A Deadly Affair

Welcome to week #27 of our project! And we’ve started off the second half of the project with one of our all time favourites, in terms of songs, settings, and the fact that we got to spend time with our friend Anna Hester ūüôā

We’d been rehearsing this song with Anna for a few weeks to make sure we did it proper justice and it’s a fair amount of words to learn! And when Sunday came we were so happy to wake up to such a beautiful day and have the opportunity to play some music in the sunshine!

The song we picked is called “Matty Groves” and we fell in love with a version recorded in 2009 by Alela Diane and Alina Hardin. ¬†We’ve covered their version of the song as it just seemed to fit Becca’s and Anna’s voices so well that there was no need to play around with it.

The song is Child Ballad #81 and dates back at least as far as the 17th century; it was first published in 1658 but is also thought to have been published in a Broadside by Henry Gosson who published between 1607 and 1641 so it may have been even earlier.  The song has several variations and is known in other recordings as Little Musgrave, Lord Arland, Lord Barnard and many more.  The first recording (that I know of) is by John Jacob Niles in 1956 and has been recorded over the years by the likes of Joan Baez, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones and even Tom Waits.

We really hope you enjoy this one as we absolutely love it! And please check out Anna Hester online on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud

A Slightly Delayed Return to Music

Once again we need to start this blog with a little apology for being late. ¬†When we started this project we had no idea that normal life would get in the way so much!! ¬†But we’re back again, and don’t worry you will get a full year’s worth of songs, we’ll just add them on to the end ūüôā

This week we’ve crossed the pond again and taken another folk tune from the Appalachian region: Shady Grove.

Like many of the Appalachian folk tunes, this one has it’s roots back in England (or maybe Scotland). ¬†The song originates¬†as a variation on the tune Matty Groves; a Child Ballad that will be featuring later on in our project. ¬†The tune is still very similar to Matty Groves but the real changes have been the lyrical adaptations. ¬†Where Matty Groves is a classic tale of a noble lady finding comfort in the arms of a man of the lower classes, Shady Grove is more a standard love song with a man proclaiming how much he loves his lady (although we’ve adapted it to be from the female perspective). ¬†The lyrics may have aged a bit as Becca thinks that this display of affection is a tad stalker-ish!

We slightly messed up the end of this one…well Rob did but it was his birthday yesterday and he had wine so he’s forgiven! But nevertheless we hope you enjoy this one, and we’ll try not to have too many more delays in the future!


Another Mournful Love

Once again I have to apologise for the late video, there was a severe outbreak of man-flu! ¬†But we got there eventually, and decided this week to go for an absolute classic: “Black Is The Colour”.

Black Is The Colour was first collected in the Appalachian region in 1915 by the great collector Cecil Sharp, who published it in his 1917 book English Folk Songs Of The Southern Appalachians .  However it is generally agreed that the song has a Scottish origin, mainly owed to the song mentioning the Clyde river.

The song has been done by a wide variety of exceptional artists, probably most famously in 1964 by the incredible Nina Simone.  It has also been performed by the likes of Christy Moore, The Coors, Pete Seeger and Cara Dillon as well as many, many more.

Its a beautiful song about the protagonist (gender varies) mourning over a lost love…not the most original story in folk music, but if it ain’t broke!

We both really enjoyed this one and will certainly crack it out at a few live events in the future!


P.S. We want to say a HUGE thank you to Gary Hazlehurst at Stafford Fm for giving us our first ever radio play on his Thursday night Folk Show on the 18th, and then playing us AGAIN last night!! If you didn’t catch the show then they will be available on mixcloud in the near future, keep an eye out! And follow us on Facebook or Twitter for any future airplay info!

A Cruel Woman

This week sees us tread triumphantly into double digits! This week we recorded episode #10 of our Folk Song A Week project. ¬†So first of all we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been watching and sharing our videos, when we first started we honestly thought it would just be us watching them!

So for this week we thought we’d do a classic traditional ballad, and we went for Barbara Allen.

Barbara Allen; also known as Barbriellen, Barb’ry Allen, Cruel Barbara Allen and various other names, is Child Ballad #84 and is first seen referenced in print in the diary of Samuel Pepys in his entry of 2nd January 1666 where he references hearing a Mrs Knepp singing it at a New Years party.

The song has been done by several big acts in the past such as Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel and even Billie Joe Armstrong (of GreenDay fame)! ¬†As with our version of Long Lankin, we decided for this ballad to strip it right right back and create our own arrangement of it. ¬†We opted for giving almost a circus-style tune to the guitar line and adopt a minor key for it instead of the major versions that are more common. ¬†We have gone for the more modern version of the lyrics instead of the traditional ones; although there are so many variants of the lyrics it’s hard to say what is original and what isn’t! The closest I can find in print is this 1885 broadside of two versions of the song.

barbara allen

So here we are, our version of the classic folk tune: Barbara Allen. ¬†Enjoy ūüôā

A Murder Most Foul

Happy Halloween!

In honour of this spooky time of year we decided to learn a more sinister folk song, perfect as one of my all time favourites is an old tune called Long Lankin.

Long Lankin is Child Ballad #93, although it’s called Lamkin in his collection and goes also by Lambkin, Lincoln or Linkin in other adaptations. It’s generally agreed that it is of English origin although there are Scottish versions from¬†around the same period. ¬†In the Scottish version of the song Lankin is a stonemason who builds a castle and the lord refuses to pay him so he exacts a bloody revenge. ¬†In these versions “Lankin” is seen more as a hero character whereas the English versions portray him as a devil-like villain who butchers an innocent family. ¬†Some people recently have suggested that “Lankin” was a leper seeking an arcane remedy for his affliction which consisted of¬†“the blood of an innocent in a silver bowl” although of course there is no proof of this, but I like it as an interpretation.

It is first seen in print in Kent 1775 and in Scotland a year later but it is almost certainly much older than this.  The main Scottish theory places the events of the song at the construction of Balwearie Castle which took place in 1464.

This is the first song we’ve recorded where we’ve done the full arrangement; previously we’ve simply adjusted other peoples adaptations but¬†this time we fancied taking the song right back to it’s beginnings and adding our own sinister twist to it. ¬†The original song has many more verses than what we have recorded here, but we wanted to keep it short as we felt it had more impact this way. ¬†We also added a few very simple percussive guitar techniques: a snare in the intro and final verse to symbolise a sort of death march and a double bass beat through the verses to add a foreboding heartbeat!

So here it is, our Halloween special, we hope you enjoy our version of Long Lankin!