Wreck off Scilly

by Andy Clarke and Steve Tyler

Andy Clarke is a fine singer and accompanist and is joined by Steve Tyler an acclaimed gurdy player.



Steve began playing the hurdy gurdy in 1993, adding this instrument to the sound of the recently formed medieval music ensemble Misericordia, which he founded with Anne Marie Summers. With Andy, Steve plays hurdy gurdy and cittern but he also plays gothic harp and citole. Steve is also fast gaining a reputation for his work with the Jackie Oates band.

Andy has a repertoire of mainly traditional song from the British Isles including the South West of England. His reputation as astrong performer continues to grow with increasing appearances at folk festivals and folk clubs across England. "An excellent singer and instrumentalist who performs with the skill and taste of a master craftsman." - Pete Coe

1 Coal Owner and the Poor Pitman’s Wife 
Trad 
Written in 1844 during the Durham strike by collier, William Hornsby of Shotton Moor. (A) 

2 Wreck off Scilly 
Trad 
Baring-Gould collected this song from James Parsons of Lewdown who lived a mile from his home in Lewtrenchard in Devon. Known locally as the “Singing machine” the reverend collected many fine songs from this very frail old farm labourer. (A) 

3 Lilène/Beanfield 
Dave Faulkner/Jon Swayne 
Two tunes written to accompany the 2 time bourrèe, a traditional French dance. The first written by bagpiper Dave Faulkner and originally composed on a harmonium as a sort of lullaby(!), the second by bagpiper Jon Swayne. (S) 

4 Poor Labourers 
words: PD/tune: Gordon Tyrrall 
The words come from a broadsheet dated 1845 and the tune was composed by Gordon Tyrrall 

5 Half Hannikin 
PD 
We have followed it with the Playford tune Half Hannikin. (A) 

6 Rosemary Fair 
Trad 
From the “Tasks” family of songs. This tune originally came from an Irish version of the song which I heard around 30 years ago but I have slowed it down, took out the “dots” and fitted a set of words. (A) 

7 The Wendigo 
Steve Tyler 
I wrote this tune whilst inspired by tales of the supernatural. The original story The Wendigo was written by Algernon Blackwood in 1910 taking inspiration from indigenous Canadian mythology. (S) 

8 Childe the Hunter 
Trad 
Baring-Gould collected this gem from the Dartmoor poet Jonas Coaker of Postbridge on Dartmoor. I composed the tune. (A) 

9 Mariam Matrem 
PD 
An instrumental version of a three part pilgrim song from the Llibre Vermell in the monastery of Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain, from the late fourteenth century. (S) 

10 Cold Blows the Winter Wind 
Trad 
The words were collected in 1893 by Baring-Gould from Jane Jeffrey in Dunterton on the river Tamar near Tavistock, Devon. There was no tune so I set the song to one from Sharp’s collection from Somerset. (A) 

11 Midnatspolska/Morgenpolska 
Lasse Væver Jacobsen 
by Danish nyckelharpa player Lasse Væver Jacobsen; I learnt these whilst playing in Denmark. (S) 

12 Over the Hills 
Rob Stevens 
Written by Rob Stevens who lives in Torquay. This beautiful song is his take on the story of Genesis. (A) 

