Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thanks Alot(???) Ye Olde Scottish Style . . .

YES, this is a cry for help! . . . either somebody take away the Shirley Collins discs I have or get me some new ones!?!

. . . Or almost everything you didn't want to know about my great and abiding love for Shirley Collins(!?!) but were afraid to ask weren't afraid to not ask!

Proud Maisrie

Proud Maisrie stands in the bower door
As slim as a willow wand
And by there come a gardener child
With a red rose in his hand, his hand
A red rose in his hand

O you shall have my rose, fair maid
If you'll give your flower to me
And among the flowers in your father's yard
I'll make a gown for thee, for thee
I'll make a gown for thee

Your dress shall be the smelling thyme
And your petticoat camovine
And your apron of the
salindine celandine
Come kiss sweetheart and join, and join
Come kiss sweetheart and join

Your feet I'll shoe with yon red rue
That grows in the garden fine
And I'll line them with the
tappidance (tappitan)
So join your love with mine, with mine
So join your love with mine

Since you have made a gown for me
Among the summer flowers
So I will make a suit for thee
Among the winter showers, showers
Among the winter showers

The milk white snow shall be your shirt
And lie your body next
And the murk black rain shall be your coat
With a wind gale at your breast, your breast
A wind gale at your breast.

The bonnet that's be upon your head
Shall be of the southren (sic) grey
And every time that you pass by
I'll wish you were away, away
I'll wish you were away

That's my transcription of Shirley's version of the song "Proud Maisrie" which is an offspring of "The Gardener" which is Child ballad #219. The two italicized flower names I have no idea about, I've seen 'solodine' where I have 'salendine', I went w/ 'salendine' b/c that sounds more like what Shirley's singing and that is at least a place name. (It's 'celandine', the other day I watched again Derek Jarman's wild girls anarcho-classic "Jubilee" and during one of the queen Elizabeth I sections she and/or her court magician John Dee mentions 'Celandine', which i looked up and it's a variety of poppy.) No such luck w/ the other head scratcher 'tappidance' and what Shirley sings sounds to me more like 'tappitan'? The other flower name 'camovine' I saw somewhere is an archaic version of chamomile.

That album "Folk Roots, New Routes"really took me a bit of time to get into, as I've written about previously I really prefer my doses of Shirley's song styling neat, straight no chaser and her accompanist here Davy Graham is anything but, his guitar work is all over the place incorporating jazz touches and middle eastern flourishes, which is all fine and good and he is highly regarded, I've read. I believe he was a big influence on Bert Jansch (who I very much like) but Davy Graham's playing w/ Shirley took some getting used to for me. Speaking of Bert Jansch (which for what it's worth his surname is pronounced 'yansch', I recently found out. and thank god, I hate it when I mispronounce a name/word. I'm just glad I caught that one relatively early unlike the great Jean Genet debacle of the early nineties!?! ) it was through looking for albums by him that I stumbled on Shirley. This one folk music blog I was getting Jansch stuff from had up a bunch of Shirley stuff as well and if it would've just been that, her album covers and tracklists I probably wouldn't have grabbed any of her music but there was a great picture of her (in her prime) up, looking like she'd just got out of a streetfight that did it for me (that's the picture I put in my first post about her). So I grabbed all I could get by her just on that and it really took me quite a long while before her music clicked w/ me. Alot of what I got there was mainly later stuff w/ her and a band or her and her sister Dolly and alot of that was all Renaissance(y) sounding, which I really couldn't get my head around easily, so I didn't even try to listen to it for the longest time. But for some reason the title of her "False True Lover" album got stuck in my head, I thought that was such a great title so I finally gave that song a good listen and I became completely addicted to that one song and then from there other songs from that album started to open up for me and before I knew it was hopelessly hooked on Shirley's voice. Anybody who knows me, knows of my great love for (as I believe it was the great Skip James called it) high-setto singing. And she hits the high-setto in spades on that album that and the almost percussive simple banjo playing she's accompanied w/ really did it for me. And then I think I read the relatively recent interview w/ her that's up on Perfect Sound Forever and she was just as no bullshit straight shooting as I had imagined her to be from that picture of her I'd seen which initially sparked my interest in her. Talking frankly about the english folk music revival of the fifties and sixties that she was a player in and talking shit on the big daddies Ewan McColl and in America on Pete Seeger, calling them out for their too rigid orthodoxy. From there I eventually started listening to the other stuff by her I had, some of it I like quite a bit, the stuff w/ just her and Dolly in particular but nothing as much as the "False True Lover" album. Which I found out was her first or second album to come out I say first or second b/c the material on those first two albums were recorded in the same sessions and then released as two separate albums (the other album's titled "Sweet England"). The problem now is that once I can get my grubby paws on "Sweet England" it doesn't look like there is much of her catalog left for me to get (if I could even find it) that I'd be as interested in. And the other thing that is driving me crazy is that she pretty recently put out a book about her travels w/ the late great Alan lomax gathering folk songs in the southern states in the late fifties called "America Over The Water" but it hasn't been put out in this country (hopefully) yet.

