Earl Richard


Song five for day five is Earl Richard, which Jon picked up from Maddy Prior & Tim Hart, although as he says, “It’s only half the story – check out Young Hunting for the exciting conclusion.” A version of this appeared on the first Spiers & Boden CD Through & Through, but I’m afraid I can’t comment on that further as the CD is currently unavailable. So if you have a copy I’d like to know more. You’ll find it’s referenced in this Mudcat thread as well, where the lyrics have a decidedly Scottish flavor that seems to fit the songs history as it was collected there. The thread also hints at different interpretations – always good for a spiky debate!!


28 Responses to “Earl Richard”

  1. edith lewis says:

    So many different versions and always good to hear them

  2. Jane Ramsden says:

    Bit of a stunner, that one! Touch of the Matty Groves about it in a different way. You’ve got me interested now in the exciting conclusion!

  3. Jane Roberts says:

    What a fabulous concept, congratulations. I look forward to listening in on a daily basis.

  4. Rachel says:

    Love this one. Find a good explanation of the various versions here:


    Not sure why you say Through and Through is not available, though. It’s easily available through iTunes or Amazon, got mine just a few weeks ago.

  5. The notes on this song on ‘Through and Through’ say: “A version of Young Hunting from a Miss Stephenson of Glasgow in 1825. Talking birds are not uncommon in traditional ballads but this one is unusually moral and immune to bribery, a stark contrast to the behaviour of the human characters.” ‘Young Hunting’ can be found sung by Brian Peters on Fellside’s ‘Ballads’ compilation, or an American version sung by Sara Grey on her new CD ‘Sandy Boys’. I think the best ever was by Tony Rose on his 1970 LP of that name.

  6. Jon Boden says:

    Fay (Hield) does a great version of Young Hunting that she learnt from the brilliant but elusive Arthur Knevitt. James Fagan and Nancy Kerr also do a lovely version, I forget which album though. Basically the end of the story is the talking bird tips off some divers that there’s a body in the well / river, they find the corpse and the murderous girlfriend gets burnt to death at the stake. Cheery.

  7. admin says:

    You may well find Through & Through available through various outlets, although a quick flick to Amazon reveals a German import and a used collectable as the only copies on sale, although it is freely available to download. As I work at the distribution business end, I can confirm that it’s current official status is ‘deleted.’ No more are being manufactured by Fellside and we have none in our warehouse. There will be residual stock and some second hand copies, but as I say the download is the other option. I’ll let you know if that changes.

  8. Jane Ramsden says:

    A little Mudcat bird has now told me the exciting conclusion to this story in one version of Young Hunting! All the versions seem to have the talking bird of guilty conscience or disturbed mind, like the raven in Crazy Man Michael.

  9. Like many hard to find albums you can listen to ‘Through and Through’ legally on the remarkable ‘Spotify’. The good news is that they have recently opened up their free ‘Open’ subscriptions service again (probably temporarily).

    And well done, Jon – my i-thing is looking forward to receiving the podcasts.

  10. Lenora Rose says:

    Through and Through is available as MP3s at a site called 7digital. Since it’s a site that charges for MP3 purchases, I sincerely HOPE it’s legit…

    Anyhow, I’d picked up Earl Richard alone as a sample to decide whether to try out Spiers and Boden, since they seemed different enough from Songs from the Floodplain, and I quite liked it…

  11. Peter Walsh says:

    Spotify has the Nancy Kerr and James Fagan album ‘Starry Gazy Pie’ (1995) on it; this is the album that Jon was alluding to, and has a spirited version of Young Hunting on it. These folk-songs-a-day are an absolute education, as well as being enjoyable! Keep up the good work Jon

  12. Colin Jackson says:

    I have to say the Spiers and Boden version of Earl Richard was always my favorite song of theirs, and they brought it back into their set a couple of years ago when I repeatedly pestered John to do so (could have just been coincidence of course heheh). The harmonies are sublime.

  13. nev perry says:

    This ballad has a wonderful story-tell quality about it and is full to the brim with intrigue which in itself is remarkable given its possible age.

  14. mary says:

    Through and through still to buy on amazon and amazon downloads

  15. Mike New says:

    you have to listen to Tim Hart and Maddy Prior singing this one….. both versions are first class. Hope there’s more to come.

