O lads, ye shud only seen us gannin', We pass'd the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin';

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Louis Killen

A mainstay of British folk music since the '50s best-known for his collections of sea shanties and whaling songs, Louis Killen is a singer, archivist, lecturer, and historian on the level of Ewan MacColl, Pete Seeger, and A.L. Lloyd, all of whom Killen worked with at one time or another.

Born in the northern village of Gateshead-on-Tyne, County Durham, England, in 1934, Killen first became interested in folk music as a young man attending Oxford University, where he fell in with the local folk music crowd and developed his vocal technique as well as learning the pennywhistle and concertina. Leaving school to return north in 1958, Killen settled in Newcastle and opened one of Britain's first folk clubs while also working in the city's shipyards. Unemployed in 1961, Killen decided to turn professional and signed with the legendary British folk label Topic Records. His first releases were a pair of EPs, The Colliers Rant (recorded with Johnny Handle) and A Northumbrian Garland, both in 1962. A series of collaborations and appearances on compilations followed, with his first full-length solo recording, Ballads and Broadsides, not appearing until 1964.

Killen continued working in collaborations during the heady times of the British folk revival in the early and mid-'60s, besides continuing to organize and present concerts and hootenannies throughout the British Isles. As the folk boom wound to a close, however, Killen made the unusual move (for a British folky) of emigrating to the United States in 1967. Although Killen would remain entirely focused on the music of Great Britain, he's lived primarily in the States ever since. At first settling into the New York folk scene, Killen worked with Pete Seeger on a number of concerts, and, in May 1968, he recorded -- as Lou Killen, a derivative of his first name that he almost never used -- the album Sea Chanteys for the eclectic New York indie ESP-Disk. A live a cappella collection of traditional songs, barring MacColl's "Shoals of Herring," Sea Chanteys was Killen's first collection of songs relating to the sea and the sailing life, which would remain a passion of his throughout his career.

After a period spent working in the shipyards of Seattle, WA, where he also recorded 1969's 50 South to 50 South, a benefit record for the city's seaport museum, Killen returned to New York and replaced Tommy Makem in the Clancy Brothers band. Killen spent the first half of the '70s singing and recording with the Clancy Brothers, but he also continued his own career. A 1971 duo album with the Young Tradition's Peter Bellamy, Won't You Go My Way?, is an underrated gem from this period in Killen's career. Leaving the Clancy Brothers when Makem decided to rejoin, Killen released another duo album with his wife, Sally, 1975's Bright Shining Morning, followed by 1977's solo Old Songs, Old Friends.

After 1980's Gallant Lads Are We, Killen concentrated on teaching and writing for most of the '80s, not performing. When Killen chose to resume his recording career, he founded his own KnockOut! label and began self-releasing his own discs. 1989's The Rose in June, featuring several self-penned tunes including the title cut, came first, followed by 1993's A Bonny Bunch. Killen then returned to his passion for sea songs with 1995's Sailors, Ships and Chanteys, Vol. 1 and 1997's A Seaman's Garland: Sailors, Ships and Chanteys, Vol. 2. ~ Stewart Mason, All Music Guide


Ed Pickford

Coal culture, North East singer song writer.

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Jack the Lad

Jack the Lad was a folk rock or electric folk group from North East England formed in 1973 by three former members of the most successful band of the period from the region Lindisfarne. They moved from the progressive folk rock of Lindisfarne into much more traditional territory and were in the mid-1970s something of a northern counterpart to bands like Fairport Convention. They have also been seen as part of an important roots movement, rediscovering traditional Northumbrian music.

After two highly successful albums, Lindisfarne’s third Dingly Dell (1972) was a commercial and critical failure and the band split with main song-writer Alan Hull going off to perform solo projects and eventually reforming Lindisfarne with a new line up later that year.[1] The remaining members: Rod Clements (bass, violin, guitar, vocals), Simon Cowe (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals), and Ray Laidlaw (drums) formed Jack the Lad with former Lindisfarne member Billy Mitchell (guitar, banjo, vocals).[2]

They had originally thought of calling themselves the Corvettes, but decided it would make them sound too much like a rock 'n' roll revival outfit, and instead took their name from a phrase that Status Quo had used when they and Lindisfarne were touring Australia together earlier that year. The phrase "Jack the Lad" is British slang for a "flashy, cocksure young man".[3]
[edit] It's Jack the Lad 1973-74

While Lindisfarne without them had become a harder rocking outfit, Jack the Lad retained much of the folksy spirit, warmth and good humour of the original group. Though his talents had previously been overshadowed by the more prolific songsmith Alan Hull, Clements, who had penned Lindisfarne's first hit single 'Meet me on the Corner', continued to write most of their material, which in the view of some fans and critics was the equal of anything Lindisfarne produced at around the same time.

Lindisfarne’s record label Charisma, decided to keep the band under contract and the first line-up of Jack the Lad recorded one album for them, It's Jack the Lad, released in 1974, and two singles, 'One More Dance' (1973), and 'Why Can't I Be Satisfied' (1974).[2] Neither charted, though they received positive reviews for their records and live performances which began to gain a reputation for outlandish entertainment.[2] The traditional roots of the band were evident in an 8-minute medley of jigs, reels and polkas on their first album, which staked a claim to their being in part a Geordie answer to Fairport Convention and a guest appearance on 'Song Without a Band' for Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior. The band toured with Ralph McTell, who was then at the height of his post 'Streets of London' fame.[4]
[edit] Northern electric folk 1974-75

Clements left in late 1974 and was replaced by two former members of northern electric folk band Hedgehog Pie, Ian 'Walter' Fairbairn (guitar, mandolin, violin, banjo, vocals) and Phil Murray (bass, vocals), which inevitably, together with the loss of their main songwriter, gave the band a much more traditional focus.[2] This may have helped them gain greater acceptance in the folk world, and they headlined the Cambridge folk festival in 1974. On the second album The Old Straight Track (1974), six of the eleven tracks were traditional songs, most of the rest written by Cowe. The album was very well received and was voted Folk Album of the Year by Melody Maker.

The third album Rough Diamonds and single 'Gentleman Soldier' (both 1975), were both produced by Fairport Convention stalwart Simon Nicol. The latter, which featured John Kirkpatrick on button accordion, was a new arrangement of a traditional song which borrowed the vocal four-part harmony break from 'Twist And Shout' for the introduction, and featured a Scottish accordion reel back to back with a mock-heavy rock guitar solo. Presenter John Peel chose it as one of his favourite singles of the year, but like all previous attempts it failed to chart.[citation needed]
[edit] Disbandment and reformation

With no great commercial success forthcoming the band were dropped by Charisma and moved to United Artists. Cowe left shortly before the group recorded their final album, 'Jackpot', (1976). The need for success pushed this closer to pop and rock territory than its predecessors, with only two traditional tracks, it featured Andy Bown on keyboards, and a brass section on some tracks. Despite the return to a more commercial sound chart success still eluded them.[5] The 'Jackpot' UK tour in Sep/Oct '76, bizarrely coupled with the NZ punk/goth orientated Split Enz did neither act any favours.[citation needed]

Laidlaw left to join Radiator and the group disbanded soon afterward.[5] Lindisfarne had split in early 1975, but Clements, Cowe and Laidlaw continued to join founder members Alan Hull and Ray Jackson to play Christmas concerts in their native Newcastle-on-Tyne each year, and the response was so positive in 1977 that the original five reformed the following year and continued to record and perform until 2003.[6] As a result of the continued interest, Jack the Lad’s albums were eventually released as CDs. Following this in 1993 Jack The Lad re-formed in as both the original band running side-by-side with their Lindisfarne commitments, and as a festival act which included Mitchell, Fairburn and Murray.[5]
[edit] Significance

Jack the Lad were one example of the music scene that flourished in the North-east of England in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and produced, the Animals, Lindisfarne and Hedgehog Pie. The shift from progressive folk rock into more traditional electric folk territory partly reflected the popularity of the genre at the time, but also has been seen as part of a process of rediscovering regional musical roots that has continued with figures such as Kathryn Tickell and Nancy Kerr.[
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Hedgehog Pie

Hedgehog Pie were an electric folk group from the north-east of England, formed in 1971. Despite frequent line-up changes, they build up a considerable regional and national following and produced three highly regarded albums. They were connected to many of the most important folk and rock bands of the region from the 1970s and have been seen as one of the most significant groups in a rediscovery and popularlisation of Northumbrian roots music.

