This album is a compilation of tracks sung by various big-time folk musicians including Jon Boden, Eliza Carthy, Lisa Knapp, Fay Hield, Sam Sweeney, John Kirkpatrick, and more. The album itself - the printed copy - has an inside sleeve that folds out like a poster, with quotations from each of the musicians about where they found the song and why they chose it. This adds a lot of depth to the album and really helps to flesh out the songs and the overall aim of the compilation.
'The Sea' is a broadside ballad. Eliza Carthy wrote the music and included it on her latest album, Big Machine. Eliza outdoes herself with this song. Having heard the big band version first (played with the Wayward Band), it’s very interesting to see how she has changed it to a smaller, acoustic version. I love the changes in rhythm and the song’s dark melody.
Next up is John Kirkpatrick with a straight up melodeon and voice rendition of 'Here’s Adieu to Old England'; very characteristic of the John Kirkpatrick style. The song is of a man lamenting his freedom before he was convicted and sent to prison.
Martin Carthy’s voice and style is always so unique, yet distinctive. 'The Bedmaking’s History' is an interesting one - collected by a woman called Marina Russell in Dorset. The song tells of a girl who is put to work at a young age. Her master falls in love with her and courts her, to the great displeasure of his wife who throws her husband down the stairs, and the girl out into the cold. Nine months later, the girl has a baby and goes back to her old master to curse him for what he’s done.
Interestingly, Nicola Kearey has sung Georgie with a regional London accent as if sung by a lower class maid. This really harkens to the folk tradition, as this is how the song would have originally sounded, and this is where the folk songs would have originated: from the hearts and minds of the downtrodden lower classes.
'Fathom the Bowl' is a rousing and convivial song which Jon Boden learnt as a boy and sung for his "Folk Song A Day" project on September 12th, 2010. It is a drinking song in which the singer invites others to sing with him in praise of drink. Jon sings it slowly, accompanied by a squeeze box. I can definitely hear a pub full of singers happily bellowing this one!
Sam Lee sings the very famous 'Wild Rover', one of the first folk songs I ever learned. He sings it slowly, charged with sad emotion: the wild rover decides to be a wild rover no more. Sam Sweeney plays two beautiful tunes, both of which are very important to him personally: the first tune, 'Bagpipers' is one of the first songs his band, Leveret, played, and the second tune, 'Mount Hills', is the tune that made Sam fall in love with English tunes. He plays them both very simply; just one violin.
Fay Hield sings an unaccompanied Anne Briggs song called 'Bonny Boy' about a girl who sees his boyfriend with another girl. Instead of seeking revenge like so many others girls do in folk tales, she just says - ‘Oh well’, “I will walk with that boy now and then”.
It’s difficult to summarise this album - it’s full of artists I love, but also artists I don’t know very well (which I now want to get to know!). I’m not always a fan of compilations, but each of these songs are so personal to their singers, and sung to wonderfully and individually. It’s a great collection of traditional and traditionally-styled songs, allowing one to dip into the varied approaches of many different folk musicians.