Stones on the Ground

by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

Maybe folk songs are like stones. You pick up the ones you like, you arrange them together, you put the in your pocket and carry them for a while and then put them down or pass them on. Treated well, they’ll last forever.

Vicki Swan :- Vocals, Nyckelharpa, Scottish Smallpipes, 
Flute, Whistle, Double Bass

Jonny Dyer :- Vocals, Guitars, Piano Accordion, Piano

Guest Musicians
Mark Southgate - Bass Guitar
Pete Flood - Percussion

1. Billy Boy / Nancy’s Fancy
(Lyrics vs 1-4, Trad, vs 5-7 J. Dyer. Melody J. Dyer / J. Dyer)
The best known version of this song was collected by Sharp in Somerset 1904 from the singing of Lizzie Welch. Standard versions cover the evening and night of Billy and Nancy’s courtship. This version carries on to the end of their lives.

2. Viggo’s Vaggvisa / Dancing Out
V. Swan / V. Swan
Viggo is the newest addition to Vicki’s family in Sweden so it seemed appropriate to write him a lullaby The alliteration of the Swedish word vaggvisa (lullaby) with Viggo’s name was too good an opportunity to pass by!
Dancing Out is a jolly tune about the joy of dancing out of a place and off into the future with all opportunities and possibilities wide open.

3. Broken Token
(Lyrics Trad arr. J. Dyer. Melody J. Dyer)
Collated from a number of traditional variations on the broken token theme. Boy goes off to make a fortune but somehow has the foresight to think that on his return, his true love won’t recognise him. Perhaps in disguise, on his return he wants to find out if she has been faithful. In all the versions we have read, there’s never been a reference of her seeing if he has been faithful. That’s equality for you!

4. Emily’s Waltz / Gilwilly
(J. Dyer / J. Dyer)
Two tunes in E melodic minor with a slight Breton feel. Gilwilly, short for “Gilwilly Trading Estate” is the birthplace of Jonny’s new guitar.

5. En Gång / Singi Sunset
Trad / V. Swan
A Swedish song about getting married. Rough Translation:
One day you’ll stand next to me and the priest will ask if you will be my one chosen friend. I won’t grieve if you say ‘no’, there will be someone out there that loves me.
Ploughing but not sowing; proposing but getting turned down. Rather a cold heart than a cold minded friend. My heart it smiles in me when I look at you at and think about how we could be.
The priest takes the forth the book and asks us the vows. Then takes the ring of reddest gold. Puts it on my hand, it is a wedding band. Now you have become my gracious husband.
The opening tune which is woven throughout the song refers to a hiking hut on the King’s Trail up in Northern Sweden: Two days hike from the nearest road where we spent a fantastic candlelit evening recovering from climbing the tallest mountain in Sweden, Kebnekaise.

6. Button Oak / The Polecat
(J. Dyer / J. Dyer)
Our pub has closed to be replaced by houses, we have a new bypass coming soon, people come and people go, everything changes – but Button Oak just stands there watching and waving at the wind.

7. Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena
Translation V. Swan - Lyrics Arr J. Dyer - Melody J. Dyer
A major murder ballad, traced back through several different Swedish ballad collections. We gathered up 52 verses on our journey putting together this ballad (including old Norwegian). Vicki translated (with help from various family members), Jonny edited, made it rhyme and generally made it into an understandable saga. This is a classic ‘man proposes and lady declines’ story. The lady’s rejection statement by Lena caught our imagination:
“I would take more heed of the stones on the ground than you in your finery, there is dog in my mothers house with coarse and matted hair, I would rather kiss that little dogs lips than you in your kingdom fair”
From our research is unclear why Hillebrand gets so incensed by Lena. One story says that Lena knows she will die in childbirth and so is avoiding Hillebrand for that reason.

8. Valnötslångdans
(J. Dyer)
A Smallpipe duet. One set in D and one set in A. This only works if the A pipes can have D drones (or no drones). Playing this live might be a little tricky.

9. Lord Randall
(Lyrics Trad arr. J. Dyer. Melody J. Dyer)
Child Ballad #12. Thought to be one of the oldest traditional ballads of England, it might be about Randolph, 6th Earl of Chester who died in 1232. A young lord is poisoned by his ‘love’. In the song he bequeaths his estate to his family and justice to his poisoner.

10. The Cedar Fence / The Three legged Rant
(J. Dyer / J. Dyer)
The Cedar Fence is a stomp tune in C-Dorian. Keeping the same pulse, The Three Legged Rant would be a rant but for the rhythmical emphasis on the offbeats in the ‘B part’.

