Strange News 

TRADarrr

 

December 2020


 

 


 

Introduction 

 

PJ

 

Back in the 1950s, BBC Schools’ “Singing Together” and shiny new Oxford School Music Books introduced me to the mainstream - “Cockles & Mussels,” “The Ash Grove,” etc. - but I liked the more interesting stuff that came via well-worn copies of English Folk-songs for Schools, the collection by Sabine Baring-Gould and Cecil Sharp (and taught to us by Mrs McDermott). Some of these songs had intriguing tunes, told engaging stories, had more verses and quirky lyrics from earlier times; some with a feel of mystery to them, a connection to another world.

Some of those tunes have been altered and arranged in recording them and the words may differ from what Cecil and the Rev. wrote down in 1907, but that’s the folk process for you…

The recording of Strange News was finished just as Covid started sweeping the world; the seven of us had spent a year or so constructing these pieces and expected to be playing them live. At that point live music was pretty much cancelled for the foreseeable future.

So, until we can get onto a stage and play them, here’s some greater detail on the songs that make up the Strange News collection.

The Rose of Allendale 

Marion 

Having taken on board the comment made by my mum that all folk songs seem to include at least one of the following - a murder, a shipwreck, an abandoned lover, people cross-dressing and a hanging, I set out to find a set of traditional lyrics which didn’t. Something wholly lovely and positive! I wanted to find a sweet love song and do something poppy (as a bit of a counterbalance to Cuckoo’s Nest, my offering on the last album, which let’s face it, was septic!) So I stumbled upon these lyrics and a couple of different versions of it - Mary Black’s which is beautiful and the Dubliners’ which has a great joiny-in chorus. Charles Jeffreys is credited with writing the lyrics in the 1840’s, so it’s sort of traditional I s’pose. 

It’s assumed to be a Scottish or Irish tune, probably because of the number of artists from those countries who have performed it, but it is actually an English song, set in the Northumbrian village of Allendale. 

So I set about writing a new tune for it using my favourite tuning - DADF#AD - and out it popped like a little frippery. Then in the studio, it morphed into a full on pop song, with brass! How very Kylie…. 


The moon was bright 

The night was clear 

No breeze came o’er the sea 

When Mary left her highland home 

And wandered forth with me 

The flowers be-decked the mountainside 

And fragrance filled the vale 

But by far the sweetest flower there 

Was the rose of Allendale 

Was the rose of Allendale 

By far the sweetest flower there 

Was the rose of Allendale 

 

Where e'er I wandered east or west 

Though fate began to sour 

A solace still was she to me 

In sorrow's lonely hour 

When tempests lashed our lonely barque 

And rent her quivering sail 

One maiden's form withstood the storm 

'Twas the rose of Allendale 

Was the rose of Allendale 

Sweet rose of Allendale 

By far the sweetest flower there 

Was the rose of Allendale

(Awesome solos from PJ and Guy) 

And when my fever'd lips were parched 

On Afric's burning sands 

She whispered hopes of happiness 

And tales of distant lands 

My life has been a wilderness 

Unblessed by fortune's scale 

Had fate not linked my love to hers 

The rose of Allendale 

Was the rose of Allendale 

Was the rose of Allendale 

By far the sweetest flower there 

Was the rose of Allendale 


 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Tenor saxophone, Background vocals 

Mark Stevens:  Drums, Trumpet, Background vocals, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Lead vocals, Violin, Background vocals 

Gemma Shirley: Background vocals, Keyboards 

Guy Fletcher: Mandolin, Violin 

Gregg Cave: Acoustic guitar 

Brendan O'Neill: Bass guitar 

The Barley Straw 

PJ 

I first heard The Barley Straw sung by The Young Tradition at a Coventry folk club (in those days every town had at least half a dozen) on a snowy night in 1968. Heather Wood's laconic introduction, "This is called the Barley Straw - which is a form of bedding - and deals with seduction - which is…...a form of bedding," made a great impression on young Pete Scrowther, sitting next to me.

'Tis of a jolly old farmer

Lived in the west country.

