MT logo Letters - 2017

When Cecil Left the Mountains review

In his review of When Cecil Left the Mountains Jeff Davis says that Alan Lomax recorded 'some of Sharp's informants'.  To the best of my knowledge Lomax only recorded one such person - the Kentucky singer Eliza Pace - who can now be heard on this CD set.

Mike Yates - 5.12.17

Re: Austerity

Hi Rod

Regarding your Austerity editorial, I can sympathise with you regarding the disappointing sales, and I can agree with most of your points.

You made this comment:

I am sure you are right regarding the balance of interest in instrumental music and song, but it's not all despair.  Some examples.  There's a weekly Thursday afternoon singing session in Liverpool at the Belvedere that always seems to attract a good number of excellent singers (almost all of the retired persuasion!)  And there are a couple of weekend singing sessions ... one seems to be invite only ... but there's at least one ... several in fact, at Halsway Manor.  Soundpost have organised events in Sheffield.

The relaunched Library lectures at Cecil Sharp House have been very well supported over the last couple of years, as have the recent series of lectures at Cheethams Library in Manchester ... better supported than the lectures I arranged in Manchester in the 1980s.  Most of these (all the Manchester ones) have been about song.  The talks at Sidmouth and Whitby on folk song this year were well supported.

Of course, it would be great to see more traditional singing, more enthusiasm for hearing the sort of CD you put out, more interest in traditional song.  I don't have any magic solutions however!

best wishes

Derek Schofield - 23.11.17

I suspect that it may be, to some extent, due to the level of skill required to sing an unaccompanied song successfully, as compared to joining in with a tune in a session.  Though, with this 'modern folk', you also have to learn to play an instrument at the same time!

Maybe it's about skill levels of a different order.  With those other two real enthusiasms, Punk and Skiffle, all you needed were two chords and a loud voice in order to participate!  Perhaps we, of the post-revival age, have progressed enough to make it hard for inexperienced beginners to have a go?  Or maybe not ... today's young musicians don't seem to be lacking in the skills department!  Like you, I don't have any magic solutions either.

Rod Stradling

Victoria Shifflett Morris

In the notes to the double CD set When Cecil Left the Mountains (MTCD514-5), I wrote that I was unable to find out anything about the singer Victoria Morris.  I am glad to say that I have been contacted by Liz Milner who, like me, has been researching some of Cecil Sharp's Appalachian singers.  Liz has directed me to an on-line article about Mrs Morris (which I somehow missed) by Phil James.  This can be found at:

I won't repeat all that is in the article, except to say that Mrs Morris was born Victoria Shifflett in Western Greene County, VA in 1895, and that like some other Appalachian singers sang on one occasion at the White House.  The photograph, taken in the early 1930's shows Mrs Morris together with her sons Fred and Alton, and, in the front, Tim.  I hope that readers will go to this article, which is well worth reading.

Mike Yates - 7.11.17

Help please

Can anyone please help?  I've recently been digitizing some of my old cassettes. One of my great favourites has not physically withstood the test of time, and I'm hoping someone can provide me with a digital copy.

Folktracks FSA-60-100 - Phoebe and Joe Smith - I am a Romany

In exchange I can offer numerous items of traditional performers from around the world in multiple genres, many from 78s or private field recordings which have either not been reissued in the vinyl/CD era or which never had a commercial release in any form.

Fingers are crossed in hope.

Keith Chandler - 20.9.17

Re: When Cecil Left the Mountains

There must be some law or other which accounts for the fact that once one has completed a task, information which is relevant to that task suddenly appears, but only after that task is completed!  A couple of days after MT issued the double CD set When Cecil Left the Mountains I decided to listen to an album of blues singers who had once performed in Chicago's Maxwell Street market.  One singer, Arvella Gray, was working his way through a pretty standard set of verses relating to the song John Henry, when he suddenly came out with the following verse: This verse is clearly related to The Bird Song which can be heard being sung by Maud Long of NC on the CD set, but where, I wonder, did Arvella first hear it?  He was born in Somerville, Texas, in 1906, and probably did a bit of travelling before settling down in Chicago.  So I guess that he could have picked it up anywhere.

I really do love this sort of thing.  Here we have a verse, which is related to a song from 17th century England, being included in a song about the legendary character John Henry.  Such are the ways of the folk.

Mike Yates - 4.7.17

Re: Crazy Jane (MT Article 308)

Sensational article......!!!!

And I only Googled Jane because I wanted to find a date for my Abrams copy!

The song advertised for sale in 1799.


