I wonder if Vernon Chatman would be willing to stand by his thesis if he was to become aware that 'hey', 'derry', 'down' and 'a' were all commonplace constituent parts of English song choruses going back at least to Tudor times. Did they all derive from Ireland? And were he to become aware that, in ballads at least, females being figuratively depicted as 'does' was also a common feature of ballads in the seventeenth century. He would do well to check out on the UCSB EBBA website the ballad The Huntsman's Delight etc., which includes all of these.
Steve Gardham - 9.1.20
Mike Yates - 9.1.20
I have been trying to find a recording of "Forked Deer" by Arthur Smith to hear an early six-part version of that song. It has been attested online that John Johnson played "Forked Deer" for Clark Kessinger and that he played a 6-part version and that he said that he learned it from an Arthur Smith record when he was a child. All of the extant recordings available of Arthur Smith that I have found do not contain a recording of him performing "Forked Deer". Do you or anyone there know of an extant recording of Arthur Smith playing "Forked Deer"?
Thank you for any info. Sincerely,
James S. Nelson, Esquire - 8.1.20
Caught up with Ray Templeton's review of Oh, Listen Today and saw that he'd quoted my suggestion that there may have been a connection between the words 'hoosier' and 'hussar'. Just a short while back, Ray's review of fiddler Hog-Eyed Man 4 referred, in respect of the tunes being played, to Marcus Martin, the source of a version of The Wounded Hoosier.
Since when I've found a whole lot of information - including a fair summary of the history of the word 'Hoosier' that can be found through Wikipedia and seems to be etymologically and socially pretty convincing. Anybody interested can look it all up but, very briefly, discussion offers the notion that a Hoosier is a denizen of Indiana.
The accompanying Wikipedia section on 'folk etymology' is both intriguing and amusing. So the mind is led in strange ways ...
The Wounded Hussar was definitely a Thomas Campbell poem and this dates from the late eighteenth century; but, as noted above, it was the tunes that became attached to it that set me off. My first encounter was with the tune as played by Tony McMahon in the late sixties. And you can certainly sing Campbell's lines in what has become that regular Irish musical manifestation. Ray also points out a certain affinity between the tune and the Irish Blackbird.
But it's the word 'Wounded' that seemed to be worth pursuing. It wasn't a kite that I was flying. Rather, I was trying to elicit information. And, whilst there are many differences between the Irish air and Marcus Martin's, there are echoes in the direction of the cadences until you get to the point where Marcus has some extra bars that might even suggest that the tune was used for a particular dance. And, not so very by the way, when the tune is heard on Hog-Eyed Man 4, it's played more slowly and the echoes are more pronounced.
And why 'Wounded'?
This might be enough to be going on with except that, in the Wikipedia assembly, the recommended pronunciation of the word 'Hoosier' is, apparently, 'Hoo-zer' ('Hoozair')... There must be somebody from Indiana who could enlighten us further. Meanwhile, that's the way that Marcus Martin pronounced the word in his introduction to the tune.
Roly Brown - 3.1.20
The author responds to: Thomas Ravenscroft and The Three Ravens: A Ballad Under the Microscope by Arthur Knevett
Counter argument is a good thing. The argument that 'the monastery of Derry escaped the worst effects of ... [the Viking] raids' is not a [an effective] counter argument against 'the Scandinavians plundered the city, and it is said to have been burned down at least seven times before 1200; it thus is a site of many battles.' The modern day Encyclopedia Britannica [https://www.britannica.com] states 'the settlement was destroyed by Norse invaders, who reportedly burned it down seven times before 1200,' so this is not merely 'Chatman's contention.' Further, the assertion that the monastery escaped the worst effects is beside the point or at least its import is not explained.
The claim that Derry was 'a small settlement, not a city' is of no weight, even if true. The impact of any import is not explicit in the analysis of locale.
One is hard pressed as to what to make of the remarks regarding Derry and Dorie when the explication by Chatman is that the ballad (as we have it) is 'of Irish derivation.' Whatever problem this represents is not explained in the critique. For example, Knevett writes: 'The Ballad also migrated to America and Arthur Kyle Davis Jr writes that; 'The American texts, ... are far removed from the British versions.' Substantial variation in versions can be observed.