11. The Oxford and ‘Ampton Railway / The Broken Spike
(Lyrics Trad arr. J. Dyer. Melody J. Dyer / J. Dyer)
The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton railway was finished in 1853. This song was clearly written before its completion when there was great enthusiasm for how wonderful the line would be for all. After its opening, it was known as ‘the worse and worser line’ for a number of reasons including in 1858 ‘the worst fatal railway accident in history’.
‘The Broken Spike’ is the lament for an ageing navvy ‘spike driver’ who is soon to be too old to work.


Billy Boy / Nancy’s Fancy
Viggo’s Vaggvisa / Dancing Out
Sample not available
Broken Token
Emily’s Waltz / Gilwilly
Sample not available
En Gång / Singi Sunset
Sample not available
Button Oak / The Polecat
Sample not available
Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena
Sample not available
Sample not available
Lord Randall
Sample not available
The Cedar Fence / The Three Legged Rant
Sample not available
The Oxford and ‘Ampton Railway/The Broken Spike

FolkWorld Germany

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer are at it again! They were creating quite a stir with previous recordings and with "Stones on the Ground" I also jump on the bandwagon. The English duo's umpteenth album has some lengthy ballads, however, without it getting boring. The nursery rhyme "Billy Boy" for example is originally a song collected by Cecil Sharp, Jonny (vocals, guitar, accordion, piano) added some original verses. "Lord Randall" of course is the traditional Child ballad which Bob Dylan used as a blueprint for his "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". It actually borrows the formula of "Billy Boy" (or vice versa), with a more gruesome ending. Another fine and less known song is "The Oxford and 'Ampton Railway" about the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton railway opened in 1853 and soon called Worse and Worser line, though the glowing lyrics indicate that it had been written before its completion. The traditional words have been set to a new tune of Jonny's. The songs are interspersed with instrumental interludes written by Jonny plus a couple of instrumental sets thrown in for good measure. Vicki (vocals, nyckelharpa, Scottish smallpipes, flute, whistle) has a Swedish parent and that explains the following tracks: "Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena" originally is a medieaval Swedish murder ballad translated by Vicki and put to music by Jonny. She also wrote a couple of Nordic sounding instrumental tunes. On Jonny's "Valn�tsl�ngdans" she duets with herself, playing smallpipes set in D and A, respectively.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

It's always a pleasure to receive a CD for review from these two because I know I'm going to get quality performances from start to finish. This latest album from the well known and popular duo is no exception.

They open with a version of Billy Boy and on listening to it I was immediately transported back to evenings with the Southport Swords and big Pete Rowley singing it while stroking 'The Rat' - some of you reading this will no doubt remember (you had to be there - I can't begin to describe it!) and, like me, it will bring a smile to your face.

My smile on listening was doubly apt because, yet again, I was listening to two fine musicians and singers rendering a well known traditional song in their inimitable style.

They follow it with the tune Nancy's Fancy. In fact there are quite a number of tunes on this CD including, of course, some Swedish tunes reflecting Vicki's family roots. I've always liked the sound of the Swedish Nyckelharpa ever since I first heard Vicki playing it and therefore among the tunes I liked best, such as En Gang and  Viggo's Vaggvisa,  it is featured.

Many of the songs are versions of well known traditional ones but usually with new and innovative arrangements. I particularly liked their lilting rendition of The Oxford and 'Ampton Railway having only heard very few singers attempt it previously. Vicki gets to sing in her native tongue on Singi Sunset but Jonny and Vicki sing the Swedish murder ballad Herr Hillebrand in English following Vicki's translation and Jonny's arrangement of the lyrics.

All in all another little gem of an album from these two with the usual excellent presentation of erudite sleeve notes and fine production from Doug at Wild Goose.

Derek Gifford


Mary Humphreys

Why the title? You only find out when you look at the back page of the insert leaflet. I'm not going to tell you, so you'll have another reason to go out and buy this fabulously varied and accomplished CD by two of the best performers I know. I remember seeing them several years ago when they were an exclusively tune?playing couple, but now they have an extremely varied song repertoire to call upon. It is notable that all the tunes on this CD are composed by either by Vicki or Jonny, yet the whole feel of the album is traditional. They are immersed in the tradition and it is wonderful to see how well they are carrying it forward.