* 1 History
o 1.1 Origins
o 1.2 Recordings
o 1.3 Disbandment
* 2 Significance
* 3 Band members
* 4 Discography
* 5 Notes

[edit] History
[edit] Origins

The origins of Hedgehog Pie were in a loose collection of folk musicians in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1969. By 1971 it had solidified into two members of the Doonan Family Band, Mick Doonan (flute) and Phil Murray (bass), together with Jed Grimes (guitar) and Andy Seagroat (fiddle).[1] This line-up acted as a backing group to Tony Capstick on his album His Round.[2] In 1972 they added another Doonan Family Band member Stu Luckley (guitar and bass), plus his wife Margi Luckley (vocals) and Ian ‘Walter’ Fairburn (fiddle).[2] Fairburn and Murrey soon departed to join local band Jack the Lad, formed out of the split in Lindisfarne, and the group replaced them with Martin Jenkins (violin) from Dando Shaft. It seems to have been at this point that they adopted electric instruments. The reputation of Doonan and Jenkins probably helped them to secure them a contract with local label Rubber Records and it was this line-up that recorded the first album.[1]
[edit] Recordings

The self-titled first album (1975) owed something to Jethro Tull (in Doonan’s flute), Fairport Convention (the heavily strummed guitars), but, perhaps unsurprisingly for an album co-produced by Geoff Heslop and Steeleye Span’s Rick Kemp, it owed most to the early work of that band in the use of heavy plucked bass, no drums and Margi Luckley’s vocals which closely resembled those of Maddy Prior. It contained a mix of instrumentals and ballads, including ‘Marriners’ and ‘Jack Orion’.[1] The album was a critical success, if not a commercial one, and they gained a growing reputation as live performers, both as a headline band and supporting acts such as Richard Thompson, Mike Harding and John Martyn. Their reputation was aided by the release of the instrumental ‘Drops of Brandy’ on the important compilation The Electric Muse (1975).[1]

They were joined by drummer Alan Dixon before embarking on their next album The Green Lady (1975).[1] Also produced by Heslop and Kemp, this recording demonstrated that their style had rapidly moved on, incorporating elements of jazz and hard rock and was much more individual. Beside traditional songs, including 'The Gardiner' and 'The Burning of Auchendoon', the album also included more original compositions, such as 'Daemon Merchant' by Doonan and ‘Dreamer’ by Jenkins.

The album was well received and the band soon embarked on recording a 'concept' EP of four tracks under the title The Wonderful Legend of the Lambton Worm, which dealt with the local folk tale of a giant serpent, The Lambton Worm, occupying the village of Lambton. Very few copies were pressed and it has become much sought by collectors.[1]
[edit] Disbandment

In the summer of 1976 most of the members left the band with the exception of Doonan and Grimes. Stu Luckley teamed up with folksinger Bob Fox in a well regarded duo and Martin Jenkins appeared in a number of outfits including with Bert Jansch, Matthews Southern Comfort and Dave Swarbrick's Whippersnapper. The remaining members recruited established solo stylist Dave Burland (guitar and vocals)and shifted to a largely acoustic format.

This line-up produced one album, Just Act Normal (1979), for Black Crow Records. It consisted largely of a return to traditional material on acoustic instruments.[2] With polished production from Heslop alone this time, like the other two albums it topped the Melody Maker folk chart, but mainstream success evaded the group and they broke up soon after.

Grimes went on to form a successful duo with Stewart Hardy. In 2003 after producing and arranging some 40 tracks for the CD boxed set 'Northumbria Anthology, Jed Grimes formed 6-piece band The Hush and received 2 Radio 2 Folk Award Nominations for their album 'Dark To The Sky'. Since then he has toured solo and released a solo CD, 'Head On' which emerged to rave reviews and many festival appearances. Dave Burland returned to his solo career.[3] Doonan returned to playing in the Doonan Family Band (later to be rejoined by Stu Luckley) and in the Soul and R&B outfit the Solicitors.[4]

Parts of the group's recordings have surfaced as CDs, but these have generally been of low quality and limited availability. In 2003 a recording of one of their live performances was issued as Hedgehog Pie Live (2003).
[edit] Significance

Hedgehog Pie were the result of the flourishing folk revival in northern England and the attempts to extend the electric folk movement in the region. They matured rapidly into a promising and highly proficient outfit and although the group failed to achieve mainstream recognition, they still retain a local and cult following in the context of northern folk music.[5]

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Jack the LadThe

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Adrian Schofield

Adrian is one of the foremost and very rare 'Traditional solo' Northumbrian Smallpipe players around. His style of playing is exciting, full of vitality and adventurous; it is not to be confused with the 'legato' style of playing which seems to be dominating the piping scene at the moment. He is highly regarded in piping and general session playing circles. In the right environment he is full of life when playing live, always smiling and full of humour with the audience!

The gentle, sweet sound of the Northumberland Small Pipes or Northumbrian Smallpipes, which can be played indoors as well as outside. They are not loud and intrusive but quiet and evocative. They are the only English bagpipe to have a continuous pedigree. This instrument can entertain purely on its own without the need for any other musical instruments. From mournful and sensitive slow airs - to lively, happy jigs, hornpipes and reels.

His piping

Adrian has played the pipes for over 27 years and has won many competitions (in fact he was barred from entering for winning so much) solo and duet with Pauline Cato and trio with Pauline and Colin Ross (of the High Level Ranters). He has performed on stage, radio and television in the United Kingdom and abroad solo or with Pauline and Colin. He has twice played at the Lorient Folk Festival in Brittany as well as the Bagpipe Society's 'Blow-out' in Milton Keynes. He has played in concerts with Highland piper Arthur Gillis, (now departed from this life) one of the foremost exponents of Ceol Moor and the renown 'Calgary Highlanders Pipes and Drums'. Recently he has recorded with Norman McKinnon who sings in English and Scottish Gaelic. Adrian performs, teaches and judges piping competitions. He has tutored on one day and weekend piping courses around the country. Back in the late 1980s he was on the Northumbrian Pipers' Society committee. He is a honorary member of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society and was the researcher for the Billy Pigg 'The Border Minstrel' tune book.

The tunes

Adrian plays a selection of tunes ranging from Northumbrian, Scottish, and Irish folk music. He is very fond of the compositions of the late Billy Pigg and therefore plays quite a few of them. He also plays some of his own 'competition winning' tunes.

Adrian's playing technique

Adrian's technique is that of the traditional detached fingering method which gives the Northumbrian Smallpipes a unique sound in contrast to any other bagpipe. It makes the chanter completely staccato which requires some skill to play tunes without ruining the natural flow. This technique was handed down from Tom Clough to Billy Pigg. Although Adrian was influenced by the playing of Billy Pigg in his earlier years, he now has developed his method to that of Tom Clough - "Prince of Pipers".

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Billy Pigg

Billy Pigg (1902–1968) was an English player of Northumbrian smallpipes. He was a Vice-President and an influential member of the Northumbrian Pipers Society from 1930 until his death. He learned the instrument from several pipers including Tom and Henry Clough. He won many competitions in the 1930s, certainly playing in the traditional staccato style characteristic of the instrument. In the 1950s he was noted for playing not only Northumbrian, but also Scottish and Irish tunes on the instrument. He also wrote many fine tunes for the instrument. A.D. Schofield and Julia Say produced a biography and tune book, The Border Minstrel, published by the Northumbrian Pipers' Society in 1997. This includes all his known compositions. These include the slow airs The Gypsy's Lullaby and Border Spirit, marches in 6/8 and 4/4 such as Bonny Woodside and The Old Drove Road, many hornpipes, including The Carrick Hornpipe and The Biddlestone Hornpipe, jigs such as Coffee Bridge and reels such as Cote Walls and Anne of Hindhope. One of his most spectacular pieces is Bill Charlton's Fancy, a 6/8 variation set. His version of the traditional tune, The Wild Hills of Wannies with his own variations, was entirely distinctive, and a good example of his Highland-influenced style.