Knevett seems to complain about Chatman 'making use of grammar;' using grammar seems reasonable for analysis of language artifacts, so I'm not clear on what the argument is here.
The OED, as referenced in the explication, confirms the description of the use of 'hay.' Knevett's referring to the phrase 'to make hay of' is inexplicable. See also: The Protestant Whore: Courtesan Narrative and Religious Controversy in England, 1680-1750, approx. p.127 ('to make hay,' ... and this is the OED again, 'to make confusion'. [https://tinyurl.com/u8qca8o]
Tracing the history of written documents combined with historical linguistic information can be useful for analysis of what is recorded of the products of oral tradition; however, their undocumented pre-history can only be addressed with informed speculation and analysis.
In conclusion, we have seen that the most effective understanding of 'fallow doe' is the notion of the dainefemme, the refrain is a meaningful and functioning element of the ballad. The song is probably Irish in its origins, (the notion of the dainefemme is probably the result of Scandinavian contact), the ballad makes use of ideas which strongly suggest it originated long before 1611, the ballad is probably a 'war-song', and The Three Ravens expresses a sense of possible victory over fate and death. All the elements of this ballad coalesce to produce a tense, subtle, terse, and complex verbal icon.
Vernon Chatman - 20.12.19
Phil complains that I have only included tunes from a region with a Southern style of playing. In fact one track, by Jasper Bisbee, is from Michigan, well outside the Southern style region. In fact, I think that I could say that within this Southern style there are quite a few regional styles of playing and the region can, and possibly should be, subdivided.
Phil already knows why I have had to included the tunes that I did. As the bank robber Willie Sutton is supposed to have said when asked the question, 'Why rob banks?' he replied, 'Because that's where the money is'. (This well-known answer may have been made up by a journalist!) And the same goes for the recordings - the south was where the record companies looked for musicians in the 1920s and '30s. And, of course, many of the fiddlers heard on the CD were born at a time when the tunes would, perhaps, have been more commonly heard. Jasper Bisbee was born in 1843, Sam Long in 1876 and Emmett Lundy in 1864.
In order tp prove his point, Phil compares the music of northern England to that of southern England. Unfortunately, unlike Ireland and Scotland, where we have recordings from the 1920s and '30s, there are few, if any, recordings of English fiddle players from this period. We only began to record such people in the 1950s when the BBC began their collecting scheme. From the l960s onwards dedicated amateurs continued to seek out the few English fiddle players who were left. Perhaps he should have said that the Mississippi blues of Son House were far removed from those of the Eastern States blues singer Blind Boy Fuller.
We have issued this CD because I believe that its contents are important and their story should be told. This, I believe, is especially relevant today when we are holding elections - one candidate, the current Prime Minister, being a man who wishes to break up our relationship with other European countries, rather than trying to unite us. And, in America, there is a President who has a penchant for building walls, rather than for breaking them down. Yes, this music is relevant today and we really do need to hear it and listen to what it is telling us.
Mike Yates - 12.12.19
The point to make here is there are many other American Old Time Musics of the North, which differ substantially in style and historical roots. from Southern OT music and indeed from one another. These are continuously living traditions, with tunes currently being produced (often) in the older styles. As examples (I'm sure I've missed knowing some; and I'm sure they overlap), that I've followed to a greater or lesser degree:
I believe, therefore, that a serious though unintentional disservice is being performed by conflating these all into a single term 'American Old-Timey fiddle music', which is then exemplified by Southern OT Music. One cannot conflate all the English regional styles into one (cf your South-west with Geordie, Yorks or Lancs traditions for example, even as tunes are transported among regions), nor the Scots regional styles one with another. Nor should this be done vis the U.S., by serious compilers and scholars such as yourself.
Given expression(s) of serious interest, I could access my library of books, tunebooks, and recordings, producing bibliographic/discographic lists of key references, for several on my above list of styles. I could refer you to others who know more about other traditions. On my cclist I refer to Vivian Williams (Over-75-class Fiddle Champion of the US and a serious working dance musician) who has spent a scholarly lifetime on the regional tradition of the Northwest as well as a substantial effort on Missouri traditions, as well as Emeline Dehn-Reynolds, a young librarian and archivist at the University of New Hampshire and an excellent fiddler in New England and Franco-American styles. And there are others to whom you could be referred.
