The Hex Project
(starting note and mode in brackets, 1 Ionian (major scale), 2 Dorian, 3 Phrygian, 4 Lydian, 5 Mixolydian, 6 Aeolian (minor scale); click on the title to view the lyrics in the archive)
Amongst the new mown hay (A2). The first couple of verses make this song sound like it is not going to have a happy ending, but by the end it all turns out well. Which is nice.
What's a labourer's lot in this country of freedom (C6). It was the sarcasm of the first verse that got me ('a gaol and a workhouse for all those who need them/what more does a labourer lack?').
Admiral's return (C5). This story song is just great. I love the way the shark slips into the lyric almost un-noticed right at the beginning.
On Compton Downs (F1)
Jolly Shilling (D1). Just a jolly stupid drinking song.
British man o'war (F6). This has a tune already (I am almost certain I have heard someone sing it somewhere or other, and it has now been put on the archive page). I've written another one.
Wiltshire labourers (D5). I love this kind of list song, no matter how hard they are to remember.
Farewell to Mary Ann (E5). I don't know why but I find this set of words almost unbearably moving.
By thy sweet silver light, bonny moon (G1). Something dark has gone down under that there moonlight ...
I'll weave him a garland (F4). The Lydian always threatens to go to the major key a fifth above (in this case C). I find if I concentrate very hard on the 'F-ness' of this tune then that doesn't happen.
Chain of gold (D4)
Barley mow song (A3)
Ram (A5). A somg about a sheep.
Jug of this (C2)
Deny no man his right (F3). I sang this one at Devises Folk Club and then Bob and Gill Berry sang their version. Bob then explained what a fustian coat is. There is a theory apparently that these words are due to Alfred Williams himself. I don't quite believe it (the repitition of 'wide' in the third verse would be avoided by a poet I think). Rather, an authentic voice from the radical nineteenth century (which, note, was absolutley not suffragist).
Banks of the Nile (C3). William sounds very unkeen when Nancy offers to come away to war with him.
At seventeen I was young (C1). The first set of words I put music to. And one of my favourites.
Down in the lowlands low (A6). Another one I think may well have a tune to already (the title seems awful familiar).
Springtime of the year (E2). 'I fondly strayed through the greenwood shade/In the springtime of the year'. Oh yes.
Death and the maid (F2). The oldest story in the book. 'I'll give you all my gold in store/If you'll just let me have a few years more'. I have cut the final line of the song, which seems rather trite to me.
Bold recruit (G5). An extremely moving set of lyrics.
Cuckoo (G6). There is also an appalachian tune about the cuckoo that I learnt from my banjo book. Since that one is in G minor, I wrote this one in G minor too.
Irish labourers (G2). This man seems to have so much to say that it all comes out a bit jumbled and compressed. The repeated 'sir' manages to be subservient and defiant at the same time.
Alderman and his servant (D6). Wherein Nancy demonstrates her nous.
Drunkard's farewell to his folly (E6). 'Farewell children with wry faces'.
When we are homeward bound (D2). Sailors and their drinking and whoring.
Eynsham poaching song (E4). Couldn't resist, even though I am sure it probably has a well-known tune already.
When morning stands on tiptoe (C4). At Devises folk club one week, someone sang these words to two different tunes, none of which (thank goodness) sound like mine. It is the title that got me, but I suppose I couldn't pretend to have captured anything like a picture of rural life without one song about hunting.
False hearted William (E3). Wherein William regrets being such a bastard to Polly. I have excised the final verse - two suicides in one song is a bit much really.
I am a pretty wench (G3). I'm not keen on the title, but the song itself captures beautifully that longing and slightly desperate kind of love before you know whether or not it is reciprocated.