Friday, 14 February 2014

Martin Carthy and a rediscovered folk song treasury

The longer I spend in Lush Places, my enchanted village home in Dorset, the more I realise that there is some kind of magic at work here.

Serendipitous things seem to happen all the time and the latest one has unearthed something of a local treasure – A CD featuring fourteen comedy songs by traditional singers and recorded in the village in the mid-1980s.

The Wooden Leg’d Parson was rediscovered by folk legend Martin Carthy, who passed it on to record producer Simon Emmerson from The Imagined Village, who lives here in Lush Places. Now, Simon has a box of them to sell, at £10 a time. If you know him, get in touch with him. If you don’t, get in touch with me and I’ll send you one.
Doug and Sam Phillips
Listening to the laughs in the pub as Doug and Sam Phillips entertained the locals with comedy songs, it feels like you’re right there with them. Those Dorset dialects are magnificent. Some delightful times and tunes with people no longer with us.

There’s the lovely, wobbly voice of old Bill House, who has a penchant for anything with a wooden leg, the mellow tones of Norman House on two tracks, contributions from Norman Faires and Gordon Hayes and a great song sung by Norman Gray. It’s called The Comical Cock and I think Mr Grigg’s going to try to learn the words for harvest supper.
George Hirst
Bill House
I know several of the songs because they were also sung by my late uncle, George Withers. As serendipity would have it, according to an obituary comment on the Mudcat CafĂ© website,  he went down a storm at the National Folk Festival when he sang his song about the MBE, standing on the same stage with Martin Carthy MBE. 

‘Eliza Carthy nearly fell off her chair laughing as indeed did the entire audience,’ the writer says. 

This CD slice of history is brought to us by Nick and Mally Dow, who collected traditional songs from Broadwindsor, Beaminster and Dorchester.

Says Nick:The White Lion was run by old Dick Corbett for many years. He was an ex-service man and a character. His pal Flash Phelps was more than a bit of a villain.
Flash Phelps and Dick Corbett
'The other regulars were Doug and Sam Phillips, who sang music hall songs. There was a barrel of Taunton Cider on the bar, served on gravity, and a barmy parrot that was in the process of changing sex.’

Nick says he was accused of being the wrong man to do the recordings because he was emotionally involved with the singers.

‘Well that's an understatement. I was head over heels in love with Dorset folk songs and Dorset.’

Just the man for the job then.

Now Simon, who on this blog is known as Ding Dong Daddy, is hoping to recreate the CD at one of the folk sessions he runs in the White Lion. All I can say to that is, please count me in.

You can find out more about the recordings from the Real West Dorset website. And you can hear them – and others - on the British Library websiteThis is a real, international treasury. Not only did I find recordings of my dear old Uncle George, I also found interviews with my late Auntie Glad, about her childhood days in Somerset in the early part of the 20th century. Classic stuff. Priceless.

But don’t forget, if you’d like The Wooden Leg’d Parson CD – and, honestly, why wouldn’t you – give Ding Dong Daddy or me a shout.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

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