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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Bonny House of Airlie

2014
08.28

Crediting Lou Killen as his source Jon says, “Another song that I learnt partly as an exercise – hell of a song to sing and Lou’s a hell of a singer to learn it off.” We’re staying in Child Balled territory here and this is #199. For once this is categorically linked to an historic event, even if the ballad is probably somewhat embellished by the presence of Lady Ogilvie, who almost certainly would not have been at home had 1,000 men (more in some variants of the story) come to call. At least not without a roughly equal number of her own standing in the way. Having said that I’m no expert on the history of Scotland and this Wiki link has a more graphicly expressed fate for the Lady of Ogilvie. Although equally I’ve read elsewhere that the castle was deserted as everyone had fled, so whether this is simply to make a political point of some sort I can’t say. Another dabble suggested that Argyll eventually had his comeuppance in the shifting political landscape of the C17th. This link looks to tell a plausible story and it’s possible several events have been rolled into one song, but perhaps those more thoroughly schooled in the Clans and National Covenant Rebellion can enlighten us. Mainly Norfolk is once more packed with information about the recordings and quotes again from the various sleeve notes that have gone before. I couldn’t find sufficient on Mudcat to embellish anything here, but again if you know differently please add away.

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Lord Randal

2014
08.27

Child Ballad #12 of which Jon says, “Poor old dogs. Can’t say I ever feel terribly sympathetic towards Lord Randal, however – I’m not sure why but I always have a nagging suspicion that he may have deserved it…” This seems to be a widely used storyline although I’ve picked up that the earliest printed version of the ballad is in 1787 in The Scots Musical Museum. There it is titled Lord Ronald, my Son. It may have had its roots in an Italian ballad of the 1600s, which this Wiki link expands on. It has numerous alternate titles, including  Lord Randall, Jimmy Randal, Jimmy Randolph, Jimmy Ransome, The Croodlin Doo, King Henry, My Son and Tiranti, my love. It’s known throughout the British Isles, North America and widely across Europe. Sir Walter Scott associated the ballad with the death of Thomas Randolph (Randal), Earl of Murray – (or Moray), Robert the Bruce’s nephew. Randolph died at Musselburgh in 1332 and some suggested because the death was so untimely for Scotland, it could have been caused by poison. According to Burl Ives the tune came to America with followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie who settled in North Carolina after his defeat. In The Journal of Folk Song Society (Vol.ii., No. 6 and Vol. iii., No. 10) Miss Gilchrist suggests the identity of Lord Randal is the sixth Earl of Chester, who died in 1232. The said Earl was poisoned by his wife. There is a German version Grossmutter-Schlangenkoechin, where the death is due to poisonous snakes. The song’s theme has also been found in Italy, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Iceland. Jon picked this up from Peter Bellamy and Mainly Norfolk has bags of excellent detail about that and other versions with quotes from various sleeve notes. Usurprisingly, there are lots of threads on Mudcat  with this post following Jon’s lyrics the closest. You’ll spot some other variants at the bottom, but if you search it by Child #12, you’ll find other stuff. A quick note as well on “spickit and sparkit,” which apparently means speckled and blotched.

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Doleful Dance of Death

2014
08.26

Jon picked this up from Tim Healy of The Oxford Waits and says, “Tim performs the original C17th version of this with a skull mask over his face: pretty scary stuff. I used to have to play the recorder solo which was also pretty scary…” You’ll find a version on Spiers & Bodens Songs CD, where the notes refer to Jon having “doctored the lyrics drastically,” and the source being the Oxford University Broadside Collection. The alternate title is Shaking Of The Sheets and Mudcat suggests it’s somewhat older being C16th and is referred to in a play of around 1560. There are quite a few additional verses and the lyrics are, as suggested above, very different from the version Jon gives us here. Mainly Norfolk also covers Steeleye’s version.

