First a floor spot by Alice Jones Crossing the Bar:
followed closely by the perennial Pete Coe with Penny for the Ploughboy:
Now Pete Coe and Alice Jones have been touring in a show together – The Search for Five Finger Frank (ballads, broadsides and dance tunes from Frank Kidson, a folk song collector from Leeds, 1855-1926).
Here to discuss with me some offerings from the Internet (over a virtual pint of Pendle Witch) is my old mate Nigel Harbron, singer/songwriter/folk journalist, who runs a session in Cumberland, and tonight, Nigel, we have a plethora of duos.
PW: Nigel, you’ve come across Liza Carthy and Nancy Kerr.
NH: Well, who hasn’t? Just a word about Pete Coe first, though. He is not far off being 70, and he both looks and sounds very well indeed. He may not be a household name, but he is the sort of performer who forms the bedrock of the tradition, and long may he thrive!
In their teens, Liza and Nancy were regulars at the many events the wonderful Folkworks then arranged in the North-East. I think the first time I saw them together was when they were skate-boarding in front of Hexham Abbey! A year or two later at a Folkworks workshop in Darlington, I noticed Liza making heavy weather of a tune on her mandolin, and I did wonder if she was ever going to follow in her illustrious parents’ footsteps. Just shows what I know about potential, doesn’t it?
Liza and Nancy performed as a duo for a couple of years, and I dug out their 1993 CD the other day. Surprisingly(?), it had more instrumentals than songs on it. I think my favourite track would be their unaccompanied version of Bushes and Briars, and, of course, it’s been uploaded to YouTube.
PW: I agree- that’s beautiful. Here’s one of those fine 3/2 hornpipes we’re so fond of in the NW, Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band – Cobbler’s Hornpipe
NH: You may be fond of 3/2 hornpipes, mate, but you’ve probably never struggled to put an interesting guitar accompaniment to them!
Let’s have some musical hilarity with the New Rope String Band at Hardraw Folk Weekend 2011
PW: I was sad to hear that the NRSB had called it a day, Nigel. Did you know them as the Old Rope String Band?
NH: Yes and yes: The New Rope had a farewell concert in Newcastle in October, and they have called it a day. They’ve been on the road for years, and I think they are simply exhausted – not surprisingly given what they get up to on stage. I knew the Old Rope, and, like many, couldn’t believe that a successful new band could rise Phoenix-like after Joe Scurfield’s tragic death, but the New Ropes managed this. The YouTube links here speak for themselves.
Here is the ORSB on WTV
PW: The Scurfield I know is brother Harry. Here he is at Swaledale in 2012
PW: Now Ian Carr has worked in many duos I believe, Nigel.
NH: Ian has had many playing partners over the years, but you might be surprised to learn that he was an original member of …. The Old Rope String Band! He went his own way after a year or two, which is when Tim Dalling joined the band. Ian is one of the most interesting guitarists on the folk scene, and his ability to come up with the unexpected is legendary. He has a sense of rhythm/timing that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern jazz setting, but, just when the listener is getting a bit edgy, he produces a burst of melodic music which settles the nerves! He formed a duo with accordionist Karen Tweed in the 1990s, and their CD SHHH has just been re-issued. My favourite track is Hanoria (especially the second part). I don’t think it’s on YouTube, but you can listen to snippets of SHHH tracks via Karen’s website.
Of course, if you want to hear Ian at his wackiest best, just track down almost anything by the long-running duo he has enjoyed with concertina-contortionist Simon Thoumire!
PW: Now Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts Exile (No Going Home) from their 1995 CD
NH: Kathryn won The Young Tradition Award in 1994, and she and Kate blended nicely. Nice perms, girls, on the CD cover, by the way!
Now your number one son gets just about everywhere these days. Here is Master R. Harbron with Tim van Eyken, playing Old Swedish
and he’s even managed to squeeze himself between husband and wife! Here’s Nancy Kerr, James Fagan and Robert Harbron
NH: I think I mentioned last time that Rob, Nancy and James were neighbours for a couple of years – in narrow-boats on the Kennet and Avon Canal! Their CD Station House is a favourite of mine, and, if you haven’t heard their very clever Let the Mystery Be/Pie in the Sky, you need to listen to the CD, as the YouTube version doesn’t do it justice.
PW: Now one of my favourite female vocalists performing Strange Affair- June Tabor with Martin Simpson
and a lovely English ballad now from Spiers & Boden – The Birth of Robin Hood
PW: What’s your last track, Nigel?
NH: The older I get, the more I think about my Teesside roots. I have no intention of going back to live there, but I am developing a degree of nostalgia for the smoke, the dirt, the deprivation…. Anyway, I went to see Richard Grainger at Middlesbrough Town Hall recently. To be honest, I didn’t know that much about him beforehand, but he is a songwriter who often makes you feel that you have known the song forever – even though you’ve just heard one verse of it! Have a listen to Come On By on his website, and you’ll see what I mean.
PW: Now I’m afraid the bar’s closed, Nigel, but just to wet your lips, here’s Good Ale from Bob & Ron Copper.
NH: I’ve just written a song which, to some extent, takes the p*** out of ‘good ale’. It’ll be on the website before too long (I hope!): www.tangledrootsmusic.com