The Songs on 'Below The Radar'

Posted Mar 16, 2009

The new CD: BELOW the RADAR

It's done and should be released at the Fareham/Gosport Folk Festival on 10th April. It may be available a day or so earlier on the net. Watch the Music page!

BELOW THE RADAR. I like this title! I was talking with Archie Fisher and I happened to use the phrase. He commented “What a great title for a CD!”  I was completely taken with it so decided this recording would go by that name. In fact, the title did more than attach itself to the recording, it gave me an angle on the project as a whole. Folk songs, traditional or contemporary are a worm’s eye view of the world. They are the expression of ordinary people’s reaction to the world about them. They have always been songs that entertain and/or spread ‘the news’. Crucially, they circulate unhindered by the formulaic demands of commercialism. Their strength lies in their being outside the mainstream - from being BELOW THE RADAR.

The Songs:
New songs cross my path by chance rather than from research. David Ferrard is a singer/songwriter of quality.  We met at the Gosport/Fareham Folk Festival in 2006. I have included two of his songs. Take me out Waltzing Tonight (11) is a delightful and charming love song, while Visions of our Youth (13) speaks to me of a lifetime of opposition to much of what governments do to all of us. As one generation ages so the next takes its place. Tom Paxton in How Beautiful Upon the Mountain (02) makes a similar point. When Tom was touring in the UK in 2008 he came to Sheffield. We often used to meet in Australia at various festivals and concerts, so it was a pleasure to meet him in my hometown. How Beautiful Upon the Mountain (02) is a song from the set he did that night and with his permission, I’ve very slightly changed the words of the second verse in order that the song connects with our experience here in the UK. A year or so ago I was singing in a folk club in Northampton (I think it was?) when a friend of many years before, Clive Carey, sang ‘The Road to Dundee’ (01). I was reminded I used to sing this way back in the 1960’s at such places as Turville Heath, which I think is where I first met Clive.  He kindly reminded me of the words and the tune.  A friend from Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Seattle in the USA discovered a CD by Jim Page and thought I might like to hear it. Whether I like his writing can be deduced from the fact that there are four of his sets of words and music on this recording. His songs speak to me very powerfully. They address issues that are specific as well as universal. The use of traditional & contemporary melodies is striking and I think, very effective. Anna Mae (03) was a fighter in the USA for native people’s rights. She died mysteriously in 1976. Jim’s tune is derived from a traditional bluegrass melody ‘The Dreadful Wind and the Rain’. When Johnny Comes Marching Home (08) has echoes of the traditional Irish song ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew You’ and *Collateral Damage*(12) is a powerful story of the obscene language of war. The chorus borrows very effectively from Martin Hoffman’s tune set to the poem of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Plane Crash at Los Gatos Canyon’. (Martin Simpson and I recorded this track initially for a compilation of anti war songs produced by David Ferrard: Not in our Name, 2007). Palestine (06) speaks for itself and needs no further comment from me.  Jim’s writing is as powerful and moving as any I’ve read and heard.  I have been singing Gonna Rise Again (04) by Si Kahn for some time now. I suppose as I get older songs like this, songs that comment on ageing and what we might leave behind, resonate more with me so I decided to include this in the set. I also enjoyed playing the guitar for this one!  In 1973 I appeared at the excellent Bothy Folk Club in Southport, Lancashire. The BBC was present and recorded a couple of the songs I sang. I had completely forgotten about this until last year (2008) a friend at Sidmouth Folk Week, told me she had heard me on the radio singing The Old Man’s Tale (07) by Ian Campbell. I was certain she was mistaken. My daughter, Katherine (Kit) subsequently told me I had indeed been played on the Mike Harding Show that week. I then heard the recording and remembered the evening.  I was reminded by these events what a great song Ian had written and was determined to see if I, at 73 years of age, could still sing it and do it justice? You will have to be the judge of that. I really enjoyed revisiting the song. It is the story of too many men and women of the last century and, the way things are going, the present one! In 2008 I met Laura Boosinger and Josh Goforth in Edinburgh. They had played at Celtic Connections and were on a short tour of clubs, mainly north of the border. I was really excited by their performance. They are both excellent singers and musicians. I knew that Martin Simpson had recorded Handsome Molly (10) some years before and Laura’s and Josh’s singing and playing of it moved me to want to do it myself. My concern was not to replicate the playing or style of the former recordings. In order to do this I invited Andy Cutting with his button accordion in an attempt to create a more English interpretation. I met George Papavgeris some years ago at a folk club in Luton, or was it St Albans? He kindly gave me Friends Like These (09). It has a great sing-a-long melody and is a comment that in our celebrity culture is worth making.  In 1964 I was invited to join The 3 City 4, a folk group that focussed on contemporary song. We recorded one album during my time with them entitled ‘Smoke and Dust Where The Heart Should Have Been’ (1964). On that album Leon Rosselson sang Timothy Winters (05), a poem by Charles Causley for which he had written a tune. I have long admired both the poem and the tune, hence its presence on this CD. Visions of our Youth (13) seems not only to express a sentiment to which I can relate, it also makes an appropriate closing point for the whole recording. I dedicate this track to two dear friends, Sheila and Denis Manners, both of whom never missed an opportunity to declare their support for the peace movement. They will always be, for me, Towersey Village Festival. This year, 2009, for the first time in 45 years, they won’t be there and their absence will be felt by all of us who knew them.

Roy Bailey