He had the finest daughter

That ever my eyes did see.

'Tis of a rich young squire,

'Was living there close by,

And he found he wouldn't be easy

Until he'd had a try.

So he dressed himself as a tinker

And he travelled on his way.

Until he came to the farmer's house

'Was standing there close by.

"Oh, have you got any kettles or

Pots or pans to mend.

Have you got any lodgings

Cos I’m a single man".

"Oh, yes" replied this pretty maid,

Not thinking any harm.

"Oh, you can stay with us tonight

If you sleep in our old barn".

So after tea was over

And she went to make his bed,

The tinker following after

He stole her maidenhead.
 

The tinker, he being nimble

Jumped up and he barred the door,

She spent all night all in his arms

Amongst the Barley Straw.

"Oh, since you've slept with me all night

Don't think of me the worse".

He's put his hand in his pocket and

Pulled out a heavy purse.

"Oh, since you cannot marry me,

Pray tell to me your name.

Likewise your occupation

And where and whence you came".

He's whispered softly in her ear

"They call me Davey Shaw,

And if ever I came this way again,

You'll remember the Barley Straw".

Now six month being over,

And the nine month coming on,

This pretty little fair maid

Is the mother of a son.

Her father cried "Oh, daughter dear,

Who has done you this harm".

"I'm afraid it was the tinker

That slept in our old barn".


 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Background vocals, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Harmony vocals, Violin, Background vocals, Whistling 

Gemma Shirley: Keyboards 

Guy Fletcher: Mandolin, Violin 

Gregg Cave: Lead vocals 

Brendan O'Neill: Bass guitar

A Country Farmer’s Son 

Mark

Well….PJ gave me a book of old folk songs that he had when he was a schoolboy, and amongst the pages I found ' A Country Farmer’s Son.’ Lyrically I thought it could have been a Dylan song so I dug out a riff I’d had knocking about for a few years and the whole song came together very quickly. There’s definitely a touch of the 'All Right Nows’ about it, but that can only be a good thing. Great energy from PJ’s slide guitar and Gregg’s vocal. 

I would not be a monarch with a crown upon my head 

And earls to wait upon my state in ‘broidered robes of red 

For he must bare for many a care his toil is never done 

Tis better I trow behind a plough, a country farmer’s son 

No I would not be a merchant rich and eat off a silver plate 

And ever dread whilst laid a bed some freakish turn of fate 

One day on high then ruin nigh I now wealthy now undone 

Tis better for me at ease to be a country farmer’s son 

I walk about the farm all day to know that all things thrive 

A maid I see that pleaseth me why then I’m fain to swive 

Not over rich I do not itch for wealth, for what is won 

By honest toil from out the soil, a country farmer’s son. 


 

PJ Wright: Slide guitar, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Tenor saxophone 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Trumpet, Background vocals, Hammond Organ, Percussion

Marion Fleetwood: Percussion, Background vocals, Handclaps 

Gemma Shirley: Background vocals, Keyboards 

Guy Fletcher: Violin 

Gregg Cave: Lead vocals, Handclaps 

Brendan O'Neill: Bass guitar 

Mike Stevens: Baritone Saxophone

Lovers’ Lament 

Mark

Two old and well-established pieces with a new melody for Lovers’ Lament sung and harmonised to perfection by Marion and Gemma, who along with me also take care of all instrumentation. 

I’ll weave my love a garland. It shall be dressed so fine 

I’ll set it round with roses, with lilies pinks and thyme 

And I’ll present it to my love when he comes back from sea 

For I love my love and I love my love, because my love loves me 

I wish I were an arrow that sped into the air 

I’d seek him as a sparrow and if he were not there 

then quickly I’d become a fish to search the raging sea 

For I love my love and I love my love, because my love loves me

I would I were a reaper I’d seek him in the corn 

I would I were a keeper. I’d hunt him with my horn 

I’d blow a blast when found at last, beneath the greenwood tree 

For I love my love and I love my love, because my love loves me 

I’ll weave my love a garland. It shall be dressed so fine 

I’ll set it round with roses, with lilies pinks and thyme 

And I’ll present it to my love when he comes back from sea 

For I love my love and I love my love, because my love loves me 

 

