Sandstock Music SSM036, 1989
Martyn Wyndham-Read, vocals
Danny Spooner, vocals
Helen Hundley, violin
Many thanks to Danny Spooner for the LP.
We made this record for a number of reasons. Primarily as a tribute to Australian folksong which has given us both so much. Then as a memorial to Frank Traynor who created a venue for folk music that became known around the world, and who continually encouraged young singers in their craft and in the development of a professional approach. Then also as a thank-you to singers and enthusiasts, and to people like Andrew Pattison and Jill Gartrell for their continued investment in and support for folk music in Australia.
These songs serve to remind us two Englishmen of what we owe to Australia, its folksong tradition and the people we have been lucky enough to meet along the way.
Martyn and Danny
Some of the these have long been traditional songs and this time we hear