13 Bell Ringing 
Trad 
The Reverend Baring-Gould noted this well known song from George Kerswell at the Two Bridges Inn on Dartmoor in 1890. Here I returned to the manuscript to restore the original tune which had been slightly altered over the years. (A) 
Coal Owner and the Poor Pitman’s Wife
Written in 1844 during the Durham strike by collier
Wreck off Scilly
Baring-Gould collected this song from James Parsons of Lewdown who lived a mile from his home in Lewtrenchard in Devon. Known locally as the “Singing machine” the reverend collected many fine songs from this very frail old farm labourer. (A)
Sample not available
Lilène/Beanfield
Two tunes written to accompany the 2 time bourrèe
Poor Labourers
The words come from a broadsheet dated 1845 and the tune was composed by Gordon Tyrrall
Sample not available
Half Hannikin
We have followed it with the Playford tune Half Hannikin. (A)
Sample not available
Rosemary Fair
From the “Tasks” family of songs. This tune originally came from an Irish version of the song which I heard around 30 years ago but I have slowed it down
The Wendigo
I wrote this tune whilst inspired by tales of the supernatural. The original story The Wendigo was written by Algernon Blackwood in 1910 taking inspiration from indigenous Canadian mythology. (S)
Sample not available
Childe the Hunter
Baring-Gould collected this gem from the Dartmoor poet Jonas Coaker of Postbridge on Dartmoor. I composed the tune. (A)
Sample not available
Mariam Matrem
An instrumental version of a three part pilgrim song from the Llibre Vermell in the monastery of Montserrat
Sample not available
Cold Blows the Winter Wind
The words were collected in 1893 by Baring-Gould from Jane Jeffrey in Dunterton on the river Tamar near Tavistock
Sample not available
Midnatspolska/Morgenpolska
by Danish nyckelharpa player Lasse Væver Jacobsen; I learnt these whilst playing in Denmark. (S)
Over the Hills
Written by Rob Stevens who lives in Torquay. This beautiful song is his take on the story of Genesis. (A)
Sample not available
Bell Ringing
The Reverend Baring-Gould noted this well known song from George Kerswell at the Two Bridges Inn on Dartmoor in 1890. Here I returned to the manuscript to restore the original tune which had been slightly altered over the years. (A)
Sample not available

Fatea

David Kidman

Devon-born Andy has decades of experience of performing traditional song to his own bouzouki or guitar accompaniment, whereas Steve is a virtuoso on the hurdy gurdy (not to mention cittern, bagpipes, gothic harp and citole!), having founded the medieval music ensemble Misericordia (with Anne Marie Summers), The Wendigo (with Julian Sutton), and latterly joined both Daughters Of Elvin and Angles. However, both Andy's and Steve's names may be more familiar to Fatea readers from their recent work with Jackie Oates' band.

Their individual talents blend extremely well as it turns out, and their versatility within the folk field is well showcased on this satisfying collection of eight songs and five instrumental tracks. Andy specialises in unearthing little-known songs originally collected in the 19th century by Sabine Baring-Gould, and this disc contains some prime examples, notably Childe The Hunter, Cold Blows The Winter Wind and the CD's title track. Andy also turns in vital versions of Rosemary Fair (this one's a credible mix of variants of the famous "task" song) and Poor Labourers (here complete with the excellent Gordon Tyrrall tune), and by way of contrast there's the beautiful Over The Hills, a charming song penned by Rob Stevens from Torquay. Throughout the disc, Andy's powerful, individual vocal style expresses the songs' sentiments with grit and passion and an entirely natural command of phrasing. Accompaniments are finely judged and full of character; Steve more or less alternates between gurdy and cittern, and a small handful of tracks also involve some sensitive fiddle playing courtesy of Ruth Clarke.

The musicians wear their unquestioned virtuosity lightly on the disc's non-vocal selections, which range from the eerie danserye of The Wendigo (an original composition of Steve's inspired by supernatural tales) and the brief and cheery Half Hannikin to a transcription of a late-14th century pilgrim song (Mariam Matrem) and a pair of polskas by a Danish nyckelharpa player. The recorded sound is well engineered, rich but never overblown, and thoroughly listener-friendly - even, I suspect, to those listeners normally allergic to the unique but marvellous rasping, buzzing, droning sound of the hurdy gurdy!� The disc's generous playing time proves no disadvantage and enables an unhurried demonstration of the complementary nature of Andy and Steve's musicianship. Definitely recommended.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Andy Clarke is well known in his native Devon and has made a number of forays to us in the north west over the last few years. He is a fine singer and musician who plays bouzouki and guitar.

Steve Tyler is probably less well known to north western audiences but has a very good pedigree having played with the Jackie Oates band and having been featured on Radio 3's Early Music show. He plays hurdy gurdy and citterne on this album. Both Andy and Steve are virtuoso players.

