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 9 April 2024

Tales of the sea and the iron road among others

Edward Harrigan in "Old Lavender"
Last week's Dragon Folk Club session had no theme, so the selection of songs was quite eclectic. Some minor, ad hoc themes emerged as often happens. Most notably though it was pleasing to see us back to decent numbers. Initially five arrived, though Paul apparently had a doctor's note excusing him from singing. Then Simon arrived to make six. We also had a couple of welcome, extended visits by a member of the bar staff who I believe may have been off duty.

Colin, as MC, started off the evening with Get up Jack, John sit down (roud 2807 - Edward Harrigan, David Braham) which came from a play called "Old Lavender". The play premiered on 3rd September 1877 though the songs came in a later version which was first performed on 1st September 1885. Braham was Harrigan's father-in-law. I could go on, but if you want lots more detail you can find it on Mudcat.

This not surprisingkly started off a maritime mini-theme, immediately followed by Steve C with Haul away Joe (roud 809).

Denny took us inland with Dalesman's litany (poem by Frederic William Moorman, music by Dave Keddie).

Bob was still getting his guitar and other gear together, so he passed, opting to sing two songs on the next rotation. This meant that Simon, who had just arrived, was put on the spot and so sang his party piece, King of Rome (Dave Sudbury).

Colin's second song Captain Kidd (roud 1900, laws K35) took us back seaward. Steve's lake song is excused for being effectively about an inland, freshwater sea, being Stan Rogers' song White squall, about sudden localised storms which have often taken casualties on the Great Lakes.

Denny's Three score and ten (roud 16873 - William Delf) certainly saw us back off-shore with a notorious storm off the East coast of England on 9th February 1889 involving the loss of at least eight vessels including two from Hull.

As promised, Bob's first contribution comprised two songs: Back to Tennessee (George Frayne, Billy C Farlow) from Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, and Blood red river (roud 15807).

It was Bob who later started a mini theme of railways with Golden rocket (Hank Snow). Simon followed on with City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman). Bob retaliated with I'm moving on (Hank Snow) to which Simon came back with Drill ye tarriers drill (roud 4401 - words by Thomas Casey [1888] with later music by Charles Connolly).

And so it went on. You can hear all 36 songs which were sung (but mostly not by the actual singers) by following the link to the YouTube playlist from "a selection" below.

Our friendly bar lady came in for a second time towards the end of the evening and said that her Irish mother had encouraged her to request The Fields of Athenry (Pete St John) and Simon was able to oblige. That just left it to Colin to close the evening with Waltzing's for dreamers (Richard Thompson).

This Friday's session will once again have no theme, so please come along and sing, play or perform in any way you prefer as long as it's acoustic. Failing that we would love to see you as our audience, to join in the banter, and maybe to sing along with a chorus or three.

You will find us from 8:15pm this and almost any Friday in the "barn" at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol (UK), BS16 9NG. You will also find free entry, a warm welcome, excellent acoustics and a reasonably priced bar. Some of the regulars will be missing this week, so we need newcomers and irregulars - you will all be very welcome.

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

(Number of people present - 7 of whom 5 performed)

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Easter 2024

Last week's session at The Dragon Folk Club was back to form with an adequate set of four singers meeting. Most had prepared some songs with relevance to the Easter season.

Colin started us off with Stan Rogers' The Mary Ellen Carter.

The first rotation continued with Denny singing I do like to be beside the seaside (roud 32459), a well known music hall song written by John H. Glover-Kind.

Paul gave us Waking Dreams (roud 22620) and Simon sang Elizabeth Cotten's Freight Train.

The only song of the evening not included in the YouTube playlist linked from "a selection" below is Paul's Tracks in the snow (Steve Thomason).

Simon finished off the session with his only offering the evening to mention Easter: When all men sing (Keith Scowcroft, Derek Gifford).

I'm not aware of any theme this Friday so anything goes as long as it's acoustic. Come and sing, play, recite a poem, tell a story or perform in any other way you wish. Failing that come and be our audience, join in the banter and maybe help out with a chorus or two. See you there!

