Welcome to the Dragon Folk Club

Welcome to the official blog of the Dragon Folk Club, which meets for a singers night every Friday at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol. Everyone is welcome whether you sing, play or just listen.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Midsummer session

Cornish Hilltop bonfire on Midsummer's eve 2009
(Photo: Talskiddy)
It was great to welcome Rob back to last week's Dragon Folk Club session. It was unfortunate we could only muster three more singers, but we had a pretty good time of it.

Colin was back as MC and he started proceedings with Steve Knightley's Cousin Jack.

Through the evening Rob gave us a variety of songs including one he wrote himself. I think I'll list the ones where I found Rob's own videos because I always like to show you the actual singer performing where possible:

The only song of the evening you won't find in the playlist linked below is Simon's own song The story of John Twigg about an eccentric character from Alford, Lincolnshire.

It was Simon who finished the evening with When all men sing (Keith Scowcroft, Derek Gifford).

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 4 of whom 4 performed)

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Little links

Part of Welsh Back Quay
(photo: Simon Meeds)
It was certainly a skeleton staff at the Dragon Folk Club last Friday, but we got through 25 songs which isn't a bad effort. With a bit of luck we will be at least two up this week, so why not surprise me and come along yourself to make it even more. The more the merrier, the louder, the more satisfying.

In Colin's absence Simon was MC, but having arrived moments earlier Geoff was the first to sing with Tom Paxton's The last thing on my mind.

There were no major themes that emerged but links can sometimes be found.

Simon sang Ian "Nobby" Dye's Welsh Back Quay and Mike followed it with Paris here I come, which he learnt from Nobby. The latter is a translation of the French song En passant par Paris.

The only song we had which doesn't find it's way into the YouTube playlist linked below is Mary McCloud's parody House of the rising damp.

Geoff's singing of the Ballad of the Alamo (Dimitri Tiomkin, Paul Francis Webster) prompted Mike to bring out Santianna (roud 207). The Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna's forces killed 189 Texan insurgents on 6 March 1836 at the Battle of the Alamo and executed more than 342 Texan prisoners at the Goliad Massacre on 27 March 1836.

When Simon sang Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner and Geoff gave us Paul Simon's Slip-slidin' away, they were of course both using the works of people who grew up in New York. Tenuous link? I'll get my coat.

Simon closed the evening with Stan Rogers' Northwest passage.

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 3 of whom 3 performed)

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

The prodigal sons

Sailing ships at Boston Dock,
Boston, Lincolnshire
Last week's Dragon Folk Club session saw the return of two singers who we haven't seen for a long time: John B and Roger who added a bit of welcome variety to proceedings. It was also pleasing to note that while he hasn't been to one of our sessions for a long time, John B obviously reads these reports. I don't think any themes emerged and I'm afraid this report is going to be brief, but as usual you can find most (in fact all but one) of the songs we sang via the "a selection" link below.

Colin was MC as usual and started us off with Jez Lowe's Morpeth Olympics.

Both Roger and John B sang their turns through the evening, but on one of Roger's turns they joined forces with Roger on harmonica and John B on drum and vocals to appropriately sing Sloop John B (roud 15634 - otherwise called H'ist up the John B's sails or The John B sails).

The only song from the evening which doesn't feature in the "a selection" link is John Sykes' The Lincolnshire Song, sung by Simon. It's not that the song doesn't appear on YouTube, but that it is just part of a longer video of John's daughter Miranda Sykes singing and YouTube doesn't allow clips to be included in playlists.

Geoff gave us a poem, which turned out to be a version of Les Barker's Disaster at sea as modified by Fred Wedlock to locate it at Portishead.

Simon finished off the evening with When all men sing (Keith Scowcroft, Derek Gifford).

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 5 of whom 5 performed)

Monday, 30 May 2022

The Octogenarian

Bob Dylan at Azkena Rock Festival
in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, in June 2010

We were only four at last Friday's Dragon Folk Club session but we got through twenty nine songs which isn't too shoddy.

Colin as MC started the evening with Jez Lowe's The Lazarus Dance.

The main theme that emerged was driven by Geoff who sang exclusively songs by octogenarian, Bob Dylan, for his birthday:

Simon added one to the Dylan count with The mighty Quinn.

There's one more thing to mention before signing off and that is that Colin Colin sang a song which doesn't seem to know its own name. I think Colin thought of it as Wimoweh, possibly after the version by Karl Denver (or possibly not). Younger readers may know it as The lion sleeps tonight, possibly from the version by Tight Fit. It was however written in 1939 by Solomon Linda under the title Mbube.

It was also Colin who finished the session with Three Jolly Fishermen (roud 3496).

