Dave Swarbrick/Fairport Convention tunes

  1. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Dave Swarbrick is one of my favourite musicians, and equally great on fiddle and mandolin. One of my favourite sources for new tunes to play is a little tune book "Swarb's Merrie Melodies" that came as a freebie with the 4CD Dave Swarbrick box set "Swarb" on Free Reed Records. The tune book is also available separately from Free Reed Records for GBP5.99 here.

    I've recorded a few of my favourite tunes from the book (mostly the slow waltzes -- Swarb's fast fiddle tunes are fiendishly difficult to get to sound anything like he plays them).

    The first three are on my Kentucky KM300E four-string e-mando. Played with a clean tone through a tweaked Epiphone 5W tube amp with a tiny bit of reverb from a Line 6 Verbzilla pedal. I had some difficulties miking the amp -- any distortion and noise on the recording didn't come out of the amp but is an artifact of the recording process.

    First off, this is Crazy Man Michael from Fairport's classic 1969 Liege & Lief album (tune by Swarbrick, lyrics by Richard Thompson). I play the rhythm chords in the intro and first verse and then the lead melody on the second verse, with the coda again as chords.

    Then, two slow waltzes, first is "Boadicea", recorded on his 1982 album Flittin backed by the reunited 1970 line-up of Fairport, as Swarb's tribute to Sandy Denny.

    "My Heart's In New South Wales" was written as his farewell to Australia when he moved back to the UK in the mid-1990s after a few years of living in the Blue Mountains. I visited him in the Blue Mountains just as he was packing up to leave (he tried to sell me his dining table...), and it was a spectacularly beautiful spot.

    Finally, this is one of Swarb's signature tunes, "The Hen's March Through The Midden", played on my Ajr.

  2. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Great stuff there Martin, and your Kentucky emando sounds great!
  3. mculliton123
    Martin, great playing on those...and just when i thought i had my MAS under control there is this beautiful eMando. my wife's gonna Kill me.

    Jill, did you get the ID thing sorted out? Sure hope so!

    (someone once stole my identity and a week later called and BEGGED me to take it back

  4. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Thanks, Jill and Mike. The Kentucky is a great little toy, and considering the price it's seriously good value. The stock lipstick pickup is actually pretty good, but I upgraded to a Bill Lawrence mini humbucker which suits it really well. I probably should play the e-mando more than I do. What keeps me is the hassle of having to setup and connect the amp and cables everytime. I have tried a few headphone amp alternatives, but none of them gives me a decent tone -- they're all optimised for guitar range and make modelling assumptions that simply don't work for e-mandos. I use a VOX headphone amp sometimes which is OK but too quiet on a clean setting and pretty awful on a distorted setting.

  5. Eddie Sheehy
    Crazy Man Michael is beautiful Martin. That song echoes in a small cavity in my mind - sung by Sandy Denny... What chords did you use?
  6. mculliton123
    Say, Martin, when i do electric,(i have a Fender knock-off Tele for blues 'n stuff) i use a Line 6 Spider. small but can be loud if needed. it runs off mains or battery (6 'C' cells last forever). true it has some presets for guitar but you can also program your own. i really like the portability as we do a lot of camping and it goes anywhere, great around the campfire. also has built in tuner, etc. under 100 USD. FWIW

    mike c
  7. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Let me guess - you recorded Hen's March first, then quickly cut off your hair and your shirt sleeves?

    I remember Fairport but dimly - the most clear recollection is about Sandy Denny's singing.
    That Kentucky sounds very sweet. You might even try some slides and bending.
  8. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Eddie, the chords are from the Swarb tunebook I mentioned:

    Intro: Dm/F/C/Bb6/Bb6/Dm/Am/Dm/C

    Verse: Dm/F/C/Am/Dm/C/Dm/Dm/Dm/F/C/Am/Am/C/Dm/Dm/Am/Am/Dm/Dm/Am/Am/C/C/Dm/C/Dm/Am/Dm/C/Dm/Dm

    Outro: Dm/F/C/Bb6/Bb6/Am

    (Actually, I play Bb instead of Bb6 in the intro and outro.)

    I haven't posted any music links above, as I learned these from a commercially available copyrighted tunebook, but as it happens Crazy Man Michael is available free online. The Swarb tunebook was compiled by ex-Fairport guitarist Maartin Allcock, who has also published a Fairport songbook with Crazy Man Michael in it. The published version had a number of misprints in that song, so Allcock has put the corrected page free on his web site, in Sibelius Scorch format. The link is http://www.maartinallcock.com/Crazy%20Man%20p1.htm. Unfortunately, it seems that at present Scorch is incompatible with the latest version of Firefox, so anybody using that browser may have to switch to Internet Explorer to see the music at that link.

    Note that the phrasing is slightly different between the Swarb tunebook and the Fairport songbook, even though both were transcribed by Maartin Allcock. I think the Swarb book version (which I play) is better for fiddle, and mandolin, playing and the Fairport book version for singing the song. Both work fine, though.