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

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

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Solo @ The Dragon

The Abbey Road zebra crossing
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
Oh dear, only one person turned up to the Dragon Folk Club session last week. To be fair, with some core members away, it wasn't entirely unexpected, but it would have been nice if some of you could have kept Colin company for the evening. You see, when Colin is alone at a session he goes a little rogue and tends to sing well known songs that he would only usually bring out one or two at a time at our sessions, and when you hear what he's been doing you "sorta, kinda" wish you had been there - or at least that's my usual reaction.

Because they are so well known I could easily have picked videos for the playlist (see the "a selection" link below), which featured the original, or otherwise expected, artists, but that would have been too obvious, so I've treated it like one of those albums that bring together a variety of artists to do covers. Some of them are well known, others less so, but I think it's worth a watch and a listen. Just don't expect any "proper" folk music.

On the first side of his "album", Colin featured songs from the Beatles' repertoire including, in my mind, some lesser well known ones as well as some of my favourites. On side two he went for mostly Americana with a few gems from our side of the pond thrown in for good measure. I hope you enjoy this approach for a change. Well done Colin!

Normal service will be resumed this Friday when there will be a session despite it being Good Friday. There is officially no theme, but if you have anything appropriate to Easter or to any other anniversaries you can find going on then I'm sure it will all go down well. As usual, anything goes as long as it's acoustic.

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

(Number of people present - 1 of whom 1 performed)

Tuesday 19 March 2024

St Patrick's Day 2024

The Shandon Arms, Cork, Republic of Ireland
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
We had a great St Patrick's Day session (two days early) last week with a pleasing total of eight singers giving us 36 performances, mostly with some connection to Ireland.

This Friday's session will have no theme so anything goes as long as it's acoustic. Well, that's always the case theme or not. Your presence will be very gratefully received since we will be well down on the usual crowd with several people away. This is your chance to try out something new or to try singing or playing in public if you are unaccustomed. Colin, our MC, will be waiting to welcome you. With the weather starting to warm up and having found a heater the welcome indeed be warm.

Last week it was Denny who started off the session with Mountains of Mourne (Percy French).

The only song of the evening not to appear in the YouTube playlist linked from "a selection" below is Tom Lewis's the St Patrick's Day song which Colin gave us. It's not that the song isn't available on YouTube, but the recording of it alone has been removed and it only remains on a full recording of Lewis's album 360 Degrees (All Points of the Compass).

Another one that just scraped through t the playlist was Paul's "Old times of old Ireland", a lightly reworked version of Hard times of old England (roud 1206).

Some songs less often sung at the club and deserving a mention, whether Irish or not, include:

Simon brought the session to a close with the classic joiner-inner, Wild Rover (roud 1173).

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

(Number of people present - 8 of whom 8 performed)

Wednesday 13 March 2024

First times and name checks

Boston Dock, Boston, Lincolnshire
Last week's session of the Dragon Folk Club had no theme and a wide variety of songs was sung, forty in all. It was good to see Steve C join us for the first time in a while.

This Friday's session (15th March) being just two days before Paddy's Day will have a theme of St Patrick and all things Irish. You may be interested to know St Patrick's full list of patronages in case you run out of Irish songs. They are:

Ireland, Nigeria, Montserrat, the Archdiocese of New York, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark (New Jersey), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Boston (Massachusetts), Rolla, Missouri, Loíza, Puerto Rico, Murcia (Spain), Clann Giolla Phádraig, engineers, paralegals, and the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He is also invoked against snakes and sins.

Back to last week, Colin as MC started off the session with Boston Harbour (roud 613). We briefly discussed which Boston this referred to before deciding it was Boston, Massachusetts rather than Boston, Lincolnshire which has a man-made dock, opened in 1884, rather than a harbour. Nevertheless it is this dock which has inspired the featured image.

The only song of the night that doesn't feature in the YouTube playlist linked from "a selection" below is Paul's self-penned parody of Close the coalhouse door (Alex Glasgow) which he wrote while waiting in the car for Denny to have some dental treatment, and which he calls "Close the dentist's door". Of course "...there's blood inside".

There was only one song during the evening that was new to the Dragon database and that was from Colin, The pensioner's complaint (roud 1663).

Simon started a theme of firsts. The first song he sang at a folk club was Suzanne Vega's Tom's diner. The first song Denny sang in a similar situation was Oh! Oh! Antonio (roud V36813 - C W Murphy, Dan Lipton) and Paul's was Fathom the bowl (roud 880).