    Music Mike

  16. Phil says:

    I’m catching up with Jon as we go round for the third time – just done this one!

    Earl Richard

    Notes on the source

  17. Diana says:

    So many different versions all of them interesting reading. I have Spiers and Boden’s version as well which is excellent, but well done Jon.

  18. Diana says:

    I know there are a lot of fans of June Tabor and the Oysterband out there so can someone tell me who is the gentleman who sings with June on “My son David” please.

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    Methinks that might be John Jones, Diana.

  20. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Phil: Wow, what a lot of work went into you covering this song in your 52! Many verses researched & delivered, with drones & pipe accompaniment, & extensive extra notes and thoughts! I noticed our old friend, the word ‘rig’ (as per The Rigs of the Time’ appeared with yet another meaning:

    But they had not crossed a rig of land,
    A rig but barely one,

    I can’t even go there! Hahahahaha!

  21. Diana says:

    @Jane: This ****** computer I am typing away quite merrily and then I find myself somewhere completely different and have to return to where I was originally and start all over again – better pick myself up, dust myself off etc. Thank you Jane I did not know who is was, not being familar with the Oysterband – thought he had a nice voice. I am getting quite adventuresome I have just purchased on iTunes – Steeleye Spans “King Henry” and Oysterbands “New York Girls”. What will I get up to next?

  22. Diana says:

    Jane I am awating moderation so you may never get my message- dearie me!

  23. Summer Joy says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Vicky Swan and Jon Dyer’s version of Young Hunting! This is my absolute favourite version of this song, and my absolute favourite of all the fantastic music this wonderful duo produces. Not sure what CD it might be on, but i have heard them do it many times live (Jonny alters the words from time to time and Vicky just follows along — very amusing!) It’s available on youtube — do give this a listen!!

  24. Summer Joy says:

    ps. I should add that Vicky and Jonny have obviously done their homework, as theirs is the most complete version i’ve currently heard of the very long story of truly obsessive jealousy (of the sport of hunting, nonetheless!) otherwise known as Child Ballad 68. See http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch068.htm. V & J have even included the part about the very outspoken bird suggesting divers be sent into the Clyde to look for the body, which they could locate because of the ancient mysticism of candles burning by the recently dead (yes, even underwater!). They’ve also included the dramatic ending of the lady trying to blame her innocent maid for the dastardly deed, but in true witch fashion, the maid’s body will not burn. However, the lady’s body proves to burn like green holly, thus declaring her guilt. And some versions, like Jonny’s, do have the lady first of all storing the body in the cellar for quite a while before throwing it in the river. However, i haven’t found any that actually mention the terrible smell rising up from the cellar (too much detail!), and i suspect Jonny has added this embellishment of his own, just for effect, and to see if we’re all really listening to the words!

    Having moved back to my native Canada two years ago, i would like to say that Vicky and Jonny are amongst the fabulous performers i most miss hearing at the English festivals, along with Jon and John, Barrie and Ingrid Temple, Bella Hardy, Cloudstreet…….and so many others! Folk music just isn’t the same thing over here, and traditional songs hardly even get a look-in, except at the house concerts and folk clubs which we’re now hosting ourselves in the hope of bringing more of this music to this area. Any of you traditional singers coming over to Western Canada (Vancouver Island) do get in touch, and we may be able to host a house concert for you.

  25. Peter F says:

    There’s a great, atmospheric version by Scots duo Tattie Jam, featuring cello and didgeridoo, on their album ‘Jam.’

  26. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    PHIL WHERE ARE YOU…..see 10 comments above:-

    Phil says:

    June 28, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I’m catching up with Jon as we go round for the third time – just done this one!

    Earl Richard

    Notes on the source

    Hi Phil
    There I was investigating your Earl Richard link and came across your ‘the song goes on’ …just found it today by accident….
    Loved the words……yup….would make a good sing around to rival ‘All men sing’
    Couldn’t fit your words to All men sing tune….how’s your new tune coming on!

  27. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Ok, Ok…..I have left it 13 years to say…….I don’t like this song at all.
    No tune, murderous story…..but it did make me have a look down my well just to check if the chatty robin in my garden was telling me a tall story or not!

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