All the songs bar one are from the tradition with Baring-Gould's collection featuring strongly. The exception is Rob Steven's Over the Hills which is a lovely song based on the story of Adam and Eve which is well sung by Andy and with a gentle accompaniment. The album opens with a version of the Coal Owner and the Pitman's Wife which drives along nicely setting the stage for the rest of the album. Andy has a good voice and his diction is excellent making his performances easy to listen to.

The six tracks featuring tunes are a wide mix of English, Spanish, Danish and French works and feature the hurdy-gurdy as the lead instrument on many of them. This might put some people off this album as I am well aware that for many the hurdy-gurdy is an 'acquired taste'. However, with exception of Steve's own tune The Wendigo which I did have difficulty with, I didn't find the esoteric sound of this instrument particularly distracting.

Nice to hear again the Bell Ringing song collected by Baring-Gould which I have not seen recorded since Tony Rose did a lovely unaccompanied version on his 'Young Hunting' LP (!). This one is sensitively accompanied and brings the CD to a satisfactory finish.

There are brief but adequate notes on the songs, tunes and the performers and some nice piccys of the pair in various staged poses with picturesque Devon scenes in the background making it a nicely presented album.

This is a finely produced album for the hard bitten 'traddys' I think and no the worse for that!

The Living Tradition

Alex Monaghan

I don't usually go in for singers, certainly not English singers, but I'll make an exception for this pair, partly because Steve Tyler is a dab hand on the hurdy-gurdy, but also because Andy Clarke sings a range of fascinating traditional songs seldom heard, and he sings them very well. There are also enough instrumentals to break up the singing, always a key factor for me. In a Devon dozen tracks, Clarke and Tyler give us eight songs and five instrumentals. All the songs are sung by Andy and richly accompanied by Steve, or by Ruth Clarke on fiddle, or both. Much of Andy's material is from the collecting of Sabine Baring-Gould, a nineteenth-century clergyman born near Okehampton, and it reflects the usual themes of English folk songs: death, disaster, kissing corpses, and campanology. Childe the Hunter, Cold Blows the Winter Wind, Bell Ringing and the title track are all based on Baring-Gould's manuscripts. Coal Owner and the Pitman's Wife is a sharp social comment from the Durham miners of the mid nineteenth century, and Poor Labourers comes from a broadsheet of the same period. Over the Hills is a Torquay song, and Rosemary Fair is adapted from an Irish version of that recipe for stuffing which was popularised by Simon & Garfunkel.

There are plenty of special moments in these songs, both from the accompaniment and from lines such as "Often times below, thoughts of her run through my mind" or "Come listen to my tragedy, my story sad and lame". Clarke delivers each ballad with clarity and soul, and Tyler's performance is equally polished. From Playford to Danish polskas, the instrumental tracks have all the depth and dark earthiness of the best hurdy-gurdy music. Jon Swayne's Beanfield gets a gentle touch, with easy rhythms in the right hand. Half Hannikin is stately and measured, while Steve's own Wendigo dances like a dervish. Mariam Matrem has an appropriately raw medieval feel, hepled by lute-like harmonies from Andy. Two compositions by nyckelharpa player Lasse V�ver Jacobsen complete the picture, tricky beasts deftly picked out by Tyler's left hand and accompanied by Clarke's bouzouki. I really enjoyed this collection of songs and tunes, proper music with just the right amount of polish, from a highly skilled duo.

R2 4 stars

Dai Jeffries

The combination of hurdy gurdy and bouzouki isn't unique but it's far from common and, although they double up on cittern and guitar, the sound of this album is the drones and buzz and insistent strings of their main instruments.

Andy and Steve are from Devon but they don't restrict themselves, although Baring Gould receives several credits

the title track is one of his. 'Coal Owner And The Poor Pitman's Wife' is from Durham and there are bouree and Playford tunes, Danish polkas and a 14th century pilgrim song.

The duo has assembled several songs from available elements. 'Rosemary Fair' is somewhere near Scarborough and started life as an Irish version of the song. Andy composed the tune for 'Childe The Hunter' and found one for 'Cold Blows The Winter Wind', both from the Baring Gould collection.

The performances are natural and relaxed but the hurdy gurdy adds a contrasting level of complexity to the sound  Steve's tune, 'The Wendigo', is an exploration of what the instrument can do. This really is a very good album.

