West Country Night Out

by Tom and Barbara Brown

Welcome to a West Country Night Out. This CD contains some of the best known and some lesser known songs and tunes from Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Tom and Barbara have drawn together a wealth of talented musicians and singers to complement their own arrangements with other instruments and choruses. Nine of these tracks are previously unreleased; the remainder have been drawn from various of Tom and Barbaras previous CDs. Together, and spanning over 400 years, these tracks give a genuine flavour of the song traditions of the counties that make up the South-West peninsula.



1 Lamorna 
Trad 

Lamorna Cove, near Penzance in Cornwall, has long been a local hot-spot for ‘courting’. Here, a philandering husband gets his come-uppance from his wife who appears to be doing the same thing! The song may originate in a song-sheet about the Pomona pleasure gardens in Manchester (which had a similar ‘courting’ reputation) ~ but whatever the origin, this song has been in the Cornish repertoire for a long time. We had it from any number of singers in North Cornwall. 

2 Dorset 4-hand Reel 
Trad 

A dance tune known in various versions throughout the West Country (and beyond) and most usually used for the dance of the same name.

3 Bridgwater Fair 
Trad 

Bridgwater is in Somerset and the St. Matthew’s Fair is held for four days in the last week of September, having held its charter since 1249. The song was collected by the eminent folk-song scholar Cecil Sharp from Bill Bailey of Cannington, Somerset in 1906, and from Henry Tidball of Wedmore, Somerset in 1907. 

4 Egloshayle Ringers 
Trad 

The West Country keeps up a strong tradition of church bell-ringing even to this day, and consequently there are many West Country bell-ringing songs. The team of bell-ringers, each named in this song, were champions, and came from the village of Egloshayle, just outside Wadebridge in North Cornwall. This version came from Charlie Bate, the great Padstow accordion player and singer, who really saved the song from oblivion. Nowadays, almost every choir in North Cornwall has its own version. 

5 Sir Francis Drake/The Bold Privateer 
Trad 

Devonshire hero Francis Drake was, like many heroes, not exactly what history generally chooses to remember. He was, in effect, a pirate licensed by Elizabeth I ~ a privateer. So following the 400-year old ballad about the first attempt to form a European Union (i.e. The Armada), we’ve added a Cornish march tune which also has its own set of words. 

6 Dartmoor Song 
Bob Cann 

The writer of this song was a melodeon player, step-dancer, singer, storyteller, jig-doll operator and event organiser, and a most remarkable repository of Dartmoor tradition and folklore. His grandson now continues the traditions that Bob loved so dearly. This is Bob’s ‘protest song’ which he wrote when moves were afoot to ‘improve’ the A30 trunk road across Dartmoor in order to give easier access to Cornwall. 

7 Tavistock Guzie Fayre 
Trad 

The legendary goose fair has its origins in a King’s writ of 1116 and since the calendar changes of 1752, it has been held on the second Wednesday of October each year. The song is of later date, and the narrative speaks for itself! 

8 When Mother & Me Joined In 
A.J.Coles 

A.J.Coles was a school teacher, and writer, who created the character and stories about an old countryman by the name of Jan Stewer. The stories were in broad Dartmoor dialect and Jan, with his naïve country ways, acute observations, and social commentary, captured the imagination of West Country folk everywhere. Dressed up as Jan, A.J. Coles toured the villages giving readings of his stories to packed houses ~ to add variety to the evening, he also included a couple of songs: this is one of them. In Devon and Cornwall, of course, ‘Mother’ is the wife, not the woman who gave birth to you! 

9 My Old Game Cock 
Trad 

There are a great many songs that, despite the fact that they apparently make the countryman look foolish or naïve, were exceedingly popular amongst country singers. We were spoilt for choice on this CD, but selected this one not least because most of the others are exclusively men’s songs. Barbara first learnt the song from Jim Stephens of Chulmleigh. 

10 Widecombe Fair 
Trad 

This is the version that many people learnt in school, although there are other versions ~ even in the West Country. Bob Cann (see Dartmoor Song) had his grandfather’s version (with an extra man ~ making eight), and another version (Widdlecombe Fair) comes from Hampshire. If you go to Widecombe-in-the-Moor, and look at the plaque that commemorates the song, you’ll find eight men on the mare! 

