On the front cover: Left to Right: Lorna Campbell, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Phillips; Bottom Right: Ian Campbell; Left Centre: John Dunkerley; Bottom Left: Brian Clark
The first thing that strikes you when you listen to the Ian Campbell Folk Group is the rich texture and blend of vocal and instrumental sound. The Campbells are no three-chord City-billies, busking their way through a few favourite songs. The second thing that strikes you is that you haven't heard any songs about the Chain Gang, the Dust Bowl, or any of those other subjects close to the heart of the Coffee Bar Cowboy. In fact you are listening to a programme of British songs — and liking it.
The Campbells live in Birmingham where they run their phenomenally successful "Jug of Punch" Folk Club, but Ian and Lorna come from Aberdeen and it is from Scotland and the Border country that they draw much of their material. "TWA RECRUITING SERGEANTS" a favourite of the great traditional singer Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen; the classic ballad "THE UNQUIET GRAVE" "JOHNNY LAD" and "THE WEE COOPER OF FYFE" come from Scotland. "THE KEEL ROW" and "THE WATERS OF TYNE" come from the north-east of England.
The Campbell Group's repertoire reflects the growing interest in songs from the town as well as the country. "DOWN IN THE COAL MINE" is sung to one of the jauntiest of Irish tunes. The moving "JUTE MILL SONG" is a recently composed song by Mrs. Mary Brookbank of Dundee, and "THE APPRENTICE'S SONG" is Ian's own composition. The other recent song is Pete Seeger's setting of the Idris Davies poem "THE BELLS OF RHYMNEY".
Older, but still on the theme of work, we have the sea song "HOMEWARD BOUND" and the shanty "BLOW BOYS BLOW". From Australia come the fantasy "THE DROVER'S DREAM", and the wry but realistic "ROCKIN THE CRADLE" from England the pastoral "TO HEAR THE NIGHTINGALE SING".
Vocally and instrumentally, the Campbells possess a rich and remarkable variety of talents. They are fast establishing themselves in the top flight of international folk entertainers. It is hoped that this album will be another major step in that direction.
Released by special arrangement with TRANSATLANTIC RECORDS of Great Britain.
"Britain's Ian Campbell Folk Croup, if a quick Hearing … is representative, may be the most exciting new folk group in years." That's what New York Times folk music critic Robert Shelton wrote when he first encountered this disc and the Ian Campbdl aggregation — and he may not be far wrong. There is something undeniably charming about British folk music groups that somehow doesn't carry over into the majority of our own, a certain gentleness and sweetness and just the right light touch that leaves everything tastefully and sensitively defined. From the opening lilt of Davey Swarbrick's fiddle and the joyful tinkle of John Dunkerley's banjo, we know we are in capable hands. Ian Campbell and sister Lorna are urban singers who have studied the traditional nuance and mastered the graceful and elegant swing of British folk song. The Group's repertoire and musicianship are cut from the finest cloth; tradition and entertainment are the key words, and rarely have the two blended so honestly and pleasantly. The Ian Campbell Folk Group may very well be "the most exciting new folk group in years."
THE IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP
IAN CAMPBELL: Age 29, horn in Aberdeen, a great center for classic ballad singers, has been hearing folk song since an early age. His parents moved to Birmingham when he was 14, and he has lived there ever since. Formed a skiffle group "for fun" in 1955, but since, his active singing interests have turned to British traditional music. Before the group turned professional about six months ago, Ian was an engraver by trade, working on jewelry in Birmingham's famed jewelry quarter.
LORNA CAMPBELL: Age 24, Ian's younger sister, moved to Birmingham at the same time. Has learned most of her singing from Ian and has followed in his footsteps as to the type of material. Is now acknowledged to be one of the finest female singers in the British folk song revival, with songs ranging from classic ballads to contemporary protest material.
DAVE SWARBRICK: Age 21. His musical interests started in jazz, where he used to play electric guitar; has now found his niche in folk music. As a child in London, he started to learn the fiddle, gave it up, and didn't return to it until he was 17. He is an amazingly versatile musician, playing fiddle, mandolin, whistle, guitar, and almost anything else he touches. Before he joined the group, he was in great demand in record sessions as a fiddler. He is now probably the finest instrumentalist in Britain's folk song revival.
JOHN DUNKERLEY: Age 21, born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, but parents moved to Birmingham. He had the good fortune to become Ian's engraving apprentice, and fell under his musical influence as well. John asked Ian what instrument he should learn; five-string banjo was his answer. He learned it and joined the group about three years ago. He is renowned as a very sensitive accompanist, and this makes him particularly desirable in the presentation of ballads. He used to play the piano, but the nearest thing he could find to it that he could carry around was a melodica, which he plays on sea songs. He is currently learning to play the concertina.
