KISS ME NOW OR NEVER (Supernova Records SN7) - SONG/TUNE NOTES
Titles are followed by the name of the lead
singer on this recording, then the name and town of the source singer/musician
(in italics). If a song is widely known
by another title, this is given in brackets after the main title. Child, Roud and Laws index numbers are given
where appropriate. Sharp manuscript
references are given for the instrumental pieces he noted.
1 BOLD ROBINSON Jeff; William Stokes, Chew Stoke. Roud 2411
Cecil Sharp collected two other versions of this lively prizefighting song in Somerset, and other collectors have found it in Hampshire and Wiltshire. William Stokes, agricultural labourer, miner, sexton and stonemason, sang 33 songs for Sharp, who visited him several times between 1906 and 1909.
2 CREEPING JANE Harry; William King, East Harptree. Roud 1012. Laws Q23
William King was a tenant farmer at Spring Farm, above East Harptree. Sharp was mightily impressed with his singing and repertoire when he met him for the first time on 15th April 1904. This was at a singing evening at the Castle of Comfort public house which his hosts, the Kettlewells of Harptree Court, had arranged for his benefit. Sharp’s field notebooks suggest that this very distinctive version of a favourite horseracing song was Farmer King’s first offering that night.
3 THE LARK IN THE MORN Geoff, Olga; William Stokes, Chew Stoke. Roud 151
Sharp noted only the tune and one verse from William Stokes of this popular country song. We have added verses from other versions, mainly from the Copper family.
4 CUCKOO’S NEST/JAMES HIGGINS’S HORNPIPE James Higgins, Shepton Mallet. Sharp ms.
FT 1503 & 1496.
James Higgins, fiddler, was a former shopkeeper who fell on hard times in his old age, and was resident in Shepton Mallet Workhouse when Sharp met him in September 1907.
5 COAL BLACK SMITH (The Two Magicians) Angela, John; Austin Wookey, East Harptree.
Child 44. Roud 1350
Austin Wookey, who was a great repository of local knowledge, sang this to Bob and Jacqueline Patten in 1976. They included the music and their recording in their Somerset Scrapbook (INA Books, 1987), which is now available on CD-ROM from Musical Traditions. (www.mustrad.org) Mr Wookey had no doubt learned it originally from Sharp’s Folk Songs from Somerset, in which Sharp had published the version he noted from Mr Sparks, a blacksmith from Minehead. Austin had made a number of delightful minor changes to Mr Sparks’s version over the years, truly making the song his own. We have ourselves added two verses from other versions to make the song more complete.
6 THE LADY AND THE DRAGOON Sarah Sage, Chew Stoke. Child 7. Roud 321. Laws M27
Sharp visited Sarah Sage four times in 1907, referring to her as Mrs R Sage. (Her late husband’s name was Richard.) Like William Stokes she had been born in Winford, and they shared some repertoire. Many, but not all, scholars regard this song as a broadside rewrite of Earl Brand (Child 7). In this “rewritten” form it has seventeenth century origins, making it older than any surviving orthodox version of the ballad!
7 STEAL AWAY THE MORNING DEW (Blow Away…/Clear Away…/The baffled Knight)
Alan, Anna; Elizabeth Price, Compton Martin. Child 112. Roud 1350
Sharp lamented that he could not persuade Mrs Price to sing him any more songs after she had sung him this one in August 1904. In Folk Songs from Somerset he published a collation of elements from Mrs Price’s version and the one which half-sisters Lucy White and Louie Hooper of Hambridge gave him. We think it is refreshing to hear Elizabeth Price’s version in full.
8 BLACKBIRDS AND THRUSHES Dave; George Wyatt, West Harptree. Roud 12657
George Wyatt and his wife Lydia were living in a ‘key house’ (squatters’ cottage) at Blue Bowl, West Harptree when Sharp met them in April 1904. He collected this heartbreaking little song from George before going to the singing evening at the Castle of Comfort. Sharp heard it in fragmentary versions from a few other singers in Somerset, and it has been collected once in Dorset but appears otherwise unknown.