All best, good health and a fine Holiday Season
Phil Katz - 9.12.19
I'd like ten more Flamborough Head CDs please (or one or two more or less if it makes better postage sense). Bill me as appropriate.
By the way, I'm greatly enjoying the North Yorkshire collection that Mossy Christian has been involved with. I'm working my way through it a few tracks at time. I knew it was a good buy when The Tailor's Britches struck me as worth the cost of the collection all on its own.
All the best,
Jim Eldon - 22.10.19
As you many know (or not), for some time I have been involved in somewhat contentious arguments on just this question elsewhere and have given the matter a great deal of thought. While I don't wish to spread the contention to this forum, I feel I would like to comment on your editorials on the matter, which I tend to agree with.
During my arguments, the claim that our traditional songs originated on the broadside presses moved from being 90% plus to 'only those collected by Sharp and his colleagues' - a screeching U-turn as the argument frst started when I quoted MacColl's moving statement about our songs being created by 'the people - from the workers at the ploughshares to the hacks' at the end of 'The Song Carriers'. As you know, 'The Song Carriers' covered the whole range of our repertoire, from Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland to an anonymous WW2 lament concerning the death of an Irish worker in Birmingham, killed during a bombing raid. I was accused of being a starry-eyed naivet for accepting such nonsense. After a longish and somewhat acrimonious argument, the 'early 20th century' qualification appeared.
Whatever the truth of this, it is worth remembering that any knowledge we have of the our oral traditions dates back no further than the end of the nineteenth century, so it is virtually impossible to say which came first, oral or print versions, and we are left with only common sense to decide the matter.
There is far more to this discussion, of course, including the fact that Irish rural workers and traveller were making local songs by their thousands to record their experiences and opinions, right into the middle of the 20th century - beyond, in the case of the Travellers. It seems to me that once you accept that; if working people were capable of making songs, then they have to be serious contenders for having made our folk songs.
As I say, I have no wish to introduce any of the unpleasantness I have encountered to your magazine so it is entirely up to you to decide what to do with this message.
Jim Carroll - 16.6.19
When I first became interested in folksongs - over sixty years ago - it was fascinating to be told that a song such as The Bold Fisherman was based on medieval allegorical origins, and it came as something of a shock to later be told that it was simply yet another of the 'returned lover in disguise' songs. According to Steve Roud and Julia Bishop, the 'slightly mysterious words' led early folksong collectors on 'flights of fancy' about the songs origin. Again, according to Steve, the 'earliest extant (broadsides) date from about the 1820s (The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (2012) pages 392 - 93). This may well be true, but it does not necessarily prove that the song is no older than this date. As we all know, it is very hard to prove a negative and I feel sure that many folksongs predate their first known appearance on broadsides.
Although I have specifically mentioned The Bold Fisherman here, I am not trying to say that this is a song which predates the 1820s. I simply wish to point out that our perceptions have changed over the years. Sixty years ago, there were very few academics studying folksongs. Today this has changed, and standards have become far more rigorous. And so, we should not be surprised to find folksong studies going off in new and different directions. Sadly, though, this often means that when today's scholars write about the songs, we often only find lists of dated broadside versions, and little else. Perhaps what we need is a little more in the way of humanity when we consider the old songs.
Mike Yates - 12.4.19
This is from Frank Purslow's book Marrow Bones, as Three Jolly Huntsmen [Gardiner H1130. William Taylor, Peterfield Workhouse, Hampshire, August 1908]
It's of three jolly huntsmen went out to hunt for fox
But where shall we find him amongst the hills and rocks?
With my hip, hip, hip and my holloa
And away went the merry, merry band.
With my ran tan tan and my chivvy, chivvy chan
All over the merry, merry strand.
With my ugle, ugle, ugle, went the bugle horn,
Fal le ral, fal le ral, fal le ral le dee.
Through the woods we'll go, brave boys,
And through the woods we'll go.
The first we met was a fair maid a-combing out her locks,
She swore she saw bold Reynolds amongst the farmer's ducks.
The next we met was a farmer a-ploughing of his land,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds amongst the ewes and lambs.
