I am the Song

by Jim Causley

In 2013 I made an album of a selection of Charles’ poems which I had set to music to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death. The Charles Causley Trust most kindly allowed myself along with a small group of musician friends to take over Charles’ little house ‘Cyprus Well’ for five days and record the album in his study and I got to use his very own piano too! It was a magical experience and one that I will always hold very dear.

Last year the Charles Causley Trust commissioned me to create another project using Charles poems to help celebrate the centenary of his birth, this year in 2017. I felt that I would not want to try and create a “Cyprus Well 2” and that it would not be possible even if I wanted to. So instead I was made ‘Artist in Residence’ in Cyprus Well for a week in September 2016 where I soaked up the magic of Charles’ home once again by living and sleeping in his house, exploring his home town by stepping out from his own front door and this time I wrote the music for the poems on Charles’ piano instead.

I also felt that I wanted to look at a different aspect of Charles’ work this time around and so as his ‘Collected Poems for Children’ has recently been republished I thought it would be great fun to focus on those poems. And great fun it has been too! I’ve called in lots of friends who I knew would bring their particular brand of magic and fun to the album and we have had such a huge amount of fun making it I can’t begin to tell you. I hope all the joy of Charles’ wonderful poems combined with the celebratory nature of the music comes through and brings another generation of readers to the treasure trove of Charles Causley’s work. The hardest part of this project was deciding which poems not to record! There are simply too many great ones but I’ll leave those for you to discover when you buy the book, here’s just a little taster…

The musicians are:

Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

Matt Norman

Jeff Gillett

Mary Humphries and Anahata

Keith Kendrick with Bandanglo



A little about Charles Causley Charles was born and raised in Launceston, Cornwall in 1917 by a Cornish mother and a Devonian father who hailed from the village of Trusham on the eastern edge of Dartmoor (where Jim’s father’s family also originate). His father died when Charles was just seven due to long-standing injuries sustained in WW1.

Charles attended teacher training college and eventually became the head teacher at the local National school which he himself attended as a child. During this time he became well known as a poet of national importance, publishing books and giving recitals alongside his busy teaching career. In 1958, Causley was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE in 1986. When he was 83 years old he was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature: he greeted this award with the words, "My goodness, what an encouragement!" There was a campaign to have him appointed Poet Laureate on the death of John Betjeman, but Causley, ever a modest man, was not interested in taking up the post. Ted Hughes described him as "the greatest poet laureate we never had". He was interviewed by Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on 1 December 1979.

