Ghosts & Greasepaint

by Barry Lister

Barry Lister must be one of the best ballad singers in the country. He has been singing in groups since the sixties but this is his first solo album. It is not quite solo since Barry has brought in some of his friends to provide other voices and some backings.

Barry Lister: Vocals

Additional vocals: Tom Addison, Dave Lowry, Sean OShea

Guitars and melodeon: Ed Rennie

Violin and viola: Jackie Oates

1 Edwin in the Lowlands 

I had this song from that great little book, The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Collected in 1907 by Vaughan Williams and Charles Gamblin, I have sung it for more years than I care to remember. What a great drama! 

2 The Trim Rigged Doxy 

Again, a long-time favourite of mine, though I can’t remember where I got it. Many years ago I sang it for Alan Dilly of Great Western Morris to dance to in the Sidmouth Jig Competition. He didn’t win. 

3 Hunting the Hare 

Sung by Barrys new group - The Claque Dave Lowry extracted this many years ago in the 70s from the Baring-Gould manuscripts. It was collected in the 1890s from Mr Nankivel (known as Old Capul) at Merrivale Bridge. Baring-Gould’s assistant, Mr Bussell, thought that the tune was a 17th Century dance tune. 

4 George Collins 

Also from ‘Penguin’ this is another old friend. This version does not give the full story. For instance, the girl by the stream is a water sprite and is angry at his marrying a mortal. There are many variants. 

5 The Factory Set 

The Handloom Weaver and the Factory Maid trad. The Factory Girl Jagger/Richards The Doffing Mistress trad. Monday Morning Cyril Tawney Tom and I, on our journeys between Cheltenham and Exeter for Songwainers practices, would sing to each other. This set is the result of a trip or two. I think our old friend Cyril would approve and I hope Mick Jagger and Keith Richards do too. 

6 St. James Hospital 

One of the first songs I learnt, and most definitely from the singing of A L Lloyd, who had a great influence on me. Great drama again. 

7 Sir Richards Song 

One of my favourite songs from Oak, Ash and Thorn (Kipling/Bellamy). Peter Bellamy often stayed with me in Devon and told me of this forthcoming LP. He duly presented me with it and the accompanying song book on the understanding that I would sing some of the songs. I have, and I also read Puck of Pook’s Hill. What great songs and stories. 

8 Limadie 

Sean and I have sung this for ever. He can’t think where he got the tune but the words are probably from several versions. We recently discovered that we have both sung it in productions of Lark Rise. 

9 The Bonny Bunch of Roses 

I learned this for Folk South West’s production of As I Walked Out to celebrate Cecil Sharp’s centenary of collecting his first folk song in Hambridge, Somerset. To sing this in the village and meet some of the descendants of the source singers was very moving. 

10 Come to my Window 

Sung by - The Claque Another song from Baring-Gould. He believed that the tune was Elizabethan. It was collected from a blacksmith, John Woodrich (also known as Ginger Jack), who had heard it in an alehouse in Bideford in 1864. Dave and I first recorded it in 1976 with ‘Isca Fayre’. 

11 Long Lankin 

This started out as my solo and we also arranged it for four voices when Sean and I sang with Alison and the late Martin Bloomer in ‘Hollinmor’. Lots of suspense, violence and gore, and a great piece of theatre. 

12 Admiral Benbow 

Dave Lowry found this in Exeter Library but can’t remember in what! It certainly appears in The British Tar in Fact and Fiction, according to the late Dave Stevenson of ‘The Songwainers’. 

