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


An Unhappy Wife

This week we once again left everything to the last minute…you’d have thought we’d learn by now but apparently not! We had decided earlier on a song to perform (I won’t say which as it’ll be done later in the project) but we never got as far as rehearsing so we decided to find another song, short enough to learn in 3 hours!

Luckily we have a rather excellent little book called¬†Classic English Folk Songs¬†which has a great selection of old tunes. ¬†Flipping through the pages we came across this great little comedy tune called “When I Was Young”. ¬†The song dates back to at least the 18th century but it’s longevity is credited to it’s inclusion in an 1850 publication called¬†120 Comedy Songs Sung by Sam Cowell.

The song is from the perspective of a woman who bemoans her marriage to a pauper and yearning for the days where she had family wealth and freedom from her husband and her baby.

“When I was young I used to sport and play, but now I’m married and the cradle’s in the way.

Oh what a life, what a weary weary life! You’d better be a maiden as a poor man’s wife.”

We played around with the rhythm of the song a little to make it sound a bit more upbeat but otherwise we stuck pretty close to what was collected in 1920 by W. G. Whittaker when he heard it sung by a Mrs Moore in County Durham.

The song seems to have fallen a little out of fashion in recent years but we love it and hope that it has a resurgence soon! ¬†So here you go, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do ūüôā

A Favourite Shanty

We’re still alive! We’ve been having a little break recently for a little jaunt to the land of the rising sun! Japan is an absolutely beautiful country and really gave us the rest we needed, and now we’re back and ready to get going again!


We headed off to Cambridge last weekend to catch the most excellent Bellowhead on their farewell tour, stopping off to visit our friend Anna Hester for a little rehearsal for an upcoming folk song (stay tuned, it’s going to be great!). We had such an amazing time at Bellowhead¬†that we decided we had to do a version of one of their songs. ¬†So, very much like when we went to see Bella Hardy, we ended up learning a song on the car journey home! ¬†The song we decided on was one of the most famous sea shanties out there: Haul Away Joe

Haul Away Joe is a type of sea song known as a “Halyard Shanty” which basically means it was sung when hauling ropes for anchor or for sails as a way to coordinate the men involved. Halyards generally the simplest shanties with short lines and simple catchy tunes. ¬†The history of traditional shanties is¬†often hard to trace, and this one is no different. ¬†There are wax cylinder recordings of the song from the turn of the century and there are various mentions of it from around the start of the 19th century, but very little solid fact remains as to where it began.

Performing a version of a shanty poses a few problems for us…mainly that we are only 2 people and not a naval crew! ¬†So instead of trying to imitate the great boisterous versions of this song (e.g. Bellowhead and many others) we decided to slow it down and give the song a sweeter, more lyrical sound while still maintaining the original rhythmic feel. ¬†We’re really rather pleased with how this one turned out, we hope you enjoy it too!

A Not-So-Innocent Nightingale

Earlier this week we rediscovered the beautiful Jackie Oates. ¬†On her “Saturnine” album is her version of the old Cornish classic “The Sweet Nightingale” and we agreed we absolutely had to do a version as well. ¬†So thanks Jackie!

At first listen this sounds like a sweet little courting song that ends in a happily ever after. ¬†However the “sweet nightingale” isn’t some metaphor for a young couple’s love, rather a sexual euphemism! When the male protagonist is promising the lady the she will hear the sweet nightingale as she sings in the valley below, he’s basically trying to pull!

The ‘Pretty Maid’ puts up a bit of a fight at first but in the original version of the song her defence lasts all of one verse. Rob likes to think that’s because the man had the best “game” in history, but Becca wanted her to be a bit more feisty, yet still in-keeping with the history of the song, so in our version she will only consent once the couple are married. ¬†A happily-every-after after all!

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 Case of Mistaken Identity

This week we’re doing one of my favourite songs of all time: The Crow On The Cradle.

The case of mistaken identity has nothing to do with the song itself, merely the fact that we gave credit to the wrong songwriter on the video, so apologies for that! And if I’m being totally honest I thought this was a Show Of Hands original!

The song was written by Sydney Carter (not Jackson Browne, although he did do a version as well!) as an anti-war “lullaby”; the crow foretelling the life of pain that the child in the cradle will suffer along with their family: “The crow on the cradle, the white and the black/ Somebody’s baby is not coming back”

I’ve loved this song for years, the meaning behind it, the lyrics are a masterpiece and the music is so dark and foreboding and the nursery rhyme style to all of it adds a wonderful sense of sinister foreboding to the song.

We’ve struggled with this song as it’s so good already it’s hard to know what to do in terms of rearrangement…so we decided not to (other than adding a more ‘picky’ guitar part). ¬†So we hope you enjoy this song, we certainly do!