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 4 of whom 4 performed)

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Homeward bound

Ruins of downtown Hinckley after the 1894 fire
Last Friday's session was the last time we shall see Gabe, at least in the near future, as he will soon be heading home to the USA. I'm not sure we can really say a theme emerged from the evening, but if there was one it might have been American songs of various sorts with a couple of local West Country dialect songs thrown in to challenge Gabe.

I'm a bit short on time to write the report, so I will concentrate here on mentioning those which I was not able to find on YouTube. For the rest, please refer to the "a selection" link below. Despite quite a lot of chat, initially on the subject of beer, we got through a healthy number of songs: 36 if my count is correct.

Colin, MC as usual, started us off with You can't get petrol, written by Jimmy Crowley. While there doesn't seem to be a shortage of fuel at the moment the prices have certainly gone up so there may be some self-rationing going on.

Simon's self-penned song, The Story of John Twigg to the tune of Villikins and his Dinah (laws M31A/B, roud 271) tells the true story of an eccentric of the town of Alford in Lincolnshire who got up to all sorts of mischief during his life.

Gabe sang Charlie Maguire's The Hinkley fire. The entire town of Hinckley, Minnesota burned in a giant forest fire in 1894. The song tells of James Root and his Afro-American fireman Jack McGowan in one episode of bravery that was previously "unsung". They rescued nearly 300 people by backing up a train nearly five miles to Skunk Lake, where the passengers escaped the fire.

Geoff finished off the evening with The City of New Orleans written by Steve Goodman. Gabe recalled that his father, when a student in Chicago, often saw Steve Goodman performing.

And so, we wish Gabe good travels through Europe and on home to Minnesota. Let's hope we see you and your lovely wife Sarah again in the future.

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 5 of whom 5 performed)

Monday, 16 May 2022

Down the drain?

A slight downturn in numbers for last Friday's session, but more problematically the session was cut short, more of which later.

Mike informed me of an error in last week's report, which I corrected immediately. The basis for his version of Hanging Johnny was collected by Robbie McGregor, not by Johnny Collins as originally stated.

Colin, being MC as usual, started the evening with The Bold Fisherman (roud 291, laws O24). Mike continued in a similarly traditional vein with Claudy Banks (roud 266, laws N40).

Geoff's first contribution was from the pens of Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks. All the while, like some other songs from the same stable including Right said Fred and Hole in the ground, was written for Bernard Cribbins.

Simon pointed out that we were in the midst of Eurovision season and sang tow previous songs from the contest: All kinds of everything (written by Derry Lindsay, Jackie Smith; performed by Dana for Ireland in 1970; placed 1st) and Are you sure? (written by John Allison, Bob Allison; performed by The Allisons for United Kingdom in 1961; placed 2nd).

We now know that in the 2022 contest Ukraine were victorious with the United Kingdom coming second. It is perhaps worth noting that several of the entries alluded to aspects of the countries' folk traditions, including Ukraine, France, and Moldova.

Colin had put a poem to music. He understood the poem, 50 shades of grey (a husband's view), to have been written by Pam Ayres. This belief seems to have evolved online, but Pam has denied it and the poem seems to have been written by John Summers.

Mike sang Sweet Nightingale (roud 371) and Geoff gave us Far away in Australia (roud 25792). While Mike was singing Mark, the landlord and birthday boy, came in, clearly wanting to tell us something. When the song finished he explained that the gents toilets were blocked and that he may have to raise the drain cover in our room though he was first trying other options.

Colin's next song, Les Barker's Van Gogh, turned out to be our last since we were then informed that both the ladies and gents toilets were now out of action and customers would be queuing through our room for the back-up toilets. At this sad news we finished up our drinks as the queue built. We suggested perhaps singing toilet-related songs, coming up with They're moving father's grave to build a sewer and Seven old ladies locked in the lavatory but quickly gave up. We also suggested counting the people in the queue and counting them towards this week's total, but that didn't seem quite fair. Once the drinks were drained we called it an early night. Let's hope the plumbing is fixed by this Friday.

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 4 of whom 4 performed)

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

No offence intended

Woody Guthrie
Last week's session saw the welcome return of our American friend Gabe who last joined us before Christmas. This time he was joined by his wife, Sarah, over from the States for just one week. To satisfy tradition I have to mention ervey song that first-timer Sarah sang, and I was going to leave it there, being once again short of time, but there was really just too much of interest to not try a bit more commentary this week, so here goes...

MC Colin started us off with The girl I left behind me (roud 23929). This leads us into two ad hoc themes which emerged. Firstly, an American theme. Colin had at one time associated the song with the USA , but Wikipedia tells us it "is an English folk song dating back to the Elizabethan era. It is said to have been played when soldiers left for war or a naval vessel set sail. According to other sources the song originated in 1758 when English Admirals Hawke and Rodney were observing the French fleet. The first printed text of the song appeared in Dublin in 1791. A popular tune with several variations, 'The Girl I Left Behind Me', may have been imported into America around 1650 as 'Brighton Camp', of which a copy dating from around 1796 resides in the Bodleian Library, Oxford."

