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February 2018

London Lights

Lizzie Higgins was our guest at the King's Head Folk Club, Islington, on March, 11th, 1970.  During the wonderfully engrossing evening, she sang a song which we assume she would have called London Lights (Roud 18815), and I recorded it.  The song had just three verses, and Lizzie used the first one "See how those London lights are gleaming ..." as a chorus, repeated after each verse - which is why we assume that's what she called it.  Steve Roud was hitherto unaware of this lovely little song (and so gave it a new number) and it doesn't appear anywhere in the School of Scottish Studies Archive indices, at least, not under this or similar title.  So we may assume that it was a song Lizzie knew of, but did not sing, until her visit to the club in London made it appropriate.  It appears that Steve has subsequently discovered two Canadian recordings of it, from 1952 and '64.

Fast forward to 2010, when I was preparing MT's May Bradley CD.  May sings a song which Steve Roud had said was a version of Blue Eyed Lover (Roud 16637), presumably from its first verse.  However, the tune and the three other verses are clearly from London Lights - verse 2 is almost identical to one of Lizzie's, and the other two fit perfectly into that song.  My wife, Danny, added them to Lizzie's song, and has sung it frequently in the subsequent seven years.  Many people have said what a great song it now is, but no one has ever said that they've heard it before.

Fast forward again, to this last weekend, when we were at the splendid Wexford Traditional Singers' weekend in Rosslare (where we've been many times, and where Danny has often sung London Lights).  And, suddenly, two different people told us "My Mum used to sing that".  One was a purely Irish source, and the other told us "She may have picked it up during the 30 years she lived in London".

So, 47 years after we first heard it, we now know that it seems to have been known in Canada, Ireland, England, and from a Scottish Traveller and a Welsh/English Gypsy.  This really does prove, if proof were needed, that culture has no respect for social or political borders!

Rod Stradling - 6.2.18

2016 CDs now available as downloads

It's almost Twelfth Night - so, as promised, the two CDs we produced in 2016 are now available as downloads; they're the last two items on the page.  For those of you who may be new to this service, each Download comprises an HTML file of the complete booklet, within which are clickable links to all the songs or tunes as MP3 files.

Each Download comprises a ZIP file containing one or more HTML files, a 'sound' folder and a 'graphics' folder.  They can be un-ZIP-ed into a single destination (folder) on your device, and run from there.  Needless to say, all the MP3 sound files could also be copied to any other device you might wish to use.

Since downloads require no booklet production, case covers, CDs, DVD cases or postage, they sell for a far lower price.  Compared to £10, £12, £16 and £20 for the 'normal' publications, the downloads of single CDs are £1.00 or £2.00, double CDs are £4.00, and 3-CD Sets are £6.00.  The facility exists to pay more than these low prices, if you'd like to!

They can be found, along with ALL the previous MT Records' CD publications, on the MT Records' Download page.


Season's Greetings and Review of 2017

Happy Christmas! The Magazine has had a faily average year, by current standards.  We've published 8 new Articles and some 35 new Reviews in 2017, along with 3 Enthusiasms, 12 News items and 9 Letters.  By past standards, this is pretty quiet.  On the other hand, I appear to have written some 15 Editorials before this one ... don't quite know why I've been so prolific.

On yet another hand, we have published rather more CDs this year than I was expecting: Boshamengro - Gypsy musicians (MTCD373), and When Cecil Left the Mountains (MTCD5145).  Then, The Two Bobs' Worth (MTCD374) appeared out of the blue, and we've just had the CD-ROM Vaughan Williams in Norfolk, Volume 2 (MTCD255).  All of these have sold fairly well ... and then we had the extraordinary rush of orders in November - 176 sales!  And December has been fairly busy, too - over 50 sales - all fingers and toes crossed for it to continue!

One new MT Records' CD is currently in preparation ... actually, it's a 2-CD Set: Freda Palmer - 56 tracks, 132 minutes - the complete recorded repertoire.  Tapes from Alison McMorland, Mike Yates, Steve Roud and others.

