This site was originally conceived by Jon Boden and launched in June of 2010 to deliver at least one new song a day for a year. It’s about encouraging social singing and intended as a resource for the audience to gather their own inspiration, perhaps learn new repertoire and wherever possible take that out into the wider world. Each new song was set to appear at the very start of the day as the midnight hour ticked by. The process was reset each subsequent year, finding a new audience each time around, as well as keeping many devotees happy and has just been started again.
All of the songs were recorded by Jon, sometimes with instrumental accompaniment, sometimes without and occasionally with a helping hand or voice or two. As well as the songs themselves, each day featured a post that tried to unravel the origins and mysteries behind the songs, Jon’s inspirations and some general history wherever it seemed of interest. Those posts were all written in 2010 as a journey of discovery, with links to other resources where appropriate. Some of those resources may not have had the staying power of AFSAD, but we will be trying to fix any broken links that we can as we go.
You will also find that some of Jon’s choices and performances provoked praise comment, criticism and in some cases a good degree of extra ferreting around the net to add to the story, so the comments are well worth your attention. Anyone is welcome to join in, subject to moderation of course, although pretty much all opinions are accepted as long as they are reasonably and politely expressed. Anyone is welcome and no special knowledge is required, so feel free to add to the threads, but more than anything, enjoy the music.
Jon calls this one “Probably the only song in the revival repertoire written in the Locrian mode. Amazingly it doesn’t sound that strange and lyrically it’s a tour de force by Kirkpatrick senior.”
John Kirkpatrick that is, who has recorded his own version, as has Martin Carthy and you can read more about those at Mainly Norfolk. I don’t have an awful lot more to add and am not scholarly enough to comment on the Locrian mode or scale, although you may like to look at this and this. I’m sure it will make more sense to the singers amongst you, but it gives a slightly odd feel to the tune, which seems to suit the matter-of-factness of it all. For some reason I’m getting a ‘musical’ film feeling from it with visions of a sinister Dick Van Dyke flickering in my mind. I’m not sure why… It may just be the peculiar sort of day I’m having.
Jon says, “In some respects quite an ordinary folk-song story, but the imagery is very powerful here. I first heard this sung by Jackie McShee on the John Renbourn Group’s Maid in Bedlam CD, which is great by the way.”
I’ll add that I’ve come across some lyric sets for this that seem to end happily. This Mudcat thread at least goes some way there, but there are even some verses where our newly arrived hero saves the day. Still I agree that this is indeed powerful stuff, a shudder went down my spine.
Jon calls this “Probably the best known hunting song in revival circles thanks to the Watersons’ stirring version.”
I don’t have much to add to this one despite putting my sensitivities on hold after all the whaling debacle. I can offer this Mudcat thread, not that it’s especially illuminating as one of the links to Paul Graney (the Watersons’ source) doesn’t work at all and the other seems not to have been updated. There’s also a suggestion that this comes from the Holme Valley Tradition, but I can’t find anything to verify that, so if you know more please chip in below. As to the association with John Peel (who seems to be our most famous hunt master and hound owner), again I can’t confirm this and he and his dogs surely can’t be the only source of hunting songs.
Jon recalls “Jake Thackray was a revered personage at the Colpitts hotel sessions in Durham. This was sung regularly by a gentleman called Winston (I think) who also had a great self-penned number about taking up jogging at the age of 75 (his age) in order to meet girls. Quite a character.”
I can’t speak for Winston, nor really for Jake Thackray although the latter is at least someone I’ve heard and his voice is instantly memorable and recognisable. I guess my exposure would probably have been limited to the odd TV appearance or Radio 2 play during my youth, as I’ve never owned anything by him. I can’t help but feel that’s probably a mistake on my part, however, as this one certainly raised a smile and there is sufficient stuff on YouTube, several I note that Jake himself introduces as “offensive”, to suggest it’s something to rectify. Perhaps I’m too easily swayed, but I love his lugubrious, deadpan delivery with a facial expression that seems to perpetually hover between quizzical and distaste. Another English one-off, in this case, however, modelled on the French chansonnier tradition. I’ll give you this link for all things Thackray, although we may need to be patient with the navigation as it’s a bit prone to error messages. Keep trying and the pages generally load OK. Of course Wiki gives the overview and is also reasonably interesting.
Once again Jon confesses “This is one of those tunes you assume you know, until you try to sing it. It took a bit of learning this, but it’s a great song though.”
I should have known… This all starts so well with the woods, the flowers, the birds and the sense of spring in the air, but finishes with a lovelorn wish for death. You may like a look at this Mudcat thread as there seem to be a number of different versions of this. There seems to be some speculation about the age of this song too and you’ll pick that up at Mainly Norfolk in Bert Lloyd’s notes. As far as I’ve been able to see, the 1670s/80s seems to be the earliest acknowledged record of this. It’s also in The Copper Family collection and a fine tune it is too.