We are excited to bring you our first field recordings project. Curated, recorded and produced by Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter, Stick In The Wheel.
Featuring new recordings by Jon Boden / John Kirkpatrick / Martin Carthy / Spiro / Eliza Carthy / Fay Hield / Sam Lee / Fran Foote / Lisa Knapp / Jack Sharp (Wolf People) / Nicola Kearey / Men Diamler / Bella Hardy / Stew Simpson / Peta Webb & Ken Hall / Sam Sweeney / Rob Harbron
Order your copy HERE.
Launch weekend at London’s Cafe Oto 18-19 March 2017 with many of the featured artists – photo gallery HERE.
Caught by the River review of English Folk Field Recordings:
“ingenuously ambitious and artfully executed, it feels both like the beginning of a major project of contemporary musicology and plays like a dream open-mic session at the perfect folk club.”
Read the article we wrote for The Guardian: English folk music helps us fathom our heritage of struggle
We set out to make a collection of live recordings – a snapshot of English folk music right now. We wanted to capture performances that were immediate and intimate. You feel like you’re in the room with them, hearing a continuation of a tradition which is very much alive, and evolving.
We didn’t know most of these people, being new to the folk scene. But we could see across the breadth of England, what a wide range of music and styles there were. When we approached the artists, most of them said yes without question, and trusted us with their art. We were welcomed into private and personal spaces, in down-time, and between gigs. Often we were done within the hour, then packed away in the boot of the car, and on to the next one. Of course there are people we don’t know about, or couldn’t get…There is always next time.
From a stone cottage in Edale, a London bank vault, a Bristol back room, to a Robin Hood’s Bay garden at dusk, a Bedford kitchen – each artist was asked to think about what From Here meant to them – by way of place or geography, as a way of looking back to musical origins, or simply where they are at this very moment in time: ‘here’s what I am, this is where I’m from’. Then we just recorded them live, in situ, two stereo mics, no overdubs. Exactly as if you were right there.
TRACK LISTING AND SLEEVE NOTES:
1/ bedfordshire may carol JACK SHARP
“This is a May Carol that is supposedly from Northill, about four to five miles from the village I grew up in, Clophill. It’s not something I knew as a kid, because I never used to go to the May Day or anything like that, I was never interested in that stuff, I used to hate country dancing and all that. But, yeah, I heard Shirley Collins singing it, and I listened to a bunch of different versions, and I’ve played it since then.”
2/ the sea ELIZA CARTHY
“It’s one of my new ones. I was at Chetham’s Library in Manchester last year, looking through the broadside ballad collections, and the thing about broadside ballads is that they don’t have tunes, they’re just words, so I wrote the tune. One of the brilliant things about the Chetham’s experience was, finding things that really really leapt out, just, you know, I have never heard anything like that before ever. There were three ballads that I found, that I’m using in different projects. I was like, that’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen, that’s just brilliant. This one, The Sea, I haven’t been able to find out an awful lot. Cos the thing about Broadside ballads is they’re not always traditional. Broadside ballads are a bit like Take a Break or Chat, those magazines where someone might write a poem about their lovely cat, or “My Beautiful Daughter… she’s such an angel” or even “A friend of a friend of a friend gave birth to a three headed dog”. Some of them will be bona fide trad and some of them will just be pieces of doggerel or whatever, something someone thought was funny to write. Funny or tragic. And you know, those kind of stories people love, and have always loved. Also I think that it’s really easy for people to think that ordinary people don’t read poetry, or they don’t like high words, big drama and big tragedy, all of those things. And that’s nonsense too. The idea that ordinary people are illiterate and uninterested in different stuff is just ridiculous. Uneducated doesn’t have to mean stupid. Or unofficially educated doesn’t mean that you don’t educate yourself. This piece of poetry, I just think it’s really lovely and it really sticks out for me, that’s why I’ve chosen it.”