And the next we met was a miller a-working of his mill,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds run over yonder hill.
And the next we met was a blind man, as blind as blind could be,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds run up a hollow tree.
And the next we met was a parson, and he was dressed in black,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds upon the huntsman's back.
Reinhard Zierke (of Mainly Norfolk) - 19.3.18
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Music Division - Recording Laboratory. FOLK MUSIC OF THE UNITED STATES Issued from the Collections of the Archive of Folk Song Long-Playing Record L55. FOLK MUSIC FROM WISCONSIN Edited by Helene Stratman-Thomas. The notes on that song were as follows:
How Happy is the Sportsman
[Sung by J, L, Peters at Beloit, 1946. Recorded by Aubrey Snyder and Phyllis Pinkerton]
This ballad was brought to Wisconsin from England by the Cornish who settled in the lead-mining area of southwestern Wisconsin in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Mr. Peters learned the song, when a small boy in Mineral Point, from hearing his father and grandfather sing it. Baring-Gould, who collected the song in England, refers to it as a very old ballad which dates back at least to the early seventeenth century. Around 1888 he obtained the song from an old quarryman at Merrivale Bridge in Devon, near the border of Cornwall. The Baring-Gould version begins "There were three jovial Welshmen" and refers to the fox as Reynard. In Mr. Peters' song the fox is called Bovena. The verses of the two versions are similar, but the melodies have little in common.
The first he saw was a farmer, a-hoeing in his corn,
He said he saw Bowena across the waters lorn,
Come hic, come hic, come high-low, along the merry stream,
With a ra-ta-ta, ti-pa-ti-pa-tan,
And with the royal bow-wow-wow,
The bewbine zing, fiddle-diddle-dee and dye-dee,
And through the woods we'll run, brave boys,
And through the woods we'll run.
The next he saw vas a blind man, as blind as he could be,
He said he saw Bowena run up a hollow tree,
Come hic, cone hic, come high-low, along the merry stream,
With a ti-pa-ti-pa-tan,
And with the royal bow-wow-vow,
The bewbine zing, and dye-dee,
And through the woods we'll run, brave boys, And through the woods we'll run.
Vic Smith - 18.3.18
Referring to the song fragment below, there is a variant of it, and much more complete, being sung in the Devon/Cornwall region.
I first came across it some 50 years ago being sung by Ken Penney of Exeter, and I'm pretty sure it was in the repertoire of Tony Rose and Cyril Tawney. My gut feeling is that it's source is probably Exmoor.
Here's the chorus, as I know it:
Vic Legg - 16.3.18
Mike Yates - 15.3.18
If anyone knows where I can find copies of these books, please let me know.
Thanks to various friends, Brad now has access to these three books - Ed.
Brad McEwen - 16.2.18
I had a quick look through your recent Musical Traditions editorials, and wanted to briefly respond to your 'Austerity Bites' piece published last November.
I very much sympathise with your evaluation of the younger end of current folk scene, but wanted to offer myself as an example of how all is perhaps not too glum? I am 'only' (ha!) 35, but am very much committed to real traditional singing. I came to it from a background of studying traditional singers in Bulgaria when I was at university, and a desire to find out whether we had anything similar closer to home. I found out that we most certainly did when I came across the recordings Percy Grainger made of Joseph Taylor.
Since then its been a slow process of following leads into what has felt like a lost world. I have very little interest in (though nothing against) the contemporary folk scene, though to be honest, I've never really felt inspired to investigate it too much. Instead, I've taken most of my inspiration from the sort of field recordings you have devoted yourself to making publically available, various printed and online resources, and amazing friends from Ireland (and further afield) where, as you say in your article, there is so much more value attached to traditional singing.
I don't sing in public very often. When I do, it is within events that are more part of the art/performance scene than any branch of the music world (where funnily enough, I think people are much more open minded about listening to someone sing a long song with no accompaniment), or those rare occasions when you're at someone's house for dinner, they ask you to sing, and it somehow feels like the right moment. Predominantly though, I just sing at home, in the kitchen!
Please don't lose heart. Your efforts to make rare and indescribably precious singing available to a wider audience really are filtering down through the generations, even if it might not seem like it sometimes.
Phil Owen - 14.2.18
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