Whats Afoot

Nocola King

I know local man Andy Clarke as an excellent guitarist and Steve Tyler as a brilliant hurdy-gurdy player also based in Devon who � with a small band � plays for great Balkan and Gypsy dance sessions in Exeter. He has been a member of bands Wendigo, Angles and Daughters of Elvin, playing everything from medieval tunes to French dances, Scandinavian polkas and English folk tunes. Andy now helps to run the Totnes folk club, and is also a fine singer whose voice is perfectly suited to the songs they have chosen. Tunes in which the hurdy- gurdy predominates alternate with songs, and Ruth Clarke plays fiddle on some of the tracks, adding another texture to the mix.

I am not sure whether this is their first (recorded) collaboration, but it works brilliantly, the hurdy-gurdy and cittern (played by Steve) providing a subtle and unusual accompaniment to Andy's voice and guitar on some of the tracks.  Andy has done his homework, going back to the Baring-Gould collection for original words and adding traditional tunes or writing his own. Songs from the collection include the title track, collected from the farm labourer James Parsons of Lewdown,  the poem Childe the Hunter collected from the Dartmoor poet Jonas Coaker set to a tune by Andy,  the singaround favoutite Bell Ringing, and a lovely version of The Unquiet Grave, here called Cold Blows the Winter Wind and with the addition of a fine chorus. The tunes include a French bourree written by bagpiper David Faulkner, the Playford tune Half Hannikin, two Danish polkas and Steve's tune The Wendigo, inspired by a supernatural tale by Algernon Blackwood.

I hope this brief review gives some idea of the versatility and skill of these two musicians: for me, the strongest tracks are the haunting and powerful songs Poor Labourers (from an 1845 broadside), Wreck off Sicily, and Cold Blows the Winter Wind, and the tunes which prompt memories of dancing to the hurdy-gurdy! Highly recommended.

EDS

Neil Brookes

Having seen the hard work and dedication of Andy Clarke (bouzouki, guitar, vocals) performing at festivals and clubs around the country, and also having caught glimpses of Steve Tyler (hurdy gurdy, cittern) playing spirited medieval music with Misericordia � and by the church at Sidmouth during folk week � I was intrigued to hear what they might achieve as a duo. I was therefore delighted to find they have produced an excellent album here. The bouzouki/gurdy meld is powerful and makes a dramatic platform for Andy's ardent and expressive delivery of mainly traditional songs, some from the Baring Gould collection in keeping with Andy's native county of Devon. He includes his signature 'Poor Labourers', which has a lovely tune composed by Gordon Tyrall, and a splendidly wistful version of 'Rosemary Fair' as part of his bag of songs.

There are also some wonderfully fiery tunes (although I do find 'Half Hannikin' rather a dull melody) that demonstrate Steve's complete mastery of the hurdy gurdy � there are no dusty keys on his instrument I'm sure! His composition 'The Wendigo' is simply astonishing in concept and performance � a real tour de force that is enhanced further by Andy's expert and full-bodied accompaniment. There is certainly an empathy and balance resulting from the ability of each artist to accompany the other as needed. Steve also includes Jon Swayne's great bourr�e 'Beanfield' and lesser-known items from Spanish and Danish sources. The recording is typical of WildGoose productions in being intimate in style, giving an accurate picture of how they no doubt would sound in a small concert or club setting, though this pair's particular capabilities leave me with a slight curiosity as to what they could do with a 'Big Production Number' � I suspect the result might be, in American parlance, awesome!

Well done, guys.

Mardles

Val Haines

Andy Clarke is a singer from Devon with a mellow voice well suited to the ballads he loves to sing. Steve Tyler is a gifted hurdy gurdy player who has done much to push this instrument from obscurity to mainstream. It sounds initially like a strange combination   English folk songs accompanied by hurdy gurdy   but the result is a very pleasant listen. In addition, Andy also plays guitar and bouzouki, Steve plays the cittern and Ruth Clarke adds fiddle on a couple of tracks.