 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Flugelhorn, Electric guitar 

Marion Fleetwood: Lead vocals, violin

Gemma Shirley: Harmony vocals, Keyboards 

Mary of the Silvery Tide 

Guy 

Everyone was asked to put forward a few items of material for Trads three. I had a few songs I liked and thought would work and started some home demos. Additionally I looked at songs I hadn’t heard/wasn’t familiar with. I liked the title Mary Of the Silvery Tide, it made me curious to find out the way in which Mary was ‘of the tide’. My guess was that Mary had either emerged from or was heading towards the tide. I was correct! I chose to ignore the music which was originally in 6/8 and see what I could do with it. I had a groove in mind and went to see if I could make the song fit in 5/4. I like irregular time signatures and thought heavy guitars and lots of echo in the Space Rock direction of the band My Morning Jacket could work for this track. In the end our producer gave it more of a Scott Walker vibe. Look out for the odd bar of 6/4 - especially if you’re in the band playing it.
 

'Twas of a lovely creature who dwelled by the seaside,

Her lovely form and features she was the village pride;

There was a young sea captain who Mary's heart would gain,

But she was true to Henry, who was sailing on the main.

'Twas in young Henry's absence this noble man he came

A-courting pretty Mary, but she refused the same.

She said, "I pray you begone, young man, your vows are all in vain,

Therefore begone, I love but one and he's on the raging main."

With mad desperation this noble man he said,

"To prove the separation I'll take her life away;

I'll watch her late and early. then alone," he cried,

"I'll send her body a-floating in the rippling tide."

This noble man was walking out to take the air,

Down by the rolling ocean he met the lady fair.

He said, "My pretty fair maid, you consent to be my bride,

Or you shall swim far from here in the silvery tide."

With trembling limbs cried Mary, "My vows I never can break,

For Henry I dearly love and I'll die for his sweet sake."

With his handkerchief he bound her hands and plunged her in the main

Her shrinking body went floating in the rolling silvery tide.

It happened Mary's true love soon after came from sea,

Expecting to be happy and fix the wedding day.

"We fear your true love's murdered," her aged parents cried,

"Or she caused her own destruction in the silvery tide."

As Henry on his pillow lay a fever’d dream woke he

His true love calling out to him from far away at sea

At daybreak the next morning he searched the coast a cried

And found the corpse afloating in the rolling silvery tide

He knew it was his Mary by the ring upon her hand.

He untied the silk handkerchief which put him to a stand,

For the name of her cruel murderer was full thereon he spied,

Which proved who ended Mary's days in the silvery tide.

This noble man was taken, the gallows were his doom

For ending pretty Mary's days, she had scarce attained her bloom.

Young Henry brokenhearted he wandered till he died.

His last words were for Mary in the rolling silvery tide.


 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar, Tenor saxophone, Baritone guitar 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Synthesizer, Trumpet, Percussion

Marion Fleetwood: Harmony vocals, Violin, Viola, Cello 

Gemma Shirley: Harmony vocals, Fender Rhodes 

Guy Fletcher: Lead vocals, Acoustic guitar 

Gregg Cave: Background vocals, Harmony vocals 

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

Shore to Shore 

Gregg 

I was involved in a ‘lock-in’ years ago in a shady corner of Northampton town and as the night got so late it became the next day the acoustic guitars were out and a young lady sung a song she called ‘10,000 miles of the Turtle dove’. I remember the words being lovely. Roll on years later I was reading through an old collection of folk songs I had and the words that I recognized from that night jumped out at me. 

