Mischief Afoot

by Mischief Afoot

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Mischief Afoot are a folk trio based in the Cotwolds in the UK. We play a mixture of English, Irish and American folk songs and tunes, as well as self-penned compositions. We set out to entertain an audience with music for the heart, mind and feet and with songs to make them laugh, cry and sing along. The instrumental work can be dazzling, inventive, sensitive, playful or downright mischievous! Our line-up consists of Becky Dellow on fiddle, John Davis on recorder and bodhran, and Jeff Gillett on guitar, mandola, mandolin, English concertina and vocals.



1 Bennachie Sunrise / Willie’s Trip to Toronto 


We first heard this set from the Scottish fiddle-player Alasdair Fraser, accompanied by Paul Machlis, who wrote the first tune. The second was written by the late Jerry Holland. Over the years that we have been playing them, Becky and I have developed our own distinctive take on the tunes, to which John has added an extra musical strand and an extra dimension. 

2 Blow the Candles Out 


Adapted from the version in Stephen Sedley’s ‘Seeds of Love’ – an excellent source of traditional songs from the British Isles. A night-visiting song with a (possibly) happy ending: the man pledging that they will be truly together ‘when three long years are over’. More unusually, he ponders the possibility that the two of them may ‘prove successful’, indicating that a child would be the hoped for result, rather than an unintended by-product of their union. 

3 Thomas Hardy’s Slow Waltz / Morgan Rattler / Battered Hake 


I learned Thomas Hardy’s from Phil Rush. Morgan Rattler is a popular session tune in Gloucestershire, but fellow-musicians tend to be somewhat surprised if I throw in my preferred chord progression (which is, I think, half-remembered from Pete Coe). Battered Hake is by Colin Cotter; Becky learned it from Sam Sweeney. 

4 Cats of Camazen / Pressed For Time 


Cats of Camazen was written by Brendan Ring; Pressed For Time was written by Gordon Duncan. John learned them both from Flook, but, as usual, we’ve reinterpreted them. (Well... I think we’ve speeded them up a bit!) After we’d recorded them, Doug Bailey described the performance as ‘insane’. .. 

5 The Deserter 


I learned this upwards on thirty years ago from Chris Beaumont of Cheltenham; I understood from him that it has elements of versions from Fairport Convention and Bernie Cherry. The story perhaps owes something to circular folk-tales, where the end is also the beginning. The arrangement is intended to reflect the considerable doubt as to whether or not it really is a happy ending when Prince Albert gives the deserter a pardon and sends him back to the army (yet again...) 

6 The Star of Munster / Pigeon On The Gate 


Two Irish session tunes that we tend to enjoy playing a little faster than is probably sensible. (The cross-rhythms in Pigeon are fun, too!) 

7 History Man / Lost in Washing 


A well-known tune by Andy Cutting, to which we give a slightly playful reading, coupled with an exuberant tune of Becky’s, named after her experiences of motherhood and domesticity. It was written when she was stranded at home with two toddlers. I can’t resist under-pinning it with the occasional minor chord. 

8 Bridget O’Malley 


I first learned this Irish song of unrequited love from Laine Davies over thirty years ago. I used to perform it with the late Paul Stanbrook in our duo, the Penultimate Straw. Becky and I worked out the basis of the current arrangement when she was still in the sixth-form (and I was quite a young teacher). 

9 Tell Her I Am / Out On the Ocean 


Both of these tunes came from the incomparable Martin Hayes (and his wonderful accompanist, Dennis Cahill). Tell Her I Am is credited to Michael Coleman, who used to play it at a much greater tempo: we slow it down even more than Martin Hayes did, but I like to think that it sings very sweetly that way, whilst Out On the Ocean, which is another well-known session-tune, dances. 