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Leave Her Johnny

2014
08.25

Jon again points to the Forest School camps and particularly to Daniel Jacks  for his source of this with the revelation, “I think this is the only song I have genuinely learnt ‘orally’ – Daniel and I were re-turfing a fire pit on a Welsh camp (I must have been 16 or so) and he taught me it verse by verse. Haven’t seen Daniel for a very long time but he’s a fantastically rich and laid back singer. Simon Emmerson (Afro Celts) made a few recordings of him for FSC – not sure if they’re available anywhere still.” This one is definitely a shanty and seems to have had any number of verses in varying order. I’m indebted to Reinhard at Mainly Norfolk for his research on this and the sleeve notes quoted suggest that verses could well have been improvised at the end of a voyage to suit the circumstances and air the particular grievances of the crew. I also like the suggestion that it was saved up as the last song, as singing it before the ship was all but home was tantamount to mutiny. It suggests many a salty version with no punches pulled and this link is also worthy, suggesting many unprintable verses. I couldn’t find anything more illuminating on Mudcat, so please add to this if you can.

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Bellowhead – Broadside, the new album

2014
08.24

Bellowhead - BroadsideBellowhead’s brand new album ‘Broadside’ is due for release on the 15th October via Navigator Records.

Broadside is a positive spectacular, taking some of the wildest, most joyous and iconic songs in the richly colourful canon of the folk song tradition… and turning them upside down and inside out with the unique sense of drama and theatre, instrumental virtuosity, verve, humour and blind cheek that has seen them spearhead the new folk boom. Their third album Hedonism was the highest-selling independently released traditional folk album of all time, yet the new one Broadside (a title that rather cunningly melds an early form of printed song sharing with an appropriate nautical reference to firepower) is surely set to eclipse it with its thrilling arrangements and non-stop party spirit.

Like Hedonism, Broadside is produced by the great John Leckie, who has previously done wonderful things with the Stone Roses and Radiohead; and he’s now effectively captured all the explosiveness that has established Bellowhead’s undisputed reputation as one of the planet’s most exciting live bands and replicated it in the studio. In this case that studio is Rockfield, where Freddie Mercury once held court. Indeed, at one point the massed vocals even evoke Bohemian Rhapsody and Freddie would surely have identified with the electrifying dynamism and sense of fun conjured up by this very special band. A couple of the tracks are based on songs that initially found common currency in the form of those printed broadsides – the gruesome romp Black Beetle Pies for one and the spooky ballad The Wife Of Usher’s Well – all death, ghosts and “earthly flesh and blood” – for another. Weirdness also abounds with Betsy Baker, a vigorous tale of unrequited love, while some of the most venerated songs of the folk revival – Northumbrian mining song Byker Hill, the Copper Family classic Thousands Or More, the rocking sea shanty Go My Way and The Old Dun Cow – the knockabout tale of being trapped inside a burning pub – are revived in startling ways. They may be familiar, but they’ve never sounded like this before. There’s even an irresistibly bonkers take on Lillibulero, a satirical song set to a tune attributed to Henry Purcell, on which the band flex their considerable muscles and gleefully explore their seemingly bottomless box of magic tricks, emerging with storming vocals, blitzing percussion, rampaging strings and mad, bad brass.

Broadside, their fourth album, writes another extraordinary chapter in the story of Bellowhead, which began in 2004 when a disparate group of characters who initially knew one another from informal pub sessions thought it might be a good wheeze to pool their widely varied backgrounds, influences and talents and form a big band… just to see what happened. Even they couldn’t have imagined the results as their funny little enterprise -incorporating top-notch jazz, world, folk and classical musicians in a swathe of brass, strings, squeezebox, percussion and anything else that seemed like a good idea at the time – swiftly expanded into a gung-ho 11-piece line-up. Four albums, a glut of awards, sell-out tours and a long trail of thunderous festival appearances down the line, they’ve transported folk music into hitherto unknown territory, introducing a whole new audience to it with them. “The greatest live act in Britain,” says BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo. “One of the best live bands in the UK…or anywhere,” says Jeremy Vine. And the hordes of dancing fans grinning and singing along and treating every gig as a party clearly agree. That party gains even more momentum with Broadside for, while some of the songs may appear graphic and brutal, this is above all, an album driven by a lust for life. And that’s a subject close to the heart of Bellowhead. The album will be accompanied by the band’s biggest ever UK tour (6th – 24th Nov), visit www.gigantic.com for tickets.

Available to pre-order from:


Deluxe Limited Edition version available exclusively from Play.com


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