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The Watersons Frost and Fire

DigiTrad:
SCARECROW


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Meaning of The Scarecrow by Lal Waterson (17)
Lyr Req: Dominion of the Sword (Martin Carthy) (30)
(origins) Origin: Fine Horseman (Lal Waterson) (41)
(origins) Origins: Jack Frost - Mike Waterson (13)
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GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 05 Jul 03 - 04:00 AM
John MacKenzie 05 Jul 03 - 04:58 AM
masato sakurai 05 Jul 03 - 07:56 AM
Folkiedave 05 Jul 03 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton 06 Jul 03 - 11:25 AM
GUEST 09 Jul 03 - 11:49 AM
John MacKenzie 09 Jul 03 - 01:15 PM
greg stephens 09 Jul 03 - 06:26 PM
Leadfingers 09 Jul 03 - 07:09 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 10 Jul 03 - 11:43 AM
Kevin Sheils 10 Jul 03 - 11:52 AM
Folkiedave 16 Jul 03 - 04:05 PM
Nerd 17 Jul 03 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,eliza C 17 Jul 03 - 11:39 AM
Herga Kitty 17 Jul 03 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 17 Jul 03 - 04:13 PM
Folkiedave 17 Jul 03 - 05:57 PM
GUEST,eliza c 18 Jul 03 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 19 Jul 03 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,eliza C 19 Jul 03 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 19 Jul 03 - 08:59 AM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 20 Jul 03 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,eliza c 20 Jul 03 - 06:28 AM
GUEST 20 Jul 03 - 07:04 AM
GUEST,eliza C 22 Jul 03 - 10:06 AM
Harry Basnett 23 Jul 03 - 06:51 AM
Nerd 23 Jul 03 - 10:55 AM
Folkiedave 01 Aug 03 - 05:30 PM
MartinRyan 01 Aug 03 - 06:29 PM
Hrothgar 04 Aug 03 - 07:14 AM
GUEST,eliza c 04 Aug 03 - 01:42 PM
izzy 04 Aug 03 - 02:40 PM
dick greenhaus 04 Aug 03 - 05:05 PM
stevethesqueeze 05 Aug 03 - 07:43 AM
izzy 05 Aug 03 - 08:40 AM
dick greenhaus 05 Aug 03 - 04:22 PM
izzy 05 Aug 03 - 06:17 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 17 Aug 03 - 04:43 AM
Harry Basnett 17 Aug 03 - 05:10 AM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester 17 Aug 03 - 05:19 AM
Bassic 17 Aug 03 - 06:13 AM
GUEST 17 Aug 03 - 06:48 AM
AggieD 17 Aug 03 - 06:53 AM
Folkiedave 27 Aug 03 - 05:06 PM
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Subject: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 05 Jul 03 - 04:00 AM

I first heard Frost and Fire around 1964 and I have never tired of listening to it. How did such a group of young people gather together and sing such an extrodinary collection of songs that defined an approach to old songs that?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 05 Jul 03 - 04:58 AM

I listened to a Radio 4 programme the other week about the Yorkshire carol singing tradition. It was something I was totally unaware of, and it sounds like a continuing and enjoyable tradition which I'd like to know more about. My first thought on hearing some of the recordings of the carols was; that sounds like some of the early Watersons stuff. So I wonder if that is the root of some of the style, and material of the family? I still have my copy of Frost and Fire, and it's still one of my favourites.
Giok


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: masato sakurai
Date: 05 Jul 03 - 07:56 AM

The Watersons: Frost and Fire (notes & lyrics)


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Jul 03 - 04:23 PM

I can answer this with a fair amount of certainty in that the Watersons only came to the Sheffield carol tradition in the early 70's or maybe even later.

Martin and Norma used to come on a regular-ish basis and I can remember them bringing the young Eliza about ten/fifteen years ago. The last time I can remember Martin and Norma at the carols was the year the National Lottery started.

Mike I know has never been and each year I invite him. I am 99% certain that John has never been either.

Before John Harrison sang with the group Pete Ogley was a member and he was a particularly good harmony singer - I am sure he had some influence. He went on to join Cockersdale.

