Hal-An-Tow

Hal-An-Tow is a processional song traditionally sung to usher in the summer.  And so we encounter, in the lead solo… two of the most distinctive voices in English music; the unarguably great husky-grey voice of Norma and the undeniably arguably great voice of Mike! I won’t say that ‘you either love it or hate it’ because, trust me, if you’re listening to the voice of Mike Waterson for the first time and finding it mannered, even ridiculous, there’s a very good chance that, in the fullness of time, you too will come to acknowledge Mike as every bit as great a singer as his sisters. An acquired taste, if ever there was one.

Source: Toppermost

From Glasgow Madrigirls summer concert ‘In the Greenwood’. Performed at St John’s Church in Keswick on Saturday 22 June 2013. Filmed by Harry Campbell. Conducted by Katy Lavinia Cooper

Traditional Lyrics

CHORUS

Hal-an-Tow, jolly rumble-o,
We were up long before the day-o,
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-o –
For summer is a-coming,
And the winter’s gone away-o!

Since man was first created
His works have been debated
And we have celebrated
The coming of the spring

Take no scorn to wear the horns,
It was the crest when you were born;
Your father’s father wore it,
And your father wore it too.

CHORUS

Robin Hood and Little John
Have both gone to the fair-o,
And we shall to the merry green wood,
To hunt the buck and hare-o!

CHORUS

What happened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast, oh?
They shall eat the feathered goose,
And we shall eat the roast, oh!

CHORUS

And as for that good knight, St. George
St. George he was a knight o
Of all the knights of Christendom
St. George is the right o

CHORUS

God bless Aunt Mary Moses
With all her power and might-o;
Send us peace in England,
Send us peace by day and night-o!

Fairport Convention “A Sailor’s Life”

The traditional song “A Sailor’s Life” was printed in eighteenth-century broadsides and collected by W. Percy Merrick in 1899 from Henry Hills of Lodsworth, Sussex. It was published in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs and recorded in 1960 by A. L. Lloyd for the album A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. It was subsequently recorded by Judy Collins on her album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961 and Martin Carthy for his Second Album in 1966 with his then playing partner violinist Dave Swarbrick.

It is probably from one of these sources that the song was learnt by Sandy Denny who sang it in her solo career and then brought it to the band Fairport Convention, where with Swarbrick guesting on violin and Richard Thompson on guitar, it was released on the band’s 1969 Unhalfbricking album.

The eleven-minute version, regarded as a pivotal step in the development of British folk rock, was recorded in one take. It was a recording which marked the beginning of British folk rock, leading to the seminal album Liege & Lief later that year.

British music website Uncut describe the track as: “11 minutes of seething cymbal washes on a Celtic drone chord sequence, erupting into a middle section where squalling crosswinds are traded between Richard Thompson and guest fiddler Dave Swarbrick.” [Source: Wikipedia]

Lyrics (traditional)

A sailor’s life, it is a merry life.
He robs young girls of their hearts’ delight,
Leaving them behind to weep and mourn,
They never know when they will return.
Well, there’s four and twenty all in a row
My true love he makes the finest show.
He’s proper tall, genteel and all,
And if I don’t have him, I’ll have none at all.
Oh father, build for me a bonny boat,
That on the wide ocean I may float
And every Queen’s ship that we pass by,
There I’ll enquire for my sailor boy
They had not sailed long on the deep
When a Queen’s ship they chanced to meet.
“You sailors all, pray tell me true,
Does my sweet William sail among your crew?”
“Oh no, fair maiden, he is not here
For he’s been drownded we greatly fear
On yon green island as we passed it by,
There we lost sight of your sailor boy.”
Well, she wrung her hands and she tore her hair.
She was like a young girl in great despair.
And her little boat against a rock did run.
“How can I live now my sweet William is gone?”

Lankum “Katie Cruel”

More Lankum on The Hobbledehoy

Katie Cruel is a traditional American folksong, likely of Scottish origin. As a traditional song, Katie Cruel has been recorded by many performers, but the best known recording of the song is by Karen Dalton on the album In My Own Time. The American version of the song is said to date to the Revolutionary War period. The song is Roud no. 1645.

The American lyrics appear to contain an oblique story of regret. As given in Eloise Hubbard Linscott’s The Folk Songs of Old New England. The opening verse of the song bears a strong resemblance to the Scottish song, Licht Bob’s Lassie, whose opening verses mirror the song in both notional content and form.

First when I cam’ tae the toon
They ca’d me young and bonnie
Noo they’ve changed my name
Ca’ me the licht bob’s honey

First when I cam’ tae the toon
They ca’d me young and sonsie
Noo they’ve changed my name
They ca’ me the licht bob’s lassie

Wikipedia

Lankum are a contemporary Irish folk music group from Dublin, consisting of brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat. Their music has been characterised as “a younger, darker Pogues with more astonishing power”. Reviewing their third album The Livelong Day for The Guardian, Jude Rogers described it as “a folk album influenced by the ambient textures of Sunn O)) and Swans, plus the sonic intensity of Xylouris White and My Bloody Valentine”. In 2018 they were named Best Folk Group at the RTÉ Folk Music Awards, while Radie Peat was named Best Folk Singer.

“Nottamun Town”

Performed by Davy Graham and Shirley Collins

In Nottamun Town not a soul would look up,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down,
To show me the way to fair Nottamun Town.Met the King and the Queen, and a company more
Come a-walking behind and a-riding before
Come a stark naked drummer a-beating the drum
With his hands on his bosom, come marching along.Sat down on a hard, hot cold frozen stone,
Ten thousand stood ’round me, yet I was alone
Took my hat in my hands for to keep my head warm,
Ten thousand got drownded that never was born.In Nottamun Town not a soul would look up,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down,
To show me the way to fair Nottamun Town.