11 Where Umber Flows 
Barbara Brown 

The River Umber flows through the village of Combe Martin on the North Devon coast, where we live. Having been exiled in London for the sake of work for fifteen years, Barbara was inspired to write this air when we finally escaped from the South East and returned home. 

12 Mortal Unlucky Ol’ Chap 
Trad 

Over a century ago, there was an old music hall song about a country chap who always had good luck ~ it was called Happy-Go-Lucky Ol’ Chap. This parody, which is much more accurate from the true countryman’s point of view, is still sung throughout Devon and Cornwall, and has survived whilst the original is long lost. Tom had this set of words from Jim Stephens of Chulmleigh. 

13 Bampton Fair 
Paul Wilson 

The fair in Bampton has had its charter since 1258. It is held on the last Thursday in October, and is now primarily a pony fair when the Exmoor ponies are brought down from the moor in ‘The Drift’. The song was written by Paul Wilson in the 1970s and captures something of the essence of horse-fairs wherever they may be! The Romany word ‘grai’, simply means ‘pony’. 

14 Seeds of Love 
Trad 

A classic English lyrical folk song, this was the first that Cecil Sharp recorded. It was sung to him by the fortuitously named John England in Hambridge, Somerset in August 1903 and, arguably, started the entire folk revival of the early twentieth century. This set of words is collated from a variety of sources. 

15 Soap, Starch & Candles 
Trad 

The town of Ilfracombe (‘Combe’ in the song), on the North West tip of Devon, was a small fishing village until the railway arrived ~ it then became a flourishing Victorian holiday destination and the steamships arrived to give cruises up and down the coast. That’s the background to this little love story. We had it from Mick Tems, who collected it from Marjorie Bowden of Mumbles. 

16 Pleasant & Delightful 
Trad 

Known in different variants throughout England, this song is something of an anthem in the West Country ~ known also as William & Nancy’s Parting and The Hartland Anthem. Our version came (like Egloshayle Ringers above) from Charlie Bate of Padstow. It’s a version built for harmony and quite distinct from the more melodic versions from the Eastern counties of England. 

17 Barnstaple Fair 
Trad 

One of some five songs called Barnstaple Fair; this comes from the 1930s and was first published in the local paper. Many fairs have tortuous formulae for determining their dates: Barnstaple Fair starts on the Wednesday preceding the 20th of September and, according to tradition, has done so since the days of King Athelstan who granted the town its charter, including rights to hold both market and fair.

18 Wives of St. Ives 
Trad 

A fantastical little ditty that Tom learnt when he was a young farm labourer in North Cornwall, from Mervyn Vincent of St. Issey. He never discovered where the song originated, but Mervyn had lots of these peculiar little songs ~ several of which were not for publication! 

19 The Watchet Sailor 
Trad 

Another wonderful English lyrical song collected by Cecil Sharp, this time from Captain Lewis (retired) of Minehead, Somerset in 1906. Try walking from Watchet to Bristol overnight, and you’ll get some idea of how determined this sailor was to reclaim his sweetheart.

20 The Farmer’s Boy 
Trad 

Probably one of the most requested songs in our repertoire, and widely known not only in the West Country, but throughout England for at least 200 years. Many countrymen, having lived through times of agricultural depression, identify strongly with the song ~ and it seems that once again agriculture is under threat, what with blunders over disease control, falling produce prices, and a government that tells you when to cut a hedge. No wonder DEFRA is known as the Department for the Eradication of Farming and Rural Activities!