10 The Golden Willow Tree 


An American version of The Golden Vanity which I learned during the all-too brief time that I was working with Sarah Morgan. I describe it, as she did, as a delightful little song about Turk-bashing: but it’s all right, because the Turks in question were obviously all evil people, given to sinful occupations like playing cards. Doug Bailey suggests that the name of the Turkish ship (somewhat improbably, the Reveillé) might be a corruption of ‘razee’, which is a two deck ship cut down to make a very powerful one deck ship, very popular with the Turkish navy and pirate vessels. 

11 Paddy Fahy’s Reel / Mulhaire’s #9 


Two session tunes played at a more sensible pace. The first was certainly learned (again) from the playing of Martin Hayes. Paddy Fahy is a highly-regarded and influential fiddle-player from Kilconnell in East Galway. He is known to have written around 60 tunes in traditional Irish style, to which he has chosen to give no names. Martin Mulhaire, many of whose similarly untitled tunes have passed into the tradition, also came originally from East Galway but emigrated to the United States in the middle of last century. Principally known as a fine accordionist, he is also an electric guitarist with, as I understand it, a penchant for rock! 

12 Knock On Wood / Oddpiece Jig / Firelight 


Knock on Wood was written by Welsh flautist Greg Morgan and is so-named because you can hear Woody Woodpecker's call in the B section (allegedly). The Oddpiece Jig was written by Becky in 1989 and that’s all she’s saying about it. Firelight was written by John, who suggests that it is best listened to while imagining yourself sitting round a campfire at a festival, probably with a didgeridoo playing somewhere in the background. 

13 Jimmy and Nancy 


The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. P. Wiggett at Ford in Gloucestershire in 1909. I found it in The Crystal Spring, edited by Maud Karpeles. Looking back at the manuscript, I see that over the time when I have been singing it the folk process has been at work, resulting in a few minor changes - all of them, obviously, typifying the operation of that process by being improvements on the song as collected and published! 

14 Ruskin Mill 


Written by Becky during a week’s course with the English Acoustic Collective in 2014, this is the only track to feature a solo, unaccompanied fiddle for a complete time through the tune. When John and I join in, the accompaniment is deliberately under-stated. Intended as a gentle, reflective conclusion... 
1
Bennachie Sunrise / Willie’s Trip to Toronto
We first heard this set from the Scottish fiddle-player Alasdair Fraser
2
Blow the Candles Out
Adapted from the version in Stephen Sedley’s ‘Seeds of Love’ – an excellent source of traditional songs from the British Isles. A night-visiting song with a (possibly) happy ending: the man pledging that they will be truly together ‘when three long years are over’. More unusually
3
Thomas Hardy’s Slow Waltz / Morgan Rattler / Battered Hake
I learned Thomas Hardy’s from Phil Rush. Morgan Rattler is a popular session tune in Gloucestershire
4
Cats of Camazen / Pressed For Time
Cats of Camazen was written by Brendan Ring; Pressed For Time was written by Gordon Duncan. John learned them both from Flook
Sample not available
5
The Deserter
I learned this upwards on thirty years ago from Chris Beaumont of Cheltenham; I understood from him that it has elements of versions from Fairport Convention and Bernie Cherry. The story perhaps owes something to circular folk-tales
Sample not available
6
The Star of Munster / Pigeon On The Gate
Two Irish session tunes that we tend to enjoy playing a little faster than is probably sensible. (The cross-rhythms in Pigeon are fun
7
History Man / Lost in Washing
A well-known tune by Andy Cutting
Sample not available
8
Bridget O’Malley
I first learned this Irish song of unrequited love from Laine Davies over thirty years ago. I used to perform it with the late Paul Stanbrook in our duo
Sample not available
9
Tell Her I Am / Out On the Ocean
Both of these tunes came from the incomparable Martin Hayes (and his wonderful accompanist
Sample not available
10
The Golden Willow Tree
An American version of The Golden Vanity which I learned during the all-too brief time that I was working with Sarah Morgan. I describe it
Sample not available
11
Paddy Fahy’s Reel / Mulhaire’s #9
Two session tunes played at a more sensible pace. The first was certainly learned (again) from the playing of Martin Hayes. Paddy Fahy is a highly-regarded and influential fiddle-player from Kilconnell in East Galway. He is known to have written around 60 tunes in traditional Irish style
Sample not available
12
Knock On Wood / Oddpiece Jig / Firelight
Knock on Wood was written by Welsh flautist Greg Morgan and is so-named because you can hear Woody Woodpecker's call in the B section (allegedly). The Oddpiece Jig was written by Becky in 1989 and that’s all she’s saying about it. Firelight was written by John
13
Jimmy and Nancy
The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. P. Wiggett at Ford in Gloucestershire in 1909. I found it in The Crystal Spring
14
Ruskin Mill
Written by Becky during a week’s course with the English Acoustic Collective in 2014
Sample not available

