delightful, so popular in the West Country ? and some less so. Tom & Barbara have that rare knack of creating a folk club atmosphere on disc without a live audience recording.

Although the first track, Coming In Song, written by Barrie Temple, is contemporary, it sets a jovial scene for the feast of predominantly traditional songs on the rest of the album, many of which have strong West?Country connections. A Cottage Well Thatched With Straw comes from the singing of of Mrs Foxworthy, and the Cornish connection continues with a version of the Egloshayle Ringers from Charlie Bate of Padstow, who was also the source for some of the delightful Down in The Diving Bell. Exmoor is represented in The Devon & Somerset Staghounds, a starker version of the jolly tune used in the Exmoor Hunt, and in the epic ballad, written by Rachel Jeffs, of the Louisa, Lynmouths lifeboat, hauled across the Moor to Porlock when onshore storms prevented its launch, in January 1899, from its home port to come to the aid of a ship in the Bristol Channel. Space precludes mentioning other great tracks, though Nancy Myles, another modern song well sung by Barbara, is one I mean to learn. Nothing is ordinary or dull about this CD.