I'd like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the most recent of the MT Articles (just published).  It's on Portuguese Fado, the wonderful song tradition of Lisbon.  Written by Tony Klein, it is not only wide-ranging and fascinating, but also includes 14 sound clips of historic performances, probably never before heard by any but the most avid enthusiasts.  This is a perfect example of what Musical Traditions should be about, at its very best.

With this my 21st Review of the Year, I'd like to be able to end as I usually do - but these are deeply troubling times.  At least Jeremy Corbyn continues to lead the People's Party, and there's the vague possibility of a reversal of Brexit and even a Labour government.  In hopes of that, may I wish you all a traditional toast for this time of the year.  Joy, Health, Love and Peace!

Rod Stradling - 24.12.17

Another MT CD-ROM : Vaughan Williams in Norfolk, Volume 2 (MTCD255)

In my End of Year Editorial last December, I announced: A couple of new MT Records' CDs are currently in preparation: The latter was When Cecil Left the Mountains (MTCD5145) released a few months ago.  Then, The Two Bobs' Worth (MTCD374) appeared out of the blue.  Sadly, the Freda Palmer CD is ulikely to materialise until 2018 but, rather unexpectedly, a new CD-ROM has just turned up.

This is Volume 2 of the Vaughan Williams in Norfolk CD-ROM (MTCD253), we published in 2014.  It covers the three Norfolk collecting trips Ralph Vaughan Williams made in April 1908, October 1910 and December 1911.  He met some 22 singers and collected 93 songs from them.  As before, they are presented in staff notation, with full texts, and with link to MIDI sound files of the tunes, and there's a very substantial page of information on the singers.

Just what you were looking for as a quick Christmas present?  I hope it sells as well as Volume 1 has!  Available on the MT Records website, priced £12.00.


Extraordinary November!

In the first seven months of this Financial Year, MT Records sold an average of 34 CDs per month.  Not a lot, but it's about what I've been having to get used to!  (See my previous piece).

Then suddenly, this month, we've sold 139!  And these have not all been the new Two Bobs CD.  There were 63 of them, but the other 76 were all assorted orders.  Admittedly, many of these came as additional items along with the Two Bobs CD ... but by no means all.  Can it all be to do with Christmas?  Looking back over my previous accounts, I don't see any particular 'Christmas rush' at this time of the year, but all fingers and toes crossed for it to continue!


Austerity bites - but is that all?

There can be very few of us in the UK who are not feeling the combined effects of the Tory Government's austerity programme and the fall in the Pound's value engendered by their disastrous Brexit Referendum ... very few people that I know, anyway.  Sales of unimportant things like CDs of traditional music and song are, of course, being seriously effected.  But I have been surprised by the extent to which they have fallen.  None of the CDs I've published in the last two years have sold more than 50 copies!  To put that in perspective, sales from 1998 to 2015 (before austerity really kicked in) averaged about 145 sales per CD released.  Sales of CDs released since 2015 have averaged about 40 sales per CD.

The one piece of data that really surprised me relates to our 2-CD set of Sam Larner, published just before Christmas, 2014.  In November 2016 I got the very welcome news that it had won The Folklore Society's Non-Print Media Award 2014 - 2016.  But upon checking, earlier today, I discovered that this superb set of CDs, containing 67 songs from one of England's finest singers, many of which have never been available before, has sold just three copies since gaining that prestigious award.  I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering "Is it really worth all the effort?"

I've had one single CD of Bob Lewis and Bob Copper, one double CD of early American music and song and, in a couple of weeks, another CD-ROM of Vaughan Williams' collecting work in Norfolk, released this year.  And I hope, a double CD of Freda Palmer for release in 2018.  Once that little lot is published, I suspect I'll need to do some hard thinking about the future.  Because I'm not at all sure that it's Austerity that's entirely to blame.

Every time I publish a new CD, I send out some 1,500 email messages to everyone who's bought an MT CD or Download in the past, announcing the new publication.  The interesting result is that almost half of the resultant sales seem to come from people who've never bought one before!  (Or, to be realistic, people who have changed their email addresses, or whose names I don't recognise).  So, maybe not half, but a significant number of new purchasers.  What does this imply?  From reviews, and from comments in various emails I've received over the years, I do know that people think that our CDs are pretty damn good.  So why aren't many former purchasers buying the new ones?  Have they all died?

