Sleeve Notes etc - Full Circle

A journey of half a lifetime. Recorded and produced at our bach in Hot Water Beach, Coromandel, New Zealand during March and April 2008.

My sincere thanks go to Nic Jones and Mike Canavan for writing the superb "Green to Grey" and "The Knocker Upper Man" respectively. Mostly, I must thank Glennis, my long-suffering missus for putting up with my second, third and fourth mid-life crises.

Track Notes
1. High Germany

An old broadsheet ballad this is a favourite of mine because unlike many traditional ballads it's short and to the point. Set around the many European wars of the mid-1700s, it tells simply of the effect that war has on family relationships. One of the first songs I ever learned, and, for some reason I learned to play the banjo especially to accompany it. Still a favourite but I've changed the arrangement many times over the years, and dropped the banjo long ago. Thank God, some would say. This version has more drive to it now and shows how I love to use the guitar as a percussion instrument.

2. The Handsome Cabin Boy
I've always rated this as a good folk song and another good one to perform. It's got a storyline that deals with modern issues such as cross-dressing, sexual fantasy, boating, and medical miracles (as I write this, hasn't some guy announced he is pregnant?). It has all the trappings of a good TV soap, although set on the sea one might call it a Liquid Soap!

3. William Taylor
Currently one of my favourite performance songs, and I should thank Ian Bartlett and his Kiwi folk band Westumbria for bringing it to my attention.
According to the sleeve notes on Pete Coe's Long Company CD, this song may well have started life in the Midlands and was certainly popularized on broadsheets printed in Digbeth in the 19th Century.
If this were enacted now, the newspaper headline would probably read "Crime of passion - Spurned, gold-digging, cross-dressing ex-lover accused of indecent exposure and murder".
According to popular history women did indeed dress up as soldiers, sailors and highwaymen for a variety of reasons. Of course these tales were often told by men with various kinds of fantasies in mind, and this one has all the elements of an early soap.
When I sang it at the Saltburn Folk Festival, the compere commented gruffly "I suppose that was the long version then". It was, it is, and I love it.

4. The Knocker Upper Man
Last century when I was a gay young blade, single, and playing around the folk clubs o' t' North, I heard Mike Canavan sing this song, which he wrote back in the early seventies and features a man whose occupation died out after the 2nd World War when the cotton and coal industries were dying around Manchester. It connected with me because when I was a kid, Percy Small was the Knocker Upper Man in Sandal Street, Ancoats in Manchester where I lived for a time with my three maiden aunties. It's also a gem of a song, with a catchy chorus and wherever I've sung it, it has been a hit. Thanks for the memories and years of pleasure Mike.

5. The Red Barn
This song tells of the 1820s murder of Maria Marten, the daughter of a mole catcher at Polstead in Suffolk. You couldn't make up a better story of mystery and intrigue, murder and black magic. Maria met her lover William Corder in the Red Barn where he murdered her and buried her body. Gossip was rife – she was thought to have been pregnant - he was a swindler and had mounting debts. People even talked of pagan rights, and her mother was implicated as well, as another of Corder's lovers. Thousands attended Corder's hanging in Bury St Edmunds, and 200,000 people visited the Red Barn and stripped down the walls for souvenirs. The coroner had an account of the trial bound in Corder's skin. In my arrangement, I took one of the verses and changed it into a Chorus so that it adds a morbid quirkiness to the tale as it unfolds. It's a current performance favourite of mine.

6. Bonny George Campbell
I first heard this song performed by Nic Jones on the Unearthed Disc 1 CD and it immediately struck a chord, and then at the Tenterden Festival in 2007 I caught up with Steve Turner in concert and he sang it superbly with a lovely melodeon accompaniment. In his introduction he described it as the complete folk song in that it fires the imagination to such a point that only 3 verses are required. He was right. Any additional verse would have been irrelevant. By the way, this George Campbell died at the Battle of Glenlivet in the 1590s.

7. Lost Folkie Walkin' Talkin' Blues
Don't ask me where this came from, but I included it just for fun. Perhaps it was the whacky baccy, or the Glenlivet, the Boddingtons, or even the occasional late night Horlicks. Who knows? But one minute it wasn't there, and ten minutes later it was finished. I owe much of whatever future success I might find as a folk singer to Richard Grainger and the Festival on the Moor, so maybe it's just a fitting tribute to both. It raises a smile every time I listen to it, even tho' I wrote it! Thanks Richard.

8. Three Drunken Maidens
This may have been another 'Marrowbones' song but I'm not sure, as I lost that invaluable book many moons ago. I performed this at an Open Mike session during the Auckland Folk Festival and James Fagan was in the audience. He was kind in his comments and suggested that he'd never heard it performed in a 6/8 rhythm. I told him frankly that after all these years I couldn't remember how it was meant to be performed. This is my way, and I like it.
Oh, and the song itself? ……. Well, in New Zealand we currently have a major problem with young women binge-drinking, so "What's changed?" I hear you ask. Not a lot, it seems.

9. The Whitby Maid
This is another great story, full of subtle wit and cleverly narrated in rhyme. Listening to Kathryn Roberts' album '2', this song was a stand-out for me, and I was instantly enthralled by the story line. I wrote the arrangement with a sort of Country 'lick' to it and I think it fits well. Magic song to perform 'live'.

10. Green to Grey

There is a special place in my heart reserved for property developers. Many of these people have systematically decimated our countryside, our inner cities and our heritage and continue to do so, ostensibly in the name of progress. But in truth the motivator has always been greed. I have performed this Nic Jones song in many countries and its comment is as relevant in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Ireland as it is in England, and is as pertinent today as when Nic wrote it more than 20 years ago.

Record Produced by:
ArtMeYed Music Ltd,
PO Box 20275
Glen Eden, Auckland, New Zealand

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