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Recorded January 2008 at Meadow Farm Studio, Lower Hartshay, nr. Ripley, Derbyshire. www.meadowfarmstudio.co.uk Engineered by Jonathan Cundey.
POOR OLD HORSE MATS026
The new album from
1 Poor Old Horse
REDUCED TO CLEAR
Price - Including P & P now only £5
"There has always been
more to ex TATT resident and organiser of Tales at the Tiger Pete Castle than
just a singer of folksongs and on his new album, his first for a good number
of years, his various talents are explored.
These days Pete is as well known as a storyteller as he is a singer and as such he makes the bold move of adding two quite substantial stories, “Like Meat Loves Salt” and “The Storytelling Stone” to the album... Enlisting the help of Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews (no strangers to TATT) as well as Northumberland Piper Edmund Hunt, they all get together on the tune “Opera Reel” as well as helping out on one or two other tracks most notably the outstanding item on the album for me, a polite version of the bawdy “Firelock Stile”. Polite but not bowdlerised it gathers pace at it tells its rollicking tale which is not without a warning. It also contains an extra verse which fills out the version I know more sensibly so maybe I’ll dust that one off now.
There are a couple of big ballads here, a version of “The Female Servingman” and the evergreen “Barbara Allen”. Better known pieces like the title song, the ritual “Poor Old Horse”, “Nightingales Sing” and “Virginia” are all given interesting treatment and arrangements and look out for his re-working of Shakespeare’s “When That I Was a Little Tiny Boy”.
A most refreshing album from one of our most hard working local singers and an ideal souvenir of a Pete Castle gig."
DAVE SUTHERLAND Traditions at the Tiger newsletter.
If you prefer your music as MP3 downloads we can now do those as well! Go to: http://cdbaby.com/cd/petecastle2
The CD sleeve has only very short notes so here is a bit more information.
1 Poor Old Horse:
Collected by S.O.Addy c.1888 in S.Yorks/N.Derbys. I often introduce
this as being a Derbyshire song, but the Christmas play to which it was attached
was found nationwide. It’s closely related to, and sometimes muddled with,
the Derby Ram,/Old Tup though. I’ve discussed elsewhere a theory that
these and the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance mighty all be descended from an old
Scandinavian ritual but now I’m not so sure. My thinking then was that
Derbyshire and Staffs were in an area settled by the Danes, but I’ve also
pointed out that an ‘Old Tup’ type ritual is found in Transylvania
which wasn’t! Perhaps it’s even older?
The final quete verse in this version was added from Wales and I toyed with the idea of using this spoken intro from Cheshire:
Once he was alive and now
Nothing but a poor old horse’s head.
This poor old horse has but one leg
And for his money he has to beg.
This poor old horse has an eye like hawk
And a neck like a rainbow
And a foot like a paver’s jammer
And as many wimbles and jimbles
On his forehead as half an acre of ploughed land.
Whey! Whoa! Stand up Dick and show yourself!
Sidney Oldall Addy did
a lot of collecting in the area around where Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
meet about 10 years either side of 1900. (Judging by the places in which he
collected I suspect he went out on his bike!) He published a lot of material
in local and antiquarian magazines and published a little book of folk tales
entitled ‘HOUSEHOLD TALES & TRADITIONAL REMAINS by Sidney Oldall Addy
MA Oxon. Collected in the counties of York, Lincoln, Derby & Nottingham
pub. 1895 by David Nutt in the Strand, London and Pawson & Brailsford, Sheffield’ from which Like Meat Loves Salt is taken.
2 Nightingales Sing/The Soldier’s Jig: Collected by Hammond in Dorset. A grown up retelling of Soldier, Soldier Won’t You Marry Me? And, of course, he won’t! Soldiers always play the same role in folk songs, as do fiddlers, so when she meets a fiddle-playing soldier she doesn’t stand a chance! I seem to have always been aware of this from my ancient copy of Marrowbones but have never sung it before. The Soldier’s Jig is our own concoction based on the melody.
3 Female Servingman: Child 106 Collected by Gardiner in Hants. and published in The Constant Lovers but it’s probably of Irish origin as the mention of the ‘shamrock flower’ illustrates. Gardiner called it The Flower of Servingmen but I changed the name to avoid confusion with Martin Carthy’s Famous Flower of Serving Men which is, in fact, a whole different ballad telling a different story. I recorded it once before on a cassette album (One Morning By Chance, 1989) but I was never entirely happy with the arrangement which was too complicated so I didn’t perform it often—I’ve spent most of my career striving for simplicity! I know the audience have been listening when the last line gets a laugh.
4 Like Meat Loves Salt: King Lear meets Cinderella! This was expanded from a fragment collected in Derbyshire by S.O.Addy (see Poor Old Horse above).
5 In Sheffield Park: This song is fairly widespread in the south of England. Sheffield Park is a ‘stately home’ on the Kent/Sussex border. Fittingly the Copper Family have a version but I found this somewhere else. I don’t think the man in the song is one of the gentry—perhaps a gamekeeper or other estate worker. The tune is very similar to the Hand Weaver & the Factory Maid or The Fair Maid Who Couldn’t Learn Her ABC, both of which I have sung in the past. (Hand Weaver is still available on the Jenny & the Frame & the Mule CD)
6 Barbara Allen: (Child 84) Research has shown that a folk song collector in the early 20th century was twice as likely to find a version of Barbara Allen as any other ballad! However, this is the first time I’ve attempted a version and I’m not aware of many English singers doing it these days, although it is well known amongst country singers in America. The first verse and tune of this were noted by a Mrs. Grahame of St. Leonard's-on-Sea, from ‘the daughters of a Kentish squire, the last of whom died in 1865’. The other verses come from other versions.