It seems that we are in a new, and very different 'folk scene':

Someone I know recently wrote a complaint to the BBC about the lack of coverage of English Traditional Music (as opposed to Irish, Scots or American folk music) and questioning whether the BBC should give reasonable coverage to our national music.  The response was either hilarious or appalling, depending on your frame of mind.  "There have been numerous programmes on the BBC relating to folk music, most recently on BBC Four in the programme 'Folk Britannia'.  There is also a number of radio programmes that play folk music including 'Radio 2's Bob Harris Country'."

Folk Britannia you may recall, was aired in 2006 - 11 years ago! - and Radio 2's Bob Harris's Country covers American music.  Checking the track listing of the 2 DVDs of the three hour Folk Britannia programmes, I find just Harry Cox and John & Jill Copper among those who might be described as English traditional, plus Ewan MacColl, Bob Davenport, and Martin Carthy who might be described as English traditional style.  All the rest are 'Irish, Scots or American folk music' - the genres specifically excluded by the questioner!

This is a very strange world we now live in - and not just politically!


New MTCD374 The Two Bobs' Worth - Bob Lewis and Bob Copper

I'm very pleased to tell you that our third 2017 CD of traditional singers is now available.  The two Bobs were recorded at Nellie's folk club in Tonbridge, back in 1999, where they were performing together as The Two Bobs' Worth - an almost unique event.

They were recorded by Andrew King, who's said "If you think the recordings of good enough quality I would be delighted and honoured if you wanted to issue them."  Well, given that they were recorded on a mini-disc machine, the recordings are excellent, and the singing is just glorious!

The track list is as follows:

These were sung by Bob Lewis first, alternating with Bob Copper, and are presented in the order they occurred in performance, with no songs missed out.  I have edited the inter-song comments so that we end up with a duration of 79 minutes and 46 seconds - only 14 seconds short of a completely full CD!  This is an absolutely splendid record; Bob Copper accompanies himself on concertina for most of his songs, and I have never heard Bob Lewis in better voice.  MT Records' 10% Sales Royalties will go to support the Sussex Traditions organisation.


The Famous Flower of Old Ireland Free

A few months ago, MT Records published Boshamengro, a CD of English Gypsy musicians.  The main purpose of which was to present the complete recorded repertoire of fiddler Harry Lee.  Amongst the tunes was: You'll Have No Mother To Guide You.  This was the name - possibly provided by Harry Lee - which Ken Stubbs used for this singular piece: it would seem to have been a line from a song.  Indeed, Paul Roberts has now identified 'There'll come a time you'll have no mother to guide you', as a song called There'll Come a Time, which was recorded by Charlie Poole and his North Carolina Ramblers for Columbia in the 1920s.

Since then, Phil Heath-Coleman has acquired recordings of another fiddler, Frank Smith, who was Harry Lee's cousin by marriage.  Exasperated that he didn't have these recordings available at the time, he's now written an Enthusiasms piece, Enth81, which serves as a postscript to the Boshamengro booklet.  Frank Smith also played You'll Have No Mother To Guide You - but that's not the point of this short piece.


A brief example of exactly how complicated a study of English Gypsy songs can be.

Marjorie Mack, in her book Hannaboys Farm (1942), described several encounters with Frank Smith, who played her a tune that he called The Song that was Sung ... expanding the title to The Song that was Sung was Old Ireland Free.  That phrase and the tune (which Charlie Scamp used for the song Sweet William ['Twas early, early all in the spring] when he sang it for Peter Kennedy) are commonly associated with the song The Croppy Boy.  When pressed for the words, Frank had said they were in Romany, but provided four lines, which Marjorie Mack took down as follows:

When he played it for Ken Stubbs many years later, he again referred to it as "An old Romany song".

Mike Yates heard a similar verse, or at least the first two lines, from a Kentish traveller, Jasper Smith, ending with the line 'The song that they sang was Old Ireland free':

The lines in question are found in most versions of The Famous Flower of Serving Men, while 'Now my tender old mammy she ain't seen no more' is very like 'My tender old mother I shall see no more' - a line from The Croppy Boy.

So, returning to Boshamengro for a moment, the booklet included a graphic from Marjorie Mack's book of a tune that Harry Lee played, which was described as The Croppy Boy.