BRIAN CLARK: Age 23, and the most recent addition to the group. He was an established solo folk-singer in London, but moved to Birmingham and filled a vacant guitar chair. In addition to playing guitar, he does some solo singing and also plays autoharp on some of the more contemporary material.
TWA RECRUITING SERGEANTS: The group learned this song from the singing of the great Aberdeenshire ballad singer, Jeannie Robertson. She sings it in a rather slow and stately fashion, but we thought it would go well in a swinging march tempo. Although the instrumentalists play in strict 4/4 rhythm, I found that my natural inclination was to sing it in 6/8, and this has obviously influenced my phrasing in this song. The Aberdeen dialect is rather strong, and, even in England, we find that audiences have difficulty understanding it. But we decided against "Anglifying" the words in any way in case we weakened them.
DOWN IN THE COAL MINE: Collected by A. L. Lloyd and published in Coal Dust Ballads, a Workers Music Association publication. The rather pompous words were written by a Durham miner about 80 years ago, but the tune is from the Irish tradition. 1 know it as The Roving Journeyman, but Dave Swarbrick says it is also called The Red-Haired Hoy, and it may have several other names.
GARTAN MOTHER'S LULLABY: This song was introduced to us by Charles Parker, who collaborated with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in the creation of the BBC's wonderful Radio Ballad series. Charles found the song in Hughes' Irish Traditional Singers; he wrote it into his production of a traditional nativity play and invited Lorna to sing it. It has been a favorite in her repertoire ever since.
BELLS OF RHYMNEY: Here is a genuine transatlantic creation: a poem by the Welsh miner-poet Idris Davies with a tune put to it by Pete Seeger. We first heard it in 1961 when we appeared at a concert with Pete in Birmingham, England. We were impressed by the rich coloration of his 12-string guitar arrangement, but decided to put the tune into a stricter tempo to contrast with his rather free treatment and to utilize the possibilities of our richer vocal texture. If we were to arrange this song today, I doubt if it would sound like this recording, but, as this is the form in which it has become very popular with many of our friends, we have decided to let it stand.
APPRENTICE'S SONG: I wrote this song in 1962 for a dramatic work called The Maker and the Tool, by Charles Parker. The work utilized not only singers, dancers, musicians, cine and still film projection, actors, and narrators, but also interviews with workmen from various trades, including the gas industry. From these recordings, I drew the material for the lyrics of the song, intending to set them to a traditional tune. But I could not find a tune to satisfy me, so I wrote this one, and then found that I had to rewrite the words. We don't often perform it in public because, out of context, the song needs too much introductory explanation.
INSTRUMENTAL MEDLEY: Dave Swarbrick has played in ceilidh bands for English country dancing and for Morris and sword dancing; his mind is a ragbag of wonderful tunes and tune fragments, most of which he cannot name. When he puts a medley together, it is left for John Dunkerley to add chords and countermelody, strictly within the mode, on banjo, and Brian Clark to add rhythm chords and bass line on guitar. The whole thing is initially improvised, and the result is often a surprise for all concerned.
ROCKIN' THE CRADLE: One of Bert Lloyd's songs from New South Wales. We heard him sing it at a concert in London, and liked it very much. He very kindly sent us the words and music. It is a variant of the popular student song. Baby, Lie Easy.
JOHNNY LAD: This is a Glasgow street song which has been popular since the early days of the folk song revival in Britain. There are a great many existing verses — bawdy, satirical, and irreverent — and more being created all the time; we are constantly encountering new verses, often highly topical and sometimes unfit for public performance. Johnny Lad is one of the proofs that the oral tradition is not yet dead in Britain.
BLOW, BOYS, BLOW: This well-known sea song is found in many collections, from Lomax to Hugill. It was a favorite of Brian's long before he joined the group, and, when we came to make this recording, he decided he would like to sing it. When he stood up to the microphones to do so, the group joined in, and this is the result.
THE KEEL ROW: Here is the sort of folk song that is learned by every British school child. It has been popularized by concert artists such as Kathleen Ferrier, and the result is, although everyone knows the song, no one ever sings it. It is found in many printed collections of English and Scottish songs, both countries claiming it as their own. Robert Burns wrote a set of words for it, and described it as a Border song, thus neatly side-stepping the issue. Although the tune is probably Scottish, the words used here come from Tyneside. The "keel" of the title refers to the keelboats or barges that plied the Tyne with coal and clay; the "Sandgate" is a dockside street in Newcastle.
