This is another review for Folking.com of an excellent album by Paul Cowley: five classic country blues tracks plus seven of his own compositions. I love the fact that he focuses on the song and a country blues vibe rather than flashy guitar and hi-tech production values.
A song about ‘the Welsh Robin Hood’ – a story I originally found and borrowed from George Borrow’s Wild Wales. Three traditional tunes for the price of one, but on the whole I think I like the Sheepstealer version best. There’s much more information about Twm (and the song) in my next book, Tears Of Morning.
[Limerick Rake tune]
A man of resource and a thief of ill-fame
Tregaron my home, Twm Siôn Cati my name
Your horses and cattle are all of my game
But rich and respected I’ll die, just the same
Respected I’ll die just the same
In an ironmonger’s shop in Llandovery fair
A fancy I took to a porridge pot there
“Oh”, said the man
“Here are three of the best”
And one I admired above all of the rest
That one above all of the rest
But before I ventured to lay money down
I examined the pot above and around
“Oh no, my good man, this won’t do for me:
There’s a hole in this pot as you plainly may see.”
“There’s a hole in the pot, as you see.”
He peeked in the pot, said “Your pardon I crave,
But no hole can I find, as I hope to be saved.”
I said “Put in your head, and you’ll see it quite plain…”
So he put in his head and tried once again:
He put in his head once again.
But the man had such brains, his head hardly would fit
So I rammed the pot down, meaning but to assist:
The while that he struggled to free himself there
I tiptoed away with the other pair.
I tiptoed away with the pair.
But as I departed, my pots in my hand,
Some advice I gave, as I left him to stand:
“Indeed, there’s a hole, for if there were not,
However could you put your head in the pot?
How could you put your head in the pot?
I’ve considered three ways of setting this to music. TheLimerick Rake and the Derry-down-derry tune both work with minimal adaptation, and I have recorded a minimal version of eachhere (you’re welcome!). At the moment, though, I rather like the idea of using a variation on the tune associated with I Am a Brisk Lad (Roud 1667), also known as The Sheepstealer (hence the repeated last line, which is a new addition). It’s a tune closely related to the version of The Holy Well used on the Tears of Morning album as the instrumental introduction to Song of Chivalry.
Found, I think, in the book Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c, a book by John Harland, and Thomas Turner Wilkinson published in 1873. The tune is based on a traditional tune associated with the song The Wars In Germany. Much more information in the forthcoming Tears Of Morning book.
“What news, Sir Thomas Prestwich? What battles lost and won?”
“Mama, the King is sorely pressed, his armies overrun.”
“Give him all you have, my son, his armies to maintain;
And God confound the Parliament that brought him to such shame.”
“Mama, the King is sorely pressed, but I dare not stake my wealth,
For I fear the cause is already lost, and we must think of ourselves.”
“Give him all you have, my son, for wealth I have for thee,
Guarded well by charms and spells, my voice the only key.”
“Mama, the King is dead, the Prince fled overseas,
And with him flown my fortune, prosperity and ease.”
But Lady Prestwich said no word, and no sign could she make,
Nor ever did until she died, the enchantment for to break.
“Cruel was the sickness robbed my mother of her speech
And me of my inheritance, forever out of reach.
Cruel was the Protector, who robbed me of my lands,
The price set for their recovery £330.”
“I’ll maybe find an astrologer, some sorcerer I’ll find
To break the spell and find the wealth my mother put aside.”
Many tried, and many failed: Sir Thomas sought in vain
For that treasure never found unto this very day.
“A curse upon my mother, it’s ill she counselled me:
The treasure that she promised me, it seems I’ll never see.
My lands are sold to pay my debts, my fortune is no more:
I’ll bid farewell to thee, Hulme Hall, that I will see no more.”