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Mischief Afoot is a folk band based in the Cotswolds who comprise Becky Dellow from Gloucestershire on fiddle who has an MA in Music from Bristol University and is continuing to study for a PhD at Sheffield University researching 19th century English fiddle music, John Davis on recorder and bodhran who is originally a classical trained musician and has played with folk groups, bands, Morris sides and world music ensembles and Jeff Gillett on guitar, mandola, mandolin, English concertina and vocals who is a superlative accompanist and will probably better known for his partnership with Ron Taylor for over twenty-five years.

Therefore, such is the pedigree of these performers that one might expect quite rightly a very high standard of musicianship and performance and indeed that is exactly the case. Quality pervades this CD with a mixture of traditional tunes and songs the majority of which are not particularly well known.

For example, who's heard of the tune Bennachie Sunrise which gently opens the album or the lively Cats of Camazen and Lost in the Washing or the haunting History Man from Andy Cutting and Ruskin Mill written by Becky I wonder? There are eighteen tunes here all played with professional expertise which makes it a veritable treasury of resource material for budding musicians looking for something new and extraordinary.

Equally two of the four songs are interestingly unfamiliar, to me at least, like The Deserter learned from Chris Beaumont of Cheltenham or Jimmy and Nancy collected by Cecil Sharp in Gloucestershire both of which Jeff sings in a pleasantly understated way.

Overall this is a very pleasant and entertaining recording and deserves a place in every traditional music afficianado's collection. It's a delightfully easy to listen to piece of work.

It's available through Proper Music Distribution or from the WildGoose web site.

folking.com

Dai Jeffries

Mischief AfootMischief Afoot are a trio of English musicians based in the Cotswolds and I think it's fair to say that John Davis, Becky Dellow and Jeff Gillett are best known for the musicians they have worked with over the years. Their repertoire is largely traditional or tunes that have a known composer but have travelled far out of their hands � such names as Michael Coleman, Martin Mulhaire and Paddy Fahy. Their sound is all acoustic and delicate, partly because one of the two lead instruments is Davis' recorder which could be easily lost under Dellow's violin. Gillett is the soul of restraint as an accompanist although he gets to shine as the trio's vocalist and, as ever with Doug Bailey's productions, the elements are perfectly balanced.

That's not to say that there is no excitement. Mischief Afoot have a penchant for speeding tunes up, sometimes beyond what is entirely reasonable. The first time they do this is with the set 'Cats Of Camazan/Pressed For Time' which is a whirlwind of notes and repeat the trick with 'The Star Of Munster/Pigeon On The Gate'. They slow down 'Tell Her I Am/Out On The Ocean' allowing Becky to play some surprising sliding fiddle notes.

'The Deserter' is the best known of the songs and, although the story is familiar, Jeff has a version with elements that I haven't heard before and that's always a pleasant surprise. 'Blow The Candles Out' is a song I haven't heard for a long time and a tale of love that's definitely requited unlike that of the protagonists in the lovely 'Bridget O'Malley'. 'The Golden Willow Tree' is an American take on 'Golden Vanity' that is becoming more and more popular and 'Jimmy And Nancy' is another sailor-coming-home-from-the-sea story, although he doesn't try to trick her in this one.

