“Another ‘big song’ that I’ve only just got around to learning. There are so many good versions around, to choose from, but this is basically Carthy’s version I think.”
Actually according to Mainly Norfolk this follows Bert Lloyd’s version, having the extra verse, which seems to be about John Barleycorns revenge. We are of course at the other end of the cycle, having had Hey John Barleycorn back in September. Back then I think I gave you this link, which is worthwhile if a little involved on the John Barleycorn family of songs and the folk process in general. It’s interesting to read Martin Carthy’s notes at MN about the possible symbolism of three men coming “out of the west.” Bert’s notes about “refurbishment” brought a wry smile to my lips as well as by reputation, he’s surely in the know as far as that goes. Mind you I don’t suppose it much matters if you take the line of the folk song “as a live and growing thing, coloured and shaped in its course through centuries by the many minds through which it has passed.” It’s one of the nuggets that that fairly long article puts forward and although not the only take, it’s the one that strikes a chord with me. Anything else suggests an attempt to do for folk as the three from the west would do to John here. Thankfully that approach also seems to be equally unsuccessful. Should I mention Traffic, probably not but I have done, as they’ve been a big band in my life for more years than I care to mention. Along with several of their Island label cohorts they provided the first taste of folk music of my own choosing, long before I really had any idea of what it was.