The second theme was songs with the same or similar tunes. The tune Brighton camp is the same one used for The Waxie's Dargle as sung by Gabe, and The real old mountain dew (roud 938), sung by Colin.

It was Gabe also who initially picked up on the American theme with I ride an old paint (roud 915).

Sarah's first contribution also took us the North America if not to the USA, with the Canadian song The log driver's waltz (Wade Hemsworth).

Geoff also went American in theme if not in song origin with Gone to America (Peter Knight).

Mike chose to paddle his own canoe, highlighting May with Hal-an-Tow (roud 1520), traditionally sung at Helston on May Day. He went on to sing at least two songs with American connections: Roll the cotton down (roud 2627) and John Cherokee (roud 4693). He told us that the version of Hanging Johnny (roud 2625) he sang was collected by Robbie McGregor by overhearing children in a Gloucester school playground. Mike had added some of his own verses, which meant there was a verse for each of quite a number of British Prime Ministers, though he didn't include all of them in his performance.

Sarah sang us Kate Wolf's Across the great divide.

Geoff's singing of The rocky road to Dublin (roud 3012, DK Gavan) was followed by Gabe with the similarly set Cam' ye o'er frae France (roud 5814). This led Simon to pick on a word from Gabe's song and later contribute Geordie (roud 90, child 209)

Just to fill in a gap, Simon's song The transplant squad (Richard Stilgoe) can't be found on YouTube nor anywhere else on-line come to that, and so is not present in the playlist linked from "a selection" below. This song was just one example of a third theme, and one upon which I won't dwell too much, whether songs can or should offend people. Those present were of the general feeling I think that particularly old songs can be sung in the context of their history, and that in many cases acknowledgement of that history can be used to examine our own current views on a subject. Sorry to anyone present if my summary doesn't exactly match what was said.

It's notable that Mike has been asked to sing at a festival, I won't mention which. He is to sing shanties, but has been asked to avoid singing anything potentially offensive. Anyone who knows anything about shanties will know this is as close to impossible as makes no difference.

Sarah sang Town of Ballybay (Tommy Makem) which Geoff commented was better than his own version; I think it was the dramatic additions to which he particularly referred.

Colin's rendition of This land is your land (roud 16378, Woody Guthrie) prompted Sarah to ponder that what she sang as an innocent children's song at school in the 1980s is now rejected by certain factions in the States as being too far left.

I'm always pleased to be able to link to a video of the actual person present singing a song, and so I can with Gabe singing Slim Dusty's A pub with no beer.

We joined in with gusto as Sarah sang Sydney Carter's John Ball.

On the American theme, Geoff gave us his comic monologue about Ronald Reagan and the leprechaun, which leaves Ronald well hung after an encounter with a representative of the little folk. I have been unable to trace a video or script for the monologue, but just for fun, I wonder whether this had a similar effect?

Sarah got us singing the chorus of Roy Guillane's The great ships which tells of the end of shipbuilding in Glasgow. Along similar lines Geoff sang of the end of the fishing industry in Great Yarmouth with our friend Derek Brinkley's song Lament for the fishing.

It took me a while to find details of the song Colin calls "The handsome factory girl", and I was not able to find a recording. It turns out that The factory girl (roud V4694), not to be confused with at least two other songs of that title, was published as a broadside between 1840 and 1866.

Sarah told us of the shanty sing that she and Gabe attend in Minneapolis, which is about 1,000 miles from the sea. Michael Shewmaker from that session decided to write his own "local" shanty, Confluence, and it was that which she sang, carefully instructing us on how to join in the various refrain parts. The linked video says it is the writer of the song performing it, and I dare to venture that Sarah and Gabe may be in the throng singing at the top of their voices.

Colin told us previously that he had set Edwin Waugh's poem Oh the Wild ,Wild Moors to music and posted it on the Facebook group Friends Of Yorkshire Song And Music with the hope that it met their strict criteria. I know its acceptance had been delayed, but he was happy to announce that it had now been accepted to the group, and in celebration he sang it to us. I note from his Wikipedia entry that Waugh was a Lancashire man, so maybe Colin was lucky to get away with it.

Sarah last contribution of the evening was Alan Bell's song Windmills.

It fell to Simon to close the evening with When all men sing (Keith Scowcroft, Derek Gifford), which was known to everyone so they proceeded with "uplifting beams of Inn or Hall, and shaking plaster from the wall".

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 6 of whom 6 performed)