Jon attributes his source as “Sung by the mighty Wilsons on the fabulous Voices CD from Fellside. I think they had it from Pete Wood. Shame it doesn’t have a chorus as it feels like it should do, or at very least a refrain. Never mind, It’s a great song anyway.”
After yesterday’s epic this marks the anniversary of The Battle Of Waterloo and the final defeat of Bonaparte. You can read Paul Adams notes for the Wilson’s version at Mainly Norfolk and there are a couple of Mudcat links at the foot of the page for you to follow should you wish to explore this one more. Be warned there is another of the myopic maid variations that shares the title, whereas this is more bold celebration. I’m intrigued by the idea of the 19 verses and although it might be triumphalism pushed beyond its limits, I’d still like to hear Jon have a go at yet another epic, or is that me being selfish.
Jon admits this is “One of the wordier Napoleon songs but a cracking tune and some really nice details. Interesting that the song’s sympathies seem to shift right at the end of the song – editorial perhaps? Certainly it seems pretty pro-Bonaparte in the opening verses.”
I’d say this is one of several wordy Napoleon songs and there’s at least one other epic that also seems to hedge its bets called The Deeds Of Napoleon. It suddenly lurches into a verse about the ‘Norfolk Hero’ (Nelson) and then back to recounting Boney’s triumphs and ultimate downfall. You’ll find it on this Mudcat thread. I’ve pondered on here before about whether he was viewed sympathetically in England, as he certainly was in Ireland. Mainly Norfolk carries some sleeve notes from Tony Rose that make the point that he’s far more often sung about than Wellington, or indeed the English Victory at Waterloo. He must have appeared as a larger than life character at the time and arguably had a greater affect on Europe than anyone since the Romans, or perhaps Charlamagne, but then the former gave the latter a massive head start. Whether he was a true champion of the revolution or simply an egomaniacal tyrant, or a combination of the two is open to debate. The Napoleonic wars, were undoubtedly bloody and terrible, with appalling loss of life, but the name suggest the French Emperor was the instigator, which he probably mostly wasn’t. Mind you I’m no expert. It’s another bit of history to go into my over stuffed projects file. Anyway I really like this song and recall first hearing Barry Dransfield’s version. It caused me some grief when compiling the Folk Awards 2006 CD as it followed the rather beautiful but quiet conclusion of John Tams A Man Of Constant Sorrow. Let’s just say Barry doesn’t hold back, but at 8.00 minutes it got my attention.
Jon says “It’s such a classic this one but I’m not sure how widely known it is outside of the traddier end of the folk scene? Will Noble sings this round our way.”
Although it might not be a common song today, it is the regimental song of the Duke Of Edinburg’s who are apparently known as farmers boys. It was also a popular anthem around the formation of the agricultural workers union with its themes of kind hearted good deeds and honest hard work rewarded, but then that was about 150 years or so ago. It seems to be fairly robust in that there is little lyrical variation in the known versions and the use of the tune suggests the songs origins in the first half of C19th. This Mudcat thread has the earliest recorded date of 1845 from the journal of the Elizabeth, would suggest it was widely in circulation by then. You’ll note at Mainly Norfolk there’s an attempt to claim the identity of the farmer’s boy as a Reverend Thomas Smith of Little Leigh in Cheshire, although I haven’t found anything to back this up and would be very interested to hear from anyone with more information and perhaps local knowledge. I’m always intrigued when people try and link folk songs to real people and yopu might like a bit of general debunking courtesy of Mudcat.
Jon reveals “I first heard this from The Copper family, and it’s probably the song I come back to most when trying to think of a good chorus song to sing.”
This one apparently dates from 1836 and the words of Charles Jeffreys set to music by Samuel Nelson. You can link to the sheet music here. My understanding is that the tune has been changed as a result of a misinterpretation of the Copper’s version, although they may well take credit for rearranging it. Jon originally got it from the Coppers, but admits his version may have wandered from theirs. You can see more about the song at this Mudcat thread that also suggests a couple of similar forebears. Allendale is in Northumberland, although the first verse has Mary leaving her “Highland cot,” which suggests she crossed the border. It’s possibly, however, Allendale is simply a name that fits the song and the use of Highlands may be a reference to Scotland in general rather than the specific region. Mainly Norfolk carries the details of the Coppers and Nic Jones versions, but whichever way you look at it, this is lovely and the chorus was unexpected. This was apparently recorded on the Bellowhead tour bus (which probably explains the slightly odd acoustic) with the help of Paul Sartin and Sam Sweeney and that chorus sure works a treat.
Jon admits “I like the sound of ‘Rag Fair’. It’s a shame this song doesn’t go in to more detail, but I also love the closing image of this.”
It’s very much a near relation of New York Girls, but like Jon I’m rather taken with the fact that the errant sailor hasn’t learnt his lesson at all and rather than getting himself suitably clothed decides to get bladdered instead. There’s not a lot more to say other than you’ll see from Mainly Norfolk that Bellamy has done this. I’ll also throw you this link on Rag Fair and while we’re at it there’s this one and this one along similar lines that paint a picture of sordid London life.