The Old Songs Podcast explores old songs – traditional, industrial, street ballads – one at a time. Learn where they came from, where they've been, who sung them and who sings them still. Most of the series is available on Mixcloud. Presented by traditional singer, Jon Wilks.
The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep10 – ‘The Bury New Loom', ft. Jennifer Reid
Today, I'm talking to broadside ballads singer, Jennifer Reid. Although Jenn has been involved in researching and singing these songs for a decade, I'm ashamed to say that she only turned up on my radar when she appeared as the ballad-singing bar owner, Barb, in the recent BBC adaptation of The Gallows Pole. I've since discovered that she's a force to be reckoned with - one of the most passionate proponents of old songs that I've so far had the good fortune to meet. In this conversation, we discuss her background with broadsides, their history, what a ballad hawker might have been, who might have been singing these songs and why, and how Jenn ended up singing unaccompanied traditional songs to a Pulp audience at the behest of Jarvis cocker. Along the way, we chat a little about one of her favourite ballads, 'The Bury New Loom' [Roud V9197]. Pull your ear goggles on and let's get underway.
The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep9 – ‘Lord Douglas’, ft. Jim Moray
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But, like buses, you wait ages for an Old Songs Podcast episode and then two come along in quick succession. Because this edition is the first in a two-part thing. Today, we’re chatting to Jim Moray about passing the two-decade mark as a professional musician, about one of my favourite of his traditional arrangements, the ballad 'Lord Douglas' [Roud 23], about a new album coming soon, and about an upcoming festival in his name. The second part to this podcast is going to be recorded live, in front of an audience - possibly even you, dear listener - at the Jim Moray festival on Jun 17th at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, North London, where we’ll be joined by Jim, Nick Hart and a number of other guests. I’ll stick the tickets link on the page accompanying this episode.
We’re focusing this episode loosely around the song, 'Lord Douglas', which Jim originally released 10 years ago, winning Best Traditional Track at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in the process. We’re also using it as an opportunity to talk to Jim about his career so far. Listen out for tales about the time Amy Winehouse mistook him for a photographer’s assistant, his relationship with folk music and gadgetry, and his theories on how arranging traditional ballads is like writing a week’s worth of Eastenders.
And, as an extra special treat, listen out for the final track in the podcast - usually an unaccompanied ballad, but this time an exclusive - a recording of 'Lord Douglas' from the Abbey Road sessions that make up his new album.
Once again, our thanks to the English Folk Dance and Song Society for their ongoing support, and we hope to see some of you at JimFest on June 17th.
Tickets for the Jim Moray Festival are available now from this link.
The Old Songs Podcast is supported by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
‘Lord Douglas’ podcast notes
This article is accompanied by a partial transcript of the sections that discuss Jim’s career. You can find that in our Jim Moray interview.
The English Folk Dance and Song SocietyThe Vaughan Williams Memorial LibraryThe Jim Moray Festival
‘Lord Douglas’, Jim Moray, taken from the album Skulk (2012)‘Lucy Wan’, Frankie Archer, taken from the single Lucy Wan (2022)‘Earl Brand’, Gigspanner, taken from the album Natural Invention (2020)‘The Douglas Tragedy’, Ewan MacColl, taken from the album The English & Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Vol.5 (1956)‘Lord Douglas’, Moonaroon, taken from the EP Seeds
The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep8 – ‘Princess Royal’, ft. John Spiers
Episode 8 of the second series of The Old Songs Podcast, supported, so very kindly, by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, is an unusual one as it focuses on an old tune rather than an old song. Prepare yourself to delve into the background of one of the most well-known Morris dancing tunes, 'Princess Royal'.
Joining Jon Wilks to discuss the tune is one of the country’s finest melodeon players, John Spiers, or "Squeezy" as he’s fondly known as on the English folk scene. Many of you will know Squeezy as a founding member of Bellowhead, not to mention a myriad of other bands he steps in and out of when the road calls.
Over the course of an hour or so, the pair look at the history of 'Princess Royal' tune. Did it start life as an accompaniment to English Morris dancing, or does it stretch further back and over greater distances than that?
Squeezy tells us a bit about growing up, somewhat hesitantly, in the Morris tradition, and talks about the difference between being a musician performing this tune on stage and a musician playing for a Morris side. He explains what a jig is, what a reel might be, how to recognise a slow, and who’s wearing the trunkles in this relationship?
Squeezy mentions video clips and different versions throughout, which we have listed and embedded below.
Over the course of the episode, John Spiers and Jon Wilks mention the following things:
The English Folk Dance and Song SocietyThe story of Cecil Sharp and Headington Quarry MorrisMat Green (Magpie Lane) playing and dancing 'Princess Royal' on YoutubeTrack listing
John Spiers playing the Abingdon version on the Spiers and Boden album, Bellow, 2003Spiers & Boden playing the Bampton version on their album, Vagabond, 2008Magpie Lane playing 'Princess Royal' on their 2006 album, The Oxford RambleClannad playing 'Mrs McDermott' on their 1973 album, ClannadMat Green of Bampton Lane, performing the tune while dancing a jig (see above)The Unthanks singing 'The Scarecrow Knows' from the soundtrack to the TV series, Worzel Gummidge, released in December 2022Jim Moray singing ‘Gypsies’ from his 2003 album, Sweet England'Princess Royal' from Morris On, released in 1972A snippet of Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr performing the B part on their 1995 album, The Shape of ScrapeJohn Spiers performing an exclusive version of the North Leigh version, spoken about in an earlier part of the conversationFor more info on John Spiers, head to johnspiers.co.uk.
