English Country Songbook

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ISBN 9780571243136 Format Paperback
Published 29/05/2008 Length 272 pages

About Book

When first published in 1979 no less an authority than Bob Copper described this collection as 'without doubt ... the finest book of English traditional songs that has come my way in a very long time'.

Just under one hundred and fifty songs are collected and arranged in seven different categories:

'Fellows that Follow the Plough Work', 'A Health to the Master: Deference and Protest', 'The High Gallows Tree: Crime', 'Once I loved a Lass: Courtship', 'The Charmig Bride: Marriage', 'Up To The Rigs: Sport and Diversion' and 'The Life of a Man: Seasons and Ceremonies'.

As Roy Palmer concludes in his own introduction, 'Yet in the final analysis, it could be argued that the songs' final justification is aesthetic. They have a sheer beauty of language which both refleced and helped to shape the utterance of generations of Englishmen, men like Shakespeare, Crabbe, John Clare, Wordsworth, Hardy, John Arden, as well as the countless thousands of ploughmen, shepherds, blacksmiths, milkmaids and servant girls who were the backbone of the nation. Their full power emerges, however, not on the page but on the lips. I hope they will be savoured, but above all sung'.

  • Edited By: Roy Palmer

    Roy Palmer was educated at Manchester University where he obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees. He taught for many years, the last eleven as head of a Birmingham comprehensive school, before taking early retirement. Involved from the 1960s in singing and seeking traditional songs, his collection of field recordings is now in the Recorded Sound Archive at the British Library. Since the 1970s he has published a number of anthologies of traditional songs and street ballads reflecting different aspects of social, military, maritime, industrial, agricultural and recreational history. In addition he has contributed articles to a variety of periodicals, including English Dance and Song and Folk Music Journal. He has written a number of entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He has also written a series of books, always with a chapter on song, dealing with the folklore of different counties, the most recent being The Folklore of the Black Country (2007). In 2004 he received an honorary M.A. from the Open University and was awarded a gold badge, its highest honour, by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. He is also a longstanding member of the Folklore Society, and for the last seven years has been chairman of the Friends of the Dymock Poets.

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