3/ here’s adieu to old england JOHN KIRKPATRICK
“It’s a song I used to do quite a lot…originally from a recording by Harry Cox and he just sings two verses, so there’s millions of other versions, you know, it’s fairly well collected, and lots of people have sung it, I just like the way he did it so that’s what tipped me into doing it. I got a couple more verses, so I do four now, and I do it with the melodeon. I do one or two others that I learnt from him. Harry Cox’s repertoire was massive, encyclopaedic, you know, hundreds. He used to pay people for songs, if he heard someone singing a song in a pub, it was obviously acceptable to say, if I give you a couple of bob or buy you a pint, can I have that song? It’s interesting isn’t it? That songs spread that way.”
4/ the ballad of hugh stenson BELLA HARDY
“I’m calling this song ‘The Ballad of Hugh Stenson’. It’s from a book called The Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire, edited in 1867 by Llewellyn Jewitt. It’s a traditional ballad, traditional words that I’ve reformed a little. In the book it’s called Hugh Stenson and Molly Green, and Molly Green is the name of the girl he falls in love with. I decided she really didn’t feature enough to be warranting a title name. I wanted to do you a song from Derbyshire, a song from the Peak District, which is where we are. I’ve recorded all the ones I usually sing, so I found this one. The only version I found of it recorded was by the brilliant John Tams. His is set to the hymn tune ‘It Is The Truth Sent From Above’, which is in quite a minor-y key. I wanted to do something a bit more jolly, so I’ve written a new tune for the song.”
5/ the bedmaking MARTIN CARTHY
“I’ve been going back on old repertoire, just having a look. I’ve recently started doing it again. I learnt it in the 70s. One of the first times I did it was at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. I mean I’d learned it, worked it out, cos there’s not that many verses and I’d seen it in the book, I squeezed out another couple of verses, and then put a last verse in, which is what she sang but it doesn’t tell the actual story, but it says what the story should have been, you know. I don’t care, I’ll tell anybody – it’s not a secret, I change songs. Marina Russell. It was a name that kept coming up – astonishing. She had a fabulous repertoire, the only English person who ever had that song, and she only sang three verses, the bugger, she only gave collectors fragments. She had all sorts of songs… I wish someone had recorded her I really do. Around that time I did this West Country arts centres tour, and one of the gigs was at Weymouth Arts Centre, so I thought, I’ll do a few of her songs. I put this little cluster of songs together, the Bedmaking, Sovay, A Jug of This, Ye Mariners All. I announced it: “This is a woman who lived in Upwey which is a suburb of Weymouth now, and her name was Marina Russell. And there was this squeal, right up in that corner: “That’s my grandma!” And an old person said it. And I said, really? It’s your Grandma, that’s really interesting! “No it’s not, we thought she was mad!” (laughs). Well that squashed that one straight away, you think you’ve made a big discovery… Then I found out, when I sang it at Philidelphia, I was doing a workshop with Frankie Armstrong, and she was singing it as well, she said. I didn’t know anyone else sang that. There’s nothing like the first take. It was exactly what I wanted.”
6/ georgie NICOLA KEAREY
“I learned it from a performance by Martin Carthy on the Folk Britannia programme, it took Ian and I a while to be able to play together ok, because the guitar and vocals interlocked so tightly and I needed the guitar as a scaffold, in a way. But now when we do it live, he just does some chords mainly to punctuate the beginning of a verse, but here I sing it unaccompanied and I’m comfortable with doing that now. It was one of the first traditional songs we found. It’s basically a song about a woman bawling out the coppers in the middle of the street because they’ve got her man for the paltry crime of stealing from a rich man.”