The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep7 – ‘The Gloucestershire Wassail / The Wassailing Song’, ft. Jon Wilks
This Christmassy episode of the Old Songs Podcast turns the tables slightly, as Nick Hart interviews Jon Wilks about a traditional folk song of wintery note, 'The Gloucestershire Wassail' [Roud 209]. The pair chat about the history of the song, where it was collected, where it travelled to, what the lyrics might refer to, the definition of wassailing, and its connection to Britpop (or all things). Everything you ever wanted to know about 'The Wassailing Song' is right here in this episode, so strap your ear-goggles on and summon your wassailing bowl.
‘The Gloucestershire Wassail’ podcast notes
Over the course of the episode, Nick Hart and Jon Wilks mention the following things:
The English Folk Dance and Song Society'The Gloucestershire Wassail' on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library websiteNick Hart's yellow handkerchiefsGwilym Davies online collectionThe Prince Albert Carol Consort, StroudNotes on Blur's version of 'The Wassailing Song'Nick Hart's photo in 'A Christmas Carol'Track listing
‘The Wassailing Song', performed by The Grizzly Folk'The Gloucestershire Wassail', performed by Magpie Lane'The Kentucky Wassail', performed by John Jacob Niles'The Wassailing Song', performed by Blur'Wassail', arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams'The Halsway Carol', performed by Jackie Oates'The Gloucestershire Wassail', performed exclusively by Jon WilksFor more info on Jon Wilks, head to jonwilks.online.
The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep6 – ‘When I was on Horseback/ The Unfortunate Rake’, ft. Debbie Armour (Burd Ellen)
Roud 2 goes under so many titles, it might be easier just to stick with 'Roud 2' and be done with it. Whether you know it as 'When I was on Horseback' or 'The Unfortunate Rake', or any of the other titles you may find, it's a grizzly old song with a fascinating history. And who better to discuss it with than Debbie Armour of Burd Ellen, always a fun person to chat with, not to mention an absolute font of folk knowledge. Debbie discusses the fact that it appears to be more than one song, the golf course approach to traditional song, as well as the ways she went about interpreting it... and the ways in which her daughter responded. It's a funny conversation, in spite of the misery that the song brings. Dig in, why don't you?
Over the course of the episode, Debbie Armour and Jon Wilks mention the following things:
The English Folk Dance and Song Society'When I was on Horseback / The Unfortunate Rake' on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website'The Unfortunate Rake: A Study in the Evolution of a Ballad' album (Folkways FS 3805)St James Infirmary, San FranciscoIan Lynch, Fire Draw Near podcast'Lucy Wan', as discussed by Nick HartTrack listing
‘When I was on Horseback', performed by Mary Doran'When I was on Horseback', performed by Steeleye Span'Katie Cruel', performed by Bert Jansch, Beth Orton & Devendra Banhart'St James Hospital', performed by Martin Simpson'The Girl who was Poorly Clad', performed by Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones'St James Infirmary Blues', performed by Louis Armstrong'Adieu Adieu', performed by The Watersons'The Chariot', performed by Burd Ellen'When I was on Horseback', performed by Susan McKeown'The Trooper Cut Down in his Prime', performed by Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp'When I was on Horseback', performed exclusively for the Old Songs Podcast by Debbie ArmourFor more info on Debbie Armour and Burd Ellen, including the new album, head to burdellen.bandcamp.com.
The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep5 – ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’, ft. Emily Portman and Rob Harbron
Emily Portman, Rob Harbron and Jon Wilks discuss the traditional ballad, ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’ [Roud 31], a song that Emily and Rob have recorded for their new album, Time Was Away. Subjects covered include the duo’s first encounter with traditional folk music, their work with the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Emily’s interpretations of the song’s themes, its history, the source singer that Emily learned the song from, the modes and the melody, and how Rob goes about creating accompaniments for traditional songs. They also chat about the album itself and the forthcoming tour to support it. The Old Songs Podcast can be found on all decent streaming platforms.
The Old Songs Podcast is supported by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
‘The Trees The Do Grow High’ podcast notes
Over the course of the episode, Emily Portman, Rob Harbron and Jon Wilks mention the following things:
The English Folk Dance and Song Society‘The Trees They Do Grow High’ [Roud 31] on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library websiteFolkWorksMonday Folk Singers OnlineThe Vaughan William Memorial Library archiveFind Emily Portman and Rob Harbron gigs on the Tradfolk Events CalendarThe initial songs released from Time Was Away on SpotifyTrack listing
‘The Trees They Do Grow High’, as performed by Martin Carthy‘Long-A-Growing’, as performed by Steeleye Span‘Growing (The Trees They Do Grow High)’, as performed by Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr‘Long A-Growing’, as performed by Mary Ann Haynes‘Long a-Growing’, as performed by Emily Portman and Rob Harbron‘Long a-Growing’, as performed by Emily Portman exclusively for The Old Songs PodcastPhoto Credit: Camilla Greenwell