The Askew Sisters - the acclaimed English Folk Duo making waves on the folk scene with their energetic brand of English folk music

The Askew Sisters and Craig Morgan Robson: The Axford Five WGS364CD

Thje Axford Five Cover 01 The Gypsy Laddie
This song was very common all over the country, also known as the 'Raggle Taggle Gypsies', or 'Draggle-tailed Gypsies'. The appeal of the gypsy way of life probably helped its popularity – the romance of living a wandering, independent existence would have appealed to anyone bound to work and place.

02 He Was Under My Window
A delightful waltz, albeit with rather sad words. So far we have not been able to trace any other information about this song so if you know any, please get in touch! Alternatively, take your partners and dance...

03 Long Lankie
In some versions of this ballad, we hear of how Lord Wearie hires Lankin (a mason) to build his castle, but then refuses to pay his fee. This brings down a terrible revenge on the family, which is often told with far more gory detail than Mrs. Goodyear includes. The song appears in Child's ballad collection (Child 93).

04 Down in Fleet Street
Another murder tale, this time warning of the dangers of jealousy. Versions of this song were collected all over the country, often known as 'Oxford City' or 'Poison in a Glass of Wine'. Percy Grainger made a famous recording of Joseph Taylor singing a version in 1908 known as 'Worcester City'. However this rather jaunty version is set in London's Fleet Street, the historical centre of the printing and publishing worlds (and also the home of another murderous young man, Sweeney Todd!)

05 Bold William Taylor
This is a very widely known song, noted by many collectors. In 1908 Percy Grainger made a famous cylinder recording of Joseph Taylor singing the song, though to a completely different tune. The tale of the adventurous girl, who takes matters into her own hands after being jilted, would surely appeal to many women singers, ensuring the song's continuing popularity.

06 Lord Derwentwater
James Ratcliffe, third Earl of Derwentwater, was beheaded in 1716 for his part in the the 1715 Jacobite rising. The song is sometimes also called 'Lord Ellenwater' (Vaughan Williams collected it under that name in Cambridgeshire). The song describes the ill omens that foreshadow his untimely end at the hands of the executioner. It also mentions his generosity. We doubt that he really had "fifty thousand pounds all in one pocket to be given away to the poor", but you get the general idea...

07 An Old Man Came Courting Me
This song seems to have been particularly popular all across the UK, with some versions even as far spread as America and Canada. Emma Hopkins's version seems to be fairly concise and lacking some of the ruder details found in other versions (or perhaps she just didn't want to sing them in front of Gardiner!) For a while we thought she was married to an older man, which seemed rather apt, but we eventually found out she was in fact married to a young man, so she had obviously taken the advice of the song! An Old Man Came Courting Me is also among the words which Emma wrote out and sent to Gardiner by post.

08 The Lowlands of Holland
Gardiner collected other versions of both text and tune in Hampshire. The song exists in many forms. It appears in Herd, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, II, 1776, p 2; and Johnson, Scots Musical Museum II, 1788, p 118 (No.115). The song may have been based in part on a broadside ballad, The Seaman's Sorrowful Bride, printed in London for J Deacon, Guilt-spur-street, c. 1683.

09 Abroad as I was walking
Gardiner lists this as Down by the Riverside. Mrs Goodyear remembered the tune and the last verse, and Gardiner obtained the rest of the text from Alfred Porter of Basingstoke. It is a song of innocence betrayed, and must have reflected the bitter experience of more than one young woman of the time.

10 Beautiful Nancy
At the time Gardiner was collecting in Hampshire, this song seems to have been very popular in the county and versions of it had started to spread to other counties in the south. Marty Munday's 'strong instinct for the beautiful in music' is particularly prevalent in this lovely version of the song.

11 Tarry Trousers
This song shows a timeless discourse between a mother and daughter over the suitability of a prospective husband. It was particularly popular in the south of England, as well as in America and Canada. Frank Purslow also notes that mother/daughter dialogues were very fashionable around the early 1800s and probably even later than this as Dickens shows Captain Cuttle singing the second half of the third verse in 'Dombey and Son'.

12 Down the Lane: From Mrs. Hopkins
Vocals: Carolyn, Moira and Sarah
This is one of many adaptations of a song found on late eighteenth century broadsides titled 'The Maiden's complaint for the Loss of her Shepherd'. Copies can be seen in the Madden Collection in Cambridge University Library and in Manchester Central Library in The Warblers Garland. The most famous version is Yorkshire's 'Holmfirth Anthem', but the other versions of the song crop up in different parts of the country, sometimes known as 'Through the Groves' (They all have in common rather flowery language and magnificent tunes).

13 A Famous Farmer
The story of the unfortunate young man, murdered for the 'crime' of being in love with a woman of a higher rank, has overtones of an 'honour killing'. Who says folk song does not deal with contemporary issues? The story goes back to the 14th century and maybe even earlier. It is found in Boccaccio's Decameron, and was even put into a poem by Keats (Isabella and the Pot of Basil).

14 Sweet Lovely Joan
Lovely Joan became very well known after Vaughan Williams collected a version in Norfolk in 1908 and used the tune for his 'Fantasia on Greensleeves', as well as publishing it in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. However, there were in fact a variety of other versions sung all over the UK, including this beautiful one from Charlotte Hall.

15 The Trooper's Horse
A version of 'The Trooper Watering his Nagge', which was printed in "Pills to Purge Melancholy" in 1720. We wonder what Gardiner's reaction was when Mrs. Goodyear sang this for him, and have a mental picture of the other women egging her on..."Go on...sing 'im the one about the nag..."

Sleeve notes by Hazel Askew, Sarah Morgan and Bob Askew