A bit of Banter: 1- The Spanish Cloak

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 1: The Spanish Cloak– Also known as The Munster Cloak, this is a tune I first played with Seannachie in the 1970s. It’s amazing how the tides of time delivers strange configurations on the shore of the present: a chance meeting at a concert last year has led to a reunion of Seannachie for an upcoming weekend in Wollongong, with players coming from Queensland, the Northern Territory and Sydney- I’ll update the post when it’s allspanishcloak over! But back to now. When Banter formed in the 90s it quickly became a favourite with the group. It’s short but, I think, majestically sweet.

 

The Spanish Cloak (aka The Munster Cloak)

A bit of Banter: 2- A Bunch of Thyme

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 2: A Bunch of Thyme– Christy Moore popularised this song, which originates in the north of England, as far as I know. Of course, by the time it had made the rounds of the pubs of Ireland it became a naturalised member of the Irish Song Tradition. Many people listen to it and only hear a pleasant melody and overlook the dark lyrics: The rose that never will decay that the bunch-of-thymesailor gives to the maid is likely syphilis, for which there was no cure in the 17th Century where the song, most likely, originates. Banter have sung this song for decades now, and really don’t care where the song came from. And, anyway, the English have stolen plenty from us, so…

 

A Bunch of Thyme

A bit of Banter: 3- The Diamantina Drover

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 3: The Diamantina Drover– Another marvellous song which looks at the Australian experience. The drover is an iconic Aussie character anddrover here the persona reflects upon the landscape, regrets and longings in a uniquely antipodean way.  Written by Hugh McDonald who performed and recorded with the Bushwackers, the Sundowners, Banshee, Redgum, Des “Animal” McKenna, Moving Cloud and the Colonials, this is one of our favourite songs. Unfortunately, Hugh lost his battle with prostate cancer in November 2016

 

The Diamantina Drover

A bit of Banter: 4- Dainty Davie

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when three oul’ coots (plus a middle-aged son) gather together to make music? The following posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed -and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was first a laptop with built-in mic, and later, an iPadPro with attached mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the deal.

Song 4: The song dates to the middle of the 17th Century and it concerns the much-married minister of St Cutbert’s Church in Edinburgh- one David Williamson. At one point he was being hunted by English dragoons and, a guest of landowner-sympathisers, he was put in bed with the 18-year old daughter by her mother in an effort to hide him. The Mum returned downstairs where she plied the soldiers with liquor to deflect their ardour in searching for the minister. Williamson repaid this act hospitality and concealment by becoming intimate with the daughter. This gallant was then required to marry the saucy young girl. The song is popular among both Scottish and Irish folk-singers. I think the lyrics of this version are by Robert Burns. This song is part of our current repertoire in our monthly concerts at The Penrith Gaels in outer-western Sydney. P.S. I am happy to acknowledge the copyright owner of the photo above as ValentyneDreams who has graciously consented to this photograph being used as an visual introduction to this brief gloss on the song.

 

Dainty Davy

A bit of Banter: 5- The King of the Fairies/Queen of the Fairies

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 5: King of the Fairies/Queen of the Fairies– Another pair of tunes from the Irish instrumental tradition. The fiddle is central to the sound of Banter and here it is given due prominence in this brace of melodies. For me, Michael Hoffman’s 1999 Midsummer Night’s Dream with Rupert Everettkingqueenfairies as Oberon and Michelle Pheiffer as Titania springs to mind when I hear the titles of the tunes now. Anyway, I have always disliked the greeting-card imagery of fairies and angels as cute-as-buttons homoculi cavorting around petal-strewn gardens or fluffy white cotton-wool clouds.

 

King and Queen of the Fairies

A bit of Banter: 6- Donegal Danny

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 6: Donegal Danny– Another tale of the sea here. The singer always laments whenddanny called upon to do it as it is longer that the usual three minutes or so our songs typically occupy. The song, written for The Dubliners by Phil Coulter, one of the great musical talents to come out of Northern Ireland, has, as its narrator, another Old Man of the Sea. The singer notwithstanding, the rest of the group likes the song, so- democracy rules…or is it, rather, another example of the tyrannising of minorities which seems so in vogue in dictatorships, and in recent times, even such shining examples of democracy as the USA?

Donegal Danny

A bit of Banter: 7- The Mermaid

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 7: The Mermaid– Songs of the sea are a staple of the group. We like the stories and the tunes and the rollicking pace so  many of them possess (such as the case with this example). A belief, common among sailors, was that spotting a mermaid was an omen ofmermaid impending storm and shipwreck. I have read, somewhere, that Boy Scouts in America sing song this around their campfires (which is no stranger than, say, a bunch of superannuated musos singing it around their grog-laden table…)

 

The Mermaid

A bit of Banter: 8- O’Sullivan’s John

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 8: O’Sullivan’s John– I first heard this song in the 1970s from one of the members of the folk group, Seannachie. I like to sing it as a modal tune rocking between two chords a tone apart say, C and D. When I was up in Townsville I sang it at a party and a folk group pecker-dunnethere took it up, but fancied it up with minors and such-like. I enjoyed their more sophisticated version, too, but have stuck to the more primitive version here, which I still sing from time to time. It was written by  travelling songwriter and storyteller Pecker Dunne, pictured here.

 

O’Sullivan’s John

A bit of Banter: 9- The Grand Old Duke/Heel and Toe Polkas

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 9: The Grand Old Duke/Heel and Toe Polkas In Banter we love bashing out lively tunes such as the pair presented here. As well as tacking on various reels, jigs and hornpipes to our songs, we enjoy focusing on the great instrumental repertoire available to aficianados of Irish music. The Heel and Toe Polka is a great favourite of Aussie Bush Bands and I can remember, at the turn of the millenium, watching people dancing up and down the main street of Gulgong to the accompaniment of the tune.

 

 

The Grand Old Duke/Heel and Toe Polkas

A bit of Banter: 10- Now I’m Easy

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 10: Now I’m Easy– Also known as The Cocky Farmer, this great song of Aussiebogle endurance and stoicism was one of our most requested songs when we were playing on a semi-regular basis in the late 1990s. Back in the mid- 1970s, we began to listen to a great new writer named Eric Bogle. In the 80s, back in Ireland, my hair stood on end when I heard, for the first time, No Man’s Land. In the early 90s, in North Queensland, I attended a memorable concert by Bogle at the Burdekin Theatre. Long may he continue to write and sing.

 

Now I’m Easy

A bit of Banter: 11- Joe Hill

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 11: Joe Hill– This great union song has been a part of my musical experience for many220px-joe_hill002 decades now and I am still moved by its defiant and uplifting message. Before his execution by firing squad in Utah, Joe Hill mordantly declared, in a note to IWW leader Bill  Haywood, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His will is also worth recording, My will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide/My kin don’t need to fuss and moan/”Moss does not cling to rolling stone”/My body? Oh, if I could choose/I would to ashes it reduce/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow/Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my Last and final Will./Good Luck to All of you/Joe Hill. I think Banter do a good job of the song here.

 

Joe Hill

A bit of Banter: 12- The Old Man’s Tale/Instrumental

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 12: The Old Man’s Tale/Instrumental– In my 20s, I played with a group in Wollongong called Seannachie. Our singer, Tony Fitzgerald, was the first person I heard singing this fine iancampbellsong. Written by Ian Campbell, a Scottish-born folksinger and left-wing activist, it was popular among the anti-nuclear Aldermaston protesters in the 1960s. Campbell was an influential force in music in his native Britain from the early sixties right up to his death in 2012. In Banter, I took it up and twinned it with the instrumental you hear at its end.

 

The Old Man’s Tale/Instrumental