21 March of the Men of Devon 
Trad 

This is actually a Welsh tune (Ymdaith Gwyr Dyfnaint) which came to us from good friends across the Severn Sea. The Gower peninsula is often known as ‘little England beyond Wales’ as it was planted by people from North Devon many centuries ago. 
Lamorna
Lamorna Cove
Dorset 4-hand Reel
A dance tune known in various versions throughout the West Country (and beyond) and most usually used for the dance of the same name.
Sample not available
Bridgwater Fair
Bridgwater is in Somerset and the St. Matthew’s Fair is held for four days in the last week of September
Sample not available
Egloshayle Ringers
The West Country keeps up a strong tradition of church bell-ringing even to this day
Sample not available
Sir Francis Drake/The Bold Privateer
Devonshire hero Francis Drake was
Sample not available
Dartmoor Song
The writer of this song was a melodeon player
Sample not available
Tavistock Guzie Fayre
The legendary goose fair has its origins in a King’s writ of 1116 and since the calendar changes of 1752
Sample not available
When Mother & Me Joined In
A.J.Coles was a school teacher
Sample not available
My Old Game Cock
There are a great many songs that
Sample not available
Widecombe Fair
This is the version that many people learnt in school
Sample not available
Where Umber Flows
The River Umber flows through the village of Combe Martin on the North Devon coast
Sample not available
Mortal Unlucky Ol’ Chap
Over a century ago
Sample not available
Bampton Fair
The fair in Bampton has had its charter since 1258. It is held on the last Thursday in October
Seeds of Love
A classic English lyrical folk song
Sample not available
Soap
Trad
Sample not available
Pleasant & Delightful
Known in different variants throughout England
Sample not available
Barnstaple Fair
One of some five songs called Barnstaple Fair; this comes from the 1930s and was first published in the local paper. Many fairs have tortuous formulae for determining their dates: Barnstaple Fair starts on the Wednesday preceding the 20th of September and
Sample not available
Wives of St. Ives
A fantastical little ditty that Tom learnt when he was a young farm labourer in North Cornwall
Sample not available
The Watchet Sailor
Another wonderful English lyrical song collected by Cecil Sharp
Sample not available
The Farmer’s Boy
Probably one of the most requested songs in our repertoire
Sample not available
March of the Men of Devon
This is actually a Welsh tune (Ymdaith Gwyr Dyfnaint) which came to us from good friends across the Severn Sea. The Gower peninsula is often known as ‘little England beyond Wales’ as it was planted by people from North Devon many centuries ago.
Sample not available

Hotpress

Sarah McQuaid

Descended from musical families on both sides, Tom and Barbara Brown met at Mayday in Padstow, Cornwall, and now make their home in North Devon, where theyve developed several multimedia shows based around the music, history and folklore of Englands West Country. Their new 21-track CD incorporates selections from three earlier albums alongside nine previously unreleased tracks to build up a musical portrait of this regions fertile folk tradition.

Alternating lead and backing vocal duties, the pair are both blessed with deep, powerful voices whose timbres are similar enough to generate the kind of rich, luxuriant harmony one associates more commonly with all-male ensembles. Brown is also an impressive instrumentalist, ably contributing on octave mandola, concertina, melodeon and more; his finger-picked guitar accompaniment on The Watchet Sailor is particularly tasty.

A host of guests help to vary the instrumental arrangements and add their voices to the gorgeously full multi-part choruses of grand old songs like Egloshayle Ringers, Pleasant And Delightful and Wives Of St. Ives.

Eight/Ten

Shreds & Patches

Graham Oldham

Nearly 200 miles from Dorset to Cornwall - this is a vast area to draw from, but this CD centres on Devon, where Tom and Barbara have returned to live. I've lived in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, so I have delved into their folk traditions for some years: Bampton, for example, still hosts a weekly singing session. And this is a fine snapshot of their wares, enhanced by accompanied and unaccompanied, accomplished, precision singing, particularly Barbara's rich, deep honey voice, uncluttered harmonising, and the unobtrusive but adroit work of musicians of noble standing, Ralph Jordan to name but one.

The whole is well-balanced, using all genres - there's an adequate dash of Music Hall: Lamorna; When Mother And Me Joined In; Soap, Starch and Candles; comedy such as Old Game Cock, nationally famous ballads like Pleasant and Delightful and Farmers Boy (each beautifully and movingly executed); and the poignantly "true" Wives of St Ives -an all-male song from an all-male choir - to name a few.

