The Full English

fullenglish1Master Stroke for Bygone Folk

Listening Post 31. The English Folk Dance and Song Society commissioned the singer-scholar Fay Hield to gather an ensemble of musicians to explore the society’s newly launched web archive in 2013 and produce a concert of some of the collection’s songs. From the thousands items—broadside ballads and music hall songs, dance tunes and sea chanteys—emerged one of the great folk albums of all time. The songs are traditional (mostly early 20th century) but Hield’s team was free to provide a new lyric or chorus where needed or supply new tunes where only lyrics could be found. The group dazzles with seven-voice harmonies, fiddles, guitar, double bass and occasional bowed harp. For exuberance and pure whimsy, the album’s high point (video 1) is Man in the Moon; it’s oddly incisive as well: “The Man in the Moon a new light on us throws/He’s a man we all talk of but nobody knows.” And though the collection is instrument rich, the strings go silent for the a cappella Awake, Awake, a love ballad as stunning as it is fun (video 2). In keeping with the notion of folk as a living movement, the 12-track record also includes Fol the Day-o, a new composition by Nancy Kerr. The artists of The Full English have separate careers, but here’s a modest proposal: Make reunion albums a tradition. (Topic Records Ltd.)

 

Man in the Moon:
When a bumper is filled, it is vexing, no doubt/To find when you rise that the wine has run out
And sure it’s an equally unpleasant thing/To be asked for a song when you’ve naught left to sing
I could sing something old, if an old one would do/But the world it is craving to have something new
But what to select for the words or the tune?/I, in fact, know no more than the Man in the Moon.

The Man in the Moon a new light on us throws/He’s a man we all talk of but nobody knows
And though a high subject, I’m getting in tune/I’ll just sing a song for the Man in the Moon

‘Tis said that some people are moonstruck, we find/But the Man in the Moon must be out of his mind
But it can’t be for love for he’s quite on his own/No ladies to meet him by moonlight alone
It can’t be ambition, for rivals he’s none/At least he is only eclipsed by the sun
But when drinking, I swear, he is seldom surpassed/For he always looks best when he’s seen through a glass

The Man in the Moon he must lead a queer life/With no one around him, not even a wife
No friends to console him, no children to kiss/No chance of his joining a party like this
But he’s used to the high life, all circles agree/That none move in such a high circle as he
And though nobles go up in their royal balloon/They’re not introduced to the Man in the Moon

 

Awake, Awake:
Awake, awake, you drowsy sleeper/Awake, awake, it is dawn of day
How can you lie there so long in sleeping/Since you have stolen my heart away?
Awake, awake, it is dawn of day/How can you lie there so long in sleeping
Since you have stolen my heart away?

Be gone, be gone, you will wake my father/My mother she will you quickly hear
Go tell your tales to some other lover/And whisper softly all in her ear
Awake, awake, it is dawn of day/Go tell your tales to some other lover
And whisper softly all in her ear

I won’t be gone for I have no other/You are the girl I do much admire
‘Tis I my dear who do love you deeply/And thoughts of love that have brought me here
Awake, awake, it is dawn of day/‘Tis I my dear who do love you deeply
And thoughts of love that have brought me here

The old man heard the young couple talking/So nimble he stepped out from his bed
He put his head to the bedroom window/Young Johnny dear, he has turned and fled
Awake, awake, it is dawn of day/He put his head to the bedroom window
Young Johnny dear, he has turned and fled

So much for love and the valiant hearted/So much for faithful and strong young men
I’ll turn my bed on the morrow morning/And call young Johnny return again
Awake, awake, it is dawn of day/I’ll turn my bed on the morrow morning
And call young Johnny return again

 


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