So anyways, that is pretty much the whole story of my obsession w/ all things Shirley Collins as if anyone could give two shits!?! But getting back to the most recent album of hers that I bought, some of the other cherry moments for me aside from the tracks I've already written about. In track order the first song, "Nottamun Town" firstly the melody from that song Bob Dylan borrowed for his song "Masters of War" (not from Davy and Shirley's reading of it, though), anyways it's one of those weird almost nonsense lyric-y songs that for some reason brings to my mind Breughel's painting "The Triumph of Death" or maybe even more Bosch for it's phantasmagorically aspects, Davy works it out pretty well on the guitar also. Next comes "Proud Maisrie" which I wrote about above then there is "The Cherry Tree Carol" which I wrote about below, that song though is just Shirley singing and playing banjo and it could fit very easily on her "False True Lover" album. The next track is a Davy Graham instrumental take on the Thelonious Monk standard "Blue Monk", which I have always thought of as minor Thelonious work and I find Davy's reading a little too bombastic so I usually skip to the next track. the wonderful 'roll your leg over' ribaldry of "Hares on the mountain" which is chock full of classic couplets but the first two are particular favorites of mine:

O Sally my dear it's you I'd be kissing
O Sally my dear it's you I'd be kissing
She smiled and replied you don't know what you're missing

(and then)

O Sally my dear I wish I could wed you
O Sally my dear I wish I could bed you
She smiled and replied then you'd say I'd misled you