During the 1950s Forster Charlton recorded his playing on many occasions; some of these can be heard on Radio FARNE. In 1958 Royce Wilson, an American working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, acquired a tape recorder and made some recordings. Other recordings were made by the BBC and by the School of Scottish Studies. An album of selected recordings made by Forster Charlton was issued as "The Border Minstrel" on the Leader label in 1971, and re-released on CD in 2004. Through these recordings of Pigg's own compositions and his repertoire of traditional tunes, Pigg became influential throughout the world of bagpiping. Most players of the instrument will have several of Pigg's compositions in their repertoire.
[edit] Playing style

The distinguishing characteristic of Pigg's playing style is the use of complex open-fingered ornaments, in imitation of Irish and Highland piping. His father was a Highland piper, while Billy himself had great interest in Irish music. By contrast, most respected pipers before him would have stuck with an almost wholly staccato style. Tom Clough considered that any departure from this, a style where the chanter was closed and silent between any two notes, would be "a grievous error in smallpipe playing".

The popular Northumbrian pipe tune Holey Ha'penny was originally Irish, known there as The Chorus Jig. Pigg recorded it, as had Tom Clough in the 1920s. The contrast between the two styles can easily be heard between these recordings.

The more open-fingered style was very successful for Pigg's music, allowing him a greater range of expression than a more traditional style. However, his tempos were ferociously fast and somewhat erratic, making his music unsuitable for dancing, and he was notoriously hard to accompany. Unfortunately, he was suffering badly from worsening ill-health throughout the 1950s and 1960s, when all the recordings were made, and it is certain his playing must have suffered. However, the best of his recordings have a wildness and passion which is both inspiring and wholly distinctive.

He has been hugely influential, and many pipers have sought to emulate his style, notably Adrian Schofield.
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Wikipedia on Northumbrian Music

Here Northumbria is taken to mean the counties of Northumberland, the northernmost county of England, and County Durham, Sunderland (once part of County Durham), as well as part of Tyne and Wear. The region possesses a distinctive style of folk music with a strong and continuing tradition.[1] The region is particularly noted for its tradition of border ballads, the Northumbrian smallpipe (a form of bagpipe unique to north-east England) and also a strong fiddle tradition in the region that was already well-established in the 1690s. Northumbrian music is characterised by considerable influence from other regions, particularly southern Scotland and other parts of the north of England.[2] Irish tunes are also much played in the region, as they are elsewhere. There has been a continuous tradition of traditional and distinctive Northumbrian styles since the 18th century - there have also been 'revivals' in the late nineteenth century and again in the mid-twentieth. More recently, Northumbrian folk music, and particularly the use of the Northumbrian pipes, has become one of the liveliest and most widely known forms of folk music in Britain.

* 1 Local musical forms and styles
* 2 Bagpipe music
* 3 Fiddle music
* 4 Other instruments
* 5 Folk revivals
* 6 Contemporary music in Northumbria
* 7 Notes
* 8 Selected Recordings
* 9 External links

[edit] Local musical forms and styles

Northumbria shares with southern Scotland the long history of border ballads, such as 'The Ballad of Chevy Chase'.[3] It is also known for local dances, including the rapper dancing and Northumbrian clog dancing.[4] Although many tunes are shared with other regions of England or other nations, there is often a distinct difference between a Northumbrian version of a tune and versions from elsewhere. For instance a simple Irish tune, 'The Chorus Jig', with three strains, appears in the Northumbrian tradition as 'Holey Ha'penny', an ornate five-strain variation set. A Scottish strathspey, 'Struan Robertson's Rant' appears, stripped of the Scotch snap, as a smallpipe tune, 'Cuckold come out of the Amrey', again a variation set. From 1770-2 William Vickers made a manuscript collection of local dance tunes, of which some 580 survive, including both pipe and fiddle tunes, many of which are from Scotland, southern England, Ireland and even France, revealing the very extensive and varied repertoire of local musicians at that time.[5]
[edit] Bagpipe music
Main article: Northumbrian smallpipes

In the later medieval period pipe music appears to have been characterized by the use of the Northumbrian ‘war pipe’, which may have been the ancestor of the Great highland bagpipe, but no example has survived.[6] It appears to have been replaced in the region by the eighteenth century by a variety of pipes, ranging from the conical bore, open-ended border pipes, to the cylindrically bored smallpipes; the closed-ended form with its single octave compass and closed fingering is known to have existed since the seventeenth century, and open-ended forms were also known.[7] The Union or Pastoral pipes, the precursor of the Irish Uillean pipes, are also known to have been played in the region.[8] The earliest known bagpipe manuscript from the UK is a tunebook by William Dixon of Stamfordham in Northumberland, dated 1733. This includes forty tunes with extensive sets of variations. Some of the tunes correspond to later versions of known smallpipe tunes; others, with a nine-note compass, must have been played either on Border pipes or on an open-ended smallpipe, like the Scottish smallpipe.
an engraving of Billy Purvis (1784-1853) one of the last travelling minstrel pipers of the south of Scotland and the North East of England. Playing a Union pipe early-nineteenth century.

In the early nineteenth century, makers such as John Dunn and Robert and James Reid added keys to the closed-ended smallpipe, extending its range to almost two octaves. With its greater flexibility, the instrument became more fashionable at this time. On the other hand, the Border pipes seem not to have been found in Northumberland much after the middle of the century, though they were revived as the 'half-long pipes' in the 1920s and more successfully in the 1970s and 80s.

Many families have been associated with traditional Northumbrian piping. Willy Allan and his son James were noted pipers in the eighteenth century: James was the first piper to the Duchess of Northumberland. Most notably, the Clough family of Newsham produced six generations of pipers, including Tom Clough, who made an important early recording in 1929, and taught many pipers, including Billy Pigg.[9]
[edit] Fiddle music

The earliest source of music for fiddle from Northumberland is Henry Atkinson's tunebook from the 1690s. This includes tunes current in both the southern English and Scottish music of the time. A later source, unfortunately lost, was John Smith's tunebook from 1750. Some tunes from this were copied out by John Stokoe in the nineteenth century: these include an extended set of variations on the song The Keel Row for fiddle (the earliest known version), pipe tunes with variations such as Bold Wilkinson, and a version of Jacky Layton with variations for fiddle. It is clear that as in Scotland, the playing of extended variation sets on the fiddle was current in Northumberland at the time.

In the nineteenth century the most notable feature of the region's music was the popularity of the hornpipe in 4/4 time, and in particular the very influential playing of the publican, fiddler and composer James Hill. His compositions include 'The High Level Bridge', 'The Great Exhibition', 'The Beeswing', 'The Hawk' and many others. Many other fine tunes have been attributed to him, but these include some he cannot possibly have written.

In the early- and mid-twentieth century, influential fiddlers included Ned Pearson, Jim Rutherford, Adam Gray, George Hepple and Jake Hutton, father of the noted piper Joe Hutton. John Armstrong of Carrick played with the piper Billy Pigg. In the later part of the century, Willy Taylor was perhaps the most highly respected of the many fiddlers in the region.
[edit] Other instruments

Other musical instruments which have been used in the region include the flute and piccolo. Some nineteenth-century manuscripts contain tunes which are in keys and registers appropriate to the flute. Billy Ballantine was a piccolo player from the west of the region, who played for dances in the mid-twentieth century. The style of his playing was very distinctive, mixing staccato notes for rhythmic emphasis with more ornate passages. He made recordings of tunes like the Kielder Schottische and The Gilsland Hornpipe for the BBC.

Free reed instruments have been of growing importance since their development in the nineteenth century. In particular the mouth organ or "moothie" was played notably by Will Atkinson. As elsewhere in England the melodeon has been used for dance music.
[edit] Folk revivals

The first folk revival in the region tended to circulate around folk dance, the collection of border ballads and, from the later 1870s, the revival of interest in pipe music.

