Sally Free and Easy


A song by Cyril Tawney, of whom Jon says, “One of the great writers of the revival. Tawney’s songs have a majesty and depth to them that not many writers-in-the-tradition have ever equalled.” This song has clearly captured the imagination of many as a quick Google brings up Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithful, Pentangle, The Trees and The Corries amongst others. I also found this Guardian obituary for Cyril, which certainly makes interesting reading.  You’ll find the lyrics at Mudcat here and scroll down to find related Cyril Tawney threads.

The buy links should now work properly. We had some problems with a duplicate track and everything needed to be updated, but I’ve just tested them and they are now OK!

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26 Responses to “Sally Free and Easy”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hilary Ely, Jon Boden. Jon Boden said: Latest Post: Sally Free and Easy […]

  2. Mzz.Beee says:

    How lovely!

    “a quick Google brings up Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithful, Pentangle, The Trees and The Corries amongst others.”

    Alan Stivell does a really nice job on this song too.

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    If this isn’t one of Jon’s favourites, it’s certainly a favourite with his voice… loved it!

  4. Phil says:

    Very nice. While we’re on alternative versions, the Flying Saucer Attack version is worth at least one listen.

    This was the first song I ever sang at a folk club – unaccompanied, in a version learnt from the Pentangle recording. I was so nervous I didn’t even take off my coat to go on stage, and that night I was wearing a full-length raincoat – I must have looked most odd. It was the third time I’d been to that club, and when I bumped into the MC afterwards he seemed quite cross – “Why didn’t you tell us you sing?” In its way that was one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me – up to that evening I hadn’t been someone who sings, just someone who thinks he can sing.

    And yes, Cyril Tawney could write ’em – songs in or near the tradition – as very few can: in that respect he’s up there with MacColl, Peter Bellamy, Lal Waterson and Dylan (your list may vary). On my MySpace page (linked from my name) I initially planned to stick exclusively to traditional songs, but then there was a MacColl I couldn’t leave out, and a Lal Waterson song I had to do… No Cyril, though – maybe I’ll rectify that another time.

  5. Mark says:

    My favourite so far I think Jon! Going to try and do a version myself I think (that’s kind of the idea isn’t it – you don’t mind?) Do you reckon I could come up with a guitar accompaniment? I’m not too hot on transcribing these things, guess I have to figure out the key and go from there…

  6. Stephen Harvey says:

    A nicely done and sensitive rendition, Jon. One of my favourites to sing also, next to “Grey Funnel Line” – I’d like to hear you sing that one, as well. However, I realise there is only so much time available to do this project and there are so many songs.

  7. Mzz.Beee says:

    “I’d like to hear you sing that one, as well.”

    Two I’d like to hear from JB, would be Bruton Town and The Gaol Song. Simply because I can imagine them working well. A quick google informs me he sings the former, though I don’t know about the latter.

  8. Yer Gran says:

    Another brilliant version,Jon,thanks.

    “I’d like to hear you sing that one as well”-what about a suggestion box on here??
    My suggestion would be,”Andrew Rose the British Sailor” (alternative version “Orkney Seaman Andrew Ross”-real history in a sensitive song,just the thing your voice does so well.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Phil says:


  10. Gerald Humphries says:

    I started my singing and playing with Cyril in Devonport in 1964 – there was still Oggies to be had down by the Albert Gate then

  11. OxfordClareB says:

    Yet another stunning song, thanks Jon. I agree, Cyril is up there with MacColl et al.

    Phil, enjoyed listening to your Myspace – great to hear other people flying the flag of unaccompanied singing! 🙂

  12. mab says:

    Nicely melancholic singing of this song. I’ve always liked Cyril Tawney’s stuff (although have to admit that my favourites are ‘Chicken on a Raft’ and ‘Stanley the Rat’! Any chance?)

  13. Phil says:

    Thanks, Clare!

  14. Jean says:

    I love this song, especially when it is sung by Show of Hands and if Paul Downes is in attendance then love it even more.

  15. Yehudit says:

    Even Alan Stivell recorded Sally Free and Easy, in his French accent, and with harp accompaniment. It’s pretty good actually.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Still lovely, second time around.

    Ref Jean’s comment above, by coincidence, I have just been listening to recently purchased Show of Hands’ Cold Cuts album from their Cold Frontier Tour 2001. This song is indeed on that album and Paul Downes is indeed guesting on the vocals.

  17. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Nice one Cyril/Jon…………the “sailor concertina” accompaniment adds to the atmosphere.

  18. Mike Armstrong says:

    Not forgetting the Three City Four version from Marting Carthy, now on a Three City Four CD called Smoke &Dust released on Fuse Records.

    The notes on the CD comment that Sally Free and Easy is an unusual attempt to compose an English blues.

  19. John Biggs says:

    Cyril was a regular visitor to the folk clubs in Southampton in the 60s (His mother was living in Gosport at the time) and we were always guaranteed a superb evenings singing. Although he is mostly remembered for his own songs, (and this was one of the favourites) he was also a superb interpreter of the old traditional songs and sea shanties. So, as a song writer and performer, he was, as Phil says above, up there with the ‘greats’ and Jon’s version is a good tribute to him.

  20. Diana says:

    Nice one Jon. Really lovely – thoroughly enjoyed listening to it twice.

  21. Diana says:

    Linda how about the stalls bar during the interval. I shall be sporting a lovely red knitted rose courtesy of Jane. It is getting nearer at last considering it was over 6 months or so when we first got tickets.

  22. Linda says:

    Diana, can only find the Lyric circle bar on the Lowry site ,is that the one you mean if not let me know which one you are thinking of as I have never been to the Lowry before. To even things up I shall be sporting a white rose with burgundy feather hope Jane approves. Jon loved today song

  23. Diana says:

    Linda I am sure I can find my way to the circle bar – I will hover just inside the door and look out for you and your white rose.

  24. Emma says:

    Thank you for putting this online.
    I heard it once sometime between ’97-01 at Chi Folk Song Club and it has been in my mind ever since. Now I have found it.

  25. Granw says:

    The Demon Barbers do a great version of this song too.

  26. inda says:

    2012 Happy memories……….

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