April Foolishness from the Library of Congress

An interesting article by Stephen Winnick from the Library of Congress, on April Fools: The Roots of an International Tradition.

It’s a bit late on April Fools Day to make a big deal out of this, but I came across an interesting article today from the Library of Congress on April Fools: The Roots of an International Tradition. Written by Stephen Winnick.

One of the interesting aspects is the link with the hazing of apprentices etc., an issue I touched on in this song:

Long Stand

David Harley

CD Review: Emma and the Professor’s ‘Old Black Crow’

[CD review by Keith Whiddon (of The Flying Toads and Bouzatina): thanks, Keith! A Shropshire connection rather than a Cornwall connection,  so also posted at Sabrinaflu, but it sounds like an interesting album (which I hope to be able to review myself in the near future).]

EMMA & THE PROFESSOR

Old Black Crow – (OWN LABEL) http://www.emmaandtheprofessor.co.uk

Old Black Crow is the latest high-energy musical offering from Shropshire couple Emma Heath (guitar and vocals) and Mark Davies (bodhrán and Cajon). The duo is joined by an impressive array of guest musicians including Benji Kirkpatrick (banjo and bouzouki); Ben Walsh (fiddle); Jack Rowe (fiddle) and Marion Fleetwood (fiddle and string arrangements).

Many of the songs are self-penned and inspired by the ancient history and beauty of the couple’s native Shropshire. Emma has a rich and powerful voice and driving guitar style while Mark’s no-nonsense bodhrán playing roots the music and sets its direction. The end result is an uplifting and exciting listening experience.

Right from the opening title track it is clear that this is an album of full-throttle songs! ‘Old Black Crow’ is a rockin’ bluesy romp, driven along nicely by Benji Kirkpatrick guesting on banjo.

Mark’s ‘Battle Of The Marches’ features Kirkpatrick on bouzouki and tells tales of the mysticism that lies in the hills of the duo’s native Shropshire. This is no wimpy fairy story, more a full-on battle of Middle-earth epic proportions!

The beautifully sensitive ‘Servant Slave’ is of marked contrast. With its Middle-Eastern overtones reinforced by Kirkpatrick’s bouzouki, here Emma’s voice is showcased to good effect.

The traditional American murder ballad ‘Rain And Snow’ is given a makeover, with impressive fiddle provided by Jack Rowe. The concluding ‘Rivers’ is like an Indian Raga, Emma harmonising with herself across Mark’s driving rhythm section.

Old Black Crow radiates with the energy that lies within the ancient lands of the Welsh Marches. Here are tales of sorrow, loss, hope and love all delivered with deep passion and soul.

Keith Whiddon

Talking of Atlantic Union…

…one of the band’s members, Dan Rubin, contacted me in search of some information. It’s a bit outside my sphere of knowledge (and a bit too far East for me geographically), but perhaps someone who reads this blog – there must be someone! – will have some ideas.

… I live in Pouch Cove now,  a small community north of St. John’s, which is the closest town in continental North America to Europe.

The influence of Devon is strong here. I bought and now live in a house built by Henry Langmead, whose family arrived from the West Country in the late 1800s, or perhaps earlier. Henry (known locally as Harry) was our last traditional mummer who practiced a tradition known as the Ribbon Fools. These people dressed up in white clothes adorned with multi-coloured ribbons, and created ornate and very scary masks to hide their faces. Unlike the Irish Jannies who went from house to house during Christmas, often cross-dressed, disguised and playing instruments, the Ribbon Fools would appear between Christmas and Old Christmas Day (the eighth of January) and would chase anyone they caught down the road, trying to whip them with the end of a rope.

I helped start our town’s Heritage Society, and have been trying to research this tradition for some years. But the leads are few. I have seen pictures of Morris Dancers with similar costumes, including some in a book that Sally lent me. But I would like to know more specifically where this tradition originated, and whether it has roots in Devon and the surrounding area.

If you can assist me in finding out more, that would be wonderful. It would be another strong link between Devon and Newfoundland.

If you have any ideas, I’d be grateful if you would leave a comment to this post or use the contact form. 

David Harley

CD Review: Benjamin William Pike

A review of Benjamin William Pike’s CD A Burdensome Year for Folking.com. Nice guitar playing, nice voice, interesting songs .

BENJAMIN WILLIAM PIKE – A Burdensome Year (Gin House Records)

As well as the promo video linked in the article, there are nice video versions of some of the songs on his web site.

David Harley

Going to seed – er, CD

Mutterings from the Wheal Alice studio.

Unfortunately, health issues make it very difficult for me to get out to play at present, and gigging doesn’t seem at all practical. On the other hand, at least not being able to get out has given me time to start working on a CD or two, though the chances of their becoming commercially available are pretty slim. Still, the details of the one that’s nearest to done are here: Selective Symmetry. If I can get some moderately decent packaging, I suppose I’ll give it away at the musical events I’m probably not going to get to…

Next up is a collection of my bluesier things (demos only),  to be called Low In The Water.