Kurt Gänzl - 29.6.17
New Zealand

The Red, White & Blue

In a 1970 interview with Bob Copper on this site (Article MT152), Bob was talking about old sheep-shearing teams and this was what he said: Obviously I knew the location and I wanted to take a photo of the pub to be inserted in the interview at that stage.  When I next went down there, I was very disappointed to find that when the pub had been converted to a private dwelling the entire frontage has been covered with several layers of thick white paint.  You could just about make out the embossed tiles of the pub's name through the paint.  The property has obviously changed hands again recently and the new owners are painstakingly restoring the pub frontage.  At last, nearly forty years later, I have got my photo.

Vic Smith - 14.3.17

Re: The Streets of Brummagem and the Shenley Court Folk Group

Dear Rod,

I've been listening to a great LP recently that was directed by Roy Palmer.  It's called The Streets of Brummagem and involves some very professional sounding singing and instrumentation as well as children joining in to sing the choruses etc.

I was wondering if anyone knows any more about this LP and its partner which was issued the year before in 1970 Birmingham Lads?

Both records are recorded in Mono by Charles Horrell and the one I have is a real pleasure.  The Singing Tradition are mentioned and so this is even a Topic link because they recorded for Impact - the Topic subsidiary (on the album The Painful Plough).  Perhaps this group is the answer to the question 'Who is the main performer?'  Both of these relatively rare LPs are available to listen to in their entirety on

I'd love to hear, though MT, if anyone has any first hand knowledge about the record or what led to its recording and release.

best regards

Alistair Banfield - 12.2.17


Dear Rod,

I have been ordering MTCDs for years now and every time I've ordered I've had the good intention to write to thank you.  But we know what yon broad, broad road is paved with.

I am hugely, hugely grateful for the insane amount of work you, and others, put in to Musical Traditions.  Years ago I started with Steeleye and Fairport, then it was Carthy and Tabor, and now it's Voice of the People, Veteran and you.

For me, the best thing is the CDs you release.  As you know, I now have nearly all of them, and they are a joy.  I keep them in my office at work, where I can listen undisturbed when I have time.  I can't claim that anyone has been reduced to tears by the music, however.  My favourite, by some way, is the Lizzie Higgins.  I find it hard to believe that any of your releases could sell only 30 copies.

Next comes the reviews.  I get various magazines, but you cover things others don't.  I got two Felmay releases for Christmas, and am in the process of getting the two books of songs about Napoleon.  Thank you.

I do read all the articles, though I take my time.  It may be months from when they are posted to when I read them.  Much appreciated all the same.

In your New Year message to the nation, you encouraged people to contribute.  The first time I went to Cecil Sharp House, in 1984, I was made to feel unworthy because I neither play nor sing; I am a mere consumer.  I feel the same now: I know I should do something, but what?  The level of scholarship in the MT articles is daunting - people work very hard on difficult to find sources, have tremendous background knowledge, and present it very well.  I teach English at university here in Japan, and am expected to write.  There are literally thousands of people here writing about English teaching, so I switched to writing about folk song.  I've written half a dozen articles, but they are very much popularization for a Japanese readership, people who know nothing about the music.  I would not dream of submitting them.

I've learned to read the reviews.  They tend to go:
1. This is an essential CD/book.
2. to 9. These are all the things that are badly wrong with it.
10. Buy it immediately.

One result of this was the entertaining but undignified (on both sides) spat about the Elizabeth Cronin book and CD (nearly as much fun as Bearman vs Harker on Sharp).  If it really has put him off doing another project, as he claimed, then that is a shame.  Anyway, the point is that your contributors do not suffer fools gladly, and I fear I would be eaten alive if I put anything out there.

On another topic:

I've been a member of the EFDSS for a while now. I was already a member when I was made to feel very welcome by Malcolm Taylor when I spent a week at the VWML in 2005.  The Society seems to be much better run than in the past, and the online resources are terrific - I could not write my little articles without the Roud indexes.  I find the book reviews in the Journal invaluable.

That said, I fully agree with you about the new EDS.  Not only is there nothing traditional, but the number of reviews has been greatly reduced, and the magazine has been designed.  There are lots of elegant white spaces, so it looks good.  It's just a shame the content has been halved.  Nor, far from London, do I need a self-congratulatory page telling me about wheelchair access to Cecil Sharp House - that should be a footnote.  There is now nothing there that is not covered by fRoots, Living Tradition and you.

But I will continue to remain a member because I think it's important to support the EFDSS in general.

This has become rather long.  If you have read this far, thank you.

I look forward to your next 3 releases, and I will no doubt buy the Rounder NAT reissues at some point.

With great gratitude,

Simon Rosati - 1.2.17


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

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