Country Life


Now here’s a tune to put spring in your step and Jon says, “Mike Waterson’s greatest hit? Probably as far as social singing goes it is. You can’t beat the Watersons’ harmonies either – many have tried and all have failed.” You’ll find their version on the For Pence And Spicy Ale CD and again I concur with Jon, the harmonies are immaculate. A.L. Lloyds notes that the song predates the 18th C agricultural revolution, which makes sense as it’s such and open hearted celebration. The word laylum or laylan would seem likely to be a regional corruption of lay land as in fallow land. The idea that the birds are undisturbed and therefore happy and busy singing on it makes sense, to me at least. This link will take you straight to the Mainly Norfolk page for the song and you can follow a Mudcat thread from there, although I don’t think it offers any special illumination. I’m going to have to commit this one to memory for my rambling, although probably best (in my case) as an internal tape loop, lest I be accused of disturbing the peace.  Any additional details of history and provenance will be appreciated here.

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18 Responses to “Country Life”

  1. Phil says:

    When I first heard this song I was convinced it was a piece of modern rural nostalgia, but it turns out that it’s echt Trad. & exists in several different versions. Although Jon’s in great voice here, I think this particular tune lets him down a bit – at least, it doesn’t give him much to work with. Derek and Dorothy Elliott’s version (“The Old Cock Crows” on The Celebrated Yorkshire) is worth digging out.

  2. muzza says:

    This lil ‘ol song was playing as background music in tonight’s episode of “Last of the summer wine”……….the bit where the gang were eating fish and chips..about a third of the way through…..AFSAD………topical and spot on or what!

  3. Caroline Jefford says:

    ah…. now that is the PERFECT way to start the day

  4. Jo Breeze says:

    More about Country Life from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
    There are 21 records of Country Life in the Library from singers including Jack Howlett, Walter Pardon, Bob Lewis and William Henry Watts.
    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. 1409, this produces just one record – collected by Steve Gardham from the singing of Jack Howlett.
    There are no records of the song in the Take 6 collection.
    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.
    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  5. Dieter says:

    Dan Zanes sings “Country Life” with some of his Friends on his 2006 album “Catch That Train!”. I always check my collection for more versions of AFSAD.

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

    Come on guys and gals………….all join in the chorus…………..and while we are at it….Happy Birthday to John Burton in Canada.(see Oggie man comments)

  7. John Biggs says:

    This is a great song and very well sung.
    I first heard it performed by one of our local choirs, and they really do it justice.

  8. Jan says:

    Nicely sung, but I’m disappointed to see so few comments on one of my favourite songs – and such a good one for group singing with harmonies! So much so, it’s one of several I’m working on just now with a couple of friends in a style not uninfluenced by the Watersons.

  9. Patrick Rose says:

    This was the first Watersons’ track I heard. I was sold pretty much instantly.

    Must learn this one…

  10. 金宝博 滚球…

    […]Country Life « A Folk Song A Day[…]…

  11. Linda says:

    Enjoyed the link. Eliza Carthy and Friends really look to be having fun and enjoying themselves.

  12. Diana says:

    Absent yesterday as computer was locked by a particularly nasty virus which is going around. Catching up enjoyed this jolly little song. Cheered me up no end.

  13. Linda says:

    Just what’s needed today something bright and cheerful. At the moment its raining and horrible!

  14. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Lindy Lou………
    I feel sooooo selfish as there I was enjoying my endoscopy and colonoscopy

  15. John Burton says:

    The Young’uns sang “Country Life” in the Big Sing workshop with Arrowsmith Robb Trio last week at the Goderich Celtic Festival, Goderich Ontario Canada. It was also sung by me one night at the sing around at the ParkHouse. Yet again the weekend before at the Millrace Folk Festival in Cambridge Ont the weekend before.

  16. […] “meadow or cropland,” “fallow land”). Much online discussion is uncertain: afolksongaday,, Those links go to a handful of people who have specific (and […]

  17. Justin Clark says:

    My father’s band Blackthorn (active in Perth, West Australia in the late 70s) did a fine version of this song, arranged as a cappella harmonies. Check it out here!:

  18. Old Muzza (NW Surry-UK) says:

    Whoa Justin….your dad’s group did a fine version….(video above)
    Always wondered how the fellas doing the harmony kept from going into the main melody and you can pick them out on this version.
    Are you and the family still in Australia?….or was he a £10 Pom and came home again!
    Ha…no trace of an Australian accent on the recording…just good old agricultural English

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