Notes below by Martin Carthy
Arthur McBride and the Sergeant
I have always assumed that this highly subversive song was from East
Anglia, but in fact I don't know. It is probably 18th century in origin and I learned it from Redd Sullivan, who sang it with
great wavings of the arms—the folk world's Joe Cocker? The tune at the end is French.
When Lucy Broadwood first tried to collect this song she failed because the singer
refused point-blank to sing 'such an improper song' to a lady, and it took a special trip by a gentleman friend of hers to
get it. The present version is from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.
Polly on the Shore
A song about that most beautiful and most precarious of emotions—resignation,
and with a tune to match.
A song from the Percy Grainger collection of Lincolnshire songs.
Died for Love
It has been suggested that this is a fragment of a much longer ballad but this is really
immaterial when what you have stands perfectly well on its own. Taken from the Grainger collection of Lincolnshire songs,
from the singing of Joseph Taylor.
This is the result of a co-operative effort by Cyril Tawney, the Yetties, Frankie Armstrong
and myself. The tune is obviously for a very formal dance and has echoes of Michael Praetorius and before.
To the country person everything around him has its place in the pattern of nature but the
fox seems the odd man out. Among other things it seems that he kills for no reason, and although this has been explained by
diligent study, at one time it led to people attributing a very sinister aspect to him. He was believed to have magical powers,
and there are many stories of foxes appearing as people and threatening them in some evil way (Little Red Riding Hood is one
related). The same theme in a very debased form was made famous by Lon Chaney Jr's many appearances as the Werewolf on film.
Seven Yellow Gypsies
There is a whole school of thought which seeks to show that ballads are records
of historical occurrences. Possibly they are but I can't see that it matters two hoots. The idea of a wife being taken by
the gipsies is as old as the gipsies themselves. I have taken the liberty of filling the story out by plundering different
Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard
The story speaks for itself and really needs nothing written about
it at all. The tune I pinched from a version of the 'Holy Well'.
This is a rewrite of a song that appears in Child's English & Scottish Popular
Ballads and set to an imperfectly remembered tune usually sung to either 'The Broomfield Hill' or 'The Knight and
the Shepherd's Daughter'.
The Wren (The King)
Collected by Andy Nisbet formerly of Swansea University from two old ladies in