THE UNQUIET GRAVE: I think this is my favorite English folk song. Many variants are found in the published collections of most authorities, and most of the versions that I have encountered have these or very similar words, but I have never seen this particular tune printed. I learned it from a young revival singer who got it from Shirley Collins. Shirley has forgotten where she found it. I like John Dunkerley's accompaniment to the song (and find it very easy to sing with). The general feeling seems to be that the guitar would be a better accompanying instrument for the song, but I prefer the astringent and biting quality of the banjo.
TO HEAR THE NIGHTINGALE SING: This was collected by Peter Kennedy from the Cantwell family, Standlake, Oxfordshire, in 1956, and was published shortly after in the English Folk Dance and Song Society Journal. We heard it from a revival singer in Tyneside about three years ago; he claimed it was an Irish song brought to Tyneside by the immigrant Irish laborers in the last century. Well, you never know. He could be right.
THE DROVER'S DREAM: Another Bert Lloyd song from New South Wales. We acquired it in the same way in which we got Rockin' the Cradle. The words and music were written by hand, so I have a feeling that it may never have been published. On stage, the instrumentalists usually seize this song as an opportunity to clown around. It is a song we never tire of performing.
ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN and DROPS OF BRANDY: More of Dave Swarbrick, John Dunkerley, and Brian Clark in an instrumental medley.
WATERS OF TYNE: We found this song in a book called English County Songs, by Lucy Broadwood. This is a very popular collection and it is a very beautiful song. I find it very surprising that I have never heard it sung by any other singer.
WEE COOPER 0' FIFE: One of the Scottish songs known lo every British school child; I learned it in school in Aberdeen. Ewan MacColl credits it to the Scottish Students' Song Rook. A derivative version is popular in America and I was delighted recently to hear it emanating from a schoolroom in a Hitchcock film. The Birds.
In the Sixties, the London folk scene had settled down to a comfortable diet, produced mainly by solo singers in the clubs: the idea of a folk group was a virtually unknown concept. Arising out of the skiffle craze, there had been Russell Quaye's City Ramblers, and John Hasted s 44 Club had generated a collection of people who performed together regularly, and that included at various times some illustrious names — Redd Sullivan and Martin Winsor, for instance. There had been before that a collection with the swingin' title of the London Youth Choir folk group, directed by Hasted and including (would you believe?) me.
In two provincial centres, things were different. In Liverpool, the Spinners were pulling in crowds at Samson and Barlow's grill. And, in Birmingham, the Ian Campbell Folk Four (its original title) packed the Crown in Station Street.
It is almost impossible to express in words the excitement generated by these two groups when they hit London — hit is the right word.
The Campbells set standards that were a byword everywhere, and, at a time well before the Dubliners, Pentangle, the Yetties, the High Level Ranters, Steeleye Span were formed, they produced a musical discipline and a quality of instrumentation that was almost beyond belief.
Their first album, cut for Transatlantic, had an unprecedented impact. Recording facilities were not then what they are now, and producers and technicians were still learning to exploit the equipment at their disposal. There was on this disc no separate tracking of voices and no double tracking; every number was recorded live with the microphone as audience
In all, twenty numbers were put down in something like 4 1/2 hours — the studio had been booked for longer, but gremlins in the gear had held up the session, Ian Campbell thinks he detects a degree of tension in the performance as a result of the rush, but the tracks are in fact crisp and musicianly.
The choice of material is very interesting. Almost every track is of British or Irish origin, and the two Australian examples are well established as British repertoire. All in all, the Campbells' first record was a landmark. I hope you'll enjoy the album as much as I do.
TWA Recruiting Sergeants
Like so many of the Campbells other songs, this has become a club standard over the years. It is, of course, a firm favourite of Jeannie Robertson perhaps the greatest traditional British singer of our time.
The Keel Row
Most of us learned it at school, where it was an established part of the repertoire for singing lessons and concerts. It is basically a North Eastern song, but it seems to exist in many other parts of England.
The Unquiet Grave
John Dunkerleys sensitive banjo work here set a new standard in club performance Even today, when "exciting' electrical accompaniments are in vogue, the arrangement has worn well. The song exists widely in the English tradition and it reflects ancient ideas about the need to let the spirits of the dead rest easy.
To Hear The Nightingale Sing
Another song that seems to come in all sizes and shapes The Campbells were one of the first groups to adapt songs of this type to group treatment.
The Drover's Dream
A L Lloyd, who should know if anyone does, says this Australian shearers song is extremely well known in that continent It was featured in the English stage version of Reedy river mounted by Unity Theatre in the fifties.