Of 21 tracks, 12 have been released on their previous CDs, but don't let that deter you: the quality and value of this compilation makes it a real gem! Finally, for the record, my favourite is Sir Francis Drake / The Bold Privateer - the first being sung to a roped drum, the second with the addition of the fiddle - both awesomely presented.

Netrythms

David Kidman

This latest offering from Tom and Barbara, those irrepressible West Country singers who are perennially welcome visitors to folk clubs and festivals around this fair isle, has only just come to my attention � however, it was actually issued last year, as what the duo themselves term �a mainly self-funded project, produced specifically for the village hall circuit and for local sales�, and thus not widely circulated outside that remit. It's a generously-filled (72-minute) thematic compilation, which collects together a dozen tracks from the duo's existing recorded output for WildGoose and nine newly-recorded tracks. Indeed, West Country Night Out proves a very attractive stand-alone release, even if you already own one or more of Tom and Barbara's previous three CDs (and if not, then why not?!) � having said which, this compilation may well provide the incidental incentive to complete your collection!� For you can't go wrong with these rich and characterful renditions of songs and tunes, both well-loved and lesser-known, originating from Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Tom and Barbara are the ideal interpreters of this indigenous material, and they can always be relied upon to bring warmth, affection, vital expression and a keen sense of fun to their renditions, whether acappella or with selective yet perfectly-judged instrumental accompaniment.

The programme for this delightful �night out� encompasses typically bracing versions of �popular� (but no less welcome) selections like Tavistock Goosey Fair, The Farmer's Boy, Widecombe Fair and Lamorna, the original �west-ender's song� (well, only because it namechecks Albert Square I guess!), and less well-trodden (though brilliant) comic creations like My Old Game Cock, Mortal Unlucky Ol' Chap and Paul Wilson's Bampton Fair, also the quite charming miniature Barnstaple Fair, within the context of which nestle comfortably more lyrical material like Seeds Of Love, The Watchet Sailor and Barbara's own lovely air Where Umber Flows. The whole disc contains many neglected gems of repertoire that well balance the chestnuts � though even these are blessed with sterling performances that would be hard to better. Although Tom and Barbara are variously augmented by other fine musicians here and there, the freshly-recorded songs are true duo performances (well, virtually � for label boss Doug Bailey adds some chorus vocals!) that really do reflect their companionable, unpretentiously captivating and thoroughly entertaining live act.

Thankfully, you don't need to go all the way to a far-flung west-country village hall to get a copy of this excellent CD � just go to Tom and Barbara's website� And now there's even better news: Tom and Barbara's next all-new CD, another themed collection (the maritime-flavoured Beyond The Quay), is due any time now � can't wait!

Whats Afoot

Jacqueline Patten

The title of this album could not be more fitting: a West Country Night Out is exactly where this CD transports the listener. A night out that lifts the spirits and lingers well beyond the immediate experience. Moreover, with the album readily in their collection, a night out can be enjoyed at any time by anyone.

Comprising 21 tracks, many are firm favourites, associated with the West Country by people far and wide, such as Lamorna, Tavistock Guzie Fair and Widecombe Fair. Some will be new to the majority of the audience: for example, Bampton Fair, written by Paul Wilson in the 1970s, and Barnstaple Fair, first published in a local paper in the 1930s. There are three instrumental numbers, Dorset 4?hand Reel, Where Umber Flows by Barbara Brown and March of the Men of Devon; humour abounds in items like Mortal Unlucky Old Chap, and a song from the pen of `Jan Stewer' (A.J.Coles of Puddington) When Mother and Me Joined In; while all will make nearly everyone join in or tap their feet.

To add further delight, Tom and Barbara are joined by about eighteen singers and instrumentalists, surely a reflection that eleven of the tracks have previously been issued on other CDs: it would be a rare occasion to have so many excellent performers in the same place at the same time. This is a project that could so easily have been misguided, with many of the songs having a special place in the hearts of the listeners, there is the chance of disappointment or contempt. With the excellent understanding of Tom & Barbara for both the material and their audience, there is no danger of that happening.

The robust and enthusiastic performances, however, breathe new life to old songs. As the lyrics are available on the Umber Music website (please see below), everyone can join in while enjoying a West Country Night Out in their own home.