John Bell collected many tunes and songs from the region in the early nineteenth century and later on they were more comprehensively collected by John Collingwood Bruce and John Stokoe.[10] The Northumbrian small pipes society was founded in Newcastle in 1893 and the Northumbrian Piper’s Society in 1928, and they are generally credited with keeping the distinctive tradition alive.[11] Border ballads were a major part of those collected by Francis James Child and make up most of the sixth volume of his ten volume collection of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-98).[12]

The second folk revival saw a number of acts drawing on this work, and enjoying some success. Probably the most influential piper from the region was Billy Pigg, but other important pipers in the mid-twentieth century include G. G. Armstrong, George Atkinson, Jack Armstrong, and Joe Hutton.[13] Figures such Louis Killen, The High Level Ranters and Bob Davenport brought Northumbrian folk to national and international audiences.[14]

The most successful folk group from the region in the 1970s were Lindisfarne, who played progressive folk music with some local stylings. Much more concerned with traditional music from the region were the group that splintered from them in 1973 Jack the Lad, and another group from which they gained some members Hedgehog Pie, who, for a time, provided a regional answer to the electric folk of bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. These groups have been seen as continuing an exploration of regional identity through folk music.[15] Between their demise and revival in the 1990s, the local scene continued through groups like the more traditional Doonan family, which contained some of the finest folk flute players in the region.[16] These groups have been seen as continuing an exploration of regional identity through folk music.[17]

Colin Ross, has been influential not only as a player and teacher of the Northumbrian pipes, but has also been an important pipemaker. Distinctive local sounds were much more marked in the next generation of traditional Northumbrian folk musicians such as Ed Pickford and Jez Lowe, who have reinvigorated the local scene and artists like fiddler Nancy Kerr and piper Kathryn Tickell have gained international reputations, appearing on records with artists including Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy and even Sting.[18] In 2003 June Tabor stimulated interest in the Border ballads with her highly regarded album An Echo of Hooves.[19]

Thanks to the efforts of musicians like these in 2001 Newcastle University was the first to offer a performance-based degree programme in folk and traditional music in England and Wales.[20] Currently the region has over thirty active folk clubs and hosts several major folk festivals, including the Traditional Music Festival at Rothbury.[21]
[edit] Contemporary music in Northumbria

There are many artists and acts that have formed in the North east such as the Lighthouse Family, the Futureheads and Maxïmo Park, as well as musicians and singers that were born and raised in the region such as Dave Stewart, Mark Knopfler, Brian Ferry, Cheryl Cole, Sting, Andy Taylor of Duran Duran, Chris Rea, AC/DC's Brian Johnson and Moloko's Mark Brydon.

Hip-hop act the Text Offenders come from Cramlington.

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Blythe Power

References to the North East turn up in their LPs and they have ties to the Miller Brothers/Whiskey Priests.

With their twenty fifth anniversary fast approaching, Blyth Power remains one of the most original and innovative bands around. Formed in late 1983 by singer/drummer Joseph Porter, one of the prime features about the band is their all-consuming individuality. They have a strikingly identifiable and personalised sound built basically around Joseph’s epic songs, with their colourful personnel, exotic story-lines and crashing, impassioned choruses.
What does the band sound like? How long is a piece of string? With a catalogue of 130 original compositions to choose from, the band are able to adapt their set to suit their surroundings. With a whole range of both acoustic and electric songs, Blyth Power can settle comfortably into the tidy seated arena of an art centre and discuss matters on intimate terms, with precision and definition. Just as easily they can select a programme of up-tempo numbers to get the dancers tumbling over each other in a smelly rock-club basement, or reeling in a wet Marquee after a long day at the cider tent. Present to all humours and any occasion, ‘they change a visor swifter than a thought.’ There is no fixed set of songs. Each audience is presented with a tailor made selection that can vary from the gentle acoustic arpeggios of Burning Joan to the full-on punk rock assault of songs like Carlisle and Sometimes I Wonder. There is everything in between as well, and it is with a sly sense of mischief that the band will take delight in taunting the least folk-oriented crowd with the sound of accordions, or slipping in a raucous anthem to enliven the atmosphere of a balmy country fayre.

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Established in 1983 and named after a railway locomotive,[2] the one constant in an ever-shifting lineup has been drummer/vocalist/songwriter Joseph Porter (real name Gary James Hatcher,[3] born 21 February 1962 in Templecombe, Somerset[4]). The band's lyrics often deal with episodes from history, ranging from the Trojan War to the Cod War — as well as aspects of English culture such as cricket, village life and trains. Porter is an avowed trainspotter, and in August 1998 the band appeared on the LWT television programme Holy Smoke! in a slot in which musicians discussed their individual religions — with trainspotting cited as his religion.[5]

Since 1993, Blyth Power recordings have been released on their own label, Downwarde Spiral. Since 2000 they have cut back on their touring schedule due to various personal commitments, but they have organised an annual mini-festival, the Tallington Ashes. The festival took place in Lincolnshire in August of each year, and combines live music with a cricket match featuring band members and their associates. It was cancelled in 2007[6], and renamed the Blyth Power Ashes, moving to Ripley in Derbyshire, from 2008. From 2010 the event moved to The Goat, in Skeyton Norfolk due to its ever increasing popularity.[7]

Joseph Porter has also being involved with various side-projects, such as doing solo guitarist/vocalist performances and collaborating in 2 other bands, Red Wedding and Mad Dogs & Englishmen.

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Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn Tickell (born 8 June 1967) is an English player of the Northumbrian smallpipes and fiddle. She has recorded over a dozen albums, and toured widely.

Kathryn Tickell took up the smallpipes aged nine, inspired by her family—especially her father Mike, who was heavily involved in the local traditional music scene—and by the music of an older generation of traditional musicians such as Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson, Joe Hutton, Richard Moscrop, Billy Pigg and Tom Hunter. By the time she turned thirteen in 1980, Kathryn had won all the traditional open smallpipes competitions, and was also making a name as an accomplished player of the Shetland fiddle style which she learned from the Shetland fiddle master Tom Anderson at Stirling University's traditional folk summer school. [1] Kathryn has also incorporated the Border pipes into her traditional ensemble. [1] Her family is from the North Tyne Valley area of Northumberland.

Her first album, On Kielder Side, was released in 1984. In the same year she was named the official piper for the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Kathryn turned professional in 1986. She has since toured Europe regularly and has recorded with international performers like The Chieftains, The Boys of the Lough, and Sting.

In 1990 she formed the Kathryn Tickell Band. As of 2005, the band currently consists of Peter Tickell (Fiddle), Julian Sutton (Melodeon), Ian Stephenson (Guitar, acoustic bass guitar), and Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddle).

Two ex-members of north-eastern traditional music group the High Level Ranters have appeared on her albums - Tom Gilfellon on "On Kielder Side" and Alistair Anderson on "Borderlands" (1986). The latter album included to a tribute to Wark football team.

Several other pipers have appeared on her albums - Troy Donockley on "Debatable Lands", Patrick Molard on "The Gathering" and Martyn Bennett on "Borderlands". "Debatable Lands" includes "Our Kate", a composition by Kathryn Tickell dedicated to Catherine Cookson. Jazz saxophonist Andy Sheppard wrote a piece with her in 2001. It was premiered at the opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

In 2002 Kathryn became director of "Folkestra North". It is a project to develop young talented musicians, aged between 14 and 19. It was announced on 19 January 2009 that Kathryn is to be awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music. There will be a ceremony at The Sage Gateshead at 11am on Monday 26 January, when the award will be formally announced by Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

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Alistair Anderson

The music traditions of Northumberland, a small region in northeast England that borders Scotland, have been promoted by English concertina and smallpipe player Alistair Anderson. A founding member of the High Level Ranters, the group most associated with the revival of Northumberland music in the 1970s, Anderson has continued to explore the music of his homeland as a soloist.

Anderson's involvement with music was inspired by childhood friend and future Boys of the Lough member Dave Richardson, who played blues harmonica. Acquiring a guitar and teaching himself six chords, Anderson was soon able to accompany Richardson.

Influenced by the American folk music of the 1960s, Anderson taught himself to play his father's mandolin and began frequenting folk clubs. After buying a concertina for five pounds, he gave the mandolin to Richardson. Influenced by the bagpipe playing of Billy Pigg, he developed a unique, melodic style of playing that worked well with traditional dance music.

While hanging out at the Bridge Folk Club at the north end of High Level Bridge in Newcastle, Anderson became friends with accordion player Johnny Handle and piper and fiddler Colin Ross, who managed the club. When the club launched a weekly dance night, Anderson played with the band, which soon evolved into the High Level Ranters. Their debut album, Northumberland For Ever, was released in 1968.

Between 1971 and 1979, when he left the band, Anderson balanced his involvement with the High Level Ranters and his solo career. Although he continued to explore the music of Northumberland, he increasingly forged his own direction. The title track of his 1982 album, Steel Skies, was an original, extended, classical-tinged suite.

In 1974, Anderson began playing the Northumbrian smallpipe, a bellows-blown, two-octave, closed-end bagpipe known for its bright, staccato tones.