9 DABBLING IN THE DEW William Stokes, Chew Stoke. Roud 298
William Stokes again! This flirtatious dialogue song featuring a self-possessed young milkmaid was collected frequently in southern England by the early collectors. Later in the 20th century George ‘Pop’ Maynard from Sussex sang a gorgeous version.
10 BRICKS AND MORTAR/COUNTRY DANCE Henry Cave, Midsomer Norton. Sharp ms. FT 1479 & 1488
Itinerant knife grinder and fiddler Henry ‘Harry’ Cave, originally from Evercreech, was a well-known character in north Somerset. He played in various settings (eg. concert parties and step –dances), and was described by Sharp as a “first rate fiddler”. Sharp met him three times between April and September 1907 , at Coleford, Midsomer Norton and Nettlebridge (where Henry played for step-dancing at the George Inn). Presumably like many traditional musicians Henry did not have names for all his tunes, so Sharp titled a number of them simply as Country Dance. Bricks and Mortar is related to Astley’s/ Ashley’s Hornpipe; Henry Cave also played a close variant of the same tune which he called Swansea Hornpipe. The Country Dance played here is known elsewhere as Bath Road Hornpipe.
Sadly Henry Cave died of exposure near Chilcompton on a bitterly cold night at the end of December that year. He was only 53.
11 GOSSIP JOE (Gossip Joan/John/Jones) Thomas Brunt, Blagdon. Roud 1039
This jovial song, popular in various forms even today at traditional feasts such as hunt suppers, was the only piece which Sharp noted from Thomas Brunt. Its earliest known printing is as The Woman’s Complaint to her Neighbour in Thomas D’Urfey’s Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719-20). It later featured in many 18th century ballad operas, in most of which, as in D’Urfey, the gossip is a woman, Gossip Joan. This holds true for most traditional versions, but it is refreshing to find some that, like Thomas Brunt’s, acknowledge that gossiping is an equal opportunities business! Sharp noted only one verse from Mr Brunt; we have added verses from other versions.
12 THE STREAMS OF LOVELY NANCY John; William Stokes, Chew Stoke. Roud 688
William Stokes sang four verses of this compellingly beautiful, mystifying song. Here John sings three of them, adding two verses from other versions. Much has been written by folklorists attempting to explain its strange and possibly corrupt imagery: notably Anne Gilchrist and Angela Carter believed that it retained traces of a medieval hymn to the virgin Mary. I suspect that the writer was under the influence of alcohol or something chemical!
13 THE RINGERS OF CHEW Lavinia Rendall, Chew Magna. Roud 12761
Olga Shotton found the words of this piece in an old local newspaper over 30 years ago. It was clear that it was a local song using the tune of Twankydillo. More recently we found that Sharp had collected an almost identical but slightly incomplete version in 1907 from Lavinia Rendall, keeper of a general store in Chew Magna. Miss Rendall’s tune was a rather truncated version of the Twankydillo tune; we have preferred to use a standard form of the tune.
After much discussion with bellringers we think that the sconce mentioned in the song is a kind of moveable covered or shielded light. We have been unable to trace the James Rendall mentioned in the song, but he is likely to have been a forbear of Lavinia Rendall. The song reflects the ringers’ pride in their art.
Nearby Chew Stoke was the site of a successful bell foundry.
14 THE TREES THEY DID GROW HIGH (…Grow So High/…Do Grow High/Long A-Growing/Still Growing) Anna; Wilson Champ, East Harptree. Roud 31. Laws O35
Versions of this beautiful song have often been heard in England, Scotland and Ireland. Before he noted this from Wilson Champ, Cecil Sharp had collected a number including the spectacular one sung by Harry Richards of Curry Rivel; as a result he noted down the words of the first verse only from Mr Champ, as he thought he already had a full set of lyrics. We have added verses from other versions. Mr Champ’s tune is a fairly typical example of that favoured by Somerset singers. Elsewhere the song is carried by other, often quite distinct, fine melodies.
