MT logo Letters - 2016

Re: Sarah Makem As I Roved Out CD

Hi Rod,

I couldn't find a feedback spot on your website, so I thought I'd write an email after receiving the above CD set for my birthday a few days ago.

My mother grew up in Keady, Co Armagh, and is now in her 70s.  She remembers well hearing Sarah Makem singing as a child, and tells happy stories of regularly being given sweets by Sarah, and of hearing her sing many songs (especially The Factory Girl).  She also tells how Sarah organised musical events that were attended by many people in the area.

I found the CD online (I hadn't heard of Musical Traditions before), and she bought it for me.

Words are not adequate to say how happy these recordings have made me.  I have listened to them pretty much non-stop since receiving them.  And as you can imagine, when I played them to my mother, tears immediately came to her eyes - tears of joy.  It brought her straight back to her childhood in Keady.

I cannot thank your organisation enough for making these recordings available.  Please keep up the good work!

Kind regards,

Noel Donnelly - 22.11.16

Re: Folksongs of Another America

Hi Rod,

When I reviewed the Dust-to-Digital set 'Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937 - 1946' (book and CDs) for Musical Traditions last year I said that I would "eat my hat" if this remarkable set of recordings did not win some award or other.

I am more than happy to note that the set has just been awarded the prize for 'Best Historical Research in Recorded Folk or World Music' by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.  Again, I can only urge MT readers to check this set out.  It really does deserve to have won this prestigious award.

Mike Yates - 16.11.16

Re: Keith Summers' article on English Country Music

Hi Rod

Very interesting article that.  Thanks very much for posting.

But it really doesn't read to me as if it were written in 2003 or 2004.  There's nothing in the article that suggests to me it was written anything like so recently.  Is it not more likely that Keith had simply transcribed something he'd written a long time before, and put it in digital form for posterity?  I quote:

If it had been written in 2004, what fieldwork would he be referring to - taking place bettween 1993 and 2003?  Which musicians would this fieldwork have been documenting and recording?  It's not a period of time known for having been a golden age of fieldwork, as far as I know.  It it had been written in 2004, surely it would have referred to the internet, or at the very least had some kind of reference to the 1990s or the 1980s?  To some - or indeed any! - of the musicians that came through in the '80s and '90s playing English music?

Instead, the 'contemporary' references are all to the 70s:

Note the tense there: the seventies "have seen", not the seventies "saw".

Great article though - as ever, many thanks for all the tireless good work.  A reminder to me that I need to download a few more albums in your catalogue - I was delighted when you first set up the online store.

Cheers and all the best

Matt Milton - 8.11.16

This letter has convinced me that Keith clearly wrote this piece much earlier; probably in the late-Seventies or early-Eighties ... but I still have no idea why it was never published in MT. - Ed.

Re: Re: It was Mighty / It was Great Altogether review

Dear Ken and Marya

Rod Stradling has just forwarded your response to comments about Brian Rooney which appeared in my Musical Traditions review.  I am more than happy (unhappy?) to concede that my statement about his decease was not just factually inaccurate but distressing to his family and admirers of his remarkable musicianship (of whom I am one).  The cause of this was misreading an Irish Times article of 20 December 2014, which was loaned to me as an obituary!  This is entirely my inadvertence, for which I am quite prepared to apologise.  I am asking Rod to correct the mistake as soon as possible.

The tone of the piece, as you note, is studiedly provocative, inclining to affectation.  This perfectly legitimate attempt to pitch beyond the impression of perfunctoriness which sometimes characterises reviews does, of course, invite response in kind.  (On the unimpeachable principle that those who stick their neck out should expect to have their head bitten off).  It certainly does not excuse factual inaccuracy.

So I am obliged to you for going to the trouble to point this out; and gratified to learn there are still some unreconstructed ethnomusicologists with us.

Andrew Bathe - 4.9.16

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for being understanding and taking the letter in the spirit it was intended.  I'd be quite happy for the change to be made and this correspondence to be taken off the website when it become redundant as a consequence of the slight editing of the article.  I'll leave it to you and Rod to make the final decision on that.

