Welcome traveller. It’s a beautiful Summer’s day, just right to sit here in this field of corn and listen to the voices of the past...
These songs (apart from the Green Fields of France and Wild Mountain Thyme) are modern interpretations of classic folk songs. The source of these songs lay with the great folk song collectors such as Cecil Sharp, Francis James Child, and the Copper family. These are songs that were transmitted through word of mouth, songs of the 'lower classes', music with no known composer.
The earliest may well be (and we can never be sure) The Cutty Wren, which has been attributed to the Peasant’s revolt of 1381 with the ‘wren’ being King Richard II.
Hal an Tow is based on a traditional Cornish May Day song with Hal and Tow possibly meaning ‘Hoist the Roof’.
There are a number of versions of the song Twa Corbies, others being The Three Ravens, and there are also versions that seem to have travelled as far as the Czech Republic!
Patapan is based on a French Christmas carol which I’ve altered as a celebration of the Winter Solstice.
Matty Groves is a ballad that dates from at least the 17th century. My arrangement is based on the classic Fairport Convention version from Liege and Lief.
There seems to be two versions of the song Bonny Black Hare - the version I have based mine on is the one made famous by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, but there is also another version that sees the woman far more passive in the encounter. I prefer the later version!
The words of The Two Magicians (or Child Ballad no. 44) to our modern age might seem difficult to accept, but in these old folk songs such chases are attributed to ‘graceful teasing’ rather than their literal meaning, and the tune really rocks!
The Selkie of Sules Skerry is a mystical ballad from the Shetland Islands where The Selkies take the form of seals when in the ocean, but when on land they take on human form. Such a beautiful melody, to such a sad song!
The Parting Glass is a Scottish and Irish folk song that some say was the most sung song in both Scotland and Ireland until the arrival of Auld Lang Syne. It was recorded in the Skene manuscript, a collection of Scottish airs collected between 1615 and 1635, and a portion of the first verse was also written in a farewell letter in 1615.
I wanted to record the Green Fields of France, the classic anti-war song written by Eric Bogle as a dedication to Harry Patch, the last surviving British veteran of WW1 who past away this year, taking those memories with him. Now we only have books to remind us of the Great Fallen of that terrible war.
Wild Mountain Thyme was first recorded by Francis McPeake in 1957 and is based on an earlier song written by Robert Tannahill (1774-1819) called The Braes of Balquidder. It’s such a moving and rousing song that has become a standard part of my live set. I just had to record it.
And through all of this, the Crow Man has stood in this field, listening, watching, remembering, and waiting for the right time to tell you his tales...