Songs and Tales from Flamborough Head
Musical Traditions Records MTCD203
1 - Roll the Old Chariot; 2 - A Thunnerin' Sort of a Lie; 3 - Wreck of the Brownlow and Walmo; 4 - Jolly Old Ploughboy; 5 - Windy Old Weather; 6 - Flamborough Sword Dance Song; 7 - Happy Young Man / I was in it; 8 - Opening Time at Thornwick; 9 - Heave Away the Trawl Warp; 10 - Pull for the Shore; 11 - Grace Darling; 12 - Where's Tha Been Lad?; 13 - Good Luck to the Barleycorn; 14 - Oh Where is my Boy Tonight?; 15 - A Thunnerin' Sort of a Lie; 16 - Father's first day at sea; 17 - Pigs, parsons and nuns; 18 - A naked light & Jenny Gallows' pond; 19 - The ghost ship; 20 - Earlie in the Morning; 21 - Dogs and poachers; 22 - The white gull; 23 - The big white bird and the minister; 24 - Grandad and the work lantern; 25 - A Thunnerin' Sort of a Lie.This disc showcases the singing and storytelling of Robert Leng and Jossy 'Pop' Mainprize, fishermen from the North Yorkshire coastal village of Flamborough whom Jim Eldon encountered in 1988 (through the auspices of his harbour friend Andy Howarth) while working as a musician on board a pleasure cruiser in the nearby resort of Bridlington. At the time Jim was working on a project gathering material for an album of East Yorkshire fireside tales, and these formed the basis for recordings made of the two men by Jim Eldon and Ray Williams towards the end of the '80s. These formed the first side of the cassette A Thunnerin' Sort Of Lie, which came out on Jim's Stick Records label. Later, as Jim and Ray got to know Robert and Jossy, there surfaced from out of the brief snippets of song scattered in among the tales a veritable store of freshly recollected local songs, and a studio album of these, Let's Haul, Boys, Haul!, was then recorded and subsequently issued on cassette.
The present Musical Traditions album purports to combine the Flamborough section of the first cassette with the second cassette (although with a playing time of just 44 minutes I can't be entirely sure of this assertion, since I don't have access to the original cassettes for comparison). It presents 25 items in total, of which 17 are songs; the tales are for the most part grouped together after the songs, and each individual item is separately banded (which in itself is a distinct advantage over the cassette presentation, of course).
There's a wholly natural, unpretentious quality about the singers' performances on these recordings, since their enthusiasm for the songs was rekindled by outing them in public once again (in the company of Jim and Lynette Eldon at events such as folk festivals); they show an evident relish in keeping the local regional culture alive in this way, and vitality of these recordings is a constant delight.
The repertoire contains several songs that will already be familiar to us; there's a particularly rousing, emotional rendition of the lifeboatman's hymn Pull For The Shore; a fishermen's appropriation of the shanty Roll The Old Chariot; a convivial runthrough of the cumulative drinking song Good Luck To The Barley Corn; and a typically lusty account of the music-hall/variety song Grace Darling (of which, surprisingly, the men sing only two of its three verses). And Robert's powerful rendition of his aunt's favourite song, Oh Where Is My Boy Tonight?, carries a special emotional resonance (he often performed this as the evening-closer). The song that gave the first of the original cassettes its title (A Thunnerin' Sort Of A Lie comes in three versions here, with verses added as the tall yarn was embellished and further boasts were added). Robert and Jossy each take a roughly equal share of the leads, and on all but one of the songs (the "lartle ditty" Where's Tha Been, Lad?) Jim joins in on the choruses; Jim leads on Windy Old Weather, and plays fiddle on this and Heave Away The Trawl Warp (which uses the "Flamborough" version of the tune and chorus with extra verses that Jim learnt from a trawler skipper at Withernsea). The 'stories' comprise anecdotes, superstitions, fishermen's tales and jokes and poaching yarns, and they almost form a continuous sequence, for one yarn often sparks another. The use of local dialect is far from impenetrable, and the stories prove every bit as lively as the songs.
Not having possessed either of the original cassettes, I'm unable to compare or comment on the audio quality of this reissue, but it's never less than respectable, with little of the flutter associated with tape transport.
The CD is housed in a standard jewel-case, with notes by Jim on the folded insert sheet.
David Kidman - 6.12.18