13 Jack Orion 

One of the oldest songs in my repertoire, its Welsh roots date back to the 9th Century. Chaucer remarks on it in the 1380s. Though long forgotten in its Welsh form, it lives on as Glenkindie in Scotland. A L Lloyd put this tune to Glasgerion, and so it lives on. Tom was a bit of a naughty boy, but hanging was a bit harsh I think. 
Edwin in the Lowlands
I had this song from that great little book
Sample not available
The Trim Rigged Doxy
Hunting the Hare
Sung by Barrys new group - The Claque Dave Lowry extracted this many years ago in the 70s from the Baring-Gould manuscripts. It was collected in the 1890s from Mr Nankivel (known as Old Capul) at Merrivale Bridge. Baring-Gould’s assistant
Sample not available
George Collins
Also from ‘Penguin’ this is another old friend. This version does not give the full story. For instance
Sample not available
The Factory Set
The Handloom Weaver and the Factory Maid trad. The Factory Girl Jagger/Richards The Doffing Mistress trad. Monday Morning Cyril Tawney Tom and I
Sample not available
St. James Hospital
One of the first songs I learnt
Sir Richards Song
One of my favourite songs from Oak
Sample not available
Sean and I have sung this for ever. He can’t think where he got the tune but the words are probably from several versions. We recently discovered that we have both sung it in productions of Lark Rise.
Sample not available
The Bonny Bunch of Roses
I learned this for Folk South West’s production of As I Walked Out to celebrate Cecil Sharp’s centenary of collecting his first folk song in Hambridge
Sample not available
Come to my Window
Sung by - The Claque Another song from Baring-Gould. He believed that the tune was Elizabethan. It was collected from a blacksmith
Sample not available
Long Lankin
This started out as my solo and we also arranged it for four voices when Sean and I sang with Alison and the late Martin Bloomer in ‘Hollinmor’. Lots of suspense
Sample not available
Admiral Benbow
Dave Lowry found this in Exeter Library but can’t remember in what! It certainly appears in The British Tar in Fact and Fiction
Sample not available
Jack Orion
One of the oldest songs in my repertoire
Sample not available

Shreds & Patches

Chris Yorkie Bartram

Simply sublime.

From the first line of the first track you are drawn into those magical yet familiar worlds that folk songs create. It has been said that radio has better pictures than television but, I would argue, folk songs have the best pictures of all. However - they need to be sung - and it's best if they're sung by someone who can see all the pictures and the layers of meaning. Here is a man who not only has that ability but also has a superbly rich and expressive voice with which to transmit the whole range of images from romantic to horrific to lyrical and beyond. For example, listen to the exquisite phrasing and tonal variation as he sings, "She hooped, she hollered, she highered her voice, she lifted her lily-white hand". You understand, completely and immediately, why George Collins doesn't hesitate to swim across the river! Or, in contrast, those grotesque and fascinating verses in Long Lankin about blood everywhere. Or listen to the simple clarity of expression for the beautifully romantic words of Limadie.

Barry has a great natural sense of tuning and empathy refined by long experience of thinking about and singing these songs. He is a long?time member of The Songwainers and has worked with the National Theatre and Folk South West. Over the years he has worked with other very talented people and a few of them appear on this CD. It's another plus-point, in my opinion, that he doesn't hog all the limelight - how many `solo' albums do you know of where another singer is given a solo song? (Tom Addison here sings The Handloom Weaver as the first part of a medley of songs about factory life.) There's lots of lovely harmony-singing on several tracks - from Tom, Dave Lowry and Sean O'Shea and exemplary accompaniment from Ed Rennie on guitar and melodeon and Jackie Oates on fiddle. Highlights for me include Sean's harmonies on the aforementioned Limadie, the ensemble singing on Hunting the Hare and the complex yet uncomplicated instrumental arrangement on Sir Richard's Song. As always, it's the unaccompanied tracks that get my greatest preference, but if you're going to have accompaniment, it's hard to imagine any better than this.