    Finally, Hen's March is also available online, at Nigel Gatherer's site (predictably). The links on the site are messed up, but I found the ABC through ABC tunefinder. It differs a bit from what I play, but not too dramatically:

    T:Hens March Through the Midden, The
    T:Hens March To the Midden, The
    B:Dave Swarbrick Takes a Bow
    Z:Nigel Gatherer
    A|d2 A2 d>ef>g|(3fga g>f e2 A2|d2 d>d f2 f2|g>fg>^g a2 a>a|
    a>gf>a g>fe>g|f>ed>f e3 A|d>fe>g (3fga g>f|1e2 A2 d3:|2e2 A2 d4||
    A2 e2 A2 e2|A2 A>c e2 f2|d2 f2 d2 f2|d2 d>e f2 a2|
    d2 d>e g2 b2|d2 d>e f2 a2|d2 d>e g2 b2|d2 d>e f2 a2|
    a>gf>a g>fe>g|f>ed>f A4|d>fe>g (3fga g>f|e2 A2 d4:|

  9. KeithMcIsaac
    Nice tunes. I like your peaceful playing on the e-mando.
  10. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Thanks, Keith. I generally try to keep things mellow and melodic rather than aiming for speed (which is maybe another way of saying I can't play all that fast...).

    For what it's worth, when I recorded Crazy Man Michael I also made a clip of the lead line on it's own, without the chord changes. I chose the other clip in the end, but when I listened to it again yesterday I thought it's quite nice this way, too. So, for comparison, here is the lead on its own.

    Another clip done at the same time on the Kentucky is Richard Thompson's version of the Scottish waltz "Do It For My Sake" (already posted here on reso tenor and acoustic mando). From Thompson's all-instrumental album "Strict Tempo".

  11. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    I've just added my recording of Fairport's "Farewell Farewell" (same tune as "Willie O'Winsbury") over in the thread for that tune (link), but I'll add a cross reference here so that the Fairport tunes are all in one place. The direct Youtube link is here.

    I've also recorded another Fairport tune today, this time one written after Dave Swarbrick had already left the band, by his successor, current Fairport fiddler Ric Sanders. The tune is called "Portmeirion", and was originally released on Fairport's all-instrumental 1986 album "Expletive Delighted". My version is based on the notes in the Fairport Convention Songbook Vol. 1. Sorry, no notes as the songbook is copyrighted, but the tune is not difficult.

    Ric usually uses it to play around with various echo, reverb and spatial sound effect, so I thought this gives me a good excuse to have a go at some "cave" reverb from a Line 6 Verbzilla pedal. Check out the slick pedal action to kick the effect in! Played on my Kentucky KM-300E electric mandolin with a replacement Bill Lawrence mini-humbucker pickup, through an Epiphone 5W tube amp.

  12. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    I haven't posted any Swarbrick tunes for a while, but here's another one I uploaded this weekend -- one of my favourites of his, a slow air written to go with the words of the poem "To Althea From Prison" by Richard Lovelace in 1642. It's on Fairport's excellent (but often overlooked) 1973 album "Nine".

    Learned from the (copyrighted) Fairport Songbook Vol. 1. I play this on my Mid-Missouri M-0W, a bit faster than Fairport's version -- I tried it at Fairport's speed but couldn't make it work on solo mandolin that way.

  13. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Here are two of Dave Swarbrick's signature tune (well, three actually as the the first is a set of two marches), both from the tunebook that came with the "Swarb!" box set on Free Reed Records:

    1. Carthy's March/The Lemon Tree: "Carthy's March" was first recorded on Swarbrick's 1976 self-titled solo album, where it appears as a duet with Martin Carthy (after whom the tune is also named). In 1989, Swarbrick wrote "The Lemon Tree" as a companion piece. It is named after a lemon tree in the garden of Trevor Lucas' house in Sydney and written as a tribute to Trevor after his sudden and premature death that year. The two tunes first appeared as a set on the 1990 Carthy/Swarbrick reunion album "Life and Limb" and have been a part of Swarb's standard repertoire ever since.

    2. Lift The Lid And Listen: This charming waltz was the title track of Dave Swarbrick's 1978 album of the same name, and the only tune on the album that he wrote. It is meant to invoke the feeling of a music box playing, and to reinforce this, it is played on the studio recording as a duet of Swarbrick on mandolin with Savourna Stevenson on clarsach (Gaelic harp). I play it on my 1921 Gibson Ajr -- which is a good stand-in for Swarb's own Gibson mandolin, a late-teens A model.

  14. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Having listened to the great recordings posted in this group by those who have mastered the art of overdubbing, I am now also taking my first baby steps in that direction -- sticking to audio at the moment, as I don't at the moment have a functioning video editing software that allows multitracked video overdubbing with reasonable effort.

    However, for multitracked audio, the free Audacity software is wonderful, especially as recent versions have finally overcome the problems that earlier ones had with aligning overdubs.

