1. King of The Boundless Deep - (South Pacific)
The first track was inspired by the words of poet Joesph Edwards Carpenter, who speaks of the majesty of the whale. By the third verse he delves into how we have exploited their majesty for our own gain. I particularly wanted this track to have a big and powerful sound to suit the glory of the animal, but also a melancholy swell to embody their suffering.
2. Rolling Down To Old Maui - (North Pacific)
This is a well known shanty, and a great one at that! This is why I decided to sing it, for the most part, as it was intended. Shanties are such an integral part of the seafaring community and have brought relief to so many sailors throughout history; "if it aint broke don't fix it"!
3. Memorial for a Glacier - (Arctic Ocean)
The track for the Arctic Ocean, ‘Memorial For A Glacier’, is self penned. Having seen news items about blue plaques being erected in the places of fallen glaciers I decided to write this environmental ballad. It centres around Jack Frost, alone and dejected, his icy love having melted into the sea. His icy love, however, is feeling a tad more aggressive and threatens to drown the culprits, as she has been.
4. Shenandoah - (North Atlantic)
Okay so I know this song's is about a river, but where do rivers flow to? You guessed it... the sea! I first sang this in a choir at school and the beautiful melody has stuck with me ever since. The tune is so evocative of the water and the emotions carried within. As a well known traditional American tune, I tried to give it a slightly different treatment: utilising delicate synth and voice parts to create a lush soundscape.
5. South Australia - (Indian)
Like many, this was probably the first sea shanty I ever heard. It's such a rollicking song that has been heard, sung and performed by everyone and their auntie. As with 'Rolling Down To Old Maui' I've recorded it the way that we all know and love. I’ve loved singing them with at gigs with rousing audience-backed choruses.
6. Shallow Brown (trad. arr.) - (South Atlantic)
This is a traditional American folk song that I found while researching for this record. It's changed quite a bit throughout it's history but this is the tune that struck me as the most ornate. Like a lot of other sea songs, themes of love, leaving and longing come to the fore.
7. Follow Her Down - (Antarctic)
The final track, ‘Follow Her Down’ (Antarctic Ocean), rounds the EP off by regaining the arduous journey taken to find land passed South America which eventually lead to the South Pole. This, for me, is the most mysterious of the Oceans but also the most beautiful. Unlike the inhospitable Arctic Ocean, her Southern brother is warm enough to grow life beneath the cool waves. I hope I have captured the undulating tides of ice and water in this track.
The EP features fellow invaluable musicians: Ellie McCann on banjo and mandolin, Cian Davis on electric guitar and Mark Gordon who played percussion and dutifully mixed and mastered all seven tracks. The stunning artwork is by Hollie Joiner.
Read a little more about each of the songs from my four records here:
1. Twinkle Twinkle
This collection of songs was recorded when a relative had a baby and I thought: I'm a musician, what can I give her? Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is of course a wonderful little lullaby so it was my very first choice for this collection.
2. Cauliflowers Fluffy
For anyone under the age of 35, this was probably a primary school assembly banger (a Spotify playlist it has since been added to) so I couldn't resist putting my own acoustic twist on this track.
3. Alice The Camel
By day I work for the library service so am familiar with baby rhyme sessions. This is a firm favourite of the babies (and the parents, let's be honest) in my sessions so I decided to work up an arrangement. I got particularly inspired by a father at one of the sessions who joined in by adding in a vocal bass part to this song, what a parent!
4. If You're Happy And You Know It
What better way to spread a bit of joy and happiness?!
5. Puff The Magic Dragon (Peter, Paul and Mary)
I used to sing this at school and with my mother when I was little and I thought it was just the most magical story and could definitely see myself finding a little dragon and smuggling all my best things out to his cave. I did, however, find the abrupt ending totally anti-climactic so I saw fit to write a new one where instead of growing up and leaving Puff behind, Jackie Paper passes on his special relationship with the dragon to his son.
6. Under The Greenwood Tree
Shakespeare has been a massive inspiration to my life, both in terms of the words, imagery and sense of scene that I have taken from him but also in the songs he put into his plays. This particular arrangement is one I wrote for a production of 'As You Like It' I was in in 2014; it's such a sweet but melancholic song that I thought the tune should fit that style.
7. Row Row Row
Now this one has about a million verses depending on who you consult but I chose a few of my favourites and kept this number calm and soothing to make it perfect for nap time or bath time!
8. Shenandoah (see above)
9. Grand Old Duke of York
I absolutely love the actions and movements for this one and how excited little ones get when taking part so I thought it'd be good for a little boogie!
10. Fishing For Dreams (Will's Jams)
I found this song while looking for a few more songs for the CD for my cousin's baby. It sounds so much like a traditional lullaby or nursery rhyme that I almost didn't believe it had been written so recently. Thank you to Will's Jams for this beautiful melody.
The photos for this release were shot by the oh-so-talented Tom Willmott. While there are no physical CDs for this record you can stream online or download the tracks from bandcamp for free.
1. Harvester of Gold
This song was inspired by a honey bee I saw buzzing merrily around in late winter during a walk home from work last year. It was yet to be the season for bees and it struck me that quite soon it might not be the season for bees at all, so I opened my front door, picked up the guitar and this is what came out. One more bee anthem to add to the growing pile.