It isn't - it's very similar to the tune Caroline Hughes uses for The Famous Flower of Serving Men, and so is the tune that Frank Smith called "An old Romany song" The Song that was Sung.  And, while I've never heard The Croppy Boy sung to this tune, the text would fit it perfectly.  (It's also very similar to the tune used for Free and Easy for to Jog Along.)

And to finish, MacColl and Seeger, in Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, point out that Caroline Hughes' The Famous Flower of Serving Men is an excellent example of how a ballad-story can attract motifs, lines and complete stanzas from other ballads and songs without losing its continuity.  They calculate that her ballad is actually comprised of pieces of some twelve other, different songs - one of which is The Croppy Boy!


Are Humanities Journals in Jeopardy?

With the increasing emphasis on so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in higher education, university support for and investment in humanities subjects has steadily declined in recent decades.  Humanities, of course, includes pretty well everything to do with the oral culture of traditional song, music, dance, drama, etc.  Funds to replace departing staff (not to mention adding new ones) are too often denied; whole subject-areas are rationalised out of existence; and activities associated with such subject-areas are curtailed.

One of these activities is the publishing of academic journals, including many longstanding and prestigious titles.  Because publication is - as one editor of a prominent title put it - 'currency of the realm' for scholars, the threat to the continued existence of such journals poses a steep hurdle for young academics, especially in the humanities, who must show a record of substantial publication if they are to have any hope of building a career in their chosen field.

Many journals have seen the wisdom of putting their publications out in digital format, and it is probably safe to say that most have considered doing so.  Although some academics worry about the issue of permanence when a work is made available only in digital form, the case for digital dissemination is hard to refute: scholars are able to see their work in print relatively quickly, and publishers can largely avoid the cost of typesetting, printing and distribution.

Unfortunately, even journals that have moved entirely to an online format can find themselves under financial pressure.  Even the limited cost-centres associated with an online publication can tempt administrators tasked with cost-cutting, with the result that a journal - even a digital one - may be forced to reduce the frequency of publication, or even cease publishing altogether.

We invite readers familiar with the current state of academic publishing to comment on this situation, and to consider the possibility that a consortium might be formed to support the functioning of established academic journals, and encourage the development of new ones, by providing an independent resource for the timely production and dissemination of scholarly work, and by doing so in a manner that allows journals to benefit from economies of scale.

If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please contact Rod Stradling (rod@mustrad.org.uk) or Virginia Blankenhorn (virginia.blankenhorn@ed.ac.uk).


New MTCD514-5 When Cecil left the Mountains

Mike Yates' 5-CD Set, Far in the Mountains, first published in 2002 (Vols.1-4) and 2013 (Vol.5) have sold in gratifyingly large numbers (for us!)   So we're hoping that our second 2017 CD publication of traditional singers and musicians, When Cecil left the Mountains, a 2-CD set comprising 83 historic recordings of Appalachian singers and musicians from 1927 - 1955, will prove equally popular.  It runs for 149 mins, and features Horton Barker, Emmett Lundy, Luther Strong, Emma Shelton, Ella Shelton, Bill Stepp, Emory Stoop, Eliza Pace, Dad Blackard's Moonshiners, and 20 others.

When Cecil Sharp left the montains for the last time, he complained about '... the sound of Victrolas and the strumming of rag-time and the singing of sentimental songs - all of which we have suffered from incessantly during the last 12 weeks.  I am sorry to have said goodbye to the mountain people but I suspect that I might have seen the last of them.'  What he didn't realise was that within just a few years, American record companies would be sending scouts into the Appalachian Mountains looking for singers and musicians who could be recorded commercially.

This is a double CD set of performers having some sort of familial or geographical connection with the people Sharp collected in the nineteen-tens - as, indeed, was the Far in the Mountains 5-CD set.  The important difference is that those recordings were from Mike Yates' 1979-83 trips ... these are from the late-nineteen-twenties to the mid-nineteen-fifties, and are of people who were alive when Sharp visited the mountains - and a few who actually performed for him a decade or two earlier!  Lots of very interesting stuff from both commercial and private recordings.  As with Far in the Mountains, this has been compiled, and the booklet written, by Mike Yates.

It is now available from the MT Records' website, price £16.00.


New MTCD373 Boshamengro - English Gypsy Musicians

I'm very pleased to tell you that our first 2017 CD of traditional musicians is now available.  Boshamengro is Anglo-Romani for fiddle player and thus, by extension, musician.  As far as I'm aware, this is the only full-length CD of English Gypsy music ever to have been published.

It features a fiddler - Harry Lee - from whom only two tunes will have ever been heard by about 99.9% of our readers!  But I'm guessing that almost all will have heard those two tunes, which appeared on the LP Boscastle Breakdown.  It's a long story, which involves the original tape, recorded in 1962 for Topic by Paul Carter, having gone missing for some 50 years ... and Phil Heath-Coleman's and my 18 month search for it.  Eventually we succeeded in finding at least a copy of it, and are very pleased to be able to present Harry's complete recorded repertoire of 18 tunes, here for the first time.  And that's a photo of Harry and his family on the front cover.

Another musician who you are unlikely to have heard is Vanslow Smith (fiddle, melodeon), who Gwilym Davies happened to video at a small Sussex event back in 2006.  Vanslow was an amazing musician, who used ALL the available accidentals on his pokerwork melodeon, and played some very jazzy skeleton fiddle through an amplifier ... at the age of 82!  There are 10 tracks of his playing here.

We also have 9 tracks from Lemmy Brazil (melodeon), many of which did not appear on our Brazil Family 3-CD set back in 2007.  Plus one track each from: Jasper and Levi Smith (mouthorgan & tambourine); Jasper and Derby Smith (mouthorgan & guitar); Joe Dozer Smith (diddling); Mary Biddle (diddling); Walter Aldridge (mouthorgan); and John Locke (fiddle) playing his Hornpipe, from the cylinder recording!  As a bonus, we've also included Stephen Baldwin with Tite Smith's Hornpipe and Pip Whiting with Billy Harris's Hornpipe and Will the Waggoner; tunes they learnt from Gypsy musicians.  As with our Stephen Baldwin and Pip Whiting CDs, this has been compiled, and the booklet written, by Phil Heath-Coleman.

Since there's so much here that you'll never have heard before, I've decided to put two tracks - one from Harry Lee and one from Vanslow Smith - onto the MT Sampler page for this CD.


New MT activity

You may remember that, in my Christmas Editorial, I was lamenting how quiet things had been on the Magazine and Records front in 2016; only two new Articles and two revivalist CDs.  So it's with some relief that I can mention a second new Article to be published very shortly, and the fact that some people are now sending me reviews of CDs that I haven't first sent to them!

Also, I flagged up three new CDs for possible release this year:

The second of these, Boshamengro, is very close to release and, rather surprisingly, the third is getting quite close, too.  It will be (I think) our 13th collaboration with Mike Yates, titled When Cecil Left the Mountains.  It will be a double CD set of performers having some sort of familial or geographical connection with the people Sharp collected in the nineteen-tens - as, indeed, was Mike's splendid Far in the Mountains 5-CD set of some years ago.  The difference is that those recordings were from Mike's 1979-83 trips ... these are from the nineteen-twenties and 'thirties.  Lots of very interesting stuff!

But the real reason for this Editorial is that another one has just popped up, entirely unexpectedly.  Last week I had a phone call from Bob Lewis (the Sussex traditional singer).  He had found a couple of CDRs in the back of a cupboard that he had completely forgotten about.  They were recorded at the Tonbridge folk club where he and Bob Copper were performing together as The Two Bobs Worth.  Would we be interested in them for a possible MT Records release?  You may imagine my reply.

It turns out that they were recorded by Andrew King, who's said "If you think the recordings of good enough quality I would be delighted and honoured if you wanted to issue them."  Well, given that they were recorded on a mini-disc machine, the recordings are excellent, and the singing is just glorious!  Bob Copper accompanies himself on concertina for most of his songs, and I have never heard Bob Lewis in better voice.  This is going to be an absolutely splendid CD.  MT Records' 10% royalties will go to support the Sussex Traditions database.


Re: MT reviews policy

I am wondering whether the modern trend towards Fake News and Alternative Facts is responsible for the string of CDs which have ended up in my bin recently.  The word 'Traditions' in the name of this magazine is one, I would have thought, that was fairly well-known in the Anglophone world.  Admittedly, there are those who will argue - endlessly - as to its exact meaning, but songs and tunes composed by the performers would, I imagine, be ruled out as traditional by most reasonably intelligent and educated persons.

It seems not; perhaps the senders of these CDs believe that their products being reviewed in Musical Traditions magazine will magically transform them into traditional pieces, learned orally from previous generations.  I'm sorry to have to inform them that such Alternative Facts find no home amongst these pages.  I truly lament the quantity of plastic, card and paper that end up in the bin ... to pass into the Stroud charity shops' black hole.  I know only too well how minutely small is the market for CDs these days, and I hate to think of the waste of money and scarce resources involved.

And I do try to warn record producers of the magazine's attitude to such things; the MT policy is explained quite specifically in the - you guessed it - Policy page.  And if that were not enough, a brief glance through the CDs that do get reviewed here ought to make it clear what sort of CDs we actually deal with.  Why on earth do record producers keep sending me stuff that they really ought to know will never be reviewed here?

And I am talking about 'record producers' here, not record companies.  I once had a long and complicated explanation as to how it was cheaper for record companies to send out review copies to everyone on their list of possible reviewers, than to take the trouble to select the ones that were actually likely to review the CD concerned.  But I would have thought that individual performers or groups publishing their own product would have found it worthwhile to do a little bit of sorting.  It seems not; on checking, I find that the last seven 'inappropriate for MT' CDs I've received have all been from individual performers or groups.

The last of these, which has prompted this little rant, was from an English 'celidh band' - so no excuse for not knowing what MT is about.  Now, I know what a 'celidh band' is - as opposed to a simple 'dance band', because I had a discussion about it with the Sidmouth Festival organisers a while ago, when I was trying to get a 'dance' gig for my band Phoenix which, it appears, is a 'celidh band' despite having no drum'n'bass.  But that's rather beside the point.  The 'celidh band' in discussion sent me a CD for review - I assume it was for review, although the package contained only the CD and a press release - containing 10 tracks, every one of which was self-composed by members of the band.  Not only that, but the music is not played in anything remotely like a style I can recognise as being traditional.  Indeed, there are no tunes at all - just a series of rifs based on a very simple chord sequence, which is then repeated with slight variations and underlying digital sequencing.  Personally, I found nothing to like about it at all ... but that's not the point.  The point is that it has absolutely nothing to do with traditional music - or with Musical Traditions!



I am aware that some people (particularly Katy Spicer, the Society's Chief Executive) feel that I have been a little harsh in my criticisms of the EFDSS (see below).  To them I would simply say "compare and contrast!"  The Irish Traditional Music Archive's monthly update tells me that, since 2008 when it started uploading resources, ITMA has made 1,222 books; 1,928 images; 2,687 sound recordings; 384 videos: 6,155 interactive musical scores; 5 micro-sites and 7 'Discover' exhibitions freely available online.

If the EFDSS had done one tenth of this work, or even shown one hundredth of this interest in traditional music and song, I would still be a member.


MT's two Catalogue Samplers

Those of you whose memories extend that far back may recall that MT Records published two Sampler CDs - the first in 2002, updated in 2005, and the second in 2012, priced at £10 each.  The intention was that these full and inexpensive CDs might find a wider audience than any of the individual publications had, and might open a few eyes to the riches to be found within MT's catalogue.

The selections were nothing more than my then current favourite tracks, or things that readers might never have heard before; one from each CD - and I made no attempt to be representative of any particular singer's repertoire or style.  All of the texts were drawn from the booklets accompanying the CDs, including song/tune notes suitably edited for these publications.

They both had very good reviews - Shirley Collins wrote, of the first one:

... while Ian Anderson went even further about the second: And many of the purchasers were equally enthusiastic.  Sadly though, they never sold in any great numbers, and I eventually decided stop making them, and to put the tracks from both CDs - and all the others, too - online in the MT Sampler page, and forego all the work involved in producing a third one later this year.

