You are here: Albums > Display Review

of Lancashire Wakes

reviews Dead Maid's Land by Paul Wilson & Marilyn Tucker

The Rev Sabine Baring-Gould was one of the most significant folk-song collectors of the 19th century, and this album is but a tiny selection from his vast gleanings. I quote from the blurb on the back: "As collected, the songs have a rough, magical beauty like the moorland landscapes from which they come ... (here) they have been trimmed and polished for a new audience. The musical arrangements embrace harmony singing, fiddles, concertina, a touch of brass and other ideas borrowed from the living traditions in England ..."
The recording was made as part of the "Songs of the West Heritage Project" co-ordinated by Wren Music in a two year collaboration with Devon Libraries, the Baring-Gould family and the National Trust, with the aim of copying the reverend gentleman's folk?song manuscript collection (including his personal copy manuscript of over 650 songs, discovered in Killerton House [NT] as recently as 1992) together with broadside ballads, chapbooks and much material from his own library and other collections. I'm amazed that it took only two years! The BaringGould Archive is now available in microfiche from Wren Music, to consult for research or to buy: a worthy project indeed.

Wren Music is a professional folk and community arts development organisation and was established by Marilyn Tucker and Paul Wilson in 1983. All the other artists on this CD have also been involved in Wren Music's work, and include the well established performers Chris Bartram, Tim Laycock, Chris Foster, Martin Graebe and Phil Humphries along with a further eight names new to me who do a good job filling out harmonies and augmenting the instrumental accompaniments.

The CD contains fifteen songs and two tunes, in the main unusual versions of fairly familiar material, and there isn't a duff track amongst them ? not surprising when you consider the line?up. Song titles are Blue Muslin (also known as The keys of Canterbury/Keys of Heaven/Paper of Pins); Dead Maid's Land (a version of The Seeds of Love); Frog and Mouse (Froggie Went A Courting/Anthony Rowley); The Gypsy Countess (Wraggle Taggle Gypsies); Georgie (Geordie, to a haunting and very different tune); The Old Ewe (making the best of an unwise purchase); When I Was Young (to learn by heart this remarkable catalogue of 42 jobs in almost as many west country locations is a challenge and a half!); Haymaking and Harvest Song (familiar words, unusual tunes) Robin Redbreast (a Cornish Wassail song); My Lady's Coach (learnt by Baring-Gould from his nurse - a spooky tale that would give any child nightmares!) Rather more easily recognised items are The Mower (a song of sexual encounter reminiscent of many more); Herring's Head (from the 'argumentative' strain of the song rather than the 'cumulative'); The Drunken Maidens and Golden Vanity (close to the usual versions). The two instrumental items, William Andrews' Hornpipe No 1 & No 2 step hop hornpipes that add variety to the mix, are also vaguely reminiscent of tunes we've all danced to, but I can't quite put a name to them.

The eight page illustrated booklet, compiled by Martin Graebe and the two main performers, gives detailed and interesting background information on the chosen items, their sources and Baring?Gould. The performers and Wren Music are to be congratulated on bringing this material to a wider audience.