Credits Jim Causley – Vocals, Piano Accordion & Chromatic Button Accordion

Anahata – Melodeons, Cello

Pete Bullock – Clarinet, Baritone Sax, Piano

Piers Butler – Percussion

Becki Driscoll – Vocals, Fiddle, Viola, Bassoon

Jeff Gillett - Guitar

Mary Humphries – English Concertina, Five-String Banjo

Keith Kendrick – Vocals, Anglo Concertinas, Big Bass Drum, High Hat

Sylvia Needham – Vocals, Banjolele

Matt Norman – Mandolin, Four-String Banjo, Piano, Bass-Banjo

Mick Ryan – Vocals

Nick Wyke – Vocals, Fiddle, Viola, Guitar, Mandolin

Artwork by Bex Bourne www.bexbourne.co.uk

  1. Python on Piccolo KK, PB, PB, BD,
  2. Newlyn Buildings (is actually a terrace of houses in Launceston!) MN, NW, BD, PB
  3. I Don’t Want to Grumble (May contain traces of Hickory Dickory Dock!) JG
  4. Here We Go Round the Roundhouse (A small octagonal building in Newport Square, Launceston, built in 1829 by the Duke of Northumberland to house the old market cross) MH, A
  5. At Linkinhorne (A village on the eastern edge of Bodmin Moor) NW,BD
  6. The Money Came In (Fingers crossed!) KK, SN, PB, PB, NW, BD
  7. Lady Jane Grey (The ill-fated young lady who was Queen of England for just eleven days in 1553) JG
  8. Mrs McPhee (Charles would have passed through South Zeal along the old A30 on his way to visit his friend Ted Hughes in North Tawton) MH, A
  9. One Day at a Perranporth Petshop MN, NW, PB
  10. Good Morning Mr Croco-Doco-Dile (Features the tune Thaxted Square by Simon Ritchie) KK, SN, PB, PB
  11. One For The Man MR, KK, SN
  12. Colonel Fazackerley MH, A
  13. Lord Lovelace (A medieval earl of Cornwall) JG, NW, BD, A
  14. Tabitha Tupper MN
  15. As I Went Down Zig-Zag (A famous zig-zagging footpath in Charles’ hometown of Launceston. Features part of the tune Jan Pook by Bill Murray) KK, SN, PB
  16. I Saw a Jolly Hunter NW,BD,A
  17. A Mermaid at Zennor NW, BD, A
  18. John Tidy MN, BD, MH, A
  19. I Took My Wife to Market (Tune inspired by The Derby Ram) The arrangement features the tune The New Rigged Ship in the break.  KK, PB, NW, BD
  20. The Obby Oss (The central character of the annual May Day celebrations in Padstow. Features snippets of the Swinton May Song, the Furry Dance, Now is the Month of Maying and the Padstow May Song) MH, A, KK
  21. I am the Song (features words and chorus by Jim, inspired by Charles original poem) NW, BD

 

All Words: Charles Causley      All Music: Jim Causley

Arranged by Jim and the company

Python on Piccolo
all tunes by Jim Causley
Newlyn Buildings
is actually a terrace of houses in Launceston!
Sample not available
I Don’t Want to Grumble
May contain traces of Hickory Dickory Dock!
Sample not available
Here We Go Round the Roundhouse
A small octagonal building in Newport Square
Sample not available
At Linkinhorne
A village on the eastern edge of Bodmin Moor
The Money Came In
Fingers Crossed
Lady Jane Grey
The ill-fated young lady who was Queen of England for just eleven days in 1553
Sample not available
Mrs McPhee
Charles would have passed through South Zeal along the old A30 on his way to visit his friend Ted Hughes in North Tawton
Sample not available
One Day at a Perranporth Petshop
Sample not available
Good Morning Mr Croco-Doco-Dile
Features the tune Thaxted Square by Simon Ritchie
Sample not available
One for the Man
Sample not available
Colonel Fazackerley
Lord Lovelace
A medieval earl of Cornwall
Sample not available
Tabitha Tupper
Sample not available
As I Went Down Zig-Zag
A famous zig-zagging footpath in Charles’ hometown of Launceston. Features part of the tune Jan Pook by Bill Murray
Sample not available
I Saw a Jolly Hunter
A Mermaid at Zennor
Sample not available
John Tidy
Alias Jim Causley
Sample not available
I Took My Wife to Market
Tune inspired by The Derby Ram. The arrangement features the tune The New Rigged Ship in the break.
Sample not available
The Obby Oss
The central character of the annual May Day celebrations in Padstow. Features snippets of the Swinton May Song
Sample not available
I am the Song
features words and chorus by Jim

UK Folk Radio

Peter Shaw

Editors Choice

Jim Causley's brilliant 2013 album Cyprus Well was a commission from the Charles Causley Trust to set the Cornish poet and distant relative of Jim's verses to music. The trust was impressed by the results and asked Jim to produce a follow-up, this time to mark the centenary of the poet's birth this year.

But rather than simply repeat the approach with a further collection of Charles' poems, Jim instead chose to explore another aspect of the writer's output, his verses for children. The result is I Am The Song: Children's Poems By Charles Causley.

As a parent of a five and a two-year-old, it's always a battle to listen to my favourite music in the car with the overwhelming demands for the children's choice. Fortunately, my son has eschewed the usually ubiquitous Disney Frozen soundtrack (and I'm very happy for him to let it go). Instead, his CD of choice is the soundtrack to the Minions movie. Which is great because rather than a singing Snow Queen, I get to listen to The Spencer Davis Group, The Kinks, The Who and Donovan. Albeit over, and over, and over again�

So a new CD for children by a favourite folk artist is always a welcome event. And (which is important to all our mini offspring) it is packaged really well. The cover and fold-out poster illustrations by Bex Bourne (www.bexbourne.co.uk) are delightfully in keeping with the music. The poster was of particular interest to my son as each of the illustrations depicts a character from the songs, but it's left to the listener to guess which one (great for car journeys with the little folk).

