This is a series of posts about the #TradSongTues project, run by various people at the University of Sheffield. Every week I've been recording a song for the theme, sharing it and talking about it. Come and play on Twitter!

I had 3 options for this, and so I ran a poll:

Since it was equal for all three, I recorded all three!

Waiter boy - Young Serving Man

This first one is one I learned at the Sheffield Folk Chorale, but while we were singing it in 3/4 I was convinced that the tune was really in 5/81. So that's how I sing it there. Nancy Kerr had similar thoughts when she wrote her own tune for the Full English project.

Because I learned this through the Folk Chorale I don't really know much about it. In fact, Mainly Norfolk seems to suggest that it isn't really that common a song either, which is nice. It's a hard song to sing, but I really do like the main gist behind what I'm doing to the song.

Field turner - Pretty Ploughboy

I learned this through Royston Wood of the Young Tradition2. Royston apparently got it from the singing of Harry Cox in Sussex(?), who I think Bellamy got a lot of material from. I think I've heard a few recordings of Harry Cox and he was a fine singer

The tune on this one is a bit of a bugger. The phrasing is just so dependant on the words in the verse and it's got such a flowing tune that I have no idea how it's meant to work. I like this one, primarily because it's a song where the woman goes off and does something heroic instead of being either lied to or being hero'd out of some situation.

Despite that, I don't think it'll stay in my repertoire. The tune is a bit dreary (despite its flowing nature) and I'm not sure how I could spice it up in a way that keeps that style.

Glasgow Streamer3 - Tam Lyn

It's the zeitgeist of long ballads, and by god it's a good one to sing. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had words up because it turns out 8 minutes worth of song that I haven't really listened to for a few years isn't in my head.4

I got this from the singing of Mike Waterson. I remember being in the computer lab at Uni working on something and this came on and I literally had to stop what I was doing. I then binged on it for about 3 weeks straight.

There's billions of variants of this, but this is the tune I like the most because it's got the freedom to change unlike some of the others. Plus, the fact that it's unaccompanied means you can do all kinds of stuff with the pacing of the verses. It's so good!

  1. There's various bits of evidence that the folk song collectors decided to "Straighten up" the songs that they collected because they thought the weird timings were because the singers were taking breaths and weren't real singers. ↩︎

  2. I'm trying not to just sing all of their material but it's really hard not to, because pretty much all of it is wonderful. ↩︎

  3. This is a reference to the Glasgow streamer that I watch called SleepCycles - his real name is Tam. ↩︎

  4. I messed up a few verses in that recording, but it was my first go at it and also once you've got the first 7 minutes right you're kind of loathe to have to go back to the beginning just because you screwed up a line. ↩︎