Steve arrived during the second rotation of the evening, and his first song of the evening was Jolly Waggoner (roud 1088).

Another ad hoc theme, first spotted by Colin, was songs with someone's name in the first line. I'll leave it to you to listen to the playlist and work out how many there were.

We had eight complete rotations of the room and while Steve missed the first Colin made up for it by starting a ninth just before the end, so his singing of New York girls (roud 486) brought us to a round tally of forty songs in the evening.

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

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

Tuesday 5 March 2024

St David's Day 2024

(AI image from Stable Diffusion)
Last week's Dragon Folk Club session actually fell on St David's Day, so no excuse was required to try to sing things related somehow, sometimes tenuously, to Wales... or even sometimes to whales (oh well). We were fine with four singers, but unusually we also had an audience member in the person of Denny's sister, who was a very welcome addition. I hope she enjoyed her evening; at least she laughed in all the right places.

This Friday's session (8th March) will have no theme, but then next week (15th March) we will be celebrating St Patrick's Day just two days early. I'll leave detailed suggestions of what you might like to do until next week's report.

We had a bumper set of 40 performances last Friday, and I should say that if any of them appear derogatory to Wales or the Welsh, no offence is intended. These are songs and poems from all sorts of different sources and of varying ages. Please enjoy all the recordings linked from "a selection" below in the spirit of entertainment.

There were just three performances for which no representative YouTube video could be found:

It was in fact Denny who kicked off proceedings with a song variously called "Always eat when you are hungry" or "Don't forget to breathe or else you'll die. The song features sung by Gracie Fields at the end of the film Molly and Me from 1945 and an earlier recording can be found at 2:05 in this Vitaphone short from 1928 called The Beau Brummels and featuring the vaudeville act Shaw and Lee. Denny however sang more words and to the tune Cwm Rhondda.

Simon took a leaf out of our friend Derek's book in order to follow the theme by trying and not always succeeding to sing songs from the repertoire of traditional Gower singer Phil Tanner. The Gower Wassail (roud 209) was partly successful, and Barbara Allen (roud 54, child 84) more so as was The oyster girl (roud 875, laws Q13), albeit not Tanner's version, but acquired from the singing of Rosie Upton (who is in the linked video). Although he had a couple more songs in this vein on file he cut his losses at this stage.

Colin's singing of The bells of Rymney (Idris Davies) gives me the chance to roll out a fun video made by our friend Gabe in which he visited each of the locations mentioned in the song/poem.

As people started to run out of Welsh songs (except for Colin who lasted out the night) we had a number of perfectly good if geographically random mining songs such as Paul with Close the coalhouse door (Alex Glasgow), and Denny with Down in your mine (Colin Wilkie).

Well' I've just about run out of time to write this report, so I'll just mention that Simon 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 - 5 of whom 4 performed)

Thursday 29 February 2024

A mixed bag

A Lincolnshire fenland farm in 2023
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
A happy band of four met for last week's un-themed session of the Dragon Folk Club. I'm rather late writing the report this week, so I will keep it short.

First of all let's get out of the way the advert for this Friday (1 March) when the theme will be St David's Day, which it is. Of course Welsh songs, songs about Wales and the Welsh, and at a push even songs about whales are very welcome, but really anything goes as long as it's acoustic, whether that's a song, a tune, or any other sort of performance.

And don't forget St David's other patronages, which compared to the other national saints of the UK and Ireland seem to be quite thin on the ground: Pembrokeshire (in South West Wales), Naas (the county town of County Kildare in Ireland), vegetarians, and poets.

To keep this brief I will mention just some of the less-often sung of the things we heard last week. You may think some of them are less-often sung for a reason, but I hope you will agree that others are gems.

I'll pause there just to note that we learnt the song Ivor tells the true story of dramatist, singer and composer Ivor Novello who was sentenced to eight weeks in Wormwood Scrubbs prison, serving four of those weeks, for misusing wartime petrol coupons. An admiring fan had stolen the coupons from her employer, but the court found that Novello was also culpable. This was a serious offence under rationing laws in wartime Britain.

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session - in fact it's all 36 of the songs we sang that evening.

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