However, since they were no longer available, they didn't appear on the MT Downloads page, which meant that those who want downloads of them would have the unenviable task of playing, and simultaneously recording them from the Sampler page - in real time!  Not a job I would like, nor the couple of hours it would take to do it.  So I've just made Downloads of them, and expanded their content to include all the tracks that could have gone on them were it not for the 80 minute limit of a single CD.

They look like this, and can now be found as the last two items at the bottom of the Downloads page.


Help again, please

Phil Heath-Coleman is in need of a copy of the Folktracks cassette 053, which was devoted to members of the Wood Family (Welsh Romany musicians) and Nansi Richards.  Does anyone have a copy they would be prepared to loan, or send as MP3 downloads?  Please let me know if you do.



One of my Editorial tasks at this time of the year is to update the 'About MT' pages - particularly the Statistics section.  As I had mentioned in my 'End of Year' editorial, things had been sadly quiet on the Magazine front: only 2 new Articles, 23 Reviews, 2 Enthusiasms, 7 News items and 11 Letters had been added in 2016.  By past standards, this was a very meagre set of additions.  So, come on you people, I know we can't do much about record companies not producing the CDs - or not sending them to us for review - but how about some new Articles or Enthusiasms, Letters to the Editor, News items?  Time to do something!  And, if all that wasn't bad enough, I've just checked the wesite statistics, and discovered that the magazine website had only around 360,000 visitors in 2016 - compared to one million in 2015.

So, along with the Labour Party, Jo Cox, Brexit, Trump, etc, etc, 2016 has been a pretty shity year.  Looking forward, at least I have three new CDs already in preparation for 2017 release - which is a good deal more than is usually the case in January!  Though how many copies will be bought is anybody's guess; the last two CDs we've produced have sold fewer than 30 copies each.  Even sales of Downloads, which started well when they were first made available last year, have slowly diminished in number.  Sales in the 9 months of 2015/16 were three times greater than in the 9 months of this present financial year.

I had hoped - foolishly - that having a Facebook page might enable me to spread the word about all the new things I've implimented on the Magazine and the Records websites.  The sad reality seems to be that far more people are interested in my own boring life than in anything to do with traditional music and song!

If anyone is able to offer any suggestions for improving this situation, I'd be extremely pleased to hear from you.


2015 CDs now available as downloads

It's Happy New Year time - and, as promised, the three CDs and one CD-ROM we produced in 2015 are now available as downloads - they're the last four items on the page.  For those of you who may be new to this service, each Download comprises an HTML file of the complete booklet, within which are clickable links to all the songs as MP3 files.

Each Download comprises a ZIP file containing one or more HTML files, a 'sound' folder and a 'graphics' folder.  They can be un-ZIP-ed into a single destination (folder) on your device, and run from there.  Needless to say, all the MP3 sound files could also be copied to any other device you might wish to use.

Since downloads require no booklet production, case covers, CDs, DVD cases or postage, they sell for a far lower price.  Compared to £10, £12, £16 and £20 for the 'normal' publications, the downloads of single CDs are £1.00 or £2.00, double CDs are £4.00, and 3-CD Sets are £6.00.  The facility exists to pay more than these low prices, if you'd like to!

They can be found, along with ALL the previous MT Records' CD publications, on the MT Records' Download page.


Season's Greetings and Review of 2016

Happy Christmas!It is 20 years to the day since the magazine first appeared in this form - so Happy Birthday to us ... and Happy Christmas to you!  The About MT page gives you all the history of the magazine in its paper form, and of its transplantation into this virtual one if you'd like to have a look, so I won't go on about it here.  Suffice it to say that I never imagined that it would last for two decades ... and nor did many of you, I'm sure!  That was the glorious past which, as we know, is another country - but, in this present country I'm sorry to say that the future doesn't look at all rosy.

We haven't published many CDs this year (running out of sources of unpublished recordings of traditional performers?) but we have done a couple by revivalists!  A little gem is Edward the Second and the Red Hot Polkas: The Early Recordings 1985-86 (MTCD405).  This contains all 22 tracks from 3 cassettes we recorded back in the day when EII was still a dance band.  It plays for 81 minutes, and costs just £10.00.  Not bad for "the best little English dance band on the planet" as someone called it back then.