We are always keen to see some lengthy, and sometime provocative, reviews rather than the sort of 100 word efforts you often get in the Guardian or Irish Times, and Mustrad is a great opportunity to explore a wider assessment of recordings, whether they are one 40 minute disc or over 7 hours as with this collection.

Incidentally, I entirely agree with your assessment of Amby Whyms having the Fahy style in his playing and bowing patterns - in fact the second tune identified as Paddy O'Brien's in the notes is one of Fahy's compositions.


Ken & Marya - 4.9.16

Dear Ken and Marya

It was useful to have the correct attribution of the tune Amby Whyms plays.  I am privileged to have a private recording of Paddy Fahy playing in the back room of Moylan's in Loughrea and so have the chance to savour the distinctiveness of his playing.  A case of a legendary figure whose recordings are not easily obtainable.

Andrew - 4.9.16

Re: It was Mighty / It was Great Altogether review

We read with interest the review by Andrew Bathe of the two CD sets on Irish music in London.

As 'unreconstructed twitching ethnomusicologists' (sic), we were surprised to read his comments about Brian Rooney.  To suggest he has been mistitled Brian when it should be Bryan seems incredibly picky when Brian has released three CDs all under the name Brian.  Putting that in perspective however was the statement that Brian had died in December 2014.  This is just not true.  It is well known that Brian Rooney had a heart attack mid 2014 and was incredibly lucky that other tests done at the time showed early signs of cancer.  This was treated and he ended the year fit and well apart from a broken wrist!  All this was documented in the TG4 programme An Godfather broadcast at the end of December 2014 and, I think, now available on YouTube.  Brian played a concert at the All Ireland Fleadh in Sligo in August 2015.  Quite a feat for a dead man.

We have lost enough musicians in the last couple of years without wishing any others into a premature grave.  Could we suggest a correction to the review to rectify this unfortunate error.  Tongue in cheek, we'd suggest it should be headed Erratum or Corrigendum.

Ken Ricketts & Marya Parker - 4.9.16

Re: two Sleepytoon songs

Dear Rod,

this is a comment on the authorship of the two Sleepytoon songs Sleepytoon (Roud 3775, GreigDuncan3 356, Ballad Index RcSlepTn) and Sleepytoon in the Morning (Roud 9140, Ballad Index RcSlee2).

According to Greig/Duncan Volume 3 page 623 the author of Sleepytoon G/D #356 B is William 'Poet' Clark.  It is rather unlikely that Clark wrote both Sleepytoon songs.

Therefore I believe that Mike Yates mixed both songs up and that his comment on Sleepytoon in the Morning "Reg Hall's comment that Morris wrote the piece is incorrect" in (cited in RCSlee2) is incorrect, and that George Morris is indeed the author of Sleepytoon in the Morning.

Best wishes, Reinhard Zierke - 24.7.16

Jessie o' Dunblane tune

Dear Rod,

I'm having difficulty checking on the pedigree of the tune to Jessie o' Dunblane (there are various spellings).  The text, it's known, is from Robert Tannahill and appeared in 1808.  It was set to music by a friend of Tannahill, R A Smith, in 1816.  That much seems clear.

But there's one reference to the Thomas Hardy 'Puddletown' manuscripts that give a date of 1800 for the tune.  If this is accurate, maybe Smith used an older tune; but he is adamant in his writings that he composed it.

Is there anybody who can help me solve this puzzle?

Roly Brown - 29.4.16

The Powrie Family

Hi Rod,

Don't know if you happened to see the attached photograph which appeared in The Courier and Advertiser on 22 March 2016, sent in by a Michael Mulford from Cupar, Fife.

According to the caption the photo was taken in Blairgowrie in 1928 and the people are four generations of the Powrie family including box-player Will and his five year-old son Ian, who became a famous fiddler, along with grandfather and great grandfather.  Will and Ian feature on some of the tracks in The Voice of the People series as well as on the Ythan Music Trust CD, Sook and Blaw.

Kind regards,

Jim Black - 24.3.16

Fred McCormick's Book and Record Collection

When Fred died in November last year he left his collection of books, records and CDs to the University of Liverpool.  To the best of our knowledge he had made some sort of prior arrangement with the University, but when it came to it the University told his executor, Fred’s niece Gill Barrie, that it could not accept the bequest.