The first song track, Billy Boy has a haunting melody composed and sung by Jenny, played oh?so?lovingly by Vicki on the nyckelharpa to the accompaniment of Jonny's guitar. The song has been enhanced by extra verses written by Jonny. The whole track is a brilliant example of the evolving tradition. Track four is an updated take on the generic broken token story ,written by Jonny, which shows off their vocal harmony skills. I particularly loved the En Gang song which Vicki sings in Swedish. Her voice is soft and low, ideally suited to the material. Jonny plays piano along with the nyckelharpa accompaniment. Lovely harmonies! Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena is a terrifyingly violent Swedish ballad (collated from 52 Scandinavian versions) translated by Vicki. I foresee this being sung at singarounds by afficionados of murder ballads . Lord Randall is an updated melodic version of the old ballad with a very pretty refrain that gets audiences joining in. I speak from experience ? we heard them doing this song at both the Duton Hill Folk Club and the Norma Waterson benefit concert in Pinner recently and the refrain was irresistible! The last track on the CD is a superb demonstration of how to sing harmony without overwhelming the tune. I like that!

The tunes on the CD are interspersed with the songs to give variety. A lullaby written by Vicki for a new acquisition to the Swedish branch of her family is coupled with a jolly dance tune played on the smallpipes and guitar. Tunes written by Jonny to celebrate the new guitar in his musical armoury are played on nyckelharpa and guitar. Jonny marks the passing of a local pub in a tune played on flute and accordion. This couple are so versatile with their instrumental combinations! Valnotslangdans is a duet by Vicki on smallpipes ? not one to be performed on stage! Jonny's The Cedar Fence and Three Legged Rant are wonderfully inventive rhythmic challenges for musicians and dancers alike. Played on nyckelharpa and accordion, guitar and enhanced by Pete Flood on percussion they are hypnotic.

I thoroughly recommend this CD to all music lovers out there. Even better ? go and see this duo live. They live in Essex well within our readers' territory and appear at local clubs as well as at national festivals and internationally. You won't be disappointed, I promise! Visit their website at to see where they are appearing next.

Around Kent Folk

A collection of favourite songs from this talented multi-instrumentalist duo - nyckelharpa, Scottish small pipes, flute, whistle, double bass, guitar, accordion and piano. From the traditional songs 'Billy Boy', 'Broken Token' and 'Lord Randall' to self penned tunes 'Viggo's Vaggvisa (lullaby)', 'Emily's Waltz', 'Button Oak and 'Cedar Fence'. The 8 1/2 min. long 'Her Hillebrand & Proud Lena' is a major murder ballad and 'En g�ng' is sung in Swedish. On the insert it says 'Maybe folk songs are like stones. You pick up the ones you like, you arrange them together, you put them in your pocket and carry them for a while and then  put them down or pass them on.  Treated well, they will last forever'. Vicki & Johnny do treat all their material with care and are an absolute delight and joy to hear. See them at Broadstairs Folk Week.


Andy Turner

If you have seen and enjoyed a live performance by Jonny and Vicki, then you'll almost certainly enjoy this CD. It successfully captures the sound of their live act, then enhances it with restrained but effective use of double-tracking, and a couple of studio guests, including the ubiquitous � but always excellent � Pete Flood on percussion. If you've not seen or heard them before, one reference point might be Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. They use similarly clean, uncluttered arrangements, and there's a similarity also in the purity of their vocals.  Jonny takes the lion's share of the singing, and contributes guitar, plus occasional accordion and keyboards. It is meant as no disparagement of his singing or playing to say that Vicki provides the most distinctive features of the duo's sound, with her nyckelharpa (an instrument I'm pleased to see is becoming slightly less unusual on the English folk scene) and Scottish smallpipes. Indeed, if pressed, I would have to nominate the pipes-led air and reel set 'Viggo's Vaggvisa/Dancing Out' as the highlight of the album. But there's much to enjoy here, and I'd be surprised if songs like 'Billy Boy' and 'Broken Token' are not taken up widely by folk club floorsingers.

The material on this album could perhaps best be described as 'influenced by tradition'. The instrumentals have all been written by Jonny or Vicki, and although the songs are traditional/anonymous, nearly all have been fitted to new tunes by Jonny, and often have rewritten lyrics.  There's a strong Swedish flavour to much of the material, with one traditional song sung in Swedish by Vicki, and 'Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena'� a classic tale of the spurned lover who takes gory revenge before meeting a suitably sticky end �which has been translated and rewritten from the Swedish original.

FolkNews Kernow


No wonder this ultra-talented pair are turning up on other; CDs -- here they show a deep musical understanding and love of both songs and their many instruments. There's a certain lack of oomph, bit if you want beauty it's here in spades.


Dai Jeffries

The wonderful thing about folk music is that it can always spring a surprise. I throw myself on your mercy by confessing that I hadn't come across Vicki and Jonny before, even under their previous identities as Muckle Flugga and Serious kitchen, but I'll try to make amends.

