FTX-293 BORDER FRAY
RORY & ALEX McEWEN
Ballads and Folksongs with guitar
The McEwen brothers, from a famous musical Scottish Border family, started
singing Scots Border Ballads and arrangements of Burns poems at home as children
and then, as teenagers in the 1950s, inspired by Lonnie Johnsion, Big Bill Broonzie,
Josh White and Burl Ives took their guitars and busked across Europe and the
States. On their return Peter recorded them and in 1958 provided an LP for HMV
called "Folksong Jubilee". In the early 1960s Rory and Alex became well-known
on TV when, alternating with Robin and Jimmy and Cy Grant, the brothers, each
evening, provided freshly penned topical songs and calypsos for the BBC "Tonight"
programmes. While Alex continued to manage the family farm in Berwickshire,
Rory, an artist whose book illustrations of seals for "Ring of Bright Water"
earned him international acclaim, continued folksinging and helped Peter organise
the first National Folk Festival at Keele.
1. TAE THE BEGGING I WILL GO - Rory with Alex and Isla Cameron in chorus
2. THE WEE COOPER O' FIFE - Rory & Alex (talk before) - 1'39"
3. JOHNSON (The Three Butchers) - Rory with 12 string guitar - 2'48"
4. WILLIE DROWNED IN YARROW - Alex - 2'28"
5. HA-HA THIS A-WAY (coll. Lomax) - Rory with chorus - 1'36"
6. POLWARTH ON THE GREEN - Rory & Alex (talk before) - 3'06
7. THE BONNY EARL O' MORAY - Rory & Alex - 2'57"
8. MORMOND BRAES - Rory with Alex & Isla in chorus - 1'30"
9. THE CRAW KILLED THE PUSSY-O - Rory - 1'58"
10. DUPREE - Rory - 3'16"
11. I LOVED A LASS, A FAIR ONE (Trad words & tune by Alex) - Rory &
Alex (with talk before by Alex) - 2'38"
12. THE BONNY LASS O' FYVIE-O - Rory - 3'36"
13. OLD DADDY FOX - Rory & Alex - 1'47"
14. AINT IT A SHAME? ("Leadbelly"/ Lomax) - Rory & Alex - 2'07"
15. SUR LES MARCHES DU PALAIS - Rory & Alex (talk before by Alex) - 3'41"
16. THE BARNYARDS OF DELGATY - Rory & Alex - 2'22"
17. DOWN BY THE SALLY GARDENS (tune by Rory) - Rory & Alex - 1'48"
18. JOHNNY COPE - Rory with 12 string guitar - 3'00"
19. THE EDDYSTONE LIGHT - Rory & Alex - 0'59"
20. LA BERCEUSE BASQUE (LULLABY) - Rory & Alex - 1'32"
21. PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN - Rory & Alex - 1'56"
22. JOHNNY LAD - Rory with Alex and Isla in chorus - 2'31"
Recorded by Peter Kennedy, London 1955 & 1956
In 1958 Rory wrote about the mid-50s, before the arrival of
skiffle and the consequent mass-production of acoustic guitars: In 1955, when
the photograph was taken, you could walk through London's Soho by day or night,
and not see a single guitar, nor hear a single note of folk music. Now the guitar
has become a symbol as familiar as a loaf of bread, and songs created in America's
Southern States by Negro folk musicians are whistled on every street corner.
But folk music is very tricky and elusive; preserve it and you kill it; popularise
it and you still kill it.
In its natural form, whether it is a blues on a street corner
in Memphis, or a bothy ballad on a farm in Aberdeenshire, it still has a universal
quality of simplicity, strength and feeling, the natural and functional beauty
if a ploughshare or a stone dyke. When this is captured, written down, and preserved,
a service is no doubt done to scholarship and history, but the life and fire
of it are only there when it is in its natural surroundings.
The older generation of natural folk singers is disappearing
and, owing to the growth of the mass media of entertainment, there are no young
men and women growing up in the tradition, singing the old songs unquestioningly
and instinctively. But the interest in the songs is being kept alive by such
men As Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Bert Lloyd and Peter Kennedy,
and there has sprung up a new generation of singers who have, as it were, come
to folkmusic from the outside and worked themselves in, building up knowledge
and technique and taste, until they are ready to take over from their predecessors.