Moving to North Northumberland, Anderson became associated with the Shephards, a group that played national events throughout England from 1980 to 1995. He remained active behind the scenes as well. In addition to founding the Rothbury Traditional Music Festival, he helped to form Folkworks, a folk music development agency that has produced numerous festivals and workshops. ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide
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The group began as The Downtown Faction but soon changed their name to The Brethren. In 1968, after hearing of an American group of the same name, they became Lindisfarne after the island of that name off the coast of Northumbria.

In 1970 Tony Stratton-Smith signed them to Charisma Records and their debut album Nicely Out of Tune was released in 1970. This album defined their mixture of bright harmony and up tempo folk rock. Both singles released from the album "Clear White Light" and "Lady Eleanor" failed to chart, as did the album itself at first, however the band obtained a strong following from its popular live concerts.[3]

Their second album Fog on the Tyne (1971), produced by Bob Johnston, began their commercial success. This album reached #1 in the UK charts the following year. The single "Meet me on the Corner" and a re-release of "Lady Eleanor" followed in 1972. The album Nicely Out Of Tune belatedly made the UK album chart Top 10 and the band began to attract a huge media following, with some calling Hull the greatest songwriter since Bob Dylan. The band were even referred to as the "1970s Beatles".[3]

in 1972 they recorded their third album, Dingly Dell. The band were unhappy with the initial production and remixed it themselves. It was released in September 1972. The album cover was a plain beige cardboard sleeve which was intended to demonstrate to fans that it was the music which mattered. Some overseas markets insisted on redesigning it with a photo of the band; this has since been used for the UK CD reissue. Though it entered the Top 10 in the first week of release, it received lukewarm reviews. The ecologically themed single "All Fall Down" was a UK Singles Chart Top 40 hit but the second single "Court in the Act" failed completely.

Internal tensions surfaced during a disappointing tour of Australia in early 1973. Hull initially considered leaving the band, but was persuaded to reconsider. It was agreed that he and Jackson would keep the group name while Cowe, Clements and Laidlaw left to form their own outfit Jack The Lad. They were replaced by Tommy Duffy (bass guitar), Kenny Craddock (keyboards), Charlie Harcourt (guitar) and Paul Nicholl (drums).[4] Jackson almost persuaded Phil Collins of Genesis to join this line up, after Laidlaw reversed his decision to continue. The new line-up lacked the appeal of the original and with Hull also pursuing a solo career, the band's next two albums Roll On Ruby and Happy Daze and the subsequent singles failed to chart. They disbanded in 1975 but the old line-up continued to play annual Christmas shows at the Newcastle City Hall.

In 1977 they reformed and with a new record deal with Mercury returned to the charts in 1978 with the UK chart top 10 hit "Run For Home", an autobiographical song about the rigours of touring and relief at returning home. The song also gave them a a US singles chart hit and the album Back and Fourth moved into the UK album chart top 30. Subsequent singles "Juke Box Gypsy" and "Warm Feeling" failed to sustain their newfound success. The next album The News(1979) failed to impress and the band lost their record deal.

The next decade witnessed various lineup changes and the band continued to release albums. They formed their own company Lindisfarne Musical Productions and recorded singles such as "I Must Stop Going To Parties" in the mid 1980s, as well as one album Sleepless Nights. In 1984 they supported Bob Dylan and Santana at St James' Park. Saxophone player and vocalist Marty Craggs joined the group shortly afterwards. Throughout this period they played annual Christmas tours and released Dance Your Life Away(1986) and C'mon Everybody(1987) - the latter made up of covers of old rock'n'roll standards.[3].

Another album, Amigos, was released in 1989. In 1990 Lindisfarne introduced themselves to a younger generation with the duet "Fog on the Tyne Revisited" accompanied by footballer Paul Gascoigne, which reached #2 in the UK singles chart. Soon afterwards Jackson left the band. Cowe left in 1993, shortly after the recording of the album Elvis Lives On The Moon. Hull died on 17 November 1995, and although the band continued they did not release another studio album.

The band continued to play with a fluid line up and performed a final concert on 1 November 2003 at the Newcastle Opera House. The final line up as a band included Dave Hull-Denholm, Billy Mitchell, Rod Clements, Ian Thomson and Ray Laidlaw and was released as Time Gentlemen Please (2004). Clements formed "The Ghosts of Electricity" and continued to pursue a solo career. The trio Lindisfarne Acoustic honoured final commitments and toured until their last show on 17 May 2004 in Chesham.

On 19 November 2005 the friends and colleagues of Alan Hull held a memorial concert at Newcastle City Hall in honour of Hull and included musicians such as Alan Clark, Simon Cowe, Marty Craggs, Steve Cunningham, Steve Daggett, Tommy Duffy, Mike Elliot, Frankie Gibbon, Charlie Harcourt, Brendan Healy, Tim Healy, Ray Jackson, Ray Laidlaw, Finn McArdle, Ian McCallum, Billy Mitchell, Terry Morgan, The Motorettes, Jimmy Nail, Paul Nichols, Tom Pickard, Prelude, Bob Smeaton, Paul Smith and Kathryn Tickell. Proceeds from the concert were donated to The North East Young Musicians Fund.
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John Wrightson/Band

North East culture has informed this singer songwriter.

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Tim Readman

Emerging in his mid-teens from the same North-Eastern English folk scene as Jez Lowe, Vin Garbutt, and Bob Fox; County Durham lad Tim Readman earned a reputation as talented songwriter, guitarist, singer and interpreter of traditional and contemporary folk songs. He cut his teeth with space rock legends The Blintz Band and prog-folk outfit Pigs Might Fly, before moving on to join ex-Bryan Ferry alumni and new-wavers The Divers.

He spent 10 years in Newcastle upon Tyne as electric guitarist and singer with northern soul/ska sensations Arthur 2 Stroke and the Chart Commandos, political world pop darlings Watt Government and also enjoyed a brief stint with schoolmates and hitmakers The Kane Gang.

Since emigrating to Vancouver BC he worked with all sorts of musicians including Jimmy Kwan, Point Blank, Kavita, The Blinds, Craig McKerron and Video Barbeque, before returning to his beloved folk roots with seminal Canadian Celtic/folk favourites Fear of Drinking.

He has played for years with The Arrogant Worms – Canada’s Clown Princes of musical comedy – as an opening act, as a replacement for Mike McCormick, as part of their symphony orchestra show, as an accompanist on electric guitar and as road manager and chief heckler.

He still plays guitar, sings and writes with with ace fiddler Shona Le Mottée in her band, and as a duo, and produced her debut CD, Destination Grouville.

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Vin Garbutt

He was born in South Bank, Middlesbrough, to an Irish mother and an English father. He discovered Folk Music whilst he was still at school, becoming a regular visitor (and performer) at The Rifle Club in Cannon Street, Middlesbrough. On leaving school Vin was steered into the safety of an apprenticeship at the massive I.C.I. Wilton Chemical Plant. During this period he set off regularly to Ireland in search of his musical roots. At the age of 21, he threw caution to the winds and became a professional musician. Armed with the rich repertoire of songs he had amassed, he spent the first summer busking his way around the bars of Spain's Mediterranean coast, and on to Morocco via Gibraltar. It was then that he found he had a talent for songwriting.

Back in England in 1972 he recorded his first album for Bill Leader - The Valley Of Tees. This firmly established him as a singer and songwriter of fine socially conscious, and environmentally aware songs. As one magazine very recently put it - "Vin Garbutt was green long before the Greens were green!"

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Benny Graham

Benny Graham served his musical apprenticeship in the folksong clubs of North East England.
Clubs like Birtley, run by the Elliott family, and Newcastle Folksong and Ballad (which featured among it's regulars the High Level Ranters and Lou Killen) were at the forefront of the British folk revival. There was no better place in the late 60's for a young singer to develop a love of the vast musical culture of the North East which takes in rural songs, Tyneside Music Hall and the music which grew from the heavy industries of coal, steel and ship building.

Having worked as a solo performer for several years Benny then formed a three part harmony band - Pegleg Ferret -touring both the UK and the continent. An opportunity to join one of Tyneside's premier theatre companies in what is now the Newcastle Playhouse provided a change of direction and enabled Benny to work with company directors Gareth Morgan and Michael Bogdanov. Since then many companies have used Benny as a singer, actor, songwriter and also Stage and Production Manager.
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Billy Mitchell

Billy started playing the guitar in the early sixties when they were all made of wood and mostly the same colour.

He formed a ‘beat group’ with some pals at the local youth club and played local clubs and pubs till the sad arrival of full time employment forced their demise.