7 Firelock Stile: from Harry Cox of Norfolk. A bit of bawdy fun. I used to sing this back in the 1980s. This was one of the surprises of the album. I thought it might be fun to do and we tried a couple of ways of doing it which didn’t really work and then this slipped into place. For me, it’s one of the highlights.
8 Virginia: Songs about the transportation of convicts to Australia (Van Diemen’s Land or Botany Bay) are common but this is an early one from when the new colony of Virginia was still used for that purpose. Virginia was founded in 1607 and convicts were sent there from about 1650 until the American War of Independence in 1776. The 1st Fleet took their successors to Botany Bay in 1788. The Australian songs usually name the crime as poaching but here we have highway robbery, much more serious and more likely to have happened at an earlier period. It was printed on broadsides in the early 1700s. I learned it specially before I went to Washington DC to take part in the ‘Roots of Virginia’ programme of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2007. The use of ‘lag’ as a verb is interesting, it only survives now as a noun… an ‘old lag’.
9 Poor Sally Sits A-Weeping: from the famous Mrs Russell of Upwey in Dorset this is usually called Once I Had A Sweetheart. Again it’s from The Constant Lovers.
10 Opera Reel: I very occasionally do a bit of dance calling. I have a nice cumulative dance, ’collected’ from Taffy Thomas, which I use with this tune but I can’t remember where the tune itself came from.
Stone: So that’s where all the stories come from! This North
American Indian* story comes from the Seneca people who lived (live?) around
where Toronto now stands, but it is widely known. I was told by another storyteller
that she does a version from South America.
(* I thought we were supposed to say ‘Native Americans’ but the people I met and worked with in America called themselves ‘American Indians’ and in Washington they are building ‘The Museum of the American Indian’!)
12 When That I Was A Little Tiny Boy: I only work with the best. The lyricist here was one William Shakespeare! It’s sung by Feste, the jester, as the final speech in 12th Night. The tune is the Appalachian version of the Two Sisters ballad—The Dreadful Wind and Rain, which has almost the same refrain line. Did Shakespeare know the tune before it went to America? I hadn’t seen 12th Night until the summer of 2007 when I saw two versions within a couple of weeks—the film by Trevor Nunn and a production by the RSC at Stratford. Both times I was struck by how ‘folky’ the lyrics to the songs were, which is what inspired me to look them up and see what I could do.
There is no definite theme for this album but it could be ‘re-visiting old friends’. I’ve been aware of many of the songs for a long while even if I haven’t sung them myself, the ones I have sung either didn’t establish themselves in my repertoire or they dropped out after a short while and have now come back fresh and strong.
Another theme could be songs from where I live/where I have lived in that there are several items from Derbyshire, my home for the last 20 years and from Kent where I was born and brought up.
The whole album has been influenced by James Reeves’ essay ‘The Lingua Franca’ in his collection of traditional lyrics from the collections of Baring-Gould, Hammond and Gardiner ‘The Everlasting Circle’ (thanks to Harvey Andrews for the book!). The LF is the underlying language of symbolism which is within all true folk songs. Put simply: folk songs are written in a short hand. If someone, particularly a ‘maiden’, goes out on a ‘May morning’ or even a ‘mid-summer’s morning’ then she is probably looking for ‘love’. Gathering rushes, or hay or flowers is symbolic of the same thing. If he mows her meadow, ploughs her field, fishes in her pond and so on that love is taking on a physical form! It’s not as simple and crude as that sounds. It’s not “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, I bet it wasn’t his fiddle he flashed at her!” as it would be in Benny Hill, but it is an additional level of storytelling happening in parallel to the actual words. All the old singers would have subconsciously known this but it was completely misunderstood by the Gentleman Collectors of the late 19th/early 20th century who either didn’t see it at all or expurgated it as being crude and rude. Those of us who have lived with traditional songs for the last 30 or 40 years probably sense it without having to spell it out just as those ‘ol’ boys’ (and girls) did way back when.
DOUG EUNSON & SARAH
Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews are out and about as a duo, as well as playing with English band ‘Cross o'th Hands’, from Derbyshire. With vocal harmonies, melodeons, fiddle and viola, they play English traditional songs and dance tunes, with a little European influence added. Their varied and rich sound has already pleased audiences in folk clubs around England and some of the major festivals, and they also had great success on tour round Ontario, Canada in August 2006 and 2007.
Edmund began playing traditional music when, at the age of nine, he was given a tin whistle by a family friend from Ireland. He later learned to play traditional music on the flute and Northumbrian pipes. He has been to Whitby Folk Festival every year for the past 15 years. An interest in medieval languages led him to read 'Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic' at university, but he returned to music when he studied for a 'Master of Music' degree at Newcastle University. His primary interest is contemporary musical composition, but he was able to receive some tuition on pipes and flute while at Newcastle. Edmund was taught the Northumbrian pipes by Pauline Cato and Kathryn Tickell. His flute and whistle tutors have included Dr. Desmond Wilkinson (at Newcastle University) and Marcas Ó Murchú. Edmund is hoping to start a PhD in composition.
Sue is Pete’s wife and long term singing partner. She’s appeared on several of his earlier albums. Sue sings with Rough Truffles Community Choir in Belper.
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