Category Archives: folk music

Cross-dressing lovers and faithless sailors

I was at a folk festival a couple of weeks ago and Ioscaid were playing. I hadn’t heard them before but hope I will again very soon. One of the songs in their set seemed familiar enough to start with, … Continue reading

Posted in folk music, folk song, love | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Knights, and their impossible demands

More upon knights in this post (for some reason, my readers like posts about knights and who am I to disappoint them?).  Child Ballad no. 2 is The Elfin Knight. It has a certain overlap with The Outlandish Knight (Child … Continue reading

Posted in Allegory, Child Ballad, Dr Faustus, folk music, folk song, Imagined Village, knights, love | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old tales, retold

Where do stories come from? Who knows, is the only answer; from somewhere deep inside us as we try to make sense of our place within the world. However, once they exist they get retold, over and over, and reformed … Continue reading

Posted in Child Ballad, death, folk music, folk song, Kathleen Ferrier, love, Malinky | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Faversham to Tunis: the pirate’s tale

I don’t, on the whole, recommend that you go to folk song as evidence for what actually happened in one period of history or another. Facts get distorted as stories are improved by the telling (or singing). Nevertheless I’ve found … Continue reading

Posted in Child Ballad, folk music, folk song, Music, pirates, Spiers and Boden | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Of farmers and fishermen

I wrote last time of John Barleycorn and have been thinking since of double meanings in folk songs. These are not usually terribly deep or terribly hidden – a typical example is the old equation of human and earthly fertility, … Continue reading

Posted in Allegory, folk music, folk song, Maclaine Colston, Music, Saul Rose | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

bread, beer and blood

It’s summertime, in my hemisphere anyhow, and oats and beans and barley grow and thus today’s song is John Barleycorn. This is as bloody a tale of murder as any border ballad. Little Sir John is brutally slain, dragged around, … Continue reading

Posted in Billy Bragg, folk music, folk song, Imagined Village, John Barleycorn, Music | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red wine, new moon, deep water

I was looking through my music collection making playlists for a party last weekend and found I have six different recordings of Sir Patrick Spens (Child Ballad no. 58; to be strictly accurate, I have eight but three of them are … Continue reading

Posted in Child Ballad, death, folk music, folk song, Music | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death and the ravens

More knights this time. Not murderous for a change, only dead. One song in particular caught my attention: The Three Ravens (Child Ballad no. 26). It’s an achingly sad tale set after some battle or other. The ravens are looking for their … Continue reading

Posted in animal, Child Ballad, death, folk music, folk song, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love – and death – on the highway

Highwaymen ride high in the popular imagination. A higher class of cutpurse and the archetype of the romantic rogue. As the type specimen I offer you Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman (1906)*. There’s a fair few ballads about highwaymen (Salisbury Plain and Newry Town … Continue reading

Posted in death, folk music, folk song, love, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

True true love. But no happy ending.

I was a bit scathing about true love in my last post. So to redress the balance I’m going to quote, in full, my all time favourite ballad. It’s The Unquiet Grave (Child Ballad no. 78; Oxford Book of Ballads … Continue reading

Posted in folk music, folk song, love, Music | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment