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Andrew Calhoun | Rhymer's Tower: Ballads of the Anglo-Scottish Border

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Rhymer's Tower: Ballads of the Anglo-Scottish Border

by Andrew Calhoun

"...a powerful songsmith, a quiet and sly performer, and fine traditional singer as well... fascinating and unpredictable." -Phil Shapiro, Bound for Glory
Genre: Folk: Celtic Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Two Ravens
2:48 $0.99
2. Thomas the Rhymer
8:44 $0.99
3. The Battle of Otterburn
6:47 $0.99
4. Flodden Field
2:38 $0.99
5. The Flower of Northumberland
6:42 $0.99
6. Johnny O Cockley's Well
7:01 $0.99
7. Johnie Armstrong
11:23 $0.99
8. Jamie Telfer in the Fair Dodhead
8:15 $0.99
9. Jock O the Side
9:03 $0.99
10. The Rose of Yarrow
7:04 $0.99
11. May Colvin
4:40 $0.99
12. Death of Parcy Reed
5:36 $0.99
13. The Rookhope Ryde
3:44 $0.99
14. Hobie Noble
10:14 $0.99
15. Dick O the Broom
16:15 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Rhymer’s Tower: Ballads of the Anglo-Scottish Border
A double CD of historical ballads.

Chicago singer-songwriter and folklorist Calhoun spent five years researching and developing the material from authentic texts. The themes of terrorism and trust speak across time.
Andrew Calhoun - vocal & guitar.

Disc One

1. The Two Ravens (2:50) This is known as “The Twa Corbies,” the commonly sung version of which is suspected as a literary parody of this more hopeful and interesting song taken down from Thomas Shortreed in Jedburgh in 1816. His father, Robert Shortreed, was Sir Walter Scott’s guide on his “ballad raids” in the borders.

2. Thomas the Rhymer (8:46) Rhymer’s Tower still stands in Earlston, Scotland, the ruins of the home of 13th century poet and soothsayer Thomas of Ercildoune. Collated from oral and literary versions, the ballad depicts his trip to Elflyn land and his initiation into the gift of prophecy.

3. The Battle of Otterburn (6:48) fought in August 1388: the Scots prevail in a medieval battle. Collated from a Scots folk version, a version in Middle English, and the eyewitness account of Jean Froissard, French war chronicler.

4. Flodden Field (2:38) A battle fought in1514, resulting in a devastating loss for the Scots. James IV was the last European monarch to die in battle. His wife Margaret was sister of Henry VIII.

5. The Flower of Northumberland (6:46) This tune was collected by Cecil Sharp, and the story differs from the version in current circulation; here the Flower is the heir of the Earl of Northumberland, and it is he who sensibly forgives her.

6. Johnny o Cockley’s Well (7:00) Also called “Johnie O’ Breadisley,” a highly poetic hunting ballad outlining the conflict between tradition and law, with a driving tune.

7. Johnie Armstrong (11:36) Johnie was a powerful border chieftain hanged by the 17 year old James V in 1530. Featuring one of the great speeches in balladry, this version of the ballad was collected from his family six generations after his death.

8. Jamie Telfer in the Fair Dodhead (8:14) Concerns a “hot trod,” in which one’s neighbors are legally obligated to join in hunting down the reivers of one’s livestock – or “gear” as it was called.

Disc Two

1. Jock o the Side (9:02) Collated from eleven versions including a parallel ballad, “Archie o Cawfield,” “Jock” is a stirring, a capella jailbreak ballad circa1575.

2. The Rose of Yarrow (7:02) Also known as “The Dowie Dens of Yarrow,” works from the template of a version by William Welsh, Peeblesshire cotter and poet. A powerful message delivered by a woman whose righteous voice rings across the centuries.

3. May Colvin (4:38) A feminist tale found throughout Europe.

4. Death of Parcy Reed (5:34) Northumbrian. Betrayal of a friend is the worst crime possible.

5. The Rookhope Ryde (3:42) English raid English, 1569. A recitation.

6. Hobie Noble (10:14) The hero of “Jock o the Side” is sold out by Sim o the Mains, one of the Armstrong family.

7. Dick o the Broom (16:10) The victory of a wise fool, first noted in literature and as “Dick o the Cow” in 1596. Collected from Thomas Shortreed in 1816.

"I do suppose, although too late,
Old prophecies shall hold,
Hope thou in God’s goodness evermore,
And mercies manifold." ~ Thomas Rymour

Of use in the making:
Bertrand Harris Bronson, The Traditional Tunes to the Child Ballads
Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
John Marsden and Nic Barlow, Illustrated Border Ballads
George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Border Reivers
Neil Oliver, History of Scotland
Godfrey Watson, The Border Reivers
John Veitch, History and Poetry of the Scottish Borders



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