The other release was your Editor's present dance band, Phoenix, with All Fired Up (FBR 005), published on our sister label, Firebird Records.  It has 15 tracks, runs for 58 minutes, and also costs just £10.00.  There are 43 more less-than-well-known tunes, forged into 15 new dance sets by several years of playing for dancing at numerous clubs and festivals.  So, another good dance band record.

A couple of new MT Records' CDs are currently in preparation:

Finally on the records front, I'm truly proud to tell you that our 2-CD Set, Sam Larner: Cruising Round Yarmouth (MTCD369-0) has won the Folklore Society Non-Print Media Award for 2014 - 2016.  You may remember that MT's Cecilia Costello : "Old Fashioned Songs" also won this award in 2012 - 2014.  I was very pleased about that, but I must admit that I'm finding it rather difficult to comprehend that we've actually done it again!  However, having just checked up, it seems that this award resulted in just 20 further Cecilia Costello sales in the subsequent two years!  Obviously the Folklore Society thinks we're making good records - if only people would buy the bloody things!  There really is hardly any audience out there for real traditional singing.

In addition to simply publishing CDs, I have been at pains to try to make them accessible to a wider audience by making some modifications to the MT Records website to suit people who primarily use Smartphones.  I thought it would be a fairly simple job - just re-assemble the basic parts into a narrow screen format ... but things are never simple, are they?  I soon realised that, to work with Smartphones, the site needed to be 'responsive' - able to adapt automatically to the size of the particular device in use, and even to handle whether it was in portrait or landscape mode.  No one I asked had any idea how to do this!  Eventually research pointed me to the W3.CSS page, and after a great deal of experimenting with their examples, I seem to have cracked it.

Then a friend made the sensible suggestion that, since most Smartphone users will want a download rather than a 'real' CD, I should include a link to the Downloads page.  Easier said than done, because the Downloads pages were not 'responsive'.  Many more days' work ensued ... but now they are.  No more sensible suggestions for at least 6 months, please!  Actually, I'm pleased that I had to do all this stuff because the 'Shipping Calculator' pages I had to create for the new 'mobile-friendly' website have now been added to all the normal website entries, rather than just the most recent ones.  This means that every purchase of a CD will now be charged the appropriate postage cost - which will be cheaper for UK purchasers, a little more expensive for European ones, and rather more for 'Rest of World' ones.

Sadly, the Magazine has not been doing too well either.  We published our 303rd Article in October last year, but have had only 2 new ones in the 14 months ones since then.  Some 23 new Reviews have been added in 2016, along with just 2 Enthusiasms, 7 News items and 11 Letters.  By past standards, this is a very meagre set of additions.  To put it in perspective, the first year for which I can find reliable numbers, 2004, was described in my Christmas message as: 'A fairly quiet year, all told ... there have been about 70 Reviews and 16 new Articles added to the site this year - around two thirds of the normal number'.  In addition, there were also 66 News Items, 3 Enthusiasms, and 19 Letters in 2004.  See what I mean?

So, 20 years since the magazine first appeared in this form, I'd like to be able to end as I usually do - but the Brexit vote has fucked continued EU membership, so a reasonably active 2017 with a real (rather than notional) financial recovery seems increasingly unlikely, and the almost unbelievable Trump victory in the USA has made the world a far more dangerous place, if that were possible.  It will also have a profound impact in Europe, empowering and strengthening the far right and anti-immigrant politics both here and abroad.  Marine Le Pen will feel that she could win the French Presidency next May, and recent events in Holland further illustrate the situation.  Britain is experiencing a rise in racism and the far right feels confident and bullish.  These are deeply troubling times; no wonder people are drawing parallels to the 1930s - is there a corelation between 'Mexicans and Muslims' and 'Gypsies and Jews'?

At least Jeremy Corbyn continues to lead the People's Party - but for how much longer?  Sorry to be so gloomy but, in the face of all that lot, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year seems childishly naïve.



Rod Stradling, 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 2HP, UK
E-mail: rod@mustrad.org.uk
- or, if you don't mind the fact that he's getting a bit deaf ...
Phone: 01453 758519 or Mobile: 0793 099 1641

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