I have completely re-written it here and added the chorus. Parky and I worked on the music for a while and these words were a fine fit. A song of coming together…
 

10,000 miles fare you well my own true love 

The stars won’t start falling the dove will perch on our silver tree 

We’re taking on mountains, chasing suns and watching them burn 

This love is for dreamers, seeds of love pushing the sky

Hold it, Hold it up 

Hold it, Hold it up 

Hold it, Hold it up 

With these hands, with these hearts we’ll stand shore to shore 

On the wings of a black crow the brightest day shall turn to night 

I’ll return as the white dove melting rocks in the golden sun 

Cause 10,000 miles my love is true as the sea to the moon 

The stars won’t start falling reaching down touching shores 

Hold it, Hold it up 

Hold it, Hold it up 

Hold it, Hold it up 

With these hands, with these hearts we’ll stand shore to shore 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar, Baritone guitar 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Celeste, Background vocals, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Background vocals, Violin, Viola, Cello 

Gemma Shirley: Background vocals, Handclaps 

Guy Fletcher: Mandolin, Background vocals 

Gregg Cave: Lead vocals, Acoustic guitar 

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

Mike Stevens: Guitar 

The Blacksmith 

Gemma 

So being pretty new to folk music I had no idea what a popular and well loved song this is. I first came across it one hungover Sunday morning at my parents-in-law’s house. Father-in-law was in the habit of getting the vinyl out while we waited for Guy to awake and educating me in folk music by playing me the most obscure things he could dig out-When Steam Came To The Fair and a charity shop find about cycling called Rump Up spring to mind. This came along with the more usual Watersons and Copper family until one Sunday he put on Anthems In Eden by Shirley and Dolly Collins and I was immediately entranced. 

Back in the 60’s the in-laws ran a folk club in Northampton. As it turned out The Blacksmith was Mother-in-law’s song of choice to perform. It also turned up that year as an arrangement in the Associated Board Of the Royal Schools of music grade 2 singing syllabus-the universe had spoken... 

I came up with the melody in the back of the car on the way to Blandford Forum where Guy and PJ were playing at Wessex Acoustic folk club. It seemed to lend itself to something with different sections as the emotions change through the song and I wanted to give the protagonist scope for a more visceral reaction to her unfaithful lover. The singalong “Ohs” came first and what starts as a plaintive lament grows into something more vengeful, maybe even murderous....with congas!


A Blacksmith courted me nine months and better 

He fairly won my heart, wrote me a letter 

With his hammer in his hand he looked so clever 

And if I were with my love I would live forever 

O where has my love gone with his cheeks like roses? 

He has gone across the sea gathering primroses 

I’m afraid the shining sun might burn and scorch his beauty 

And if I were with my love I would do my duty 

Strange news is come to town strange news is a-carried 

Strange news flies up and down that my love is a-married 

O I wish them both much joy though they don’t hear me 

And if I were with my love I would do my duty 

O what did you promise me when you lay beside me? 

You said you’d marry me and not deny me 

If I said I’d marry you ‘twas only to try you 

So bring your witness love and I’ll not deny you 

O witness have I none save God almighty 

And may he reward you well for the slighting of me 

Her lips grew pale and wan it made her poor heart tremble 

To think she had loved one and he proved deceitful 

A Blacksmith courted me nine months and better 

He fairly won my heart, wrote me a letter 

With his hammer in his hand he looked so clever 

And if I were with my love I would live forever 

PJ Wright: Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar, Tenor saxophone 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Trumpet, Synthesizer, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Background vocals, Cello 

Gemma Shirley: Lead vocals, Harmony vocals, Violin 

Guy Fletcher: Acoustic guitar, Background vocals 

Gregg Cave: Congas 

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

Mary Neal 

Gregg 

I found these words in John Clare’s folk song collection. He stated in his collection that he would hear his parents sing the words and there are one or two different versions that he recorded, this one being my favourite. All old words except the chorus refrain of ‘breaking earth…’ I wrote. A little verse I’d written, inspired by our very own Marion Fleetwood after she gave me a book with the line ‘A time to fly’ Thanks Maz !

