Jon reveals, “I learnt this mainly to try and learn the guitar part from the June Tabor / Martin Carthy version on Silly Sisters. I didn’t get very far with the guitar part so here it is unaccompanied.”

Knowing Jon is no slouch with the guitar that’s got me curious, but regrettably, the album doesn’t seem to be available. There are numerous different versions of this, however, and both Child and Cecil Sharp collected the song.  It’s another ballad that may have an historical event at its core, but typically the variations pull it in all sorts of directions with some relating it to a battle and some to theft or poaching. Still there seems a detail to this that makes it seem very realistic. I’m also intrigued by the fact that Robbie Burns got his hands on this and submitted a version to a Scottish museum collection. There could well be something in the idea that this accounts for the last verse as delivered by Jon here.  The story is a good one and I like the idea of the simmering tension that perhaps leads the King’s advisor to council mercy. It does then make me wonder whether the money that is then donated to the Lady to secure Geordie’s release is freely given. If so it seems that saving Geordie was a popular cause. I’ll not add to the speculation on the historical element as I doubt anything can be proved, but If you know different please add the details below and I’ll happily eat my words. I will point you at this Mudcat thread for starters and then this one, also Mainly Norfolk for the words and notes of various recordings.



22 Responses to “Geordie”

  1. Anthea Rutherford says:

    Well, it’s certainly Martin Carthy playing guitar – but it’s June Tabor and -Maddy Prior- doing the singing, innit? 😉

  2. Reinhard says:

    Yes, June Tabor sings Geordie on Silly Sisters. It’s one of the two songs on that album with solo vocals, the other one being Lass of Loch Royal sung by Maddy Prior.

  3. John Burton says:

    Tabor/Carthy Silly Sisters version here,

  4. Joe Offer says:

    Jon’s version is quite different from the ones I’m familiar with. I identified this song with several winsome distaff singers, who all sing this song in a way that “arouses my sensitivities.” I find that Martin Carthy and Paul Clayton and Bert Lloyd use the same tune as the winsome women. It’s with some relief that I find that Frank Hamilton used a different tune on Frank Hamilton Sings Folk Songs, since I’m not sure I want to have my sensitivities aroused by Frank Hamilton….
    Anyhow Frank’s version is quite different, and I like it.
    …and I like Jon’s version, too – but I don’t mind having my sensitivities aroused by the winsome women. The version by Baez is sexy as hell. The Silly Sisters version is very different – I wonder where that one comes from.
    There’s a thread at Mudcat called “How Many Versions of Geordie”:
    I don’t know if there’s an answer to that question. I keep discovering new versions.


  5. Elen says:

    I bought a copy of the Silly Sisters cd last year for a friend and amazon still have it listed as available:

  6. Jan says:

    Silly Sisters is one of my all-time favourite albums, so I hope you can still get it on Amazon, Simon, as I’d hate for you to miss out on that one.
    I’m not surprised Jon didn’t get too far with the guitar accompaniment as Martin’s style is quite distinctive. I can do it on my Appalachian dulcimer, but not yet publicly!
    I don’t know if my friend Teresa counts as a winsome woman, but she sings the version with the gentler tune.

  7. jonathan says:

    Simon, just to add, Silly Sisters rocks – somehow you feel involved with it throughout. Took your advice & got Oak Ash & Thorn – thanks- well worth it.

  8. Simon says:

    I’m off to Bristol Folk Festival this wekend, Bellowhead in Bournemouth on Monday and then off to Brum to see the folks, friends and a couple of gigs there as well… Somewhere amongst that lot I’ll order that first Silly Sisters CD, which is indeed on Amazon… Thanks for the recommendation. My first thought is to go straight to ebay and see if I can find the vinyl and oddly I tend to forget to look at Amazon.

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    Excellent choice, Jon!

    I have to say, ‘Silly Sisters’ is virtually my all-time favourite folk album, as one of the first I ever bought. I had it on vinyl, but swapped it for CD. (Sorry, Skyman or you could have had it, gratis!) Mine is the older version CD, but you can definitely get a later version off Amazon.

    There is also a second Silly Sisters album called ‘No More To The Dance,’ which has some songs on Jon has covered here, like ‘Hedger & Ditcher’ and ‘The Barring Of The Door.’ This should also be available on Amazon. I cannot believe I actually know of sthg you haven’t heard, Skyman! I feel less ‘unknowing’ now! I’m sure you will absolutely love it! It has ‘Grey Funnel Line,’ which Jon has also covered here.

  10. Robinson says:

    Okay I’m cnonviced. Let’s put it to action.

  11. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    I love the Silly Sisters but …… This song and tune seem a bit humdrum to me…..perhaps I shouldn’t comment negatively.

  12. Diana says:

    I agree with Muzza – this didn’t make much of an impression on me either.

  13. Diana says:

    @Muzza I have just read your comment on Jane’s page and have left a reply for you.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Is it me, or does this song remind anyone of the Prickle-Eye Bush and Derry Gaol?

  15. Emma, Lady Hamilton says:

    Horatio, do you realise that five years elapsed between our first and second meeting and by then you have lost an arm?

  16. Diana says:

    @Jane do you think Muzza is up to his old tricks again?

  17. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Diana, if he is, it is best to go along with his fantasies, they are quite ‘armless’.

    I really like this version, it all has a ring of truth about it, and, it has a happy ending. Iwas getting ready for a gory one.

  18. Diana says:

    John that deserves one of Jane’s HAHAHAHAs. Actually it was naughty me who took on the part of Lady H. I wanted to get my own back.

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    The lyrics are great. Having heard some time ago, this sung unaccompanied by a Scot with a wonderful voice (an occasional visitor and floor-singer at my local Topic folk club – sorry I do not know his name to credit him) I have new-found respect for its potential power. I think it benefits from a bit more pace than Jon gave it here. If you can keep up the drama and lilt, it really comes across.

  20. Murray says:

    This song makes a huge impression on me, and has since I first heard it circa 1976, or whenever that album came out (I have it playing right now, but I don’t feel like getting the cover). That thrumming, powerful guitar and June’s voice are equal reasons–just as her voice and Martin Simpson’s voice are reasons to love A Cut Above. This is the best song of the Silly Sisters, for me. It just moves along, and moves me. I think there’s some special tuning here, though it may merely be drop-D. I came online here to see if I could find out, as I too would like to play this as he does. Fat chance.

    There are also some lyrics I cannot quite understand, chiefly: “She had not read the word ‘report’ / When she grew pale as the lily” (I think I have that report bit wrong).

  21. paul mayle says:

    Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer’s version on their Child ballads album is sublime 🙂

  22. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ha……Geordie- following yesterday’s ‘I know my love by his way of talkin’
    Classic !

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