Somewhere about the fringe of the fringe of the fringe of the Edinburgh Festival there was great deal of folk music going on. Officially, and in the "official fringe festival" there was quite a bit. But right at the outer edges of the festival there were always a lot of unannounced good things to be had, provided by people who no doubt believed that Edinburgh presents them with an ideal platform for their wares.
The difference between the 1963 festival and those of former years seems to be, as far as folk music is concerned, that a lot of Edinburgh folk got together with a fair number of Glasgow folk — there's a very thriving folk scene in Clydeside and a fast road and deisel service link Glasgow to the Scottish capital.
And somewhere along the line other singers from all over Scotland and England heard on the folk grapevine that Edinburgh '63 was a thing not to be missed. The result was something very much like a folk festival superimposed on the drama and classical music and exhibitions. Much of this folk festival took place in odd pubs and coffee bars and most of it was unadvertised, but those lucky enough to find it lapped it up.
The mobile recording van did not find it by luck, of course, but by design. The first fruits of their efforts are on this disc.
TAIL TODDLE is a bit of Scottish nonsense that has grown into mouth music on the lips of many traditional singers. The nature of the words is such that it is not surprising that one version found its way into the famous collection of Burns' bawdy verse, 'The Merry Muses of Caledonia'.
The IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP sings it here and the words are followed by a spirited instrumental passage played in the style that, together with the group's fine Singing, has made Ian Campbell a force to be reckoned with all over the folk scene. The group is Birmingham based though Ian and his sister Lorna are both Scots born. Dave Swarbrick (fiddle), John Dunkerley (banjo) and Brian Clark (guitar) wield the instruments.
HIGHLAND LADDIE, a tune too well known in tradition to need qualifying, is sung here by ARCHIE FISHER a young singer who has done a great deal to promote folk music in Scotland.
SHE MOVED THRO' THE FAIR, a familiar Irish song made even more familiar by the poem (based closely on the traditional words) by Padraic Colum. It is sung here by ANN [sic] BRIGGS, a girl from Nottingham who has one of the best voices to be found among young singers. It is very-likely indeed that, as her voice matures, Ann will be one of Britain's great traditional-style singers.
WHISKY IN THE JAR, another traditional Irish song sung here by ARCHIE FISHER and his sister RAY. It is given a very rhythmic treatment of a type becoming increasingly popular and there is no doubt that many folk fans and clubs thrive on it
ONE DIME BLUES, a blues improvisation played on the twelve-string guitar by OWEN HAND. The player is an Edinburgh virtuoso in his late twenties and a fine writer of songs in the folk idiom, including 'My Donal' (side two).
VERDANT BRAES OF SKREEN is from the repertoire of the famous McPeake Family of Belfast. The McPeakes sing it with group harmonies but LOUIS KILLEN, who sings the song here, makes up for the absence of harmonies by his fine dramatic treatment. Killen is one of the most articulate of the lyrical singers thrown up by the great folk revival in North-East England, and he is as well known on Tees-side and in London as he is on his native Tyneside.
RAP TAP TAP, written and sung here by MATT MCGINN, is a broadside lightly aimed at the fifty-strong classes that abound in Scottish — and English — schools, causing some little local difficulties for the teachers. McGinn is himself a teacher and has written scores of satirical and political songs commenting on Scottish daily life.
JOHNNY COPE, a song in which Scotsmen still celebrate the rout of the English under General John Cope at Prestonpans in 1745. HAMISH IMLACH, who sings the song, is a rugged Scot with the appearance of Burl Ives and an even more rugged voice. Born in India, Imlach is specially interested in music for the sitar.
The DEVIL AND THE FARMER'S WIFE is well known in many versions all over the English-speaking world. One version is called, understandably, The Women are Worse than the Men'. BRIAN CLARK sings the song backed by the rest of the Ian Campbell Folk Group.
MY DONAL', a song about the sailor's life written, from the point of view of the waiting-at-home wife, by Owen Hand, who spent three years on a whaling ship, and suiig by RAY FISHER with feeling and great skill.
HURRICANE HATTIE brought the tragic series of storms to the Caribbean in 1961. NADIA CATTOUSE, herself a West Indian, sings it here. She is well known in Britain as a singer and an actress and received good notices at Edinburgh for her part in the 'Behan Bein' Behan' show.
JAZZ BO'S HOLIDAY, a ragtime banjo piece, is typical of the 'curio music' that flourishes in odd pockets all over the folk scene. Instrumentalists CLIVE PALMER and ROBIN WILLIAMSON are typical of many of the folk performers who appeared at Edinburgh. They just blew into a club, played and sang, blew out again. Robin is quite well known locally as a singer. Clive — well, nobody knows much about him except that he comes from around Nottingham and plays, as you will hear, fabulous ragtime banjo.
GAELIC SONG. This lovely slow air is sung by DOLINA MACLENNAN. Born in the island of Lewis, Dolina is a young singer of rare quality and power who has been singing in English and Gaelic in Edinburgh for several years.
MY JOHNNY IS A SHOEMAKER is an English traditional song about the sea and the press gangs, sung here by RAY and ARCHIE FISHER.
GLASGOW STREET SONGS MEDLEY. A selection of children's songs is a common feature of many Scottish clubs — perhaps because the songs are well enough known to get everybody singing lustily. RAY and ARCHIE FISHER have made their own arrangement of the three Glasgow songs they sing here.