    I've recorded three tunes this weekend, all on the Ajr, with tenor guitar rhythm. One is a German tune (Es war ein Koenig in Thule), which I've posted in its own thread, and the other two are both Fairport Convention tracks, co-written by Dave Swarbrick and Richard Thompson, and both of them now widely sung by people who don't know who Fairport Convention are, and therefore widely (and wrongly) credited as traditional.

    The first is Crazy Man Michael, again. I had it earlier on solo electric mandolin, but here is an all-acoustic multitrack version -- played pretty much as it appears in the Dave Swarbrick tunebook. Amazing what difference a steady rhythm track makes!

    The second one is the seasonally appropriate "Now Be Thankful", now often played as a hymn, or as a Christmas carol (I'll also post it, with lyrics, in the Christmas tunes thread). Taken from the Fairport Songbook Vol. 1:

  15. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    I'm still having fun working through the Fairport songbook and figuring out which songs work as multi-tracked mandolin/tenor guitar instrumentals. Some fit fairly easily (usually the ones that were traditional songs or tunes to start with), but part of the fun is gettings somewhere with the non-obvious ones.

    So, here are three more: one slow fiddle air (To Althea From Prison, written by Dave Swarbrick as a setting of the Richard Lovelace poem of the same name), one folk song (The Deserter, from Fairport's classic "Liege & Lief" album) and one rock anthem (Meet On The Ledge, to this day the singalong finale to each and every Fairport Convention concert) -- the last one being the most tricky without drums and electric guitar...

    1. To Althea From Prison:

    2. The Deserter:

    3. Meet On The Ledge:

  16. WillFly
    Martin - here's a video I did of the very first Swarbrick & Carthy duets I ever heard: "Hens March To The Midden" & "Leather Away The Wattle O". This was the opening track to their "Reels, Rags & Airs" album - which I bought on vinyl when it first came out in 1967. (I've since got it signed by both peformers!). I saw them live on several occasions - the first time in 1966, the last time this year - and they're still wonderful...

  17. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Thanks, Will -- that's a great recording. I still haven't sorted out my technical setup to record multitracked video. At the moment it's either solo video or overdubbed audio.

    Lovely tunes (and playing), but surely that's not the Hen's March, but rather Spanish Ladies? I've recorded Swarb's Hen's March in the first post in this thread (scroll up to see), and it's a completely different tune.

  18. WillFly
    Martin - I must be going dumb and dumber! Of course it's "Spanish Ladies"! - That's why it's called "The Spanish Ladies Medley"... Doh! (I put it down to the 3 large glasses of merlot I consumed before posting). :-)
  19. Redmando
    Martin - Swarb is one my great heroes too. One of the first sets I aspired to playing was the Medley from Liege and Lief. Here's my version of Toss the Feathers with the Jack O'Ryan Band:

  20. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Great playing, Redmando! I'd love to get the fast Fairport tune sets down under my fingers, but the only one I've managed is Hen's March/Four-Poster Bed, plus about half of Royal Seleccion No. 13. The others I can play at very slow speeds, but at those speeds they sound nothing like Fairport. The tunebook that came with the 4-CD Swarbrick box set has great transcriptions of the Liege & Lief set, Dirty Linen, Flatback Capers (Fairport's mandolin tune set!) and The Brilliancy Medley/Cherokee Shuffle, but they're not for me. I'm more successful with the tunes from Swarb's solo repertoire, even when they are reasonably fast: Carthy's March/The Lemon Tree, Bottom Of The Punchbowl, The East Neuk O' Fife, The Killarney Boys Of Pleasure and 'Appy 'Ornpipe are all fine, as well as the slow airs (which Swarbrick is brilliant at writing!).

    I've recorded several of these as unaccompanied videos, but if I find the time I'll try to get some Swarb instrumentals (as opposed to the song tunes I did last week) recorded with a rhythm track -- they sound much more driving that way, plus it's easier to keep the pulse going.

    In the meantime, here are a couple of Swarb tunes from the box set tunebook that I recorded a few months ago and that I thought I already had in this thread, but now see I didn't: "The Killarney Boys Of Pleasure" and "The Bottom Of The Punchbowl":

  21. Redmando
    Hi Martin - I like Swarbs solo stuff too, but never really tried playing very much of it. I think you have convinced me to buy the book!
  22. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Here is another Fairport track: A Sailor's Life.

    The 1969 Fairport recording of this traditional folksong (on Unhalfbricking) culminated in an extended instrumental jam, the first appearance of Dave Swarbrick on a Fairport recording, and the single most important track in determining the future direction of the band and the invention of British folk/rock. I don't do the extended instrumental coda/jam, but have tried to emulate the feeling of the slow hypnotic rendition of the verses of the song sung by Sandy Denny, with a droney backing in D. Played on bouzouki and mandolin, with a pulsating double-stopped zouk backing.

  23. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Another tune to add to this thread -- this one is from arguably Sandy Denny's best solo album, "Sandy" from 1972, and the song is "Bushes and Briars". Not to be confused with the traditional folk song of the same name. This is based on Maartin Allcock's transcription in the "Complete Sandy Denny Songbook".

    Recorded on my Ozark tenor guitar, with the Ajr coming in on verses 2 and 3.

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