It saddens (and, quite frankly, amazes) me that Barry Lister isn't really well-known. He should be near the top of the bill at every festival in the country. So why isn't he? Well, I guess it may be because he doesn't pander to the stereotypes that some people want from singers of traditional songs. With his carefully trimmed beard, his ear-ring and refined taste in clothes he is never going to look like the archetypal farm-labourer - nor does he wish to, I'm sure. (And, incidentally, I live in a farming community and very few genuine farm-labourers look the part these days) The title of this CD mentions `greasepaint'; the front cover features a painting with theatrical masks; the notes describe songs as 'great drama' and `a great piece of theatre' and - with his impeccable diction; fabulous phrasing and carefully measured dynamics - he uses all the skills of an actor. He even looks like an actor in the photo on the CDT (Oops, is that me admitting to my own stereotypical thinking?) These hints of theatricality may seem at odds with the common ethos of folk music - all that rough-and-ready, untutored country-folk stuff - and, unfortunately, it seems to prejudice some folk club and festival organisers. But it's just not right. Barry is, in the most important sense, an absolutely `traditional' singer - a transmitter of songs that have survived through generations (or will be passed on in similar manner e.g. Cyril Tawney's On a Monday Morning). I'm sure he enjoys making wonderful sounds with his voice but the clarity of his delivery is always used to the service of the song - not to impress us with it's own quality. It is always evident that he wants the story to take absolute precedence over any other aspects of performance. He is one of my favourite singers and I don't get to see him often enough so I sincerely hope this CD will lead to him getting lots more bookings at clubs and festivals up this way. Organisers, please take note.

This CD is - in case you haven't guessed - very highly recommended.


Roy Harris

I could almost review this album without listening to it!  I have known Barry Lister and heard him sing over many years, as a stalwart of the folk scene in the West Country, former resident of the famed Jolly Porter Folk club, Exeter, and a regular presence at Sidmouth festival.  

For my money all he had to do was sing up to his usual standard and a worthwhile album would be the result.  He did. And it is.   Anyone who values the traditional ballads sung with storytelling skill, in a voice of resonant sweetness, will be delighted with this. .

'Long Lankin', and 'Young Edwin' breathe again with the Lister treatment, and 'Admiral Benbow' springs a surprise by being the rousing version done by the Songwainers years ago. Well done Barry and Wildgoose too.

Folk NorthWest

Derek Gifford

Rather surprisingly, considering Barry Listers long association with the folk scene, this is his first solo album. He is, and always has been, a fine interpreter and performer of traditional songs particularly ballads. He begins with two fairly well known standards, Young Edwin in the Lowlands  and The Trim Rigged Doxy, but things get more interesting with Hunting the Hare. This is one from the Baring-Gould manuscripts that Ive not heard before. He is joined on this song by Tom Addison, Dave Lowry and Sean OShea (AKA The Claque) who also appear on one or two other tracks

A fine rendition of a version of George Collins follows. He then launches into The Factory Set which comprises The Handloom Weaver and the Factory Maid, The Factory Girl, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards which is one of only three non-traditional songs on the entire album, The Doffing Mistress and Cyril Tawneys Monday Morning which he shares with Tom Addison. An interesting mix of material if nothing else!

Next follows a version of Saint Jamess Hospital from the singing of the late, great Bert Lloyd. On the next track, Sir Richards Song from the Kipling/Bellamy collection, Barry is joined on fiddle by Jackie Oates and on guitar by Ed Rennie who add a hauntingly appropriate accompaniment. Sean sings along with him on Limadie which is something of a hybrid love song and again is a new one to me. Its probably also the only folk song where Ive heard a spinet mentioned!

The rest of the album comprises of fairly well known songs including The Bonny Bunch of Roses (the ballad not the shanty!), Come to my Window sung (in low register) by The Claque, a version of Long Lankin and Admiral Benbow. The whole thing is rounded off with an extremely old but lively song called Jack Orion who was a fiddler and therefore is appropriately accompanied by Jackie.

This CD will probably appeal only to a limited audience who appreciate superbly performed and produced traditional folk song which is a great pity because our music deserves  wider recognition and what better protagonist than Barry Lister to promote it?

(A Claque is a group of hired applauders or sycophantic supporters - yes, I confess, I did have to look it up in the dictionary!)


David Kidman

The second of (coincidentally) two CDs in the same issue with a Songwainer connection! For according to the WildGoose website, Barry sang in the revived Songwainers. But initially I gleaned little else in terms of background information, aside from his name appearing among the list of organisers of the revitalised Sidmouth Festival. Apparently, following an early theatre career (hence the CDs title reference), Barry began his folk apprenticeship in the mid-60s with the Exeter Traditional FSC, subsequently singing with harmony groups Isca Fayre and Hollinmor, then latterly The Claque (Dave Lowry, Sean OShea and Tom Addison), who join him en-masse for two of this CDs tracks (and then each of them individually on one more song apiece).