2. McClennon Babies
A song born from a quirky conversation held at the wonderful Watford Folk Club, whereby three members of the club were joking about having been supposedly brought up on Dartmoor by a pack of kindly wolves... A folk song if ever I heard one! This song was entered into the Watford Folk Song Competition under the category of 'Folklore and Superstition' and came in second place.
3. Jesuit Barrels
After the awesomely talented Odette Michell wrote 'Light Up London Town' for her album 'Wildest Rose' I decided to dust off my take on the gunpowder plot and record it for this album. The song tells the story of the12 other men who didn't make it into the household name category.
4. Colne River Chorus
Many among you may have experienced the joy (like no other in my opinion) of singing with fellow folkies at a singaround or session. Hearing those harmonies and feeling like you belong is something that we all take for granted. Shortly before writing this song I heard that a member of Watford Folk Club had passed away and I felt that we had lost a member of our family. For Brian.
5. Cheshire Man (trad. arr.)
Duels in folk song tend to arise over women, honour or disputes in trade, this is the last. Unwittingly set to a tune not dissimilar to the star of the county down, this is a new version of the Cheshire Man and his delicious cheese.
This was a song inspired by the wonderful 'Awake Arise' who read a poem about the plant life that can still be found when everything else seems to have died during the harshest winter months. I thought this was an absolutely beautiful concept so put it to music. Using harmonics and lush vocal arrangements I have tried to emulate the comfort but also hard times that winter can bring.
Now this was a new addition to the album, inspired by a friend and great musician, Martin Olyett. In keeping with the themes of the song, when he said "songwriters are like magpies" I thought "I'll have that"!
8. Twankidillo (trad. arr.)
Found in a book of old folk songs given to me as a present, I thought this was too nonsensical not to enjoy. After writing a new tune and rearranging the lyrics I think I've found a version silly enough to suit the content. This might not be the version of Twanidillo that a lot of folkies might have learnt at school, but I hope it's an interesting new take that you might enjoy.
Written tongue-in-cheek as a protest against the living room floorboards being stripped and resurfaced, this song has started a new campaign. I believe that those particular floorboards are glorious with the scratches and scuffs they earned from my life growing up on them... but other people think they should look more like a Laura Ashley catalogue. I have been singing this song for over a year now, often with audiences joining in for a rousing chorus, and the floorboards have remained untouched so far. Hopefully this song will ensure they stay that way.
10. Nana Was A Suffragette (Jules Gibb)
Written for BBC4's Up The Women this song is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. Thank you for giving the world this beautiful piece of poetry and for letting me put my own spin on it.
This record features fellow musicians: Kelvin Davies on steel guitar, Jess Distill on flute (and empty coke cans and blowing), Ellie Hill on fiddle and
Ellie McCann on banjo. I cannot thank these wonderful musicians for their contributions to this album and for their brilliant friendship. The brilliant photos for this album were taken by INNO Media.
Long Story Short
1. Blind Beggar's Daughter (trad. arr.)
This was the first traditional number I'd ever arranged myself. I didn't much fancy the original Cornish tune so wrote a new one to go with these fabulous lyrics. It doesn't particularly fit the folk canon as it has a happy ending but one or two are allowed to I suppose. Hopefully you'll enjoy my version of this beautiful ballad!
2. Denim Steel
This tune came to me on a country walk in late 2017. I was thinking about how many things we compare love to; immediately I thought of my first pair of "really good jeans". They fit like a glove when new but began to fray as I wore them more and more and the years went on. The jeans still hang in my wardrobe over a decade later even though they're paint-stained, faded and torn. I still try them on to see what they feel like and the memories I made in them come flooding back. I hope this song goes some way to explain those feelings, and their similarities to how we feel in truly great relationships too!
3. South Australia (trad. arr.)
I'm sure everyone has sung along to this, in a muddy festival tent or crowded pub, beer in hand. This version is slightly different to the one you might know and love, but I hope I've done it justice.
4. Fisherchild (trad. arr.)
In a similar way to Blind Beggar's Daughter, this song doesn't quite fit the folk canon: no death toll, no shipwrecks, no duels and no ill fate for the maiden. Unless you consider being mistaken for a fisherman terrible, nothing bad really happens in this story at all. This is what struck me as unique and interesting! Fisherchild, originally As I Walked Out One Summer's Morn (a bit of a mouthful...), is a beautiful tale collected in Hertfordshire full of love, light and connection.
5. Musician's Fear
Most musicians, I believe, strive for every song to be better than the last, for every performance to exceed the one before. While it's hard to know what's around the corner and what we write might change in the days, months and years that lie ahead, we can write down every anecdote, passing comment and idea and save it for tomorrow's song.
6. Jumping Waves
We all know people who have been through tough times, especially in today's climate. This song is about one particular friend who was finding life harder than most at the time, so I wrote her this song. No matter how hard it gets, the only thing we can do is just keep getting up. If the waves keep hitting you, keep swimming.
The front cover artwork and photography were created by the uber-artiste Elle Kydd.