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Tunes for a Monday Morning

Dartmoor lambs

It's a quiet, misty morning here on Dartmoor, too chilly to sit outdoors for long, but there are lambs in the fields, ponies on the Commons and primroses all along the winding path up to my studio...so it must be spring, and the warmer days we've been longing for will surely come soon.

Primroses along the path

This week's music starts with The Furrow Collective, a group of four fine folk musicians who are also well known for their solo work: Emily Portman (from Glastonbury), Lucy Farrell (from Maidstone), Alasdair Roberts and Rachel Newton (both from Glasgow).

Video above: "I'd Rather Be Tending my Sheep," a West Country folksong from the collective's first album, At Our Next Meeting (2014). This one is for Delia Sherman (and all you other knitters out there), and for Cynthia Rose on her sheep farm in Wiltshire.

Below: "Many's the Nights Rest," a lovely informal performance filmed just last month. The song can be found on The Furrow Collective's new EP, Wild Hog in the Woods.

"‘I stumbled across ‘Many’s the Night’s Rest’ in a journal of the Folk-Song Society from 1905," says Portman, "and was struck by the resolute tone of the chorus ‘Many’s the night’s rest you’ve robbed me of, but you never shall do it again’. It’s Roud No. 293 – a version of ‘Bonny Boy’ and Lucy Broadwood collected it in 1901 from a Henry Hills in Sussex. I imagine this song representing a woman finally washing her hands of her cheating boyfriend and moving on, though you could draw other, darker conclusions depending on your temperament."

Dartmoor sheep

Above: "Green Gravel," a deliciously dark children's song recorded by Fay Hield, who is both a folk singer and lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield. It comes from her latest album, Old Adam (2015), which I highly recommend -- along with Hield's excellent Full English project, and her 2014 TED Talk, "Why Aren't We All Folk Singers?"

"Green Gravel" is associated with children's games in Britain and North America; this particular version comes from Alice Bertha Gomme's The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland. "The song has links to burial ceremonies," Alex Gallacher explains, "with green gravel representing the newly turned grave; though there is no suggestion this rhyme was performed at burials, more that children took the ideas of life, love and death into their own sphere."

To end with, a beautiful, almost hypnotic rendition of "The Grey Selchie" (Child Ballad No. 113)  by Maz O'Connor, from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. This new video, released a few weeks ago, was filmed for The Blue Room Sessions in the Netherlands. O'Connor has recorded three lovely albums of original and traditional tunes, the latest of which is The Longing Kind (2016).

Dartmoor sheep

The first two photographs above were taken by my friend Helen Mason. The third one is mine. A related post:
The Folklore of Sheep. Previous Monday Tunes by Fay Hield can be found here. By Maz O'Connor, here.
By Emily Portman, here. By Rachel Newton, the last two videos here.

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