In fact the Watersons did not sing what is generally regarded as harmony - they sang the notes they felt like singing and this has some strange results.

Listen to Yorkshire Garland and Mike does a harmony on the line "Helmets glistening in the sun" (Side two first song as I remember) only on the first verse. He never ever repeated it either on the record or in real life as far as I know but it is is thankfully captured. That did happen from time to time on other songs and Lal was especially good at it.

But in answer to the question they were not influenced by the carols as such. The biggest influence was probably Bert Lloyd - but the singing was (and to my mind still is) unique.

Dave


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jul 03 - 11:25 AM

I guess the style clearly is their own. They are talented people who loved the music. Given that any collection of people singing together will generate harmony sooner or later some kind of small group harmony is unsurprising.

What about the songs, particularly on Frost and Fire? They are a from all over the country and all wierd in different ways. How did such a young group of people get to choosing such an incredible collection of songs?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 11:49 AM

Thanks to Masato. I have just read the notes that Bert Lloyd wrote for the sleeve of the original record. They seem to be a strange mixture of a Marxist interpretation of a Victorian view of ancient and magical people that might be true but then again not really based in a lot of evidence.

But I ask the question again: How did such a young group of people get to choosing such an incredible collection of songs?

Let me lob in another point. The Watersons and the Copper Family, clearly singers of immense significance who have brought and still bring much joy, seem to be accepted as carriers or bastions of a particular kind of old or traditional song. Some people might even say the epitome of English traditional singing. But group harmony singing, as far as I can tell, was rarely noted or collected by the great Victorian collectors.

So how did these two families gain their position they same to have?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 01:15 PM

They were/are genuine people who are/were good at what they do.
Giok


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 06:26 PM

My impression(I've never discussed it particularly with them)is that Bert LLoyd fed them huge amounts of influential material in their formative years.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 07:09 PM

Harmony singing was not as far as I know a 'Traditional' thing any more than accompanied singing.Traditionally songs were sung solo with
particpation only on the chorus (if any )and instruments were for playing for dancing.Of course Church Music did NOT follow this tradition.The Watersons were Unique in that they brought harmony singing of Taditional songs to the knowledge of the folk world at large in a way that was entirely their own.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 11:43 AM

Innovation within a tradition? A bit like The Cheiftains or Planxty?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 11:52 AM

There is a video available of an old BBC documentary about the Watersons "Travelling for a living" lovely grainy black and white film.

Well worth watching to get a feel for what they were like back in the sixties when they were just starting up (unless you're as old as me and can remember). Good for seeing the way they approached things then.

I usually see copies on the merchandise stalls at festivals.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Folkiedave
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 04:05 PM

I can add to the idea that that Bert Lloyd gave them a lot of material. They also sought out traditional singers though this was not a great source of material for them.

Bob Pegg (I think it was) wrote a scathing review of the sleeve notes to Yorkshire Garland in a little known magazine that I think was called "Abe's Music" pointing out that most of the notes were a complete horlicks. I think that might have been Bert really as well.

They were and are the loveliest of people (Mike a bit of a hypochondriac and Lal was a bit reclusive and really did not like being on the road). Wished I had as few faults.

Dave


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Nerd
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 11:34 AM

GUEST 09 Jul 03 - 11:49 AM 's second question was, how did the Coppers and Watersons gain recognition as the primary harmony groups; here's a shot at answering that one.

The Copper Family do sing harmonies on traditional songs, and apparently have done for some time. The question of how they began is hard to answer, but church singing, glee singing and other popular styles must have influenced them. There are other family groups who do this as well, albeit not many of them. The Coppers became the best known not only because they are the best singers, but because they have a compelling story that ties them to the tradition and the revival, and also because they skillfully and intentionally bridged the tradition-revival gap.

Th compelling story is that when the Folk Song Society was founded, one of the collectors who attended had just been to visit Bob's Granddad, I believe it was, to collect songs. So two of that generation of Coppers were made honorary members of the FSS at its inception. (someone here must know this story better than I do offhand. Any correction on the details would be appreciated). They had thus been "source singers" for the first revival. The family song-book they maintain and their family history also show that they have had an unbroken tradition of singing going back some 200 years, a very unusual thing to have documented. Bob Copper, in addition to being such a masterful singer, was a BBC collector, a writer, and to some extent a "culture-broker," bringing the tradition to the festival scene. For all these reasons, they are far batter known than any other group of their kind.

The Watersons, of course, are revivalists rather than traditional singers, and caught the wave of the second revival, as the film mentioned above will show you. They thus had access to festival stages, Bert Lloyd's help, Topic Records, etc, from the earliest days of their career.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,eliza C
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 11:39 AM

As far as I know the singing (not really harmony singing, it's true) came from the fact they had a large family in one house who all sang together, the fact that they were orphans cementing them with the older generation, their Irish tinker grandmother. They didn't ever really meet anyone else that did this, but the preponderence of fishermens choirs on the coasts could point to an older group singing tradition...?
cheers,
ec


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 02:48 PM

Nerd

It's not that they're the primary harmony groups, so much as that they're remarkable for singing together as a family. The Coppers sang because they had the book of songs. On the whole, they didn't sing songs that weren't in the book. On the other hand, if I remember correctly what Norma once said in an informal interview at the National(and Eliza can correct me if I don't)Mike, Norma and Lal sang anything and everything at every opportunity, including on the tops of buses.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 04:13 PM

What a bus trip hey? They certainly did something to the songs they sang. Songs from all over the place and always appropriate and always effective. I remember the fist time I heard Little Richard on a wind up 78. The same kind of emotional rawness that causes deep excitment or deep some thing. And Blue by Ms Mitchell?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 05:57 PM

I suspect that the Irish Tinker family is a bit of a myth. Certainly however, Granny West who brought them up was a second-hand clothes dealer.

There was another cousin - Hilary - who now lives in the west coast of America last I heard. Her father was brother to Mike Norma and Lal's Dad.

He had a picture he once showed me of Norma singing to hundreds of troops. Late 40's. Mother was also a singer (operatic) as I remember.

Fisherman's Choirs tended to be further north - I am not aware of any that were in Hull.

Regards,
Dave
www.collectorsfolk.co.uk


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,eliza c
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 12:05 PM

Hi folkiedave,
   The Irish tinker thing is certainly not a myth. Her name was Ward and she started the second-hand dealership in Hull from a cart. The Wards are a long-established Gypsy family and we can trace our connections all over Ireland, with connections to the Quinns and the Briggs.
Don't know if Gran was an operatic singer, as sadly I never met her. I shall have to ask to see that photo though, sounds great.
From watching Travelling for a Living and talking to Mum, it seems that Hull was rather known for big singalongs in the pubs. We all like to think of a culture where we all sang together all the time anyway, but perhaps pub singing and Church singing is the answer?
cheers
ec


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 19 Jul 03 - 08:15 AM

eliza,
I opened this thread and feel like joining in again. The reference to Little Richard was to try get at the emotional effect that F & F still have. Another that has that affect on me is Richard Thompson. So eliza c (for it is she) how about some Thompson songs from your family?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,eliza C
Date: 19 Jul 03 - 08:21 AM

Hi Les,
   Mother has recorded one or two on her solo albums; "God Loves a Drunk" and "Joseph Locke". She good. You should check them out. know what you mean about Little Richard too.
folkiedave, I asked Ma about the picture and she didn't know about it, but as she was barely ten at the time I suppose that's no surprise. Did you know the family?
cheers,
ec


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 19 Jul 03 - 08:59 AM

eliza,
so, how about Waterson-Carthy-Brass Monkey sing Thompson with the single becoming a surprise Christmas number 1?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 20 Jul 03 - 05:53 AM

OK am I out on a limb with this????

Can't you just hear them Down where the Drunkards roll, harmonies, fiddle, brass, bits of John Ks melodeon. Remember how much John K added to Steeleye? The Ship the Black Frieghter was that by Brecht no less??????


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,eliza c
Date: 20 Jul 03 - 06:28 AM

Les,
Possibly somewhat...
; )


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jul 03 - 07:04 AM

Do it, do it.