15 HIGH GERMANY Dave, Angela; William Stokes, Chew Stoke. Roud 904
A grand version from William Stokes of this classic dialogue between a soldier and the lover he must leave behind. His tune is quite distinct from that sung to Sharp by Elizabeth Lock of Muchelney Ham (which Gustav Holst used in his Somerset Rhapsody).
16 WILLIAM RUFUS Theophilus George Pritchard, Compton Martin. Roud 2038
The wonderfully named Theophilus George Pritchard was a gamekeeper on the Hazell Manor estate above Compton Martin. He sang for Sharp this rarity, which has only been recorded twice elsewhere – once from a singer called Juanita Berlin in the New Forest and once from Roy Last in Suffolk. The song is likely to be a product of the late Victorian fashion for historical pageants.
17 THE GOLDEN VANITY Olga, Alan; Frank Sampson, Pensford. Child 286. Roud 122
A long-lived ballad with a tradition going back at least to the 17th century, this song has been collected many times, particularly in the USA. Sharp had collected a number of good full versions (particularly from singers in the Bridgwater area in 1906) before he noted this one from the 81 year old Mr Sampson in April 1907. As a result he noted only Mr Sampson’s tune and a brief snatch of the words.
18 THE FALSE BRIDE (The Week Before Easter/I once Loved a Lass) Chris M; Lucy White, Hambridge (who learned it on Weston beach). Roud 154
Lucy White of Hambridge in south Somerset, who together with her half-sister Louie Hooper sang Sharp 100 songs, gave him this one. She told Sharp she learned it on Weston Super Mare beach, so we feel we can include it on this album as this is where the Mendips meet the sea! It also gives us the opportunity to include a performance by Chris Molan (Harry Langston’s wife); she was an original member of the Howlers and remains a faithful friend of the group, contributing the artwork for this and our previous CD. Chris sings the set of words given in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, which slightly expand those sung to Sharp by Mrs White.
19 THE BROKEN HEARTED GARDENER John; Benjamin Horler, East Harptree. Roud 7966
This is one of the final songs noted by Sharp on his first Mendip visit in April 1904, before he returned to his day job as a music teacher at the Hampstead Conservatoire. He noted only the tune from Mr Horler, but may well have been aware that full sets of words were widely available on mid-19th century broadsides. We use a broadside set of words here.
20 BONNETS SO BLUE/JAMES HIGGINS’S JIG James Higgins, Shepton Mallet. FT 1535 & 1505
Two more fine tunes played for Sharp by James Higgins. Bonnets So Blue is well known as a Morris jig.
21 JOHN BARLEYCORN John Stafford, Bishop Sutton. Roud 164
A widespread song with 17th century origins (or 16th century if we regard the Scottish song Alan-a-Maut as a progenitor), John Barleycorn has employed many superb melodies. Cecil Sharp regarded Mr Stafford’s tune as one of the best he ever noted. John Stafford, aged 58, a miner (presumably at the local Bishop Sutton pit) told Sharp that he had heard the song only once as a child when some street singers marched through the village singing it. He could remember only the first verse; we have completed the song with verses from other versions.
22 THE LIFE OF A MAN/JIM SMALL’S FATHER’S WALTZ Harry; Jim Small, Cheddar. Roud 848
This grand chorus song has been popular with southern English traditional singers, but Jim Small’s version is the one that has particularly taken root in the modern folk revival. Peter Kennedy noted it from him in 1950 and included Jim’s version in his Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland. It derives from 19th century broadsides which usually employ the title The Fall of the Leaf. Jim Small sang only three verses; the final verse which Harry sings here is adapted from a broadside verse given in Kennedy’s footnotes.
A number of us had the privilege of knowing Jim from the 1970s onwards. In addition to his singing he was a fine traditional mouth organ player; in tribute to him we follow his song with a delightful waltz which he learned from his father. In 1980 our own Dave Byrne recorded Jim singing and playing and in conversation with the late Andy Rennie, for issue on two albums on Peter Kennedy’s Folktracks label. These recordings can now be heard online (uncredited!) as part of the Kennedy archive on the British Library website.
NOTES COMPILED BY JOHN SHAW