There’s beauty in the summer flower and in the hawthorn blossom 

Tis sweet to lie at evens hour upon a sweethearts bosom 

Sweet to lean upon her arm and loves emotions feel 

While walking round the wood and field 

With handsome Mary Neal… 

Young Mary Neal was handsome and Mary Neal was fair 

She was worth a lady’s ransom with her dark and flowing hair 

How fair the flower how soft the wind Through bushes used to steal 

Like woodbine round the thorn entwined 

I walked with Mary Neal… 

How sweet the thorn its tender green shot o’er the wood side way 

Sweet dimples In the brook was seen as though sweet showers of May 

When down the green we used to hide and through the wood ride steal 

When I kissed her cheek and praised her eye 

Of my own Mary Neal… 

Breaking earth and crossing shores make true your aim, with open arms we adore, this time, our time, a time to fly. 

How beautiful the morn arose and o’er the barley shone 

When I clasped her where the hedge briar grows young Mary all my own At broken vows my heart would die the thought on’t makes me reel 

For her I live and love and sigh 

My Lovely Mary Neal… 

Breaking earth and crossing shores make true your aim, with open arms we adore, this time, our time, a time to fly. 

How beautiful the morn arose and o’er the barley shone 

When I clasped her where the hedge briar grows young Mary all my own 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Synthesizer, Horn section, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Harmony vocals 

Gemma Shirley: Background vocals 

Guy Fletcher: Violin 

Gregg Cave: Lead vocals, Acoustic guitar 

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

Cold Blows the Wind 

Mark 

A fabulous duet with Marion on a truly epic scale with full string section, tymps, tubular bells, haunting trumpet and dark tremolo guitar. This is another one I found in PJ’s schoolbook of folk songs, the original melody was a lot more upbeat and I felt it would work better for us if it was more sombre and orchestral so I came up with a new tune. My vocal was just for the demo so that the rest of the band could get a feel for the song but somehow it managed to stay there until the end and makes Marion sound even more fantastic than she already is (Ed….the rest of the band thought your vocals were fabulously perfect on here Parky!) 

Cold blows the wind tonight true love, cold are the drops of rain 

I never had but one sweetheart. In Grayswood she lies slain 

I’ll do as much for my sweetheart as any young man may 

I’ll sit and mourn all on her grave a twelvemonth and a day 

The twelvemonth and a day were passed 

The ghost began to speak 

Why weep you there upon my grave and will not let me sleep 

what is it that you want of me and will not let me rest 

Your salty tears they trickle down and soak my linen dress 

What dost thou want of me true heart of me what dost thou crave 

Well only a kiss from your lily white lips then I’ll go from your grave 

My lips are cold as clay sweetheart, my breath is earthy strong 

And if you kiss my lily white lips your time will not be long 

Our time be short our time be long, tomorrow or today 

May Christ in heaven have my soul, but I'll kiss your lips of clay 

When shall we meet again sweetheart, tell me, tell me when 

As the oaken leaves fall from the trees and green will spring again

 

Cold blows the wind tonight true love, cold are the drops of rain 

I never had but one sweetheart, in Grayswood she lies slain 

I’ll do as much for my sweetheart as any young man may 

I’ll sit and mourn all on her grave a twelvemonth and a day 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar, Baritone guitar 

Mark Stevens: Lead vocals, Drums, Trumpet, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Harmony vocals, Violin, Viola, Cello 

Gemma Shirley: Background vocals, Keyboards 

Guy Fletcher: Violin, Mandola 

Gregg Cave: Acoustic guitar 

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

The Mare and the Foal 

Gregg 

These words jumped out at me and I knew I wanted to do something with them. A nonsense song really, just like the nonsense we’ve all had to put up with in recent years from our so-called leaders of the Free World. Again I added the chorus and last verse. This last verse I feel sums up the mood nicely.. Thank you Alan Hull for the inspiration with this one!

A mare and a foal ran with great speed, 

The mare from the Bible began for to read.

Stay said the foal but before you begin, 

Whatever you pray for I’ll answer amen. 

We’ll pray for the millers, who grind us our corn 

For they are the biggest rogues that were born. 

Instead of one sack they’ll take two for toll 

May the Devil take millers…amen said the foal. 

Chorus

Cause when you add it all up, there’s not a lot 

Just a lot of empty lies in the councillors plot. 

Makes about as much sense as the mare and the foal. 

We’ll pray for the tailors for they are no men 

They’ll buy an old coat and they’ll sell it again. 