Perhaps Paul Simon would be interested in an album of songs that Martin has reserected from traditional fragments. I'm sure he would own up to sources this time.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,eliza C
Date: 22 Jul 03 - 10:06 AM

Miaow!! You know, they are good friends again now.
cheers,
x e ;)


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 23 Jul 03 - 06:51 AM

Les, this is a really interesting thread and I almost feel guilty about telling you off about thread-jumping! :0)

I like Waterson:Carthy and Brass Monkey doing their own thing...but I must admit a version of 'The Sun Never Shines on the Poor' would be rather interesting.

Cheers.........Harry.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Nerd
Date: 23 Jul 03 - 10:55 AM

Herga Kitty,

Since this thread hasn't died...yes, i was aware that we were talking about these two groups (Coppers and Watersons) as unusual in both senses: of part or harmony singing of traditional songs, and of the fact that they are families. My point was that there were other families doing a very similar thing (such as the Batt family and Millen family in Kent) who have gotten far less notice. That was why I wrote of the "compelling story" and "culture broker" aspects of the Copper family career, because that is largely what distinguished them from other families. The Watersons, of course, are a different kettle of fish, having come up essentially in the revival scene rather than the very local rural lifeways of the Coppers or Millens back when Bob C was a lad.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Folkiedave
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 05:30 PM

Eliza,

Yes I knew Mike, John and your mum well. I knew Lal but never got close to her. I lived around the corner when they were in Louis St. and they used to come to parties at our house. I went out with Hillary for a while - that Branch of the family moved to near Stockport and I suspect they lost touch. I understand Hillary camne to see the family a few years ago when they were in the States. Contact me via my website (below) for a longer chat of the connection.

Dave Eyre
folkiedave
www.collectorsfolk.co.uk


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: MartinRyan
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 06:29 PM

Although I had, apparently, been learning traditonal songs from my grandfather when very young, I had long since lost interest and moved on to other music - especially jazz. Then, in the late sixties, I was visiting an Irish friend in Holland, of all places, and he had just bought two LP's. One was F & F and the other was Frank Harte's first Topic release. I went back to traditonal song!

Martin and Norma (and Mike?) have, in various combinations, turned up at the Inishowen Ballad & Folksong Seminar (a very formal title for a very informal weekend) in recent years - a great pleasure.

Regards


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Hrothgar
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 07:14 AM

If that grainy black and white film is the one I saw a little while ago - the really impressive thing on it is the volume of cigarette smoke in the folk clubs. I couldn't live in it now.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,eliza c
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 01:42 PM

god, yes...and mother dancing with a fag in her hand-and mother singing with a fag in her hand-and mother walking along with a fag in her hand...(cigarette "fag", for the American cats ;)) :)


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: izzy
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 02:40 PM

Slight thread creep somewhat, but I love "For Pence and Spicy Ale". I particularly like the Apple-Tree Wassail and have been annoying my folks by going around the house singing it at the top of my voice (I'm no Waterson, unfortunately!) I really appreciate the fact that the Topic reissue included the Mike Waterson recording of "The Seven Yellow Gypsies" --bloody unbelievable. Shivers crawled up and down my spine when I heard it, and I nearly dropped the cup of tea I was holding. Far and away the BEST version I've heard, and it's a pretty common ballad. Anyone else have the same reaction? I would like to hear the Watersons doing anything, basically, as long as they record something!

Speaking of folk clubs, I couldn't bear the smoke on the go in the old ones either. It would be absolutely great if folk clubs could all go smoke-free --anybody know if there are any plans for this? Quite apart from anything else, breathing in all that smoke is bad for the vocal chords of non-smokers as well as for smokers.

I don't have "Frost and Fire" yet. I'm still trying to get my mitts on it, though. It's one of the few major gaps in my record collection. Another gap will be filled when Anglicana comes in!! Cheers, Eliza, and good luck with the album (and the Dreams of Breathing Underwater thing) from a demented fan!

Love,

Isabel


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 05:05 PM

CAMSCO has both Anglicana and Frost and Fire in stock.