7/ fathom the bowl JON BODEN
“I did Forest School Camp when I was 11 for the first time, and that was the first singing I did really, it’s just singing round the campfire, it’s not that different really to boy scouts in terms of the repertoire or the structure, although there’s a few more, you know, left wing songs, and quite a lot of rude songs which they don’t do in boy scouts. It’s a weird mix, and there’s a few English folk songs in there, and they were the ones that I was always drawn to, I think. I probably learnt four or five English folk songs from that repertoire, then when I got to Durham and discovered this folk singing session, I went along and sang some of these songs. Thinking that they’d go “wow, where did you get these amazingly obscure songs from?” And it was Fathom the Bowl, and The Larks They Sang Melodious… and they said “it’s great to hear that, everyone used to sing that, and we all got really bored of it”. It’s one of the ones people stopped doing in 1978 because they’d been done too much. They’re all the good ones really.”
8/ lavender song LISA KNAPP
“This one’s from Mitcham – it’s from Peter Kennedy’s Collection of Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, a brilliant, beautiful, tea-stained book. Having got into singing Irish folk songs, I absolutely love that real decorative sean-nós style. There wasn’t a lot of English song about, so I didn’t really know much about it, until I heard Shirley Collins and Martin Carthy. That really rung a bell. So then finding a song that actually mentioned a place that I know well was like a real revelation. I discovered the archive recordings of it later. The whole idea, that folk songs are where you’re from – the Lavender Song was collected from a lady in Clapham, again a place I know well. When it goes “come all you young ladies” it’s like “I’m sitting on a stool all day and I’m really fucking bored, I’ll just get into this and make up a little ditty”. It really kinda goes somewhere. Then “It was early this morning…” it gets a bit romantic and poetic, and I just think, someone is standing there all day shouting out, trying to sell their lavender, they’re just getting bored, and they’re making up a song. And it’s kind of evolved, and they’ve obviously kept it, and sang it away from the selling, a cry that’s become a song.”
9/ lost in fishponds SPIRO with Madame Česki
“It feels like a real Bristol tune, we hadn’t been that long here, when we met and first started working together. Also it’s one of the first tracks we completely wrote, that was all-original, rather than using traditional tunes, so that was very significant for us, it felt like we at the start of a journey, that we’d done that. It’s about getting lost on the way to a gig.”
10/ the wild rover SAM LEE
“There are all these songs that I grew up singing on my summer camps as a kid, which were always the songs I loved the most, I didn’t know where any of them came from or understand that they may have been old. Some of them were English, some of them were American, but they held a special place in my heart…I learned about the world through them. There were lots of Irish songs too, and I think actually this is one of the ones I loved the most, and you will laugh at this – I think it’s one of the best songs in the entire world – it’s Wild Rover. It carries so much depth and shades of emotion of the wayfaring returning wanderer. It’s actually a song I sing for sad times as well as good. I think it taps into something deep about us on our journeys and what we leave behind and what we expect of the world and how we treat the world around us, it’s thought of as such a pub song. No nay never, fresh fish, and all that, right up your kilt, which is great fun, when you’re 11, but at 36 it reveals new truths every time I sing it.”
11/ eh aww ah cud hew STEW SIMPSON
“In English it means, “Oh Yes, I Could Pick at the Coals”. It’s a song written by Ed Pickford and I’ve chosen it because it’s a very dynamic song, and it reminds me of home. It’s from the 50s I think – it sounds a lot older, like something Tommy Armstrong would have written, but it’s really not as old as it pretends to be. If I want to go into a room and get the audience’s attention, it’s always a song which grabs them, that’s always fun to do.”
12/ the irish girl FRAN FOOTE
“It’s the first song I remember consciously feeling like I should learn, because my mum always sang it and I’ve never heard anyone else sing it. I was about 21 and thought, I need to learn this song, and sing this song.”
13/ bagpipers/mount hills SAM SWEENEY
“I’m playing two tunes. The second tune is called Mount Hills and it comes from Playford’s English Dancing Master, so a really old 17th century English dance tune. The reason I picked it is, before I was 14 I played almost solely Irish music, but when I heard this tune being played at the English Acoustic Collective Summer School as a teenager, I had a total epiphany and it is The Tune that made me fall in love with English music. And the first tune, Bagpipers, is kind of similar in a way. When I first heard it I thought it was one of the most beautiful tunes I’d ever heard. We started playing it with Leveret and it was one of the first things we ever played as a band and so it reminds me of how this band came together. So they are two enormously significant tunes for me.”