The cast of characters on the poster include a crocodile, a knight, a mermaid (a comb and glass all in her hand), a sloth playing a sitar and (of most interest to my son) a besuited gentleman being eyeballed by a ghost (it's all about spooky things at the moment). Charles Causley's children's poems are amusing and enchanting, and Jim has chosen appropriate folky settings that keep the words to the fore.

There are (as you would expect) list and nonsense songs, and many of the 21 tracks clock in at less than two minutes, Jim making a welcome choice to let the little vignettes speak for themselves, rather than extend them unnecessarily. The poems and songs demonstrate what a fertile and brilliant mind Charles Causley had, as it's a bit like discovering a new collection of unfamiliar classic nursery rhymes.

Jim brings all his skills as a performer and arranger to enhance the words, with fine musicianship (backed by an 11-strong team of guests) and his acclaimed vocals. It's a pleasingly old-fashioned-sounding collection, reminiscent of the songs from Bagpuss (for me, there's no greater acclaim than that).



Compared to Jim's other recent output, the tunes and atmosphere are more joyous. He's having lots of fun with silly voices and quirky arrangements. But before it all gets a bit too jaunty, there are some sombre and reflective songs to balance out the collection. And many of these are the standouts for me, such as Lady Jane Grey, the story of the short-lived Queen of England, and Lord Lovelace which is more akin to the material on Jim's towering album from last year, Forgotten Kingdom. The closely woven harmonies on One For The Man with Mick Ryan and Keith Kendrick to the fore sends a shiver down the spine.

Conversely, my son was enchanted by the peculiar songs, particularly Colonel Fazackerley ('The ghost one!'). Charles' poems can be delightfully dark, such as the tale of Mrs McPhee: a lady who eats ducklings for every meal, with the unfortunate side-effect that she is now sprouting feathers and has webbed feet. I wonder what Mr McPhee thinks�

As well as offering some fine new tunes, Jim has woven traditional music into his arrangements. A snatch of Hickory Dickory Dock can be heard on I Don't Want To Grumble, much to the amusement of my two-year-old. And The Obby Oss, a song detailing the exploits of Padstow's legendary May Day nag on a fateful journey across Cornwall, is appropriately peppered with snippets from the Swinton and Padstow May Day songs.

The album concludes with I Am The Song, which will be familiar to Jim's followers from its appearance (in a different arrangement) on the Mawkin: Causley collaboration, The Awkward Recruit. It's an appropriate ending to a little gem of an album, which � like Cyprus Well � makes it seem staggering that these poems weren't songs in the first place, and very satisfying that they are now. Car journeys with the kids just got much, much better�

Bright Young Folk

Shelley Rainey

Following on from his beautiful album Cypress Well, Jim Causley returns to the oeuvre of his distant relative, the poet Charles Causley, for material. This time the poems were written for children. His velvet voice accompanied by an assortment of fine musicians are woven together to produce an album which will prove a pleasure for young and old.

An album like this is the perfect way to introduce children to poetry with its mix of nonsense, history, tradition and songs about real places.

Animals feature in many of the tracks - the opening song, Piccolo on Python, lists different animals playing a huge variety of instruments, and coincidentally features a variety of instruments in the accompaniment. One Day at a Perranporth Pet-Shop has a gentle jazz piano accompaniment with percussion and violin. Then there is the delightfully silly Good Morning, Mr Croco-Doco-Dile which features a baritone saxophone.

Nonsense is a feature of many of the poems set here - As I Went Down Zig Zag has a music hall feel and tells of the strange sights you might see while walking along a zig-zagging footpath in Launceston. It is also a counting song, going through the hours on a clock.

