|Track listing for Folk on the Edge
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Track 1. the Mountains of Mourne Percy French (1854-1920) / Traditional
The lyrics to this famous Irish ballad were written in 1896 by Percy French, but the origins of the melody are lost in the mists of time, although the tune was used by Thomas Moore in the early 19th century for his song “Bendemeer’s Stream”.
Track 2. Chill Coish (instrumental) Traditional
Information about this song is sparse, though it seems clear that it was originally about a large house probably near Kilkenny, which burned down, along with the surrounding woodland. The original anonymous poem Caoine Cill Chais (The Lament for Kilcash) begins “Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?” (What shall we do from now on without timber?) and was written in the C18th. Mr John Dowliing, a customer at Sheffield’s Dog and Partridge, whom Jim approached for information, confirms the above and several expatriates there recall learning the song at school in Ireland.
Track 3. The Big Ship Traditional
Even less information is available about this sad little song, which concerns the flight of an Irishman after he has been forced to hunt and murder a traitor.
Track 4. West Country Lady Dermot O’Reilly (1942-2007)
The great Irish musician and songwriter composed this song in 1979, eleven years after he had emigrated to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Track 5. Red-Haired Mary Sean McCarthy (1923-1990)
McCarthy was a poet and musician who was a regular on Irish radio RTE 1 for many years. He wrote numerous songs, including The Hills of Connemara and Shanagolden.
Track 6. I’ll tell me ma! Traditional
This well-known children’s song is common across Britain and Ireland, and is found adapted for various cities other than Belfast including London and Dublin.
Track 7. Instrumental - Accordion medley Traditional
Jim plays two tunes in this medley - “The Dark Island” and “Mairi’s Wedding” (or “The Lewis Bridal Song”). They are both, as far as we can ascertain, traditional Scottish melodies and whilst we can find no words to the first, Mairi’s Wedding begins in Gaelic “Gaol mo chrìdh-sa Màiri Bhàn...” (The love of my heart, fair-haired Mary...).
Track 8. The Wild Rover Traditional
One of the best-known folksongs there is, the origins of The Wild Rover are unclear and vary depending on which authority you consult! Not only that, some describe it as a “temperance” song and others a “drinking” song - so unless more information is unearthed, the confusion seems destined to remain. It is found in two American collections of 1845 and 1850 and also in a Bodlean Library (Oxford, England) bundle of songs dated between 1813 and 1838.
Track 9. Reilly’s Daughter Traditional
There seem to be many versions of this humorous song, of which several are unprintable. As far as we can discover, its origins are completely lost in the past.
Track 10. Working Man Rita MacNeill (b. 1944, Big Pond, Nova Scotia)
Despite conflicting opinions that we’ve come across, we’ve established that this well-known and well-loved song was indeed written by Rita MacNeill after she had visited a coal mine and spoken to some of the men who worked there.
Track 11. Polkas Tom Ainslie / Traditional
Jim plays here on the accordion two Scottish “pipe” polkas. The first is “The Royal Scots Polka” composed by Tom Ainslie in honour of the Regiment in which he’d served as Pipe Major. “The Liberton Pipe Band”, though, is pure Scottish tradition, as may be gathered from the music’s many and varied titles - The Auld Caubeen, The Liberton Polka, Maids of Ardagh, The Back of the Hazard...etc.
Track 12. Black Velvet Band Traditional
Another well-known song with differing lyrics depending on where you hear it, but common across Britain and Ireland, with “The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band” being the American version. The earliest date of a similar song, set in Barking, Essex but without a chorus, is probably 1837. The song usually tells of a young man who meets a girl thief, who promptly steals something and passes it on to him. The poor lad is arrested and sentenced to transportation - a common penalty for theft in the C19th.
Track 13. Instrumental - inc. Bodhran Solo Traditional
Jim starts this medley with the traditional Scottish melody “I will go” and then Marielyn begins her rhythm solo on the Bodhran, leaving no doubt, as the pace grows faster and faster, as to why she is received with such applause wherever she plays! The medley continues as Jim seamlessly joins in again and the two of them play through “Scotland the Brave”, “The Thistle of Scotland” and “We’re no awa to bide awa”.
Track 14. Sweet Sixteen James Thornton (1861-1938)
Although there have been variants, this gentle and romantic song was originally published in 1898. In the Lester Levy Collection of Sheet Music, the publishers state the following about it: “Words and Music by James Thornton. Sung with great success by Bonnie Thornton. Also sung with success by Raymon Moore.” One can’t help but be sorry for Mr. Moore, only credited with a “successful” performance, as opposed to the “great success” of Bonnie, who was, incidentally, the composer’s wife. The song has deservedly remained popular and has been sung and recorded - naturally with varying degrees of success! - by many artists.
Track 15. Instrumental - Mandolin medley Trad. / O’Carolan (1679-1738)
On this track we hear three tradtional melodies, with the first repeated at the end. This is “Planxty Irwin”- the word “planxty” is generally thought to mean a “tribute” to someone - in this case to Colonel John Irwin (1680-1752) of Tarego House, County Sligo. It was probably written by the great Irish songster and harpist Turloch O’Carolan - whose life and works certainly repay much further study for anyone interested in early folk traditions. After this, the group plays a traditional air “The South Wind”, followed by another planxty, this time “Planxty Fanny Powers”, this certainly by O’Carolan, to whose tune W.B. Yeats later wrote a poem.
Track 16. The Ferryman Pete St. John
A typically simple song by one of Ireland’s great songwriters describing the things he knows about from his own experience. “Anna Liffey” is a corruption of “Abhainn na Life”, which in Gaelic means simply the river Liffey - Dublin’s main waterway.
Track 17. No Man’s Land Eric Bogle (b. 1944, Peebles, Scotland)
This famous and superbly evocative work is also known as “The Green Fields of France” and has evoked much interest as to whom exactly “Willie McBride” was and what prompted Eric to write it - there is much interesting information on the internet. It reflects on the death of a young man in WW1 at only 19 and here Chris conveys the emotion in a way that had the whole recording team silent at the end - especially after Jim’s short solo rendition of “Flowers of the Forest” dies away to stillness...
1 Mountains of Mourne 5:46
2 Instrumental: Chill Coish 2:36
3 The Big Ship 3:07
4 West Country Lady 3:17
5 Red-Haired Mary 3:04
6 I’ll tell me ma! 2:11
7 Instrumental: Dark Island/Mairi’s Wedding 3:53
8 Wild Rover 2:57
9 Reilly’s Daughter 2:19
10 A Working Man 5:09
11 Instrumental: Polkas 2:28
12 Black Velvet Band 4:41
13 Instrumental (inc. Bodhran solo) 2:28
14 Sweet Sixteen 4:31
15 Instrumental (inc. Planxty Irwin) 3:09
16 The Ferryman 3:51
17 No Man’s Land 6:06
Total playing time: 61:55