They’ll rub it and scrub it and darn up a hole 

May the Devil take tailors…amen said the foal. 

 

Yes we’ll pray for the butchers for they are great cheats, 

They’ll buy an old cow and sell it as young meat. 

May their fingers be burnt into cinders of coal 

may the Devil take butchers.. amen said the foal 

 

(Chorus) 

We’ll pray for the politicians that cheat 

Oh they’ll buy an old bus and they’ll lie and they’ll bleat. 

May their lies be etched on their graves of stone 

May the Devil take liars…amen said the foal. 

(Chorus) 

 

PJ Wright: Electric guitar, Pedal steel guitar, Slide guitar 

Mark Stevens: Drums, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Backing Vocals, Violin

Gemma Shirley: Background vocals

Guy Fletcher: Background vocals, Mandolin

Gregg Cave: Lead vocals, Acoustic guitar

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

Staunton Whale 

PJ

Collected by A L Lloyd as ‘Whaling in Greenland’, published in Something to Sing - ed. Geoffrey Brace, Cambridge University Press, 1963.

They signed us weary whaling men

For the icy Greenland ground

They said we’d take a score of whale

while we were outward bound

while we were outward bound

The lookout up in the barrel stood

A spyglass in his hand

There’s a whale, there’s a whale, there’s a whalefish he cried

And she blows at every span

She blows at every span

 

Captain stands stands on the quarter deck

The ice is in his eye

Overhaul, overhaul let your davit tackle fall

And put your boats to sea

And put your boats to sea

 

The harpoon struck, the line ran out 

The fish gave a flurry with its tail

The boat went down with a dozen men

They never did catch that whale

They never did catch that whale

‘Bad news, bad news,’ our captain said

And grieved his heart full sore

But losing a hundred-barrel whale

Oh, it grieved him ten times more

It grieved him ten times more

Oh the winter star did then appear

It was time to anchor weigh

And stow below our running gear

And homeward bear away

And homeward bear away


 

PJ Wright: Lead vocals, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar

Mark Stevens: Drums, Harmony vocals, Percussion 

Marion Fleetwood: Violin, Cello 

Gemma Shirley: Violin, Background vocals 

Guy Fletcher: Violin, Background vocals 

Gregg Cave: Background vocals 

Brendan O’Neill: Bass guitar 

Simon Care: Melodeon

And the final words go to Brendan……. 

Bass, 4 simple letters and 4 strings (no more!). That’s what I have been bringing to the TRADarrr party since I took over Bass duties from Tim Harries (some very big shoes to fill) in what seems like an age ago. 

We have done many gigs and most have been great! I say most, as the first few may have been a bit nerve-wracking and it can take time to bed in with these things, but I have found my groove, evidence for which can be found in the latest album ‘Strange News’.

I love the gigging aspect of TRADarrr, festivals, theatres (both home and away!), bars and back stage and I also love recording. The fruits of which you can now purchase!! Please do!! The process was different to what I have been used to in previous bands. I am used to recording altogether in a sweaty studio somewhere, this was a little more refined and done in a much more professional way!! With much more tea! 

Thanks must go to Parky for making me sound better than I am, apparently you can polish a turd, and it’s all come out sounding rather lovely!! 

It’s been great playing with these lot who are all fantastic in their own way, and they all have many more strings to deal with than I do. 

Long may this continue, but if and when(!) we make it to the next album (let’s enjoy this one first) I will have to add to my musical arsenal! 

Do enjoy the album. I recommend a healthy bit of volume and a strong cup of tea! See you soon 

Brendan

Produced, developed and engineered by Mark Stevens at The Moulton Pie Company Studio, Northamptonshire

Mixed by Mark Stevens and Mike Stevens at Sheen Lane Studios

Additional recording at Hedge of Sound, Warwickshire, by PJ Wright

Design by Mick Toole

Manufactured by Akcent Media

© Hedge of Sound Records HOS26 2020

Released January 29th 2021 through Proper Music Distribution

http://www.propermusic.com

Download a pdf of these sleevenotes here