Pints of ale and bottles of sherry

When I’m not drinking, baby, you’re on my mind
When I’m not sleeping, honey, when I ain’t sleeping,
When I’m not sleeping, you know, you’ll find me crying
– Jackson C. Franks

when I’m drinking, I’m always thinking,
And wishing that Peggy Gordon was there.
– Anon.

When I’m not drinking, and sometimes when I am, I’m often singing. Like Darren – whose Blog O’Beer has recently re-emerged under the name of Folk and Ale – I’m a bit of a folkie. I’ve been singing at folk clubs for eight and a bit years, generally unaccompanied but without a finger in my ear. (Nor do I wear sandals. I have got a beard, though, and obviously I’m fairly fond of real ale.) For about the last three years I’ve been a dedicated traddie, devoted to that great ocean of songs that you never hear on the radio.

Last year Jon Boden of Bellowhead put together A Folk Song A Day: a Web site featuring a different song, newly recorded, every day for a year. There were arguments in the comments about some of the choices, but by and large AFSAD was a magnificent project. (And is. The Webmaster is currently cycling through the year for a second time, re-upping the songs month by month; if you missed it first time round, check it out.) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and AFSAD has had quite a few emulators: there’s An Australian Folk Song A Day (which has been going for eight months), A Liverpool Folk Song A Week (six months) and A Folk Song A Week (seven weeks).

And there’s my own project, 52 Folk Songs, which is just about to enter its eighth week. The idea of 52fs is that the revitalisation of old songs shouldn’t be the exclusive preserve of star musicians like Jon Boden, who have armies of fans, state-of-the-art recording facilities, multi-instrumental musical talents, encyclopedic knowledge and a pleasing and tuneful voice. No, we singers can all play our part – even if we have very few of those attributes, or none at all.

I therefore set myself to record and upload a folk song every week for a year. Common sense and good taste might have suggested limiting myself to one song per week, but if they did I wasn’t listening: there are quite a few extras there too, not all of which are even folk songs. Tenuous links between the songs chosen can be traced, for those with unfeasibly large amounts of time on their hands, at 52fs. The total for the first six weeks is 14 songs and three tunes:

1 Lord Bateman (FS01)
2 The Death of Bill Brown (FS02)
3 The Unfortunate Lass (FS03)
4 The Cruel Mother (FS04)
5 Lemany (FS05)
6 The London Waterman (FS06) + Constant Billy
7 Over the hills and far away
8 There are bad times just around the corner (Noel Coward)
9 My boy Jack (Rudyard Kipling)
10 Us poor fellows (Peter Bellamy)
11 Down where the drunkards roll (Richard Thompson)
12 Child among the weeds (Lal Waterson)
13 Hegemony (Green Gartside)
14 Spencer the Rover + Three Rusty Swords / The Dusty Miller

Not content with inflicting these assorted squawks on the world, I’ve now had the unmitigated audacity to make them available under the guise of an ‘album’: 52 Folk Songs – Violet. This is the first in a series of eight virtual ‘albums’ (I use the quotation marks advisedly) that will be appearing over the year, unless I’m prevailed upon to stop. It can be downloaded at 52 Folk Songs – Violet for a token payment of 52p (you see what I did there). This gets you 40 minutes of what can loosely be called singing and some frankly amateurish whistle-playing, plus a hastily thrown-together PDF file containing full lyrics plus assorted pictures, comments, musings and afterthoughts. The whole lamentable package is fronted by the most un-folk-like image you could imagine (“what’s the purple doughnut for?” – my wife).

Alternatively you can download the tracks individually and pay nothing at all, or simply listen online. It might be even simpler just to listen to something else instead.

But don’t let me put you off. 52 Folk Songs is at http://www.52folksongs.com.

The purple doughnut is here.

Share and enjoy.

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