His Name is Andrew


Jon says, “I’ve always loved this from Martin Carthy’s version and have been singing it for ages, albeit infrequently. I recently had a listen to the David Ackles original (on Spotify), which is also great, although I still prefer Carthy’s version.” David’s name rattled at the back of my brain, but I had to conclude I’d never heard anything of his, although I found myself drawn to the strangeness of this song and Jon’s fiddle accompaniment. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before and not knowing Martin’s version either, I made haste to Spotify too. Wow! I wonder at Martin’s choice of this song and the very odd guitar chords that it demands. I also wonder at the oblique and somewhat grim poetry of the original, something that instantly struck me as a one off. It transpires that Ackles had several notable fans (Phil Collins, Elvis Costello, Elton John) and despite critical acclaim never really sold many records before commercial pressures and a later, tragic collision with a drunken driver curtailed his output. You can Wiki here. Mainly Norfolk covers Martin Carthy’s version as you’d expect and both that and the original are worth seeking out. With thanks to Jon for the introduction, here’s someone else I need to know more about.


33 Responses to “His Name is Andrew”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig Willis, Jon Boden. Jon Boden said: Latest Post: : His Name is Andrew http://www.afolksongaday.com/2010/11/02/his-name-is-andrew/ […]

  2. Jane Ramsden says:

    That’s just a bit stunning! Remarkable fiddle, and good delivery of a certain bleakness. You know it’s good when you get that cold tingle down yer spine!

    I have never heard of David Ackles either. The song does have a strangeness about it. Looking at the dates of his 4 albums – 1968 to ’73 – part of that is the sound of the time of some more ‘way-out’ music, as we would have said then! But that in no way explains all of its ‘remark-ability’. Definitely one to explore. Thanks for a really unusual choice, Jon. (Halloween is over now!)

  3. SRD says:

    Are you sure it’s not a Leonard Cohen song?

  4. Reinhard says:


  5. muzza says:

    Powerful song………..not sure that I understand the last verse…..What word did the priest say to him?…….was Andrew’s renewed faith crushed again? From the poetry, you can really empathise with poor old Andrew’s wretched and confused outlook on life.
    Where’s Eleanor Rigby when you need her…..they’d have made a lovely couple.

  6. Jerry Simon says:

    No, no @SRD, David Ackles was a unique voice, often bleaker and more stark than Leonard Cohen. But happily enjoying life in a 1998 interview: “For a man whose work is usually described as ‘brooding’, ‘melancholy’ or ‘elegant’, Ackles’ speech is frequently punctuated by hearty chuckles. ” Barry Dransfield recorded Ackles’ “Be my friend”. Find David Ackles singing “Downriver” on YouTube and weep.

  7. Phil says:

    I knew the name from an old Elvis Costello interview (the interviewer was baffled) but I’d never heard any David Ackles before. Powerful stuff (and muzza, I think the priest just told him not to sing hymns on a Monday, and that made him lose his faith). I wonder if David Bowie heard Ackles at the time? I was strongly reminded of Bowie’s Space Oddity album (not the single, clearly).

    Speaking of genre, not that we were… Despite the Carthy endorsement, I think this is a much better limit case than poor old Mercedes Benz – if this song is ‘folk’ then just about any song is, or could be.

    All the same, a great song & a great performance.

  8. SRD says:

    ‘No, no @SRD, David Ackles was a unique voice, often bleaker and more stark than Leonard Cohen. But happily enjoying life in a 1998 interview: “For a man whose work is usually described as ‘brooding’, ‘melancholy’ or ‘elegant’, Ackles’ speech is frequently punctuated by hearty chuckles.’

    Hmm, a bit like Vin Garbutt then; I can’t listen to one of his albums without being dragged into the deepest depths of despair but go to one of his gigs and his humour disperses so much of the gloom.

    And I endorse Phil’s comment, not that I’m sure the song shouldn’t be here; this is Jon’s selection, but it does change the perspective of what is ‘folk’ music somewhat.

  9. Reinhard says:

    Wasn’t it Justice Potter Stewart who said: “I know folk when I see it” ?

  10. StephenH says:

    I always liked Martin Carthy’s version of this, and I like Jon’s. As for its suitability to the project , well, in order to assess that, I suggest the ‘what is folk’ debate is best avoided, or we’ll all end up disappearing you know where. If the song is measured in the context of this site being used to promote social singing, then this song, with its slightly odd tune, and lyrics, is perhaps not the best fit.
    Having said that, I enjoy this project on various levels: as a reminder of songs that I haven’t heard in a long time; of ones that I haven’t heard before and would like to learn, or that lead me to explore the work of other singers that I have ignored; and as a great, wide ranging-compendium of songs which serve as a fine examples of how the intrinsic richness of a song can be brought out by the beauty of the unaccompanied voice, or with minimal accompaniment. (and I think one could argue that also stays true to the project’s agenda) This goes for songs, such as “My Name is Andrew” or “Jersey Girl”, whether we feel they fit the mandate of the site or not.

  11. Lynne Goddard says:

    David Ackles was one of the greats! If you’ve never heard him, get hold of a copy of his album ‘American Gothic’: it says all you need to know about him and his work. His visions are dark, beautiful, gritty, strange: a wonderful songwriter and performer.

  12. Phil says:

    Stephen: you seem to be tying yourself in knots to avoid saying the word No.

    It’s a terrific song (which I’d never heard before), beautifully performed by Jon; it took me back to the first time I heard “The Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” (and I was more easily impressed back then).

    It’s not a folk song.

    These things can both be true!

    It’s not about slapping Jon on the wrist for having the unmitigated audacity to sing this song – I’m really glad he did, I wouldn’t have missed hearing it for anything. It’s just about whether we want (a lot) more like this.