"Hares on the mountain" is one of those songs w/ a million and one different versions and interchangeable stanzas, and it's one of those almost game songs kinda dirty dozens or like a myriad of blues songs such as "Bottle It Up And Go" (a.k.a. "Step It Up And Go") I've always loved the nonsense playfulness of those type of songs. Anyways "Hares on the mountain" (a.k.a. "O Sally My Dear", a.k.a. "Blackbirds And Thrushes") has it's origins in the Child ballad "The Twa Magicians" (a.k.a. "The Two magicians") which deals w/ popular beliefs concerning witches and warlocks w/ "the motif of successive transformation to aid flight from pursuers", I read that somewhere. The next song "Reynardine" concerns a werefox(?) is pleasant enough,Davy Graham's playing is subdued, to me it seems pretty standard folk song fare and I haven't really investigated it much further. The next track "Pretty Saro" is also pretty standard folk song fodder, "blah blah blah I'm in some far off country (Australia or America, here i think it's Australia?) and I'm alone and I left my girl behind and i miss her blah blah blah", it's a slow dirgey track that Davy Graham incorporates a bunch of middle eastern touches to his playing w/ an overblown solo workout in the middle of the song, snore. But this song does something which is one of the things I very much like about Shirley (and in general), which is when the singer doesn't change the sex of the song's protagonist to suit their own sex i.e. the protagonist of "Pretty Saro" is a man but the song is being sung by a lady. I always like that, or more precisely, I hate it when singers do the opposite, change the sex of the songs protagonist to suit the sex of the singer, to me it seems to take away from the integrity of the song (or maybe I mean, gives too much integrity to the song?)? I don't know, the other way it seems to make more of the song than what it is? Up next is "Rif Mountain" another instrumental track w/ middle eastern flavor which I usually do listen to but it's so overblown and the punning title bothers my delicate sensibilities(HA!). The next track "Jane, Jane" is again kinda nonsense-y lyric-wise but Shirley's interpretation of it kinda reminds me of the great Skip James song "Crow Jane", Davy's playing here is a little more fitting w/ the exuberance of the lyric. Next comes "Love Is Pleasing" which is a pretty standard sad love song about the vagaries of the subject. Then comes "Boll weevil, holler" and "Hori horo" the former an Anthropomorphizing account of the cotton pest and the later is again pretty standard sad love song fare. then comes up two more songs that I especially enjoy; "Bad Girl" (a.k.a "One Morning In May", a.k.a. "The Bad Girl's Lament"), which is one of those 'woe is me' deathbed laments, this one concerns a young lady dying from an unspecified social disease, what I like about this song is that it's a direct relation of "Streets Of Laredo" (a.k.a. Cowboy's Lament) and both of those songs are related to "St. James Infirmary" and all of them may come from the Irish ballad, "The Bard Of Armagh" (a.k.a. The Unfortunate Rake). Again, anybody that knows me knows of my 30+ years fixation w/ the song "The Streets of Laredo" (since seeing "Bang the Drum Slowly" w/ my Dad in the very early seventies), So this song "Bad Girl" that Shirley does, when I found out it's origins, was instantaneously fetishized by me. The venereal disease in this version of the song is only hinted at from the cryptic lyric:

Go send for the preacher to come and pray for me;
send for the doctor to heal up my wounds
For my poor head is aching, my sad heart is breaking,
My body's salivated, and I know i must die.

Apparently the 'salivated' line has to do w/ the fact that the mercury used in the cure for syphilis would cause excessive salivation(!?!). Oh Yeah, and I love in these old songs when something is described as 'clay cold'. The next song and last one that I especially have a fondness for is "Lord Gregory", which is one of those 'woe is me i'm going to have a bastard' (or have a bastard as is the case here) songs, this song has it's origins in the Child ballad "The Lass of Roch Royal" and not only is it, like I said, one of those, 'woe is me i'm going to have a bastard' laments but it's also one of those about the interactions b/n the rich and the poor, e.g. the song Shirley does "Richie Song", which is actually almost the exact opposite scenario as "Lord Gregory". "Lord Gregory" concerns the outcome of a royal's dalliance w/ a peasant girl, whereas "Richie Song" is the old chestnut, poor girl falls in love w/ poor boy but it turns out the poor boy is really the king and then 'happily ever after.' Anyway back to "Lord Gregory" the two (well three, it's sad) things I like about it is that Shirley sings it a capella and that there are a couple of passages that are litanies of the heroines woes and about the disparity of their positions rich/poor, I've always had a fondness for litanies. The litaniness in "Lord Gregory" brings to my mind the (almost seemingly endless) ones at the end of the song Shirley does "The Cruel Mother" that tells what's going to happen to the cruel mother after she dies b/c she killed her children (w/ a penknife!). The next track is the last of the Davy Graham instrumentals, this one is his take on the Carl Perkins Bobby Timmons penned song "Grooveyard", it's a pleasant enough track and I guess by default my favorite of the Davy Graham solo tracks. And the last track is another sad love song called "Dearest Dear" I enjoy this one but really haven't given it a proper listening in this song though Shirley does this thing where she will repeat the last lyric but slower and more deliberate which I always enjoy when listening to that song.

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