Fred did catalogue his collection and stored the catalogue on a hard drive, but this has been difficult to access.  Gill wants to honour Fred’s intentions by giving the collection to another institution, but without the full catalogue she can’t give the details that a library or archive would require.  She has made enquiries with booksellers and record dealers to help dispose of the collection, but she feels her best way forward is to offer the collection to the people who can best appreciate it; Fred's fellow lovers of folk and traditional music.  So she plans to hold an open house at Fred’s where people can come and choose what they want and in exchange make a donation to charity.

The open house will be over two days Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March 2016 at 2 Orchard Grange, Moreton, Wirral CH46 6DZ.

For what it is worth we have just had an email from Dr Mike Brocken which sheds some light on the University of Liverpool’s decision.  We were puzzled that Fred should have been so confident that his collection would be accepted there, be properly looked after, and made publicly available.

Mike was a colleague of Fred's at the Institute of Popular Music (IPM) in Liverpool University over 10 years ago when the Institute was flourishing and it had a positive archival policy; taking in material from Robert Shelton and Karl Dallas amongst many others.  It seems that funding for the archives, and for the IPM itself has been much reduced since then, while Mike has moved on to Liverpool Hope University where he runs courses on aspects of popular music.  So Fred presumably had good reason to believe that his collection would be well curated whenever it was that he made his will, but changes inside Liverpool University occurred afterwards of which he may not have been aware.

Sadly a familiar story of universities and especially libraries losing their funding.  I hope Malcolm Taylor won't mind me quoting/paraphrasing him: "If you want to bequeath your collection to a library, ideally you should also provide for the transportation, housing, shelving and cataloguing of it" - but of course few can afford to do this even if they thought of it.

Peta Webb and Matthew Edwards - 12.3.16

Minnesota Traditional Songs project

Dear Rod,

I thought you would be interested to know of friend Brian Miller's latest project to make available online some rare 1920s field recordings of Minnesota traditional singing that he uncovered at the Library of Congress.

Brian is doing more and better research on occupational music of his home area than anyone else I'm aware of here in the US.

He's raising funds for the project - you can check out a video and learn more about it here.

Dave Ruch - 6.3.16
Buffalo, NY.

Re: The Dancing Davies article


I've just been listening to the musical examples accompanying Article MT291, The Dancing Davies.  Just for the record, the third track, credited to Percy Brown as Soldier's Joy / hornpipe, is actually Soldier's Joy / Navvy on the Line, played by me.

Best wishes

Reg Hall - 6.3.16

Now corrected in the article - Ed.

Re: Early Ballads in Ireland review

Brian Peters is right to point out the value of the reissued set of Irish ballads, Early Ballads in Ireland.  When I first heard these recordings in 1985, I too was fascinated by Frank Browne's set of The House Carpenter, here called The Banks Of The Sweet Viledee.  As Brian says, the notes tell us that Frank had once lived in the States (where the ballad is still known) but we are not told where Frank picked the ballad up - Ireland or America?  One thing that did strike me, though, when I first listened to this recording, was the fact that Frank's tune sounded vaguely familiar to me.  I felt that I had heard the tune before, possibly sung by a Scottish traditional singer, perhaps a Traveller.  Sadly, I never managed to confirm this suspicion, but I would be interested to know if the tune sounds familiar to any other Musical Traditions' reader.

As regards Brian's other comments about the ballad, I can add that the southern English Gypsy, Levi Smith, knew a single verse of the ballad (though without a tune) and that Hamish Henderson recorded a fragment from the Scottish Traveller Andrew Stewart, this latter being available on the CD Hamish Henderson Collects - volume 2 (Kyloe Records CD110).

Mike Yates - 23.2.16

Re: Early Ballads in Ireland review

Ah yes, checked that.  I fancy the Viledee tune is rather like Johnny Barden from Mary McGrath on Songs of the Irish Travellers.  Perhaps an American text set to an Irish tune?

Brian Peters - 23.2.16


Rod Stradling - e-mail:  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos  GL5 2HP, UK

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