Barry sings just five of the CDs 13 tracks completely unaccompanied; these tend to be the big ballads (big in stature, yet here none lasts more than six minutes as it turns out), for these are Barrys forte without a shadow of doubt. The CDs opener, Young Edwin In The Lowlands, is a masterly, nay tremendous retelling of the ballad which sets out Barrys stall extremely persuasively. Barrys rendition is measured, unerringly paced and lovingly phrased, savouring the story and taking the requisite time but never dragging it out, while imparting a dynamism of expression suiting the ebb and flow of the text yet without resorting to dramatic posturing or over-theatricality. These basic characteristics of approach apply to each song Barry tackles, but each performance sounds freshly minted and spontaneous.

The timbre of Barrys voice is gorgeous, whatever the register; outwardly his singing seems quite gentle, laid-back often at times, but listen closely and you find it exhibits a tender strength thats both immensely appealing and interpretatively satisfying. The phrase that probably best sums up Barrys singing is quiet excitement; this quality would seem to apply both to Barrys attitude to singing itself and to the effect his singing has on this listener, for Barrys control of expressive and rhythmic nuance is exemplary. Economical too, for Barry coaxes great drama from St Jamess Hospital in less than three minutes yet it never seems rushed. Even the version of George Collins that Barry uses doesnt feel as incomplete as Barry admits, so persuasive is his telling of the tale.

The non-solo tracks turn out to be equally addictive: Barry and Tom join forces for an epic eight-minute Factory Set, an imaginative medley of two traditional songs, Cyril Tawneys Monday Morning and the Stones (Beggars Banquet) number Factory Girl, while Barrys rendition of Limadie with Sean is obviously born of years of experience in moulding tune and words into a satisfying performing version. The Claques dance-like take on Hunting The Hare (which isnt the song you expect it to be!) is great fun. For the majority of the remainder of the CD, Barry brings in a modicum of instrumental accompaniment, courtesy of Ed Rennie (guitar, melodeon) and Jackie Oates (violin, viola), the latter especially beguiling on the faster-paced Jack Orion and a well-judged rendition of the Bellamy classic Sir Richards Song (here, however, Eds guitar line sounds unusually dull in terms of presence and balance). This CD does a real service in bringing an exceptionally fine singer into the limelight, a singer who deserves to be heard much more widely.

The Living Tradition

Paul Burgess

Barry Who? This may be the question you ask when looking at the photo of an elegant gentleman with a trim white beard.

If you don't know ﷓ shame on you! During the last few summers I have heard headlining acts who can't hold a candle to the quality of voice and performance on display here. So why isn't he getting the same sort of acclaim? Well he's not a youngster, has no gimmicks or backing from laptop computers ﷓ what instruments he chooses as accompaniment on a few of his songs are firmly rooted in the tradition ﷓ the restrained melodeon of Ed Rennie and the lyrical fiddle and viola of Jackie Oates (a Wintersette) ﷓ or other unaccompanied voices.

From his theatrical background this singer has an unerring grasp of two components vital to successful performance: how to pace a song and how to tell a story. His mastery of these abilities is shown here in abundance, but with none of the flash or showiness that sometimes comes with the greasepaint.

The material is well varied, mostly classic stuff rubbing shoulders with a couple of more unusual numbers and this helps to give the album the solidity that comes with first﷓class material being performed by a first﷓class singer. Hopefully his involvement with running the song concerts at the Bedford during Sidmouth Folk Week will bring him to wider notice ﷓ as should this CD.

Barry Lister has been singing this sort of material longer than most, in groups such as Isca Fayre (check out the LP photo!), Hollinmore and the Songwainers, but I think this is his first solo outing, so salutations to WildGoose for yet another gem.