In amongst the frivolity, there are serious moments however, such as Lady Jane Grey, telling the story of the ill-fated queen, accompanied by a Tudor-sounding guitar. Lord Lovelace sounds like a classic folk ballad, with a serious accompaniment to match. A Mermaid at Zennor also has a traditional feel.

Some of the arrangements could become new nursery rhymes. I Don't Want to Grumble is based around Hickory Dickory Dock, while Here We Go Round the Roundhouse, with its squeezebox accompaniment could easily become a new Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush as it just begs to be danced to.

Half way through the album is the exquisite One for the Man, sung a capella in close harmony. The title track closes the album and sums up all that has gone before.

I am the Song is utterly charming without being twee. If you don't have children, you needn't be embarrassed about owning this album - it is sure to prove popular with children and adults alike.

Folking . com

Dai Jeffries

Young Jim Causley returns once more to the writing of his distinguished relative, Charles. I Am The Song, unlike the serious and sometimes mysterious Cyprus Well, is a collection of poetry written for children. As you might suppose many of the songs are quite short and Jim crams twenty-one of them onto the record. Equally, you might suppose that the poems are funny to the point of silliness and to an extent you would be correct but there are dark moments and the humour sometimes conceals a serious point.

The set opens with 'Python On Piccolo', a song about animals forming a band and typical of the surreal images in some of Charles' poetry also represented by 'Good Morning Mrs Croco-Do-Dile', 'Tabitha Tupper' and 'Mrs McPhee'. Next comes a bit of social observation in the shape of 'Newlyn Buildings' although the line �who had the top apartment no-one ever seemed to know� adds a frisson of mystery. 'Here We Go Round The Roundhouse' is a calendar song that will creep into the club repertoire before long I have no doubt.

Of the darker songs, 'Lord Lovelace' leads the way followed by 'Lady Jane Grey' and 'A Mermaid At Zennor', although Charles steers clear of being too explicit about the fate of the titular lady in the former or the churchwarden's son in the latter. My personal favourite is 'I Saw A Jolly Hunter' which will make children laugh but says a lot about Charles' views.

Jim's accordion arrangements provide an appropriately jolly West Country lilt to the poems but he is exceptionally generous to his friends, notably Becki Driscoll and Nick Wyke, Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham and Mick Ryan who take a share of the lead vocals. Nick manages the most excruciatingly perfect flat notes on 'The Money Came In'. Other players include Jeff Gillett who provides most of the finger-picked guitar, Matt Norman who plays various banjos and Mary Humphries and Anahata.

Charles Causley said that he could never decide which poems were for children and which for adults and this collection will prove that. The standard omission is 'Timothy Winter' which was included in the children's collection but only because Jim recorded it on Cyprus Well. Buy this for the kids just before they grow out of nursery rhymes or buy it for yourselves because you'll enjoy it too.

The Living Tradition

Nigel Schofield

Those of you who remember 2013's excellent Cyprus Well will realise this is not the first occurrence of Causley sings Causley � that's Jim and his distant relative Charles, by the way. This time, he's turned his attention to Causley's children's poems. There are 21 on the album; inevitably, some, like the biography in miniature of Lady Jane Grey (1:21) are brief indeed, but each is a perfectly polished stone or carefully cut gem.

Like the nursery rhymes which inform many of the songs, the style and content are varied indeed � from nonsense to gnomic, mysterious to mnemonic, informative to bewildering. Some songs will make you smile; some will make you think; some will make you laugh out loud; some, like the richly baroque A Mermaid At Zennor, will move you. Jim embraces an impressive range of musical genres and even accents to provide an appropriate voice for each song. One For The Man is folkie a cappella; One Day At A Perranporth Petshop echoes to the sound of 20s jazz. The result is delightful, entertaining and charming. Inevitably, the love of both Causleys for the tradition places a lot of the album well inside �file under folk� � Lord Lovelace, I Took My Wife To Market (echoes of the Derby Ram), The Obby Oss.

The album is credited to Jim Causley and Friends: Jim is backed by a dozen different musicians and singers: clear notes let you know who's on what! With Anahata, Mary Humphreys and Keith Kendrick joining Jim's accordions, it's certainly a treat for fans of squeezeboxes.

