A collection of mostly English traditional songs and tunes from this new and exciting partnership. Roys clear vocals and accomplished concertina are enhanced by Neils musicianship as he complements the songs and inspires the tunes on fiddle and octave fiddle.
I learned the Cheshire May Song from Reg Holmes, a retired railway man from Norley, Cheshire. Songs like this one were in fact usually sung in April as they were heralding the approach of this special time of year rather than celebrating its arrival.
The Rambling Royal, collected by A L Lloyd from Frank Jeffries in 1938, deals with the rare subject of the resolve and determination required to run away from the military. A young man joins the Royal Marines while under the influence of alcohol and then continually tries to desert, eventually succeeding with the help of his girl friend in Birkenhead.
The song we refer to as All Smiles Tonight is basically the version collected by Mike Yates from George Newman of Clanfield, Oxfordshire and printed in the English Country Songbook, edited by Roy Palmer, under the title of Fare Thee Well, Cold Winter. Although not exactly a happy song, it has a good chorus and is one we often use to round off a set or an evening.
I first heard Bold Lovell sung by my good friend Tom Miller who always felt the song needed to be sung to the accompaniment of a solo, driving fiddle. We tried it out and wholeheartedly agree with him.
Cecil Sharp collected Lovely Nancy (Roud 688) from William Stokes at Chew Stoke, Somerset, in 1906, though I have added a couple of extra verses gleaned from various broadside texts. I particularly like the references to Liverpool and Chester, which give the song something of a local feel.
Written by Barrie Temple, River Days is about the Swan Hunter shipyard on Tyneside,which ceased to build ships in 1994, and now exists only as a ship repairer. Needless to say, after 127 years of continuous trade the sudden and unexpected loss of jobs created hardships and left something of a bitter taste in the mouths of many people who relied on the industry for their livelihood.
Andrew Rose is a rather disturbing song made all the more so by the knowledge that it chronicles an actual event in our not too distant past. In 1856, on board the homeward bound Martha and Jane, Captain Henry Rogers subjected able seaman Andrew Rose (or Ross) to such treatment that he did not survive the voyage back to England. He was beaten more or less on a daily basis and subjected to a constant regime of unnecessary cruelty. When Rose eventually died his body was cast overboard without ceremony but on reaching Liverpool, his shipmates went to the police. After trial at the assizes Captain Rogers was sentenced to death.
Sights of London is in the Hammond Gardiner manuscripts, as Ize Yorkshire, Though In Lunnon with a tune collected in Dorset in 1907 and words from The Merry Minstrel printed by Swindells of Manchester around 1830. We have, however, reworked both the words and tune to create the version given here.
When Our Ship Comes Home is from the Joseph McGinnis collection of the 1920s entitled Songs of the Dogwatch. I learned it from the fine American singer and musician Bob Walser who also composed the tune.
Hard as a sailors life could be he always had respect for a fair and good captain, often represented by some incarnation of the Mr Stormalong character, a major figure in sailors folklore. The version here is something of an amalgam based on the singing of Bob Roberts but with verses and variations from other sources, most notably Stan Hugills Shanties from the Seven Seas and Joanna Colcords Roll and Go.
Our choice of tunes reflects our English background, though they themselves cannot really be said to have nationalities. Most traditional tunes float happily around between cultures and locations, adapting to the styles of the musicians who play them.
A good example is The Rugged Sailor. An early Northumbrian version in 6/4 time (but debatably working better in 9/4) may be found in the Henry Atkinson MS of 1694. Since then, it has travelled extensively, changing its name and time signature on the way, and it turns up over 100 years later in the Lake District as a reel (The Ragged Sailor, Browne MS). Irish musicians know it as the slip-jig Give us a drink of Water. Good tunes are always adaptable, and I play this tune as an air to set a slightly sinister tone for the song that follows.
Our Cheshire roots make the inclusion of A Cheshire Round a must! The title is a generic name for a number of 3/2 tunes, which often have several parts, taking the form of variations on the main theme. One can imagine the latter day virtuoso bagpipe player performing these tunes in an improvisational style not unlike that of a modern jazz saxophonist.
Playford describes the Cheshire Round dance as a longways set, though the original form of the dance appears to have been (logically) a circle dance, which could even be performed as a solo. It is likely that the steps and figures were also improvised to a certain extent, in keeping with the music. The version we play is one of the more unusual variants.
We follow Cheshire Round with one of the most well known 3/2 (or triple) hornpipes, The Dusty Miller, although we have an unusual setting. It is often thought to be Scottish, as Robert Burns wrote words to the tune, the resultant song becoming popular as a Nursery Rhyme. We balance the two melodies by the addition of a third part (thanks to Lyn Law, of Chester, for this), and some modal changes to give what we claim to be a Cheshire version!The two jigs, French Dance and The Ball are classic, though seldom played, Sussex dance tunes from c1800. They may be found in the manuscripts of the Welch family of Bosham.
Another Round is always welcome during an evening's music making! A humble attempt to compose a tune in the style of a Cheshire Round, this triple time hornpipe leads into the fiery Carpenters Morris, which comes to us via John Offords splendid collection of often challenging tunes dating from before 1750, John of the Greeny Cheshire Way.
The song Sights of London leads into The Shropshire Lass, a dance tune found in later editions of Playfords Dancing Master but still well known and highly popular with English musicians and rightly so!
The Unicycle arose during a brief period when I possessed (and occasionally wobbled about on) one of these singular inventions. The melody was originally composed as a melodeon piece. Anyone learning the tune on this instrument will notice that it alternates back and forth across the two rows, in a similar fashion to how one rides a unicycle!