Why “Ancient & Anonymous” you ask? Well, that’s what Pete Seeger responded when asked to define a folk song. Why folk songs you ask?....because my life as a songwriter was always defined by the rich melodic and lyrical traditions of British and American folk music.
Days of 49—I first heard this tune at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in the early ‘70’s; Fred Holstein, Chicago’s veteran folkie sang a great rendition from the main stage. I’ve always loved the wry humor in the folk songs of the American West—“they call me a bummer and a gin-sot too, but what cares I for praise?”
Lowlands of Holland—from an early (1970) Steeleye Span album, “Hark, The Village Wait”. This was from the era when Martin Carthy was with the band and you should track down this LP if you can.
Weeping Willow—An American folk standard, sometimes called “Corrina, Corrina”, covered by every folksinger, including Dylan.
Black Jack Davy—I think I learned this from Martin Carthy but can’t verify. Steeleye Span did it but certainly not this version.
Buffalo Skinners—A western American folk song for sure but I learned it from the singing of John Renbourn, a legendary British guitarist, on his “Faro Annie” album from 1971.
When I Was A Young Man—If memory serves, I first heard this on a “Chad Mitchell Trio” album, probably when I was still in high school. It’s antecedent is the British song, “The Unfortunate Rake.”
Tom O’Bedlam—Another song I originally learned from Steeleye Span, the album was “Please To See The King” from 1971. Maddy Prior sings the crap out of this song which was, originally, a poem from about 1620. Bedlam is short for Bethlehem which was the name of a mental institution in London, I believe. This is my version, which builds upon the Maddy Prior version with some addition lyrics which I found compelling.
The Cuckoo—This is my version of a traditional song. Note: it was omitted from the CD back cover!
Loving Hannah—a British folksong from the singing of Bill (Belinda) Jones. A simple unrequited love song which is fetchingly elliptical and powerful.
Willy O’Winsbury—Child Ballad #100. I think I first heard this on an Anne Briggs record. But Jackie McShee’s version on Pentangle’s “Cruel Sister” LP probably informs my take on this Scottish folk song.
That Lucky Old Sun—By this time it’s an American folk song, although it started as a popular song from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s done by the crooner Frankie Laine and a band leader named Vaughn Monroe. I remember my mom and dad singing it together while they washed the evening dishes. It was written in 1949 by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie.