Derek Sarjeant is one of the best known and best liked singers of the British folksong revival. He has built himself a great reputation as an all-round entertainer in every medium available to him — the folk clubs, concerts, cabaret, radio and TV — and he is also resident singer at the folk club he has run for the past six years in Surbiton, Surrey.
Lucky enough to be possessed of a naturally good voice, Derek has been able to devote much time to absorbing the characteristics of each song he tackles — getting beneath the skin of the song, as it were. His guitar accompaniments, too, are ideally matched to the spirit of each song; rhythmically underlying or delicately punctuating, as the lyric demands.
Here, on this album, we have him singing his personal favourite kind of song — English all the way.
The Barleymow — Derek learned this version of a famous English drinking during his teen-years in Kent, where it can sometimes be heard around the Weald pubs being used as a "test of sobriety". Derek climaxes the song at break-neck pace, just to prove that he is quite sober.
Sailor Coming Home on Leave — Derek collected this song from an old sailor in one of the Medway Towns, and turns the familiar story(airmen and soldiers also claim it) into a real tale of tragedy.
The Manchester Hiker's Song — This song, which was written by Ewan MacColl when a member of a teenage hiking club, has had several verses added anonymously and is sometimes thought by a new generation of hikers to be simply "another old folk song".
The Bonny Labouring Boy — This old song enjoyed great popularity around the turn of the century, but Derek says he first heard it sung on the BBC "Country Magazine" radio programme a few years ago.
Shoals Of Herring — This is Derek's arrangement of Ewan MacColl's justly famous song, which he wrote in 1961 for one of the BBC radio-ballads, about Britain's herring fishing industry, called "Sing The Fishing".
The Dockyard Gate — A song collected from the singing of Sam Larner of Winterton, Norfolk, although in the tune Derek uses an attractive little variant added by Lisa Turner.
The Brisk Young Tailor — The Hammond brothers, Robert and Henry, toured Dorset on bicycles in 1905 collecting the folksongs of this region; amongst them was this song — also mentioned by Thomas Hardy in one of his novels.
Jack Tar Ashore — This song recounts Jack's misadventures ashore and the version Derek sings here again comes from the repertoire of Sam Larner.
Once I Had a Love — A fragmentary song, and very trad. Derek picked it up in his travels round the country. By the way — listen to his accompaniment to this song.
Way Down to Lamorna — A rugger club song which is highly proper (for a change!). Learned from members of the Penzance rugby football team whilst Derek was on a collecting trip to the Scillies.
Cold Blows the Wind — A folk ballad (Child No. 78) which has undergone so many changes over the years that it is now impossible to say which is the original wording. Derek uses his own melody, which is an effective amalgam of several folksong tunes.
Green Broom — Many versions of this song have been found, from Berkshire westwards to the West Country proper — which is where Derek first heard it.