Gavin Atkin

Barry Lister's name and singing will be well known to almost anyone who has visited Sidmouth Folk Festival and has an interest in traditional singing, and to many others in the West Country. This CD is a powerful reminder that he should be far better known.

For one thing, Barry is an outstanding interpreter of the most challenging songs, including the ballads, and these days there are far too few singers who feel able to address this kind of material. For another, when Barry's singing one of the big ones, it's clear he has worked nard on every detail. He has an excellent range of stylistic elements to work with, and every iota of his vibrato, every turn, every variation of tempo is there for a reason that has something to do with the story he's telling.

After repeated listening to Ghosts & Greasepaint, I'm convinced that he has derived many of these elements from a fistful of important singers of the past, and chat many new singers developing their own stvle from traditional sources could benefit from studying his delivery. I'm also struck by his beautiful pitching, no matter where he goes in his impressive range.

This CD includes a range of songs from the frivolous to the majestic, but there's no doubt in my mind that the outstanding tracks are also the most demanding for a singer. We're not spared any of the brutality of 'Young Edwin in the Lowlands' or 'Long Lankin', or the tragedy of 'George Collins' or 'St James's Hospital', which for me is the best thing on the disc. It seems churlish to complain, but if there's anything I'd have liked from this disc, it would have been still more of Barry on his own. His friends sing exemplary harmonies, and the instrumental playing on this disc is excellent, even if it does occasionally distract. But in the end, the big solo songs are the stars of the show, and more than justify the cost of the disc.

Whats Afoot

Bob Butler

You'd be forgiven for thinking, at first sight of the track list, that this is a ballads album. But then what's this? ... The Trim Rigged Doxy... Monday Morning... The Factory Girl (Jagger/Richards)! Indeed there's plenty of variety on Barry's first solo album.

Barry is joined on some tracks by his mates Tom Addison, Dave Lowry and Sean O'Shea. But only Come To My Window is sung ensemble; instead Barry rings the changes with duets. He gives up the lead to Dave on Admiral Benbow. Little old Limadie (how many times have you heard someone sing it under various titles?) is refreshed by Barry and Sean in harmony. More surprises with Tom and Barry's Factory Set: The Handweaver and the Factory Maid / The Factory Girl (by the aforementioned Mick & Keith) / The Doing Mistress /Monday Morning (C.Tawney). The two traditional songs are undiminished in this unfamiliar company; the modern images of the factory bring another dimension to their idealised factory maids. My only complaint is that, as the four songs stand up for themselves in their contrasting arrangements, I would have liked a slightly longer pause between them. A few tracks have the bonus of sensitive accompaniment from Ed Rennie and/or Jackie Oates, both highly-rated musicians who respect traditional song. Despite its twentieth-century origin, the stately Sir Richard's Song acquires an almost medieval ambience.

What of the 'ghosts and greasepaint' in the album's title? Well, Barry manages to avoid calling up the shades of Peter Bellamy and Cyril Tawney, but I thought I heard A.L. Lloyd during Jack Orion (nothing wrong with that, of course), which is appropriately accompanied on fiddle by Jackie. I couldn't smell any 'greasepaint' at all: the up-tempo and harmony tracks are never theatrical, while on the slower ballads Barry's warm resonant voice is subtly expressive, and he decorates the turns gently with obvious affection. Clearly all these songs are old friends for Barry, although he's actually been singing Bonny Bunch of Roses for only a few years. Barry's exemplary diction ensures that words are never sacrificed to decoration or a sprightly pace.

The CD booklet is informative and attractively (and legibly!) laid out, with thumbnail photos of all the artists. At thirteen tracks, including one comprising four songs, it's a big album with enough colour and depth for many plays.


Steve Danby

Barry Lister has been on the folk scene for longer than I can remember. The first time I saw him perform was when he stood in at short notice as the guest at my home folk club in Bodmin. That was about 38 years ago. Barry has always been and still is a superb singer of traditional songs and ballads.

