Ah, Tamlyn, one of the ‘muckle sangs’ appropriate to this time of year. This isn’t the first time I’ve recorded this and put it online, but I lost the original AIFF files and Bandcamp doesn’t accept lossy files.
So, rather late for Halloween, I’ve rerecorded it.
This is the first time I’ve broken my ‘one take’ rule – when you’re singing a 10 minute long song and you cock it up 7 minutes in (for the second time), you tend to think “Sod it! I’ll fix it in post” so here it is – with only the grossest errors covered up.
I got the bones of this from Pete Morton’s version on “Frivolous Love”, but it’s been modified somewhat by hearing Mike Waterson’s take on it (which seems to have informed Pete as well) and I found the pair of verses involving the “old grey knight” on Mudcat and thought that they help make Margaret a little less of a doormat and more the kind of strong willed independent woman that’s depressingly rare in folk songs.
A compare and contrast day today. I’m not sure when Jon Boden recorded Now Westlin’ Winds for his Folk Song a Day project. I recorded this as the clock ticked over from July to August in our kitchen (it was only after I’d gone to bed that I realised that if I’d been able to record a song down there, I couldn’t’ve remembered to set the dishwasher off). I’ve been singing this for nearly 20 years now. The words are by Robert Burns, the tune appears to be traditional, and I got it from Lady of Autumn, by Beggar’s Velvet.
I’ve just looked through the track listing of that album on iTunes and realised that, of 13 tracks, I still sing six of them. Most of them aren’t traditional, so I’ll need to get Dave’s permission before I can record any of them for this project, but if you’re at all interested in the English harmony singing tradition, you should definitely lay your hands on the album. Beggar’s Velvet were Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman and Charley and Cathy Yarwood, and very good they were too.
Cathy’s now Cathy Barclay and singing with Ailsa Mackenzie and Alison Younger in the reformed (after 17 years) Bryony. They still sounded fabulous (albeit a couple of semitones lower) when they sang at my aunt’s 60th birthday last week. Another band you should seek out.
This got uploaded to soundcloud a couple of weeks ago, but I uploaded it late on the Sunday before OSCON and then forgot to post something here as well. Anyway, this is a belting old hymn that I first heard sung by a chap called Derek, when I was living in Northampton and going to the “Soles and ’Eels” folk club. I finally got the words down from a fabulous recording, done for a Fellside anniversary compilation, by the combined forces of Swan Arcade, the Watersons and (seemingly) everyone who ever recorded for Fellside.
What can you say about Little Musgrave (Child 81 for those who care about such things)? It’s old. Apparently it’s quoted from by Beaumont and Fletcher in their 1611 play ‘Knight of the Burning Pestle’.
It’s no Barbara Allen or Lord Randell, but judging by the number of variants in Bronson, it’s one of the more popular ballads, either as Little Musgrave or Mattie Groves. In one version he becomes “Little Moth Grone”, which has a glorious, if garbled, set of words.
The version I sing is taken pretty much straight from Pete
Morton’s version on Trespass, Pete’s 1999 album of traditional material, which is well worth seeking out.
Everybody knows Come Write Me Down, and everyone got it from the Copper family of Rottingdean, who deserve a blog entry far longer than I feel like typing on an iPhone.
The last verse isn’t from the Coppers though – there’s no smut in the Coppers’ Book – Gill heard Bill Elliott singing it and he credits his grandfather, Jack Elliott. The Elliotts of Birtley are worth a longer blog entry too, or seek out Pete Wood’s book on them.
It does feel odd to hear this without any harmonies. Come Write Me Down is so well known that folk club audiences don’t just join in on the repeats, they join in with the verses too. Which makes it a very good “first song ever” to sing out. If you’re a bit nervous or you forget a line your audience will carry you through.
Like so many of the songs I sing, the motivation to learn this came from a single line “I ain’t got a moment of time”. I don’t know why it should be this particular line – in a song chock full of fantastic images – that hooked me the first time I heard Cath sing it in the bar of the Cumberland Arms in Byker, but I’ve been listening to and meaning to learn it for years. (You can buy Cath’s version here).
Then, on Tuesday, I stuck it on “repeat track” on my iPhone, and sang it out (very roughly with a ‘wrong’ tune) at Sharps that night and again at the Green Note Cafe’s Open Mic night on Wednesday (with something far closer to the actual tune). I sang it into the iPhone this morning and here it is for your listening pleasure. Consider this an early draft. I’ve got the words and tune pretty solidly now, all that remains is the long process of bedding in. In a few years time it’ll feel more like something of mine and less like something I borrowed from Cath.