Foreign wars provide the context for this song about the fickleness of one young man, which also features an extraordinarily accommodating young woman with voyeuristic tendencies. Collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. Lock, Muchelney Ham, Somerset in 1904.
2 Seven Little Gypsies
A clash of cultures is enacted in the life and decisions of one woman. This is just one of the many fine versions of this ballad, in which a nobleman’s wife is lured away by one or more gypsies, most of whom subsequently pay for their temerity with their necks. It was collected by Peter Kennedy from Paddy Doran in Belfast in 1952.
3 Adieu, John Barleycorn
Learned from Pete Burnham in Loughborough. Originally recorded by Willard’s Leap (Roy Enticknap, Peter Wray and Graham Walker) who found the poem in Eston Library and set a tune to it. Written in the 18th Century by Mathew Harman of Scarborough, apart from the third verse, which was added by Ron (and I didn’t even notice – Jeff). Possibly the most hypocritical song on the album.
4 Ferryland Sealer
This sealing song comes from Volume 1 of Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, edited by Kenneth Peacock, and published by the National Museum of Canada. The account is brutal and stark, but no cute furry creatures were harmed in the making of this album.
5 Jack Caundle
There are many criminals’ good night songs, offering either repentance or defiance from the gallows. In this one, the protagonist keeps up a running commentary beyond the point where this would normally be humanly possible. Collected by Cecil Sharp from William Stokes at Chew Stoke, Somerset in 1907 and kindly passed on to Ron by Eddie Upton. We particularly like the ideas on interior design in verse three.
6 All Among the Barley
A glorious evocation of harvest time, and one of several songs on this album documenting a love/hate relationship with this delightful and nutritious cereal. Tune by Mike Gabriel, who found the words in a book of poems but can’t now remember the book or the author. Fourth verse added by Ron.
7 Green Bushes
A song about the fickleness of young women, not to mention the deviousness of young men. The interpretation of the concept of loyalty in this song seems to be somewhat elastic. Collected from Lementina Brazil of Over, near Gloucester, by Pete Shepheard.
Sometimes known as ‘The Two Brothers’ or ‘My Son David’, this is a powerful ballad in which the violence of the action is matched by the tragic beauty of the imagery. It shares some verses with ‘Lucy Wan’. Learned by Ron from Chris Gladwyn in Cheltenham, this is largely the version as sung by the wonderful Paddy Tunney, under yet another title: ‘What put the blood?’
9 Rocking the Cradle
Another fickle young woman, and a severe case of generalisation by an embittered man. Partly from a recording by Buffy Sainte-Marie; partly learned from Jill Smith, founder of the long deceased but fondly remembered Exmouth Arms folk club, in Cheltenham.
10 The Soldiers Return From the Wars
A celebratory song, full of joy, anticipation (and wishful thinking) on the part of the soldiers. Learned from Dave Stephenson, although we didn’t know where he had found it. Roy Palmer was able to identify it as coming from Thomas D’Urfey’s Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719/1720 edition). He is not aware of any version of the song having been discovered in the oral tradition. This version also features an instrumental digression into Brighton Camp or The Girl I Left Behind Me.
11 Thomas the Rhymer
Thomas Rymour apparently lived in Ercildoune in the 13th Century, although the historicity of the journey described in this song is surely open to question. Published in ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’. This version was collated from various sources and Anglicised.
12 John Barleycorn
Probably the most violent song on the album, but it’s all metaphorical (so that’s all right!) Words as sung by ‘Shepherd’ Haden of Bampton in Oxfordshire, collected by Cecil Sharp in 1909; tune learned by Ron from Dave Swarbrick in Sidmouth, 1969 (although it may have changed slightly since!)
13 Kind Friends and Companions
A farewell song with a particularly fine chorus. From Sue Burgess, who learned it from Taffy Thomas while he was getting his hair cut.