If you like your folk music pure and uncluttered, Mischief Afoot is definitely for you. Come to think of it, that's true of pretty much all of the WildGoose catalogue.

RnR

Ian Croft

This is the debut album by  Cotswolds trio, Mischief  Afoot. Becky Dellow  (fiddle), John Davis  (recorder, bodhran) and Jeff Gillett (guitar and vocals), have all been around the scene for a number of years, and perform a good mix of mainly traditional songs and tunes, well suited to the folk clubs in which they ply their trade.

Jeff Gillett takes the lead on five good traditional songs with a pleasant, gentle voice that fits perfectly with the underlying tone of the album. This works well for a song like 'Blow The Candles Out' but 'The Golden Willow Tree' (aka 'The Golden Vanity') feels rather lightweight, and 'Bridget O'Malley' simply can't compete with the magnificent, late Andy M. Stewart.

The trio are excellent musicians though their mix of instruments doesn't offer much at the bottom end. Generally, this means that tunes at a slower tempo work better than the faster ones that tend to sound a bit thin. Several of the pieces are Irish session tunes, while others come from the likes of Andy Cutting, Alasdair Fraser, and Gordon Duncan. John Davis contributes one self composed tune, and Becky Dellow two, including the beautiful 'Ruskin Mill' that ends Mischief Afoot in reflective style.

The Living Tradition

Tony Hendry

This is a pleasing debut album from a Cotswold-based trio of Becky Dellow (fiddle), John Davis (recorder, bodhran) and Jeff Gillett (vocals, guitar and mandola). These experienced musicians deliver a confident set of mainly traditional songs and tunes from England, Ireland and North America.

Their playing can be sprightly, as in the recorder-led Cats Of Camazen / Pressed For Time, or stately, as in Tell Her I Am / Out On The Ocean, from the playing of Martin Hayes. Familiar session tunes like Morgan Rattler, The Star Of Munster and Pigeon On The Gate are given a twist. Becky provides three fine tunes of her own in Lost In Washing, Oddpiece Jig, and the reflective Ruskin Mill. Good listening, but I think that more variation in the instrumentation, e.g. flute as well as recorder, would have made it better.

Jeff sings five nicely arranged songs. You may remember The Deserter, also known as Ratcliffe Highway, from Fairport Convention's version on Liege And Lief: The Golden Willow Tree (an American variant of The Golden Vanity) is given a playful accompaniment. He learned it in his time as a duo with Sarah Morgan. Blow The Candles Out is a night-visiting song in which the muddiness of the streets is put forward as a reason to be allowed to stay the night. Good tip for Lotharios!

The album is well produced, as you would expect from Wild Goose. It should do much to raise the trio's profile.

www.mischiefafoot.co.uk

Folk London

Paul Cowdell

Mischief Afoot are a classy Cotswolds based trio of Becky Dellow (fiddle), John Davis (recorder / bodhran) and Jeff Gillett (guitar / mandola /mandolin/ English concertina / vocals). All three have wide experience in bands and as accompanists (for the Laurie Lee centenary Dellow backed poet Adam Horovitz with tunes from her grandfather's fiddle book, while Gillett worked with the sorely missed Sarah Morgan amongst many others).

The instrumentation is as sophisticated as you'd expect with that background. The production neatly balances Dellow's fiddle against Davis's recorder, all propped up nicely by Gillett's solid playing. The elegant opener Bennachie SunriselWillie's Trip to Toronto made me worry it might all be somewhat sedate (and their arrangements of tunes like Andy Cutting's The History Man show a definite quality and invention), but they're also well able to kick into a tune without losing that quality: some neatly balanced tune sets lull before cutting loose, and there are also some more straight ahead ripsnorters (they admit to playing some tunes 'a little faster than is probably sensible'!).

The instrumental blend is augmented by a handful of songs in the same tastefully arranged strain. They show a similar range from the mournful Bridget O'Malley to my favourite of them, a nicely bouncy American set of The Golden Willow Tree.

A smart little grower. Paul Cowdell