A complete collaboration concludes this collection - a new song, I Am The Song, by Jim, based on and inspired by Charles's poem. It's joyous, mighty and utterly uplifting.


One thing which is a constant delight is the subtle and entirely appropriate use of specific reference. For example, Here We Go Round The Roundhouse is haunted by ghosts of Mr Fox, Mr Kite and The Magic Roundabout. That reference to Pablo Fanqe's Fair reminds me that it's appropriate to compare this to the Sergeants' LP from 50 years ago � it's eclectic, surprising, entertaining, repeatedly rewarding and manages to out-do its impressive self with an ending that blows the listener away. A splendid time is, as they say, guaranteed for all: an album with something for everyone, clearly one for kids of all ages (old and young, past present and future).

fRoots

Vic Smith

This is the third album of settings of poems to tunes written and sung by Jim in fairly rapid succession. First there was Cyprus Well devoted to the adult poems of distant relative Charles, then there was The Clay Hymnal to celebrate last year's centenary of the Cornish poet Jack Clemo, and now this one. In many ways this is the most successful of the three.  

Many admirers of Causley's poetry, including this one, say that they can find little difference between the power of his work for children or for adults. As a junior school teacher he had a clear idea of the sort of well constructed mix of sense and nonsense that would appeal. As a great folk song enthusiast, he had a full understanding of the metre and structure of traditional song and this come across clearly in his children's verse. These factors probably helped Jim in his settings, but he has constructed some fine fitting tunes here, some of them only a few removes from extant melodies. His performances are full of enthusiasm and joy but we can hear that we are listening to a very accomplished singer.  

He has an impressive range of accompanying musicians here, mostly drawn from the WildGoose stable, Anahata & Humphries and Kendrick & Needham amongst them. They are allowed short bursts of better-known dance tunes to augment the arrangements.  

It would seem likely that many of the 21 mostly shortish songs here will enter a wide range of repertoires. Items like Lord Lovelace, The Obby Oss and Here We Go Round The Roundhouse would seem to be ideal for folk club and singaround and it would be surprising if the title track does not become popular with community choirs.

Of course, many will also be heard in junior classrooms but don't regard this album a niche market children's record; yes, it carries that youthful vitality but its appeal should be universal.

Folk London

Gavin Atkin

This is an album of Charles Causley's children's poems, set to music by his singer and musician relative, Jim Causley. Quite a few people have set Causley's poetry to music and with good reason, for a lot of Causley's work regarded as 'for children' includes material that cries out to be sung. The settings here reveal all the skills Jim used five years ago when he composed the music for Cyprus Well, his highly regarded earlier Charles Causley album.

Jim is a charming performer with a cheeky and infectious sense of humour with deliberate, knowing flashes of an innocent, child like quality. You might therefore think he'd make a good fist of a set of children's poems, and so he does. Every one of the settings here is beautifully apt they could easily be taken up by schools, if Causley is still thought relevant in those pressured places of learning. His voice and delivery are superb as ever, and the musicians visited Wild Goose to help make this album   Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll, Matt Norman, Jeff Gillett, Mary Humphries and Anahata, Keith Kendrick and dance band Bandanglo are a stellar bunch who did the excellent work you'd expect. Jim must be delighted.

The poems he chose to work with on this occasion range widely from dark retellings of myths and history to wonderful flights of whimsy, of impossible conjunctions, animals doing unlikely things and torrents of unanswerable riddles.

Through it all, old Charles's pen is as sharp as a new bought knife. There are cracking examples in the tales of a woman who ate roast duckling for breakfast, dinner and tea, and a jolly hunter who went hunting hares, and an almost convincing faux big ballad in which 'The lance was tattered in his hands, Sundered his axe and blade, And in a bloody coat of war Lord Lovelace was arrayed'. Some of this is very dark 'children's' poetry indeed... The whimsical stuff will make adults and children chuckle but you may be best advised not to play the darker tracks to young children just before their bedtime   or yours, come to that...