    (*Some* more like this would be great – I look forward to hearing the January Man in a couple of months’ time!)

  13. Paul_P says:

    I didn’t know about Martin Carthy’s version, and to be honest I’m not too worried how well this song fits into the project; but David Ackles was every bit as good as Jerry and Lynne say, and then some, and keeping his music alive is worth a journey outside the box. It is very much piano music, of course, which is why the harmonies might sound out of the usual run of things – songs like “Inmates of the Institution” and “Laissez Faire” are even further away, but well worth seeking out. “Down River” is his classic, though. Thanks to Jon for a fine version of another fine song.

  14. Nick Passmore says:

    Finally caught up with this a little late: a marvellous version of this strange and powerful song, and wonderful fiddle playing that complements is perfectly.
    Good to see that the old “Is it Folk?” argument trundles on. I’d beg to differ: this IS a folk song IMO: not trad English, obviously, but David Ackles was part of the American “folk scene” (aggh!!) in th ’60s. When I first heard Martin Carthy sing them, it nevered entered my head that this, and “Palaces of Gold”, “Nothing Rhymed”, not to mention “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” were anything other than folk songs.
    By some strange glitch iTunes has downloaded the next few days’ offerings, and I’m really looking forward to the sh*t hitting the fan on Sunday….. Difficult to improve on the original, but you’ve done it again, Jon!

  15. nickpassmore says:

    The 14th entry seems to have mysteriously disappeared…

  16. How to get rig of old furniture?

  17. B Mathieson says:

    For those that want a lot more detail about David Ackles, the writer of this song, there’s a full website at http://www.songsinger.info/da with biography, discography and much more.

  18. Diana says:

    I can’t add anything to this – all the above comments cover everything there is to say.

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    Timbers shivered agin… & thanks to B Mathison for his very informative link on David Ackles. Will get a copy of his ‘American Gothic’ CD, as soon as can find one that isn’t too dear.

    Did get a new CD of Strawhead’s ‘Songs of the English Civil War’ for friend in English Civil War Society for Xmas though. Thanks to Linda Hall for the recommendation. Unusally came unsealed as from long time back… now, would it be very naughty to rip said CD into my pc?… just to see it plays OK, of course!

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

    Well…..I’m always droning on about not liking ‘Grim’ songs….but I can really envisage Andrew……………..(Jon’s performance just right)……
    Only the writer could ‘free me from this priest’ and explain WHY Andrew should not sing on a monday….am I STILL missing something?

  21. Phil says:

    Muzza – the problem seems to have been that Andrew was singing extempore, rather than singing hymns in the accepted place and time. I’ve discovered a deleted verse which makes this point clearer:

    When Andrew sang, he sang with so much beauty and untutored grace,
    He sang until the tears would flow down every listener’s face,
    He sang until their cheeks were sodden
    But he did not take his songs from
    Hymns Ancient and Modern…

  22. Pewter says:

    Jon cost me a small fortune with this one – I had to track down the David Ackles albums, which I got gradually since this song was first posted. Wow, as Simon said! I left the one with Andrew on it until last. Jon’s version stands up very well, for me; just has the edge over the original!

  23. Diana says:

    Pewter I think somebody’s clock is still wrong according to this your message came though at 2.09pm and it is now only 13.36 or 1.36 pm my time. I thought it was perhaps still 2011 as most of the messages here recently have been in that year, only me seems to be here in 2012. I do hope you understand what I have written I am not sure it is very clear.

    As for the song sentiments have already been said and much better than I would have done.

  24. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you, Phil, for that salient piece of information, now going to be added to my AFSAD archive!

    Thank you, Pewter, for the two David Ackles’ CDs you then donated to me! Eeee, I am lucky to have lovely friends on AFSAD!

  25. Pewter says:

    AFSAD must be still on BST Diana!

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

    @Phil………….that is a great additional verse……….but I think it must have been composed by another writer(also looking for the answer) as David Ackles does not sing it on his version in the following link

  27. Diana says:

    And what SUMMER time was that I wonder. I must have slept through it. Simon will no doubt fix it! Nice to see you Pewter – really thanks to Jane.

  28. trilby fairfax says:

    Am totally stunned by this one, and Yes for me it utterly fits into folk music as being a rich combination of traditional and contemporary. all the traditionals were once contemporary, a song has to start somewhere.
    I’m somewhat confused by the above responses dated from 2010 and 2011, was is loos?
    And also when i just googled the lyrics of His name is Andrew it said proudly that Jon Boden had included this one in afolksongaday on 2-11-2010! Try it and see!

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

    Trilby Fairfax………what a splendid name (give my regards to Bertie and Jeeves)
    I can ony presume that you have not grasped that; AFSAD started 23June 2010 and is now on its third repeat…hence the strangely dated comments….
    As for the lyrics..they are to be found by clicking on the excellent site ‘Mainly Norfolk’ that is usually found in the introductory comments by Jon and Admin Simon at the top of the page……welcome aboard.

  30. Phil says:

    Sorry, the ‘lost’ lyrics were all my own work. I love this song, wonky metre and all. (I love many things, not all of which are folk!)

  31. Kevin says:

    I’ve always loved Mr. Carthy’s version, great to hear this again by Jon. If it ain’t folk music then I ain’t a fan of folk music. Perhaps it’s just great music?

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

    Ha….just re read the comments above and See Phil’s confession that he wrote the extra verse……and it is a good ‘un Phil…….I’m sure it would add to any performance

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/afolksongaday.com/httpd.www/wp-content/themes/comment-central/comments.php on line 121