Swan Necked Valve
The Swan Necked Valve Words: Alex Russell Tune: traditional
The Jenny Lind PolkaTraditional
According to A. L. Lloyd, Alex Russell, the author of this industrial ballad was known as the bard of the Dundee Iron foundries. I learned it a long time ago, from the singing of Matt McGinn. An apprentice is given a tricky task to prove his mettle, as it were. I've been quite careful to get the words right ever since I sang it in a club where two foundry workers in the audience got quite emotional about the process of making brass castings. Jenny Lind was a famous opera singer at the turn of the century. As a gesture of appreciation, a polka was named after her. Go figure.
Dockyard Gate Traditional
There are hundreds of sea songs in which bold Jack boasts about his amorous adventures around the world. Here's what his wife is up to while he's at it. This particular version is a synthesis of several heard over the years; in particular, on an early Oyster Band record, and from the singing of Maggie Christl.
Cairnomount Words: Alexander Balfour. Tune: Tony Cuffe
Cairnomount was originally published in the early 1800s as Donald, a Ballad by Alexander Balfour. It follows the classic broken token plot (minus the token). A lover returns in disguise to test his sweetheart's fidelity. He hints that she might as well transfer her affections to him, for her absent Donald is busy wrapping other women in his plaidie. She doesn't fall for this ruse and on learning his true identity, falls into his arms instead. She'd have been better off slugging him for playing such a dirty trick.
The Old Red Duster John Archbold.
John Archbold of Toronto has written several excellent songs about life at sea, all of which have that comfortable quality that implies that the song has been well worked in by generations of singers. This narrative about sailing with the merchant navy is a classic, and has quickly become a favourite with singers everywhere. The old red duster is the red ensign, flag of the British merchant navy
A Man's a Man For A' That Robert Burns
Inspired by the events of the French revolution, Burns wrote this well-known anthem in 1795 in praise of liberté, églité, and above all it would seem, fraternité. He took his theme literally. As with many of his best known works, he has borrowed much of it liberally from another song .
Magdalene Green Traditional
From his safe vantage point several miles out to sea, a sailor muses on a dalliance while in he was in port in Dundee. He'll make it up to her when he returns, honest. The air that follows, originally called The Caledonian Hunt's Delight, has an apocryphal tale attached to it. According to Burns, a Mister Miller, aspiring to compose a Scotch air, was told that if he stuck to the black notes on the piano, and kept some reasonable kind of rhythm, a passable air would result. You be the judge.
Laundromat Lover John Kirkpatrick
I love this song. If you are going to use metaphors in a love song, why not draw your images from everyday experience? After all, isn't Friday night at the supermarket supposed to be a good place to meet the opposite sex? What's wrong with the local washeteria then? Actually, it's quite a sad song, although nobody seems to notice much.
This cheerful song about the exultant feelings of a crew heading home after a long voyage was learned from the singing of Jeff Davis. The ship in question was an early relief ship, taking food to Ireland from the United States after the potato famine. The words can be found in Joanna Colcord's Songs of American Sailormen
The Bonny Wee Lassie's Answer Words: traditional Tune: Ian Sinclair
One of a whole set of songs in which a young man heads off to war, and finds that his first battle is persuading his girl friend not to come along as well. I always have the impression that he thinks he's off to somewhere like Tahiti, rather than the bloody fields of Flanders.
Jock o' Hazeldene Traditional
Several versions of the border ballad, John of Hazelgreen can be found in Francis Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. In the full story, the man encouraging her to marry his son is actually the father of young Jock. He takes her to him, in a medieval version of This is Your Life. This shorter version, assembled by Sir Walter Scott, implies that we're talking about two different suitors. He wouldn't be the first news editor to completely change the meaning of a story.
The Dundee Ghost Matt McGinn
I think I've known this little fable of Matt's since I first heard him sing it in the sixties. If I'd bothered to check the wonderful biography, McGinn of the Calton (published by Glasgow District Libraries), before I stood in front of the mike, I've have remembered that there should be another verse.
The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes Traditional
Here's a common theme. A young shepherd learns that loving the boss' daughter is more likely to get him banished than a seat in the boardroom. He should count himself lucky. If this song were two hundred years older, he'd have been taken for a walk behind the barn by her seven brothers.
Kilbowie Hill Words: Andy Hunter
The tune, The Dawning of the Day, has been used for several songs, and no wonder, for it's a beauty. This one describes the thoughts of an unemployed wooer with time on his hands, reminiscing on a love won, then lost, on the hills above Clydebank, birthplace of many of the world's great ships.
The Seven Deadly Sins Dick Nudds and Chris Sugden
When I first heard this sung by the Kipper Family, purveyors of little known variants of well-known songs, it was introduced as Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins. It's another of those priceless gems of folklore unearthed by Nudds and Sugden on one of their many fieldtrips behind the Kipper Family's bicycle shed. Two of the sins appear to have been lost in the mists of time.
Will ye gang love Words:Jacquie Lauder Tune: traditional
Here's a tonic for everyone who gets tired of the usual learned helplessness displayed by jilted lovers in folk songs. This one doesn't get mad, or sad - she gets a lawyer!
Collier Laddie Traditional
I learned this from the singing of Ed Miller, an Edinburgh man now resident in Austin, Texas. Many old songs illustrate how readily the differing lots of the various strata of society were accepted in the past. Moving upwards to a higher class usually only happened when some fair maiden was rewarded for honesty, beauty or diligence by getting married to some upper class twit out slumming. Our heroine, on the other hand, turns down an offer of the glamorous life of her betters, in favour of remaining a miner's wife, and happily avoids the dangers of the boom-bust economy. I like this better.
The Funeral Traditional.
The Temperance Reel
Robin Morton, one of the founders of the legendary Boys of the Lough, used to sing this music hall ditty; a cautionary tale about a funeral that goes wrong - so wrong in fact, that our hero, once he has sobered up and paid his bail, swears not to go to any more funerals until the fellow dies. The Temperance Reel is a well-known oxymoron.
Tak a Dram Words and music by Ian Sinclair
I learned this song from the Scottish group, Mirk. I usually close concerts with it for it's a great one for getting the crowd to sing along, even if it isn't very politically correct any more. After all, an exhortation to have a glass or two of single malt before you take to the road would probably make you jointly liable for damages in some jurisdictions.
The Swan Necked Valve / The Jenny Lind Polka 4:08
Dockyard Gate 3:23
The Old Red Duster 5:00
A Man's a Man for A' That 3:01
Magdalene Green / Bonny Doon 4:10
Laundromat Lover 4:36
The Bonny Wee Lassie's Answer 3:52
Jock O' Hazeldene 3:34
The Dundee Ghost 2:03
The Broom o' the Cowdenknowes 4:42
Kilbowie Hill 3:46
The Seven Deadly Sins 3:10
Will Ye Gang Love 3:42
Collier Laddie 3:22
The Funeral / The Temperance Reel 4:32
Tak a Dram 2:56
Alistair Brown: anglo concertina, button accordion, harmonica
Roger Houghton: guitar
Jeff McClintock: piano
Laurence Stevenson: acoustic and electric violins, mandolin, mandola,
octave mandolin, low 'D' whistle, hammer dulcimer, and stand up bass
Engineered by Laurence Stevenson
Produced by Alistair Brown and Laurence Stevenson
Mastered by Rod Crocker
Layout by Greg Fraser
Photography by Rosie Donovan
In memory of David Parry- Here's a toast to absent Friends
Thanks to Brian Doherty
Thanks to Paul Morris for the mandolin