He then joined with former beat group pals to form a ‘folk group’ during the great ‘folk scare’ of the late sixties and early seventies. The Callies showed the good people of Newcastle what they thought folk music should sound like. They recorded one album, went to London, didn’t like it... then came home.

After a spell in Vancouver, Canada, Billy was invited to return to England to join Jack the Lad with members of the recently split Lindisfarne. Then followed four albums and four years touring the UK and Europe, playing every venue known to man and some that weren’t…

At the end of the seventies he joined with Peter McIntyre to form the hilarious Maxie & Mitch who have spent the last twenty four years playing music in a very funny way to people all over the world who fancied a laugh…

1996 saw Billy join Newcastles’ favourite sons Lindisfarne who enjoyed critical acclaim for their live concerts in the UK and the USA, and their subsequently-released albums of new songs Here Comes the Neighbourhood and Promenade.

Since Lindisfarne's retirement in 2003, Billy has embarked on a very successful solo career with his Backtrackin' show and CD, and in 2005 he recorded The Devil's Ground album, which received critical acclaim and extensive radio play.

In 2006, he celebrated his 60th birthday by forming the first ever Billy Mitchell Band, who played an emotional ‘sell out’ concert at The Sage, Gateshead.

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Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell’s heritage is steeped in musical history. His father Billy Mitchell fronted Tyneside bands Jack The Lad and Lindisfarne and continues to have a successful solo career. Tom, inspired by Billy’s legacy, decided to make his own mark and at the tender age of twenty one embarked on his own solo career.

Having fronted bands since the early age of twelve as a guitarist, piano player and lead vocalist, Tom had plenty time to hone his craft and develop his confidence and command of audience, immediately evident when he takes to the stage. He makes a connection with each and every person which he maintains throughout his shows. His technical ability is astounding and indicative of a sincere dedication to his art.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award finalists, Tarras recognised Tom’s potential at the age of seventeen. Consequently he was headhunted to join the group for their final tour playing full capacity venues. He went on to take to the stage with his Dad when he joined The Billy Mitchell Band in 2005, playing two national tours culminating in a sell out ‘home-ground’ concert at The Sage, Gateshead.
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Jez Lowe

Wikipedia reports:
Jez Lowe (born 1955) is an English folk singer-songwriter. Lowe was born and raised in County Durham, in a coal mining family with Irish roots. He is known primarily for his compositions dealing with daily life in North-East England, particularly in his hometown of Easington Colliery. He performs both as a solo artist and with his backing band, The Bad Pennies. In addition to singing his songs, Lowe accompanies himself and The Bad Pennies on guitar, harmonica,

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High Level Ranters

The High Level Ranters have been playing traditional music and song from the North-East of England for over 30 years, becoming one of the most influential groups of the Folk Revival. For many years they were the only group featuring the Northumbrian smallpipes in their performances, and are thus responsible for introducing many of today's pipers to this most beautiful and unique instrument. They also introduced many of today's musicians to the wealth of distinctive local and traditional music in the North-East, and did so with a unique enthusiasm of performance which has not been equalled.

Their name was chosen as a combination of the location of the Bridge Folk Club at the North end of the High Level Bridge in Newcastle, where they all played, and from the Cheviot Ranters, a famous Northumberland dance band operating in the Alnwick area from about 1953 to 1996....
The High Level Ranters originally came together through Folk Song and Ballad Newcastle, one of the first folk clubs in Britain. The Bridge Hotel, in which a folk club still meets, is situated at the North end of the High Level bridge. The group took their name from the bridge, and also from the rant step, used in local dances such as the Morpeth Rant. The original Ranters began playing together as a band in the early 1960's, when the folk song revival was in full swing. Instrumental folk music was practically unheard in the folk clubs at the time, but the Ranters proved that traditional British dance tunes could be just as interesting and exciting to listen to as the songs. Their fine spirited playing of rants, reels, jigs, and hornpipes pointed the direction that this form of British folk music was to take. The band draws extensively upon the wealth of Northumbrian music in both dance and song, and remains closely in touch with the country areas where traditional musicians still make music at home and in the pubs. Music hall songs from Newcastle also have an important place in their repertoire - but apart from their own tradition in the North East of England they also enjoy playing and singing songs and tunes from all over the British Isles. The Ranters unique sound is produced by combinations of the small pipes, fiddle, accordion, tin whistle and piano. A typical Ranters concert is a balance between group instrumental and singing, with solos by individual members of the band. The total effect is an immensely versatile and highly entertaining performance, and their group and solo skills are in great demand at festivals, for workshops, concerts, sessions and singarounds.

Today the High Level Ranters are known as one of the longest standing traditional bands in the country, losing none of their enthusiasm for entertaining audiences. Whilst their line-up and instrumentation has changed and evolved over the years, they undoubtedly remain one of the leading exponents of the traditional music of the North East of England.

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Johnny Handle

Johnny Handle is an English folk musician and singer. Starting as a skiffle player in 1957 he soon crossed into folk music both as a soloist and as a member of The High Level Ranters. His repertoire is heavily influenced by the traditional music of North East England and, in particular, songs about coal mining. He worked as a coal miner before becoming a musician. In 1958, with Louis Killen, he founded the Folksong and Ballad Club in the Bridge Hotel, Newcastle. He plays accordion, keyboards, banjo, whistle and the Northumbrian pipes.
[edit] Selected recordings

* The Collier Lad - 1975 (Topic 12TS270)
* She's A Big Lass - 1979 (EMI)
* Stottin Doon The Waal – 1963 -(Topic TOP78)
* Along The Coaly Tyne – (with The High Level Ranters) (Topic TSCD498)

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About Jimmy Nail

Actor and singer songwriter. Known for his song Big river about the Tyne.

Here is the Wikipedia page-


Bob Fox

The official Bob Fox web page is here:


I was very impressed with their version of big river. What do you think?

Bob Fox & Billy Mitchell
This unique combination will

entertain people of all shapes and

sizes with their wonderful selection

of northern songs that spans

Jimmy Nail’s ‘Big River’ to

Lindisfarne’s ‘Meet Me On The Corner’

all delivered with consummate musicianship.The duo’s on-stage

banter has also been known to

regularly reduce audiences to

gibbering wrecks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Norhumbrian Girdle Scones

Northumbrian Girdle Scones

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter or shortening
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Milk to mix

Rub butter into the four, which has been sifted 3 times with baking powder and salt. Add enough milk to make mixture into fairly stiff dough.
Roll out dough on lightly floured board to 1/4 or 1/2 inch thick. Cut into triangles. Bake on greased girdle or iron frying pan. When delicately browned on one side, turn the scone and brown on the other side.

Split and serve very hot with butter and strawberry jam.
Yield: 1 dozen.