Over the  years he has sung both on his own and with such memorable harmony groups as the Songwainers and Isca Fayre. There have probably been more recent (and current) involvements that I am uninformed about as I had lost touch with the `up country' singer from Exeter. I am, therefore, very pleased to review his new CD, and have the chance to say a few things about a singer from the West Country whom I don't think is that well known to a wider folk audience. To my mind there are folk CDs that are of interest purely as traditional recordings and as a source of material for songs and singing styles. Although very important, the quality of some of these recordings is not good for understandable reasons such as the age of the performers and the recording venue. Then, on the other hand, there are recordings mainly by revival singers and musicians, and from these you expect something different. These to my mind should be well recorded and should be recordings that you can enjoy listening to at home many times over. This demands real quality because what we all enjoy at a live session is a different animal to a professional modern recording. This brings me back to Barry Lister and his CD, Ghosts & Greasepaint. This is certainly a recording that I can enjoy over and over. He is not on his own but has other singers and musicians accompanying him which gives a balance between the 'heavy' ballads.

Barry sings in an easy gentle traditional style with decoration and subtlety. The first track, Young Edwin in the Lowlands, is sung as well as you will hear it sung. Having said what I have said this CD may not appeal to all, but it will to those of you who enjoy `the song'.

The Folk Mag

Clive Brooks

Although he has been singing for more than forty years, this is Barry's first solo album. Over the years, he has been involved in various groupings including Isca Fayre and Hollinmor and is currently a member of The Claque.

Barry sings five of the thirteen tracks solo and is joined (vocally) on five tracks by the other members of The Claque and (instrumentally) on three tracks by Ed Rennie and Jackie Oates. Barry is a fine singer with a rich sweet voice. His diction and phrasing are as close to perfect as you can get, and he sings the songs so that the stories within them come through to the full. All in all, a wonderful performer.

The fare is mainly traditional and mostly pretty well known and, of course, none the worse for that. The traditional songs include George Collins, Saint James' Hospital and Young Edwin in the Lowlands. The non-traditional songs are Sir Richard's Song (Kipling/Bellamy), Monday Morning (Cyril Tawney) and the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards song The Factory Girl. These last two songs comprise half of the four-song Factory Set, the other two being The Handloom Weaver and the Factory Maid and The Doffing Mistress. This is an interesting juxtaposition of songs which are quite different from each other but which I think works well.

The vocal work done by his companions in The Claque is of a good standard throughout and, although it's the unaccompanied songs which get my vote, on the accompanied tracks, Barry is well-served by Ed (guitar and melodeon) and Jackie (violin and viola), especially the latter.

Highly recommended - an album to be proud of.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy & Bob Drage

Barry is a fine singer, well known on the folk scene & at festival singarounds. His choice of material is very wide, ranging from traditional to Jagger/Richards. He loves the drama and theatre of songs -'Young, Edwin in the Lowlands', 'St. Jame's Hospital', & 'Long Lankin'. The Factory Set places traditional 'Handloom Weaver/Factory Maid/Doffing Mistress' with 'Monday Morning' (Tawney) and 'The Factory Girl' (Jagger/Richards) equally well - A lovely intertwining of songs. Whatever Barry sings is good, from seasongs 'Bonni Bunch of Roses' to 9th century 'Jack Orion'. Joined by Tom Addison, Dave Lowry, Sean O'Shea, Ed Rennie & Jackie Oates.

A fine CD that should be in everyone's collection.

The Folk Diary

Vic Smith

Barry Lister first became involved in folk song through the famed club at

the Jolly Porter in Exeter in the mid-60s and has been one of the main

movers and shakers on the folk scene in the West Country for decades now and

was one of the people who stepped in when it was feared that the mighty

Sidmouth Festival might founder.

He has been a member of a number of leading harmony groups including Isca

Fayre and The Songwainers and there are some harmony tracks in the company

of some long-term associates and there's also some instrumental

accompaniments from Ed Rennie on melodeon and Jackie Oates on fiddle.

However, the most effective performances here are when Barry's fine

expressive voice is heard without any adornment as on 'The Bonny Bunch Of

Roses' and 'Long Lankin'.