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: stevethesqueeze
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 07:43 AM

What an interesting thread.

Some years ago I remember hearing Martin carthy doing a radio programme about folk music. I am sure that he said that the Watersons, in the early days, had been fed lots of source music from bert lloyd and that in particularly field recordings of trad singers from eastern europe, bulgaria, hungary etc had been listened to and the type of harmony involved had been taken and that this had been the starting point of the arrangements they had used. I must admit when you hear Trio Bulgarka and similar singing you can hear similarities. i think thats what i remember from the radio programme. I remember being a little dissapointed as I ssumed it was a traditional british thing rather than a new twist. Mind you I love it.

stevethesqueeze


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: izzy
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 08:40 AM

Thanks, Dick, are CAMSCO on the internet? Sorry for the question --I'm relatively new to resources for folkies on the internet ..

Cheers,

Isabel


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 04:22 PM

A somewhat outdated and extremely incomplete catalog is at camsco.com

For up to date info, call me (my dime) at 800/548-FOLK (3655) or E-mail me at dick@camsco.com


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: izzy
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 06:17 PM

Thanks, Dick. I will have a look at your site.

Cheers,

Isabel


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 17 Aug 03 - 04:43 AM

Been away in France. Good to see the Thread has interested people and drawn out so much history.

Saw a great collection of Dancers from the South West of France (Le Lande?) They dance on stilts. We first saw them at Sidmouth on our honeymoon a thousand years ago. They sang some weird songs to a melodeon and some strange instruments I have never seen. One was a drum made from a jug with a skin stretched over the top and a stick going through the skin. I once heard Bert Lloyd descibe such drums and their strange erotic sound.

As Harry has pointed out I am guilty of thread jumping and am now in danger of jumping my own thread.

So returning to the point, F & F is strange and powerful as was this music from Le Lande and The Trio Bulgarka as Steve the squeze reminds us. Folk does throw this up from time to time to show that the tradition is alive.

Who in the current generation will be scaring us?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 17 Aug 03 - 05:10 AM

Gareth Gates gives me recurring nightmares.....welcome back, Les......


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton, Manchester
Date: 17 Aug 03 - 05:19 AM

Thanks Harry, confession is a find and cleansing thing but........


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Bassic
Date: 17 Aug 03 - 06:13 AM

Just to get back to the Black and White film thing, being born in Hull in 1956, it took me back to a city that had faded from my recolection somewhat. I had forgotten just how much of the place was flattened by bombing during WW2, and this film was some 15 years on from the end of the war and still there were bomb sites everywhere. (90+ % of residential properties had bomb damage!). There were a few "3 day millionaires" as a result of clearing that lot up!!
Sorry, having a "footy in the park, jumpers for goal posts moment" :-)


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Aug 03 - 06:48 AM

3 day millionaire. Wow what a song. Not a word wasted and so much said. Was it written by Mike Waterson for a play? Bright Phebus another and the Magical Mystery Man?

Good examples of creation within the tradition?


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: AggieD
Date: 17 Aug 03 - 06:53 AM

To get back to the theme of the thread, did anyone see the programme on BBC4 on Friday about Martin Carthy? Unfortunately there was a 'technical error' for the first part of the prog., but when both Martin & Eliza started to talk about the intuitive feeling they both have when playing music together, fair made me shiver.

I have been a fan of Watersons & Carthy for more years than I care to admit, & I still have Frost & Fire on vinyl. One of these days I must get around to getting it on CD!


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Subject: RE: The Watersons Frost and Fire
From: Folkiedave
Date: 27 Aug 03 - 05:06 PM

The play that Mike wrote "3 day millionaire" for was written by a guy called Phil Wood(s) and was called "Settle Us Fair". Trawlermen were paid basically by the amount of fish they caught and at the end of the 3 week trip they were paid (settled) by the amount the catch sold for. They were then home for three days (five tides to be precise as I remember) and then off to sea again.

My memory may be a bit at fault - but most of that is pretty accurate.

Dave


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Mudcat time: 26 September 12:09 PM EDT

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