14/ bonny boy FAY HIELD
“Alan and Lynda who used to sing at Bacca Pipes Folk Club in Keighley, they used to give me blank cassettes with recordings of things they thought I should listen to, Anne Briggs was on there and I’d never heard her before. It was the first song I picked out of about a hundred songs, to learn and sing. I knew, if I sang at a singaround, this was my go-to song. So for a long time this felt like my song. I like it because it’s a girl looking for her boyfriend, she can’t find him, then she sees him with somebody else, and then instead of being a bit depressed and grumpy about it or dying from a broken heart, she says, “well, I’ll just see him now and then, then”. I’m not sure if I admire her for that but it’s interesting. I would never record this, because it’s so Anne Briggs’ song, it’s missed all my albums but it’s still a strong part of me. It’s quite nice that this is a pure unaccompanied song, one that’s nice kept that way.”
15/ just a note/wild wild whiskey PETA WEBB & KEN HALL
“Not really traditional songs but set to traditional tunes.They pick up on the Irish in London in the 1950s – so many of them had to leave home. They are about missing home, hard times, bad working conditions. Ewan MacColl wrote Just a Note about the building of the M1, based on the experience of Francis McPeake, an Irish piper who came over to work. His words were made into a song for the Radio Ballads. Francis sings it to a pipes accompaniment, so our harmonies would probably have come from the drones of the pipes. Bob Davenport wrote Wild Wild Whiskey because he was a great friend of McPeake – the two songs go together because of the experiences of so many of the Irish migrant workers. You go to the pub for solace, you drink too much, and it wrecks your life. So in a sense they are both political songs, but with their roots in traditional themes. But of course, it’s thanks to the Irish workers that we gained so much great music in the pubs over here!”
16/ young collins/getting up stairs ROB HARBRON
“Young Collins is a Cotswold Morris tune, but I learnt it from Alistair Anderson up in Northumberland. I grew up in Cumbria and I used to go across to the Folkworks things when they’d just got going. Alistair taught me loads, this wasn’t the first tune he taught me, but it was one of them, the first one I really remember, because it’s such a lovely simple tune that you can just do anything with. The second tune is Getting Up Stairs, another Morris tune. When I’d just started playing this instrument, a bloke who lived in my village gave me a cassette of two different records of concertina playing and I learnt loads of tunes off them. The first one was Noel Hill, a player of the Anglo or Irish concertina, a different instrument, and the second one was a Morris On record with John Kirkpatrick playing that Getting Up Stairs tune, also on the Anglo, so I learnt these tunes not realising they were being played on basically a different instrument. So that’s why I’ve probably always played more chords than most people do on the English concertina.”
17/ 1848 (sunset beauregard) MEN DIAMLER
“This song is a favourite for me to sing unaccompanied, and this is the first time I have recorded it as such. The first part of the title refers to the failed revolutions of 1848, which I studied as a History student; the second part is a play on Sunset Boulevard and Violet Beauregard. It’s about The Tories. I didn’t consciously set out to write a political song, but the way mainstream politics was moving to The Right in the late 2000s clearly “inspired” me to write it. Every time something bad happens politically in this country (alas, now pretty frequent), I use this song as a vessel to channel my anger and frustration.”
All the artists, people and venues who generously gave us space, time and help in order to make this project possible. Special thanks to our families, George Hoyle and Esther Tewkesbury.
Recorded on location by Ian Carter. Mixed and produced by Ian Carter. Artwork and additional production by Nicola Kearey. Mastered by Barry Grint at Alchemy.
Spiro appear courtesy of Real World Records Ltd. Lost in Fishponds is written by Harbour/Hunt/Sparkes/Vann and is published by Real World Works.
Made possible by the funding of Arts Council England.