Many of the songs focus on life in the West Country of the 19th century. Four are from the Baring Gould collection; the title track Wreck off Scilly, Childe the Hunter, with melody composed by Andy, Cold Blows the Winter Wind, which Andy set to a tune collected by Cecil Sharp, and Bell Ringing, here restored to its original tune. At the other end of the country, the opening track, Coal Owner and the Poor Pitman's Wife, is a powerful ballad by collier William Hornsby about the 1844 Durham strike. It's interesting to see how Andy changes and adds melodies to suit the song. In Rosemary Fair he 'slowed it down, took out the "dots" and fitted a set of words'.

Between the songs lies a variety of lovely tunes. Lilene and Beanfield are French style bourrees composed by David Faulkner and Jon Swayne respectively, Half Hannikin is from a Playford collection, Mariam Matrem is 14th century Spanish and Midnatspolskal Morgenpolska are by Danish nyckelharpa player Lasse Vaever Jacobsen. Luckily, Steve has also included his greatest hit The Wendigo to show everybody what a hurdy gurdy can do in the right hands.

This is a great album full of variety and thoughtful arrangements. Hopefully we will hear more of this duo in the future.

fRoots

David Kidman

A teaming of two musicians whose talents have long gone undersung. Devon-born Andy has extensive experience of performing traditional song to his own bouzouki or guitar accompaniment, and specialises in unearthing gems from the manuscripts of Sabine Baring-Gould. Steve is a virtuoso exponent of the hurdy gurdy (and cittern, bagpipes, gothic harp and citole), founder of medieval music ensemble Misericordia (with Anne Marie Summers), The Wendigo (with Julian Sutton), and latterly Daughters Of Elvin and Angles. Coincidentally, both men have recently worked with the Jackie Oates band, which may well have been a catalyst for their present collaboration.

Theirs is a good combination of talents, all facets of which are generously showcased on this almost near equal-handed selection of songs and instrumental pieces. Among the songs, the principal interest lies in those collected by the aforementioned Baring-Gould, especially Childe The Hunter (for which Andy himself has composed an apt and suspenseful melody), Cold Blows The Winter Wind (set to a tune from Cecil Sharp's Somerset collection) and the disc's title track. Andy also turns in earthy accounts of Rosemary Fair (a credible new amalgam of variants of the 'task' song) and the broadsheet Poor Labourers, but for many I suspect a highlight of this collection will be the charming, beautiful Over The Hills, penned by Torquay native Rob Stevens.  Here, as throughout, Andy's powerful, individual voice expresses the song's sentiments with grit and passion (and more than a hint of Pete Coe at times too, I thought), and a natural command of phrasing. Accompaniments are finely judged and full of character.  Steve migrates between gurdy and cittern, and some tracks also feature some sensitive and often melodically adventurous fiddle work courtesy of Ruth Clarke.

The non-vocal selections range from the eerie danserye of The Wendigo (Steve's original composition inspired by tales of the supernatural), Mariam Matrem (a late-14th Century pilgrim song) to a pair of Danish nyckelharpa polskas. The well-engineered sound is rich and detailed but never overblown, and proves as listener-friendly as its material is inspirational and satisfying.

Article in R2

Ian Croft

Insight       Review R2 magazine

Devon duo Andy Clarke & Steve Tyler have been playing together for four years though their musical origins are very different. Andy was eight when he first played Autoharp in a folk club, taken by his dad, and picked up the trad bug very early. He started gigging aged nineteen and spent many years just playing around Devon and helping to run Totnes folk club. It wasn't until about ten years ago that Pete Coe gave him the confidence to get out into the clubs around the UK though, he says, �I don't make any money out of it which is why I still clean windows.� Before the duo, he made three solo CD's and one with Wistmans Wood, also featuring Jackie Oates and box player Steve Turner.