Jonny plays guitar, accordion and piano, and Vicki, who is half Swedish, plays smallpipes, flute, whistle, double bass and nyckelharpa.  Their material has its roots in tradition although both have written tune sets, but Jonny takes considerable liberties with the songs. He's not alone in this and he does it with such style that no one can possibly object. 'Billy Boy' and 'Lord Randall' are very

different versions of familiar titles and 'Broken Token' is what it says, although it still doesn't

include a verse where she gives him a good hand-bagging for messing her about! The centrepiece is 'Herr Hillebrand And Proud Lena', a Swedish murder ballad which attains new heights of gruesomeness, and the set closes with the rather wonderful 'The Oxford And Ampton Railway'.

The overall feeling is quite gentle and, while it could be argued that a bit more welly would not go amiss, this is still a smashing record.

the Folk Diary

Vic Smith

More stones in the title of this album from Vicki and Jonny. This couple have been making a considerable impact in the last couple of years and this album shows why. The interesting selection of songs, ballads and dance tunes really hit the mark.

The tunes are largely composed by the pair of them and it is on these that the album is at its most exciting with Vicki's multi-instrumental talents to the fore. She shines on whatever instrument she plays here but it is the Scottish Smallpipes amd the Swedish nyckelharpa that really catch the ear. However it is a pair of sombre tunes by Jonny, The Cedar Fence and The Three Legged Rant that make the most memorable listening.

They are both interesting singers and their re-work versions of a broken token song and sing translated ballands from Scandinavian Sources.


Mike Greenwood

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer present another solid album of tunes and songs performed on their eclectic array of instruments, including guitar, piano-accordion, smallpipes, flute and nyckelharpa, further reinforcing Vicki's connection to her Swedish family roots and extending the pair's compositional competence.

Whilst she sings the traditional En G�ng in Swedish and the words of the occasional Child ballad and an English translation of a Swedish equivalent are set to Jonny's melodies, practically all of the material here is self-composed and encompasses a wide spectrum of rhythm and style, tending toward the more esoteric. The combination of pipe-reed, free-reed, lutish guitar and the echoing nyckelharpa lend a unique, other-worldly, musical-box prettiness to many instrumentals, whereas song accompaniments tend to be pared back to allow the melodic vocal, shared between the two, to the fore.

Lira Musikmagasin

Lars Fahlin

Acoustic Folk Duo.  What I like best about the duo Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer is as musicians and composers.  Swan plays nyckelharpa with warmth and buoyancy, Scottish smallpipes and whistle with passion and drive and additionally multi-tracks the doubles bass un-shyly and sure.  Dyer is a secure accompanist and soloist on guitar, accordion and piano.  Their instrumental compositions are captivating, beautiful, swinging, serious, touching and impressive to say the least.

What I have a problem with, just like their previous album, is singer Jonny Dyer.  He sounds sometimes a little tense.  Better however is Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena (performed in English), Lord Randall and especially the jolly number The Oxford and 'Ampton Railway, where he sounds more committed.  Singer Vicki Swan, however, has a warm and natural tone that unfortunately sits in the background on Dyers song tracks, but comes to life in the Swedish song En G�ng, performed in Swedish (Swan's mother is from Sweden).

The Living Tradition

Clive Pownceby

"Plenty of nyckelharpa" says the tagline on their website about this fourth release, and one wonders if it's possible to have too much of the traditional Swedish bowed string and keyed fiddle which Vicki Swan has done so much to bring into our consciousness?  On this showing, a resounding NO has to be the answer!

Like 2009's Gleowien, the latest collection of songs and tunes is mesmeric from start to finish, showing Ms Swan and partner Jonny to be amongst the finest duos extant.  Much of the album's charm lies in its no-messing straightforwardness, where the timbre of the nyckelharpa and smallpipes allied to accordion and guitar are as important as the melodies themselves. The tunes comprise Jonny's compositions with Vicki's Swedish-roots infected pieces adding to the piquancy, the swirling glee of Dancing Out contrasting nicely with the loping smallpipe duet on Valn�tsl�ngdans.

Storylines embrace the grand sweep of Nordic ballad Herr Hillebrand And Proud Lena - a truly affecting narrative here sinister forces prevail, through to the more familiar, but no less dark Lord Randall.  Just as bewitching however, are more muted moments like Billy Boy and Broken Token - these are the best of songs, never frozen in time, but always flickering, capable of bursting into flame.

It's polished, it crackles with vitality and it comes with a side serving of bass for Mark Southgate and Pete Flood's percussion.  Swan and Dyer's previous recording announced "we are here" to a wider world and this album continues the trend - why reinvent the wheel!?