The Birds Upon the Tree

... and other traditional songs and tunes.

Musical Traditions MTCD333

The Birds Upon the Tree - Charlie Bridger; The Bonny Labouring Boy - Bob Blake; The Man in the Moon - Scan Tester & Rabbidy Baxter; Three Jolly Boys - George Spicer; Henry My Son - Fred Jordan; Mr Lobski - Archer Goode; When I Was a Boy - George Fradley; The Seeds of Love - Unknown singer; Poor Dog Tray - Packie Manus Byrne; The Mulberry Bush - Harry Cockerill; Jack and the Squire - Freda Palmer; The Bonny Light Horseman - Jacquey Gabriel; The Doughty Packman - Ray Driscoll; The Holly and the Ivy - Ivor Hill & family; Little by Little and Bit by Bit - Charlie Bridger; I'll Sing of Martha - Freda Palmer; Dales Waltz - Harry Cockerill; A British Soldier's Grave - Archer Goode; Billy Brown - Freda Palmer; The Old Drunken Man - Alice Francombe; Feyther Stole the Parson's Sheep - George Fradley; The Oyster Girl - Harry Cockerill; Johnny o' Hazelgreen - Packie Manus Byrne; Nowt to do wi' Me - George Fradley; What is the Life of a Man - Archer Goode; Wassail Song - Alice Francombe; Barbara Allen - Debbie & Pennie Davis.
Cover pictureSubtitled 'and other traditional songs and tunes' this estimable assembly from the archives of Mike Yates follows up two earlier single CDs and four doubles on the MT imprint, drawing upon Mike's extensive (gross understatement!) field recordings - here, a selection made between the early '60s and late '80s in England.  The collector is at pains to point out in the absorbing and exhaustive booklet notes that many would not be regarded as 'folk songs' as defined by the first generation gatherers, principally Sharp, but, I'd argue, they are the very stuff of folk singers.

Certainly we get The Seeds of Love - Yates is upfront enough to admit he's lost the name of the woman who sang that one to him in 1974 - Henry My SonThe Bonny Labouring Boy, but we also have, amongst others, I'll Sing Of Martha and Mr Lobski from Freda Palmer and Archer Goode respectively - and we are the richer for it.

This, you'll gather, is a varied collation that should appeal to all readers of this magazine (Living Tradition).  That is said though, more in hope than in expectation, for whilst this CD isn't an academic exercise, neither is it aural wallpaper.  It requires you to engage with it, to empathize with the singers if you will, but more with the social contexts that would inspire their singing and playing.  Call it aesthetic appreciation if you like, but these are not artists - in line with much of folk performance now - and it occurs to me that will not be deluged with orders compared with those for an album that arrived whilst writing this piece, with press quotes describing the 'act' as “top of the folk pile, gonna be huge and making serious waves.”  Hmmm!

Rod Stradling is the guiding light behind Musical Traditions - both label and online magazine, and thankfully unit sales figures do not preoccupy him, but the 'Folk' dichotomy couldn't be made more clear than by this worthy, enjoyable release.

Clive Pownceby - 21.12.05

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