Other possibilities are a collection of 1980s tracks recorded at CentreSound in the 1980s, a collection of material written/recorded with other people, some settings of verse by Housman, Yeats and Kipling, and a follow-up to Selective Symmetry (if SS ever gets out into the wide world) called How To Say Goodbye.

Cheer up. It might never happen. 🙂

David Harley

To a Daughter, Aged Six

A rare foray into prose that isn’t security-related. Previously published at the Lost & Found Exhibition.

This is one of my occasional forays into prose that isn’t security-related, and was previously published at the Lost & Found Exhibition. You could see this as a companion piece to the song How To Say Goodbye. Well, I do…

This letter is more than a decade too early. You are a bright child and an advanced reader, but not so unnaturally mature that you’ll really understand what your parents are about to do to you.

You were always a Daddy’s girl. Even when you were still tiny, your mother and I agreed that she’d get first crack at getting up to see to you when you cried in the night: I think she was worried that you already thought I was your mum. It was still me who took you out on a Sunday so she could get on with some work in peace, in that tiny flat where the only bedroom was yours, while she and I slept on the sofa-bed in the lounge. It was me who applauded your first steps across the living room. It was me who took you to nursery and hung my head like a criminal on the second day when you wept, betrayed and abandoned, because instead of staying with you (as I had the first day), I went on to work.

When your mother had to take short term contracts in various parts of the country, it was me who, thanks to a job that lent itself to flexible working and the first of several considerate employers, built my working day round the need to ferry you to and from nursery, then school. Your mother and I grew apart and both took guilty consolation elsewhere. When I said that I didn’t think Mummy and Daddy could go on living together, and asked who you’d rather live with, you pointed to me with a woebegone expression, but no hesitation. Would you have hesitated if I’d been able to tell you what lies ahead?

Yes, there will be happy times. Soon, we’ll move into our own flat. You’ll have a room that will be all your own, rather than a bed in a lumber room, and you’ll get the cat you’ve long wished for. Sadly, he’ll turn out to be a one-person moggie, not good company for a child, and after a particularly vicious bite, you won’t be too sad when I give him away. We’ll survive the custody arguments with your mother, when she begins to regret that she gave you up so easily. We’ll live in (mostly) happy chaos, despite my deficiencies as a housekeeper and mother substitute. Because money is tight, most of our holidays together will be with relatives, but sometimes I’m invited to speak at conferences. You spend a lot of time sitting at the back of lecture halls reading and drawing, but we also get to see lots of European cities, and even Disneyland.

We’ll get to know lots of single parent families. Every other weekend, you’ll stay with your mother, and occasionally I’ll spend some of that time with someone who’s more than a friend (once in every second blue moon, I might even get a babysitter). However, I’ll turn my back on romantic liaisons when they threaten too many changes in the way we live. Is that because I’m frightened of upsetting you, or because I’m happier being someone’s Dad than someone’s lover or husband?

When I’m offered a job in another part of the country, though, things will start to change. Because my new employer is less indulgent about my duties as a parent, my mother will come to live with us and look after you when I’m not there. You’ll resent having to share me, and give her a hard time because she’s not your mother. Alternate weekends are a pain because of the distance we have to travel to your mother’s.

Then, out of the blue, I meet someone I can’t turn my back on. Suddenly, you’re thirteen years old, living with me and someone you think of as a wicked stepmother. I betray you time and again, taking her side instead of yours, or getting into arguments about you that make you feel like the victim and the villain. In the end, you’re back to living in a one-bedroom flat with just one of your parents, but this time it isn’t me.

Then you’re sixteen, and your GCSEs are nearly behind you. You’re happier than you’ve been for a while, but in between you spent over a year on anti-depressants, you would only meet me for a few hours at a time on neutral ground, and even tried suicide: mercifully, you didn’t try too hard. When my new wife and I separate for a while, you say you’d come and live with me again, but only if I moved closer. You’re a young adult now, with a life and relationships that neither your mother nor I know much about. Your life is full of uncertainty, but there are possibilities you’ve barely started to explore. Your texts and emails tell me you love me lots and lots, but I know you need me less and less. Perhaps your mother feels the same, but she and I way beyond talking about anything so personal. I know it’s a parent’s job to foster a child’s independence, but did it have to be so soon?

I don’t know how well your 16-year-old self understands what’s happened to us. I’m not sure I understand it myself. It breaks my heart to know that for me, you’ve already left home.

This letter is decades too late, for both of us. And sometimes I miss us both so very badly.

CD Review: John Renbourn and Wizz Jones

The last recording sessions that John Renbourn took part in, in partnership with Wizz Jones: review of the CD Joint Control.

A few months after release, but a special case: John Renbourn’s last recording, a CD with Wizz Jones. Reviewed for folking.com:

JOHN RENBOURN & WIZZ JONES – Joint Control (Riverboat Records TUGCD1095)

Sad, not only because of John’s fairly recent death, but because of its echoes of Bert Jansch and Davy Graham, also lost to us in recent years.

David Harley