Instrumental medleys are by now the stock in trade of a fair number of folk groups, but the introduction of the idea into club programmes probably lies at the Campbells' door. Of course, they had one important asset-the fiddling of Dave Swarbrick the tunes are from Swarbrick s large ragbag collection, and were named Campbell s fancy by Dave.
Rockin' The Cradle
Another Australian song — this time a version of Baby lie easy, which seems to have travelled to the Antipodes from Ireland. The Australian collector John Meredith had it from Mrs Sally Sloane of Teralba New South Wales.
The Jute Mill Song
Mary Brookbank herself a jute worker in what is acknowledged to be a low paid sector of a badly paid industry wrote this lullaby. Since Ewan MacColl introduced it to the folk scene the song has become very popular.
Starting life as a playground song in Glasgow, it was originally a jibe at bible stories as taught in Sunday school. Over the years, many verses have been added, not all of them by children.
Blow Boys Blow
Once again the brilliant fiddling of Dave Swarbrick enhances this whaling song. Closely related to Blow away the morning Dew, and to The baffled knight (Percy's Reliques of English ancient poetry) from which it takes its tune. This version is basically from Joanna Colcord's Songs of American Sailormen. (Oak Publications)
Down In The Coal Mine
The words are by J B Geoghehan, a Durham miner, and date back about ninety years. It was one of the songs collected by A L Lloyd during his expedition that led to the monumental book Come all ye bold miners. (Lawrence & Wishart)
Carton Mother's Lullaby
Ian came across this lovely song in Moores Irish melodies. It is obviously a translation from the Gaelic, but Ian does not know anything about its origins. But he liked it especially for its superb tune.
The Apprentice's Song
Ian wrote this for an experimental stage production The maker and his tool, put on by Charles Parker, producer of the celebrated radio ballads. The song concerns the gas industry and the technical terms were gleaned from interviews with men from Saltley gasworks Birmingham.
A second medley that derives much of its strength from Swarbrick's fiddling. The words of The Rocky road to Dublin have become so much of a tour de force performance with Luke Kelly of the Dubliners that it s nice to be reminded what a fine tune it is. The second tune is Drops o brandy.
A somewhat truncated version of the song given by Stan Hugill in Shanties of the seven seas. (Routledge & Keqan Paul)
The Waters Of Tyne
Lucy Broadwood (among others) collected this charming Northumbrian song and published it in her English country songs. The songs lyrical qualities have endeared it to countless thousands on the folk scene.
The Wee Cooper O' Fyfe
Ian learned the song as a lad in Aberdeen. The story of how the cooper overcame his scruples in curing his wife s laziness is too well known to need comment.
It seems like only yesterday, and a hundred years ago...but it was the fifties. First there was the trad jazz boom, out of which flowered the skiffle craze - small vocal groups singing American folk blues to a chugging rhythm accompaniment on guitars, washboard, tea-chest bass. When the craze died, those thousands of amateur youngsters who sweated on the three-chord trick and created the basic pop line-up went on to discover rock 'n' roll, rhythm 'n' blues, whatever; and some stuck to their roots and started the British folksong revival.
Launched in 1956 as the Clarion Skiffle Group, by the time we turned professional in 1963 the Ian Campbell Folk Group had topped the bill at the Royal Albert Hall, were a familiar presence on TV and radio, were working on our second album and running Britain's biggest folksong club. We were blazing a trail: the skiffle group that uniquely found its repertoire in the British folk tradition became the first folk group of the revival, first to feature a fiddler and present traditional instrumentals among their songs and followed on with the first live club recording and the first folk series on British TV.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, the folk scene bloomed and in our travels from venue to venue it was easy to identify the numberless groups that were modeled on us, eagerly awaiting our annual album as a source of material. We were conscious that insofar as we had influenced and shaped the folk revival we had affected the development of popular music in our time.
So it is with pleasure and pride that I welcome this re-issue of our first two Transatlantic albums. To those younger people born too late to be there I say: this is how it was.
In the early sixties the Aberdeen singer Ian Campbell and his sister Lorna Campbell ran the phenomenally successful Jug of Punch club in Birmingham, and their group attracted a large following around the country as they were one of the first to develop a predominantly British repertoire, when most folk groups were still imitating their American cousins.
In retrospect, these and the later albums they made for Transatlantic were enormously influential on the new generation of singers and players who came through the folk revival of the sixties, many performers using the Campbell's versions of rediscovered traditional songs. The original line-up of the Ian Campbell Folk Group included fiddler Dave Swarbrick, later to become one of the driving forces in Fairport Convention. This is the first time these two LPs, originally released in 1963 and 1964, have been re-issued on CD.