Steve meanwhile, was introduced to the guitar by his grandfather, but didn't come across folk music until many years later when accompanying his brother busking. He also discovered sessions: �I've never been a tune player as such; for me, it's always about patterns round the music. I want somebody else to be playing the tune.� In 1993, Steve fell for the hurdy gurdy and early music too, forming Misericordia with Anne Marie Summers to do �medieval stuff, some of it dressed up for such as English Heritage.� He also plays with the band Angles, and was once in Jackie Oates band, though, he says, �I never really thought of myself as a folk musician.�

Having seen each other around sessions, their first meeting came after Andy played a song he was going to record, and Steve mentioned that he'd just recorded it for another project. Andy asked Steve to play on his CD, and they worked up three songs the first night they rehearsed. �It was so easy,� says Andy. �We agreed to do something together, and were gigging within the year.�

In the duo, Andy mostly plays bouzouki and sings, while Steve plays his treasured hurdy gurdy. Their first CD, Wreck Off Scilly, was recently released to good reviews including one from Andy's friend who admitted to not liking the hurdy gurdy at all until he heard it on this album.

Songs are chosen by Andy, tunes by Steve. �I like a Devon connection, or something that resonates,� says Andy. �My starting point is the Baring-Gould collection. I'll often hear a song in a folk club and be reminded that I heard it years ago, but I always check out the source first to make sure I know what I've got.� On the CD is a lovely version of 'Cold Blows The Winter', which Andy heard a woman sing in Skipton folk club. �It was from Cecil Sharp's collection, but I found a different version from Baring- Gould and put it with her tune. I'll always take the best tune.�

Steve sources many of his tunes from Europe, but he is a prolific writer of bigger works that don't really fit into a folk context. One piece scaled down for the album is 'The Wendigo' . Steve explains, �I was in a band called The Wendigo with Anne Marie Summers and Julian Sutton, and recorded the tune in 1990. It started from playing about with chords and rhythmic patterns and then plotting a tune over the top. Over the years I've written different parts and toyed around, and it became quite a monster. We selected just some of the parts for the duo.�

So with a great new album in tow, Andy and Steve are booked at five festivals this year, and �are currently up to two-and a-half tours of clubs.�

Bright Young Folk

Shelley Rainey

Andy Clarke and Steve Tyler's Wreck off Scilly is firmly rooted in English tradition with songs collected by Baring-Gould very much in evidence. There are also instrumental forays to France, Canada, Spain and Denmark. Andy plays bouzouki and guitar and Steve the hurdy-gurdy and cittern. They are joined on some tracks by Ruth Clarke on fiddle.

The hurdy-gurdy is the star of this album, and in the able hands of Steve Tyler, proves to be an extremely versatile instrument. It can sound joyful, miserable and even downright sinister. In a dance tune, it makes you want to get to your feet. The vocals on the album are always crystal clear, essential when so many of the songs tell a story.

The subject matter of the songs is varied, from social comment (The Coal Owner and the Poor Pitman's Wife, Poor Labourers), the supernatural, (Cold Blows the Winter, Childe the Hunter), to the sailors lost at sea, and even competitive bell-ringing!

The opening song, The Coal Owner and the Poor Pitman's Wife, was written by a collier during the Durham strike in 1844. The hurdy-gurdy drives the song forward, emphasising the defiant nature of the song. The song is from the mid-19th Century, but the hurdy-gurdy takes us back much farther in time. There is more social history in Poor Labourers, lamenting the lot of farm labourers. The fiddle has lovely solos in between verses.

The songs are punctuated by several very different tunes - The Wendigo is a tune by Steve, inspired by indigenous Canadian mythology. It has a discordant and sinister opening before launching into a danceable tune. Half Hannikin is a stately and dignified Playford tune. Mariam Matrem is a 14th century Spanish tune, gentle and courtly in style, in which the hurdy-gurdy demonstrates its lyrical ability. Midnatspolska/Morgenspolska are two tunes by a Danish nyckelharpa player, with delightfully syncopated rhythms and changing time signatures - a challenge to dance to, but an exciting listen.

We dip into the supernatural with Childe Harold and Cold Blows the Winter, both collected by Baring-Gould, and in which the hurdy-gurdy adds ghostly and mysterious effects.

Listeners will find Rosemary Fair familiar, with new words to an old Irish tune. It is a variation of Scarborough Fair, from both the girl's and boy's point of view, in which the girl replies to the boy's demands. Far more nonsense than in the more familiar version of the song.

A well-chosen collection of songs, beautifully arranged.