Dickens on Geordies

To a south-countryman, and especially to a Londoner, the change of scene and life presented after a leap of three hundred miles in a line due north is so striking that he, may be almost pardoned for a temporary doubt if he be in one and the same land. We may be accustomed to the gloom and the fogs of our metropolis, and we may vaunt that nothing can beat them, but in Geordie's country—that is to say, the great coal country of North Britain— we find ourselves lost in a griminess and a gloom of equal intensity but of a totally distinct genus. We may be familiar with the bewildering twists and turns of the Kentish or the Cornish dialect, and we may doubt if our native language can be elsewhere so mangled out of recognition, but the vilest French patois is intelligible compared with the tongue spoken by Geordie. As for manners and customs, superstitions and beliefs, prejudices and opinions—those of Geordie's country are as distinct from those of our country, as are the customs of the Choctaw Indians from those of the New Yorkers.
Long before we get into Geordie's country we are prepared for it. Grimy towns, grimy footpaths, grimy individuals, are apparent miles away from the nearest pit; the trains we pass are mineral trains; the talk is of ships, and outputs, and coal prices; the fields get more and more sickly in colour, the trees are more stunted, the very sky seems to reflect the hue of the gigantic wealth of the earth. We gape at the first pit noticeable, and marvel at its huge "slag banks," its ever turning wheels, its ever vomiting chimneys; then another and another are passed, and by the time we pull up at the Durham station, - and gaze far beyond the majestic towers and battlements of Cuthbert's cathedral and Norman William's castle into a dim region of half-night, they are as familiar objects to us as the farmhouses of our south-country roads.
Before we penetrate to Geordie's working sphere, let us look at Geordie himself, for he is a creation per se and well worthy of study.
The popular portrait of Geordie gives us a big, stalwart fellow, begrimed with dirt from morn to night, only a step removed from the animals as to his tastes and ideas, very drunken and very brutal, working like a galley-slave when he does work, and spending his earnings with reckless prodigality.
There is truth in this, of course—a little more truth than there is in the popular idea of the British sailor who is always dancing hornpipes clad in a straw hat and white trousers, drinking grog, singing Dibdin's songs, and shivering his timbers —but not very much more. The picture may pass very well for the Geordie of half a century since, but the Geordie of to-day is as different as is Ironclad Jack of to-day from Wooden-Wall Jack of Nelson's era.
In nine cases out of ten Geordie is a small man. The first Geordies may have been typical northern giants, but the work of generations in a bad atmosphere, in a cramped position, has wiitten its tale in the physique of the modern Geordie. He very rarely attains a height over five feet six inches, and although his " upper works " are well developed, and although he has not an ounce of superfluous flesh upon his iron muscles, his legs are small and shapeless ; and, when washed and dressed in above-ground clothes, he has the appearance of a man whose life is sedentary in the extreme.
Geordie is certainly a grimy being during business hours—that is to say, during eight hours of five days of the week, but his very first move upon his arrival at home in the "row" is to the washing-tub, and, just as he is a peculiar individual generally speaking, so is his washing method peculiar. Face, neck, front of body, arms, and legs, are scraped as clean as soap-and-water and brush can make them, but upon no account does he touch his back or under his arms, as a firm belief still obtains that weakness is the sure result of so doing. Similarly, Geordie's notion of the attitude of repose is peculiar, as one may see when passing through a colliery row on a Sunday. Chairs are prominent articles of furniture in his cottage, but he only uses them at meal-times or upon state occasions. When he smokes his pipe of peace, or indulges in a gossip, he squats on his heels, not in the Japanese fashion, but with his knees under his chin, and in this, to us, painful attitude he can remain for an hour without stirring ; the spectacle of a row of men, with unnaturally pallid faces, thus squatting, being laughable in the extreme.

A colliery row is as entirely distinct in appearance and constitution from any other collection of cottages, as is a Belgravian terrace from a suburban villa road, and the visitor is at once impressed with the fact that he is amongst a peculiar people. If he enters one cottage, he sees an exact replica of every other pitman's cottage in the neighbourhood. The first object which meets the eye is the. enormous bed; not a trumpery affair of cheap veneer made only to be looked at, but a well-built, solid four-poster bed, amply provided with curtains and pillows and coverings, and, of course, with the inevitable antimacassar. In front of the bed are invariably stationed, like sentinels, two or three wooden chairs, each with its proper antimacassar. Upon one side stands a sort of chiffonier, decorated with bits of china, shells, and other knick-knacks arranged with mathematical precision; upon the other is the table, the bath, and the cooking-range.
Of course there are rows and rows, according to the interest which the pitowner takes in those who work for him, and of course one meets with different degrees of neatness and space; but no matter how filthy and uncanny the surroundings, the big bed and the sentinel chairs are to be found.
The Geordie who has not children, dogs, or flowers is a remarkable exception to the general rule. In fact, the order of precedence of the average Geordie's household gods may be stated thus : Firstly, the good woman; secondly, the bed and the bath; thirdly, the dogs or flowers; and fourthly, the bairns. Hence it is seen that Geordie's tastes are various. If he is botanical he does not care what sum be gives for a peculiarly gaudy flower. He has an eye for art, as we may see by the papering of his walls with coloured prints and tradesmen's almanacks, and by the fact that his door-posts are often of one vivid colour, whilst his scraper—Geordie always has a scraper—is of another. He is an enthusiastic patron of certain branches of sport, for, besides being especially knowing in all matters canine, he never hesitates to give up a day's work in order to attend a boat-race, or a coursing match, or a game of bowls. He used to be fond of pugilism and wrestling, but of late years his allegiance has been transferred elsewhere, although more " foights" take place in the coal country in a week than occur down south in a year.
Geordie lives well. He would laugh to scorn the south-country yokel's daily dinner of bacon and beans, or the still more moderate diet of the northern rustic. He likes the best of everything, and plenty of it, consuming game largely when in season, and having a known partiality for pineapples, whilst beef and mutton and pork are looked upon as necessaries of life. Holiday attire, from his point of view, means the display of as much colour as possible, and Geordie's wife, decked out with a brilliant shawl and a gown of startling brilliancy, is a sight to be seen and shuddered at.
Still, Geordie's life is a hard one, and it requires a good deal of high living and a great many holidays to make up for that eight hours' spell of his in the bowels of the earth.
Let us follow him as he goes to relieve the night-shift, let us say at the Wearmouth Pit, the deepest but one in England, situated in the very heart of the town of Sunderland, clad in his coarse jacket, his knee-breeches allowing a bit of blueclad leg to appear above the thick shoes, his pick in one hand, his lamp in the other, and the pipe, which he will have to give up at the colliery gates, clenched lovingly between his teeth.
We can see, by the constant movement of the two huge aerial wheels, that work never ceases here, and whilst Geordie is crossing the labyrinth of railway lines, and dodging between trucks empty and trucks laden, we ourselves must undergo some personal transformation ere we are ready to accompany him. So, in the house of the courteous manager, we are invested with coarse serge knickerbocker suits, with leathern caps, the peaks of which are worn behind, on our heads, and stout sticks in our hands, whilst the ladies of our party, who have come prepared for the dirty ordeal, exchange their hats and bonnets for woollen shawls.
We follow the " viewers," who act as our guides, across the maze of lines, past the huge slag bank, up two or three flights of grimy steps to the room wherein all the lamps are cleaned, filled, and kept in order; we receive each a lamp, and pass into a huge timber hall, around which are squatting perhaps a hundred pitmen, waiting until the last of the night-shift have been brought up.
In the centre of the hall is the pit mouth, that is to say, the " downcast shaft," as distinguished from the " upcast shaft," which is used entirely for ventilating purposes, and every few minutes four cages arrive at the summit, in two of which is the fresh-hewn coal, and in the other two the night-shift men, huddled together, and looking inexpressibly weird as they emerge into daylight.
The trucks in which they sit are not tempting-looking conveyances, and our ladies look rather aghast at them, but we are assured that our descent shall be made in a special manner. So, when the last of the night-shift have "come to bank," a square box, lined with straw, is rolled along the lines, and we are invited to enter. This box, our guide informs us, is called the Sunbeam, because it was made expressly for Lady Brassey.
We settle ourselves as best we can in the necessarily limited space, are warned to duck our heads well down, and are rolled over the mouth of the yawning abyss eighteen hundred feet beneath us. We are then lifted a bit, so as to allow two empties to be put under us, then lowered to allow two other trucks of Geordies to be put over us, and finally descend. Luckily for our nerves, we can see nothing of the pace at which we are going, although about halfway down it makes itself felt by a deafening sensation in the ears, but in exactly two minutes we reach the bottom of the shaft .
We are amazed to find ourselves in a wide, lofty tunnel, white-painted, and brilliantly lighted, with horses and men moving about just as in the streets eighteen hundred feet above our heads. To recover our sense of hearing we adjourn to a small office for a few minutes, and then start for a two-mile ride on what we call a tramtruck, moved on the endless chain principle by a powerful engine. Gradually the tunnel decreases in height and width, until we are obliged to keep our heads well down in order to avoid contact with the huge transverse baulks of timber which support the roof. We note, too, that we are moving through a passage cut in the virgin coal, and when we alight we are fairly amongst the deepest and latest workings of the mine. We strike off from the main truck way, and at once begin the rough portion of our exploration, sometimes moving along for many yards in a crouching position, and even then receiving occasionally brisk smacks on our leathern caps, in other places able to walk upright . The silence is so profound that we can literally hear our hearts beat when we seat ourselves for a few minutes' rest . The coarse flannel shirts make us perspire profusely, although a current of air is felt wherever we go, and the foothold is of the roughest nature. At intervals along the way are spaces cut out of the walls, wherein we stop whilst the train of coal-laden trucks, called "tubs," drawn by ponies, rumble past; and one of the features of this underground locomotion is the marvellous adroitness with which the drivers in charge leap on and off the double connecting chain between the pony and the first " tub " when in full motion.
As yet we have not seen Geordie at work, but a distant, dull, regular sound proclaims the vicinity of a working corner long before we reach it. As there are ladies in our party, one of our guides deems it necessary to go forward and herald the approach of visitors, so that by the time we arrive Geordie has had time to clothe himself rather more than is usual with him while at work.
There are four men working in this corner; two of them are squatting and hewing at the black glistening wall; the third is lying on his back and working at the mass overhead in a passage too narrow to admit of his standing or squatting; whilst the fourth empties the coal into the truck.
Of course, by way of paying footing, each of us has a turn with the pick, and after a few blows, feel pretty much as if we had done a day's work. Then we distribute largesse, and proceed farther, to see the other great sights of the pits—the stables and the ventilating furnace.
The stable consists of a long, lofty gallery cut out of the rock, and in it are some fifty ponies, temporarily off duty. These ponies are brought down when quite foals, and as a rule never see daylight again. Oar guide tells us that one pony, brought to bank after ten years' service in the pit, went mad from the sudden effects of brilliant sunshine, and points to another old veteran of fifteen years' service, " and," he adds, " as good as the day he was first brought."
From the stables we go to the furnace. On our way we pass a chasm in the walls, which we are told is the shaft by which we descended, and, as we have been gradually mounting since our departure from the tram-trucks, we shall see for ourselves the pace at which our cage descended. We wait for a minute; there is a dull sound as of rushing wind, a dense mass is whisked past us, and we are informed that it is the cage going to the pit mouth.
The furnace is at the bottom of the upcast shaft, and is so huge and fierce that at a distance of ten feet, we are glad to shade our faces, with our hands. This heat causes a powerful draught, which is carried down the downcast shaft, through the whole of the workings, and back again up the upcast shaft. To test the force of this draught our guide requests us to open a door close by the furnace. We do manage the operation after much exertion, and are nearly bowled over by the gust with which we are assailed, much to the amusement of half-a-dozen Geordies, who respectfully request another footing payment for our experience.
And so we go on for an hour, up and down, now walking upright and easily, now crouching almost double, stumbling over masses of fallen rock, tripping up over the endless chain, our figures reflected by the light of our safety-lamps in gaunt, weird shadows on the walls of the gallery.
We are very hot and very thirsty, so that we are not sorry when we find ourselves at our starting-place, after having made a good round of the workings, having been under the river, and under the sea, and having penetrated landwards a couple of miles out of the town on the way to Ryhope.
When we arrive at the pit-office, and survey ourselves in the glass, we can appreciate the existence of the tub as a necessary condition of Geordie's life, for, although we have only been below ground two hours, the minute particles of coal-dust have penetrated to the smallest exposed spots on our heads and faces, have drawn black lines around our eyes, and filled our ears and noses.
And so, after a bath and a glass of sherry, and having expressed our appreciation of tho extreme courtesy and attentions of the Wearmouth Pit officials, we sneak along byways and back streets towards home.
We had felt no nervousness during our expedition, probably, as Prior wrote, because—
From ignorance our comfort flows ;
but we were assured that in the pitman's work, as with earthquakes, familiarity with danger breeds anything but contempt, and we were very much struck when we asked an old Geordie whom we met in the workings, when he would be off duty, to hear him reply, "At eight o'clock, if I'm alive."
-Charles Dickens, All the Year Round., Vol. 34, 1884, p.159.

(Remember- Dickens was from London and therefore a "cockney" in the Geordie Sense that is, anyone from London or the South, so therefore the rivalry may be showing. However, in this case Dickens seems to have taken pains to be objective and discount stereotypes.

Birthday Girdle Scones

Birthday Girdle Scones
(baked on a griddle or iron baking sheet with handle(called a girdle generally round) placed over heat source. Cakes are cooked till brown on both sides. Place objects into the cakes: three-penny bit for riches, button- old maid, wedding ring- marriage

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup milk
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Sift together flour and salt in a bowl. Heat the milk and dissolve in it the butter and soda. When cool, gradually add the liquid to the flour, stirring the mixture thoroughly to make a stiff dough.
Roll out the dough into 1/4 inch thick and cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 - 3 inch cutter. Bake on hot greased griddle, browning the scones delicately, first on one side, then on the other. If you have no griddle use a large, old-fashioned frying pan. Split, butter well, and serve very hot for tea. Yield- 15

Geordie Childe Ballad 209

Childe Ballad 209
Does not refer to a "geordie" but an indvidual (s) from elsewhere generally Scotland
Just to clarify.....

Map of British Isles Geordie Style-

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book Review Stotty 'n' Spice Cake

Stotty 'n' Spice Cake
The Story of North East Cooking
Second Edition
Compiled by Bill Griffiths
This is a good guide to primary accounts of the cookery of the North East and a very good collection of definitions of words in dialect however, if you are looking for recipes this is not the place. There was not a clear recipe for Stotty- or bottom bread a staple and part of the title. (that was why I purchased this book). So it would be a good purchase if you were intersted in dialect texts and dialect and also for a good survey of the history of cookery and primary accounts. A nice book, just wish it had more recipes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Music from the North East- topical, current
Here is their well produced web page click here
Great sound clips there- some Tommy Armstrong. A good variety of presentation. What do you think?
What about the tunes?

The Unthanks

Thinking about the upcoming Blaydon Races day (Nineth of June) I remembered hearing the Unthanks on the BBC program Sunday Folk. So I got their latest cd. Here's the Tender Coming. Never heard such soulful renditions of classic Newcastle Songs. Not only classics but also great new pieces with interesting topics. The music is Jazz and art song flavored with many styles represented so it would be good for a gathering. Highly recommended. Here is a youtube interview. I also added a link to my book of Tommy Armstrong songs- sales keep me going. Want a good traditional teatime with your music- then try my cookbook. You don't have to be Irish!

Sausage Rolls

Sausage Rolls. 

(Adjustment- cut the lard and butter by half )

One pound of flour, half a pound of beat lard, quarter of a pound of butter, and the yolks of three eggs wells beaten. Put the flour into a dish, make a hole in the middle of it. and rub in about one ounce of the lard, then the yolks of the eggs, and enough water to mix the whole into a smooth paste. Roll it out about an inch thick; flour your paste and board. Put the butter and lard in a lump into the paste, sprinkle it with flour, and turn the paste over It; beat it with a rolling-pin until you have got it flat enough to roll; roll it lightly until very thin; then divide your meat, and put it into two layers of paste, and pinch the ends. Sausage-rolls are now usually made small. Two pounds of sausage-meat will be required for this quantity of paste, and it will make about two and a half dozen of rolls. Whites of the eggs should be beaten a little, and brushed over the rolls to glaze them. The will require from twenty minutes to half an hour to bake, and should be served on a dish covered with a neatly-folded napkin
-Peterson's Magazine. Vol. 50, 1866, p.438.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Recipes- Stotty Cake, Singin Hinnys

Singin Hinnies
4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup currants
Milk to make firm dough
sift together the four, baking powder and salt, and rub in butter and shortening until mixture is consistency of coarse meal. Work in currants which have been dredged with flour. Add enough milk to make a firm dough. Roll out round, to 1/4 inch thick on floured board.
Grease the griddle or an iron frying pan and make it very hot. Place the cake on it and cook on top of stove until the bottom is delicately browned. Then turn over and brown on the the side. be sure that the cake is thoroughly cooked.
Remove cake from pan, cut into pieces, split, butter and serve hot with jam.

Stottie Cake a.k.a. Bottom Cake
(I find that baking times should be adjusted to 10 minutes each side. The cake should be flipped when barely brown)

2 cakes compressed yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water, together with 1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups scalded milk
1 3/4 cups water
11-12 cups sifted all purpose flour
Crumble the yeast into a bowl, to which the 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon sugar have been added. Set in a warm place until the mixture becomes light and spongy. ( about 15 minutes).
Combine the shortening, 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt in a mixing bowl and add the scalded milk and the water. Add the yeast mixture. Gradually add the flour, mixing very thoroughly, to make a stiff dough.
Knead the dough well on floured board. Put in a greased pan. Brush over the top with shortening, cover the pan and le the dough rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 2 hours)
Shape the dough into four round balls. Pat down into a round cake about as big as a dinner plate and about 1/2 inch thick. Prick all over with a fork and set to rise in a warm place. When te cakes have risen to double their bulk, set to bake on the bottom of the oven.
Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F. then turn and bake 15 minutes longer at 375 degrees F. on the center rack or until the cakes are golden brown.