Pitching up at Normafest a few weeks ago, David Suff was one of the first faces we spotted in main hall. With his exceptional beard (hipsters, take note), the current Mr Topic Records (and acclaimed artist) is not easily missed, and I made a beeline for his stall, as much to try and engage him in conversation as to check out his wares.
Category: Folk music writing
Normafest 2017 took place at Whitby Pavilion, January 6-8, 2017. Sadly, Norma Waterson was too ill to attend, as was guest star, Richard Hawley. However, those that did make it were in rude health, the excesses of New Year already a distant memory.
Something of a Greatest Hit, as far as folk songs go, “Hard Times of Old England” has been sung by everybody and anybody, from Martin Carthy to Stick in the Wheel. An 18th century song, it appears no fewer than 28 times in the folk archives at Cecil Sharp House, with many of those entries connected to the Copper Family, with whom the song is perhaps most closely associated. A recording of Ron Copper singing the song was made in 1955, and it first appeared in public as part of their 1963 collection, Traditional Songs from Rottingdean.
On a visit to the Cecil Sharp House library earlier this month, I came across a rather wonderful book called The Sounds of History: Songs and Social Comment by Roy Palmer. I must have been in something of a naughty-minded disposition, as I quickly found my way to the chapter on ‘The Sexes’ – a discourse on intimacy as portrayed in traditional song – and was delighted to learn of a sadly forgotten pastime known as “night visiting”, a hobby so popular that it seems to have become a genre of its own.
One of the reasons I started the blog aspect of The Grizzly Folk website is that I’m fascinated by the stories that sit behind many of my favourite songs. Whether they’re old traditionals or brand new tunes, there’s nearly always a reason for their existence. And so I thought I’d try and dig about a bit and see what I could find.
Not enough wassailing is done in this day and age, in my opinion. It’s a lost talent, overdue a comeback, and this year I intend to get right back into it. There’s no time to lose, either – wassailing is best enjoyed over the festive season, and come late January, wassailing is rarely found for neither love nor money.
I interviewed Graham Coxon, a huge hero of mine, for Time Out in 2009. At the time, Graham was promoting The Spinning Top, an album that owed a lot to late 1960s folk troubadours such as Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. I remember it as a tough interview. I rarely get starstruck. Maybe chatting with the man I’d seen so many times in concert through me a bit. If he’s ever up for a repeat performance, I’d be game!