Here we go round again…

2014
02.04

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.

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Dark As A Dungeon

2015
01.31

Jon says, “Another FSC campfire number although I’m not sure who wrote it. I love the line ‘like a fiend for his dope or the drunkard his wine’

I think that line instantly gives it a modern feel, but even so the surprise (for me anyway) answer as to the composer’s identity is Merle Travis who also wrote 16 Tons. I confess to knowing very little about him and although he came from a mining family, I’d suggest the note by Peter Kennedy on Mainly Norfolk that “he is himself a miner”, is probably wide of the mark. Whether Merle was trying to claim that background as this song became a staple of the folk revival is I suppose possible, although chinese whispers is the more likely root of the statement. More interesting is Hedy West’s note about Merle’s conversation with a miner and indicates Merle’s genuine identification with that community he grew up in. He seems to be a character none the less and Merle Fest is a whole American annual event in his honour. His Wiki entry has him as a highly influential guitarist too, with both Chet Atkins and Scotty Moore in his debt. Another name for the ‘investigate at a later date’ file, but let’s face it I’m going to need a whole extra life to get through that one.

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I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen

2015
01.30

Jon says, “The fabulous Irish singer Mick Henry has been going on at me for years to learn this one. It’s a tricky little number and so sentimental that it’s difficult to know how to pitch it. I’m really enjoying singing it though.”

Here’s another that’s confounded me. I was quite prepared not to like this at all, but I find Jon’s reading of it strangely moving. I guess I have this pegged as one of those syrupy, MOR mainstays, but in fact it’s rather sad. The author for this is well known, an American of German ancestry Thomas Westendorf and this Mudcat thread is genuinely fascinating. His wife’s name was Jenny and whether this was a simple bit of commercial opportunism aimed at the Irish market, or otherwise gained association with the Irish community because it was generally performed by tenors on the Vaudeville circuit and all tenors were labelled Irish, is moot. I’m even more intrigued that the author’s full name is Thomas Paine Westendorf, although that revolutionary thinker was as hugely important in America as he was unwelcome here. What went wrong?

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Anachie Gordon

2015
01.29

Another of the Child ballads, #239, and Jon says “I first heard this sung unaccompanied by the brilliant Elle Osborne. She sang it with real gusto and totally nailed it. I’ve only just learnt this recently so am not sure how it will develop for me. I was a bit disappointed to find out it wasn’t called Anarchy Gordon. That should surely be a David Owen illustration of some sort?”

Jon Lydon to guest on AFSAD perhaps??!!?? This is a bit of a Scottish epic and it seems another revived by Nic Jones, with all subsequent versions based on his, first second or third (etc) hand. Mainly Norfolk has his notes and it’s clear from those that he pulled the verses together from several different sources.  I guess it makes this one of those hybrids that I suggested the other day. There have been several notable recordings, including Mary Black’s version that led some people to presume this to be Irish. I think that the name says it all, however, with various alternative spellings Annochie, Anachi and Auchannachie, etc plus the alternate title of Lord Saltoun and Auchanachie. I didn’t think Mudcat added much to the story, but start here should you want to. Wiki has an entry for it and I’m intrigued by the closing remark thatAccording to the Columbia State University website, it is ‘Possibly related to the Swedish ballad Stolt Ingrid [Proud Ingrid]’.” The whole slightly over wrought, Romeo and Juliet, ill-starred lovers story dying broken hearted has a strong moral lesson element. The father ordering the loosening of his daughter’s gown for political or monetary gain is rather sinister and unsavoury, the consequences are tragic.

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Banks Of The Nile

2015
01.28

We continue our military theme and Jon says of this one, “Derek Schofield invited Fay and I to sing at the Vaughan Williams concert at Cecil Sharp House a few years ago. I learnt this then to sing with Fay – she has subsequently recorded it on Looking Glass.”

This is another from Vaughan Williams’ collection that Martin Carthy saw fit to revive, this time with the Falklands conflict as his inspiration. You’ll see from Mainly Norfolk that The Young Tradition and Fotheringay both got there before him, but I like Martin’s notes. I’m also intrigued by Bert Lloyds entry and the fact that some women did apparently do exactly as the girl was planning to do and follow their men aboard ship. I’m also intrigued as this is another where there is clearly an Irish version as per the penultimate verse in Fay and Jon’s versions. Elsewhere it’s England or unspecified. I note the other lyrical variations and came up with another version, although the source of it is unspecified, I was rather taken with it especially the couplet,

Let a hundred days be darkened and let maidens give a sigh
It would melt the very elements to hear the wounded cry

Those of you minded to sing this out and about might be able to construct a bit of an epic from the various verses on offer, although whether there’s any merit in that only your audience will decide.

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My Son John

2015
01.27

Jon says, “I seem to recall that my folk-hating school friends became rather attached to this particular song. I’m not entirely sure why but there’s something slightly Monty Python about the wording and perhaps that’s the appeal. It’s a strange combination of jollity and social comment.”

Jon credits Tim Hart as his source for this, who recorded it with Maddy Prior on their Folk Songs Of Old England Vol. 2 back in 1969. Sadly it’s another of those songs that hasn’t lost its relevance and Martin Carthy gave it a very smart updating with The Imagined Village, bringing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mainly Norfolk covers Tim and Maddy’s version. Wiki turns up an interesting Irish antecedent called Mrs McGrath that has a lot more detail, naming the conflict as fighting the Spanish.

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You can buy the January digital album now from all good download stores:

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