1 Moorlough Mary / The Streams of Bawdeen
My hazy memory informs me that Des O’Halloran – the extraordinary singer from Inishbofin - used to sing an amazing version of this at the Hibernian sessions in Fulham Broadway in the ‘70s, so I think that’s where I got the tune. Pretty much the same tune is annotated by Sean O’Boyle in his wonderful book, “The Irish Song Tradition”, which also transcribes John Doherty’s version of the words, as heard by O’Boyle. I love it because it leaves plenty of room for a happy outcome, whereas other versions are a bit less optimistic.
Paul’s beautiful tune could not be a better match.
2 The Trees They Do Grow High
Dave W: Arnold resonator guitar
From the singing of Peter Bellamy (excepting the tiny changes I made – including a few words from Jeff Warner. Thanks Jeff!). Peter made his customary, indelible mark on this popular folk story. I hope he would have approved of this (he’d certainly have told me if he did not!).
(Words by Frances Watt / Tune ‘Johan Malin Wessléns Bröllopspolska’ by Olov Johansson)
Paul: guitar / mandolin Jon: fiddle Maggie: flute I heard my dear friend, Frances, sing this at a party last autumn. I was so struck with everything about it – but the uplifting words in particular. It’s hard to believe it’s her first song. It seems it’s now a bit on the fast side to dance a polska to, but don’t let that stop you trying!
4 Once in a While
Paul: guitar Dave McK: clarinet From Steve’s wonderful concept recording, ‘Family Album’, I first heard this song about twelve years ago, and felt an immediate and strong affinity with it. A granny before my time! If you don’t know Steve’s work, seek him out.
5 The Spinning Wheel
(Words John Waller / tune Seamus Kavanagh)
Paul: guitar Jon: fiddle Dave W: Arnold resonator guitar Popularised by Delia Murphy and Ronnie Ronalde, I last heard this sung on a Christmas Day in the late ‘70s; the rarest and most moving rendition by Mum and two of her sisters, Nancy & Eileen. Not one of them dropped a single note or syllable, despite what must have been many, many years since any of them sang. This is for my cousin, Rose, Eileen’s beautiful daughter.
6 Donal Óg
Paul: mandocello Jon: fiddle Maggie: harmonium Here is song from my mentor, Oliver Mulligan of Co. Monaghan (and longtime London resident). About 45 years ago, my Dad brought Oliver to our home in Battersea - to teach me some serious traditional singing. I did my homework; it was no chore. I adore this song.
7 Liza and Henry
Paul: guitar / mandolin Steve: arpeggione Dave W: Arnold resonator guitar Maggie: vocal harmony My son Joe wrote this. As a long time punk/ska/metal bass player, I never imagined that I would be singing one of his compositions. Now re-introduced to his acoustic side, he’s sounding more like his Dad every day! I don’t think the inspiration for this song needs spelling out.
8 Old Man’s Retreat
Paul: guitar Dave McK: bass clarinet Maggie: flute / harmonium As evidenced here, Nick is an amazing poet and songwriter. I think this has to be the most intense and serious song I have attempted, but it is drenched in such lyrical beauty that I find it completely irresistible.
9 Lament for John Doherty / Betty-Sue Southall / Paddy Boyle’s Highland
(Margaret McGinley) (M.Boyle) (Charlie Lennon)
Maggie: flute / whistle Paul: guitar My aunt Margaret wrote this lovely slow air in memory of the Donegal tinker-fiddler, John Doherty, whom she had known all her life. The second tune came to me while dancing with my newborn granddaughter, Betty-Sue; there was no conscious writing process involved. The highland is a dearly appreciated composition by the mighty Charlie Lennon, in honour of Dad.
10 The Green Linnet
Another song from dear Oliver. Given to me, as I recall, on the same session as Donal Óg. A classic. How lucky I was.
11 Christmas in No Man’s Land
Paul: guitar Dave McK: melodica / wind synth Maggie: vocal harmonies Mick specialises in historic theme songwriting, with a strong bent to the ordinary man’s and woman’s perspective. Much has been written about the 1914 WW1 ‘Christmas Truce’, and this is a welcome and beautiful addition to that body of work.
12 On Yonder Hill / Boxty Bailey
(traditional) (P Downes)
Paul: guitar Jon: fiddle Dave McK: wind synth Maggie: flute Some time in the late ‘70s, Oliver handed me a tape of Geordie Hanna (of Co. Tyrone) singing this single song. In turn, I highly recommend that you find Geordie on youtube, singing “Old Ardboe”. It’s rare - and great quality - footage. I wish I had met the man. On Yonder Hill inspired this sweet, planxty-like new tune from Paul; our fearless producer inspired the title!
13 Linden Lea
(W. Barnes / R. Vaughan Williams)
Paul: guitar Jon: fiddle These exquisite words were written by 19th century poet, William Barnes, in his beloved Dorset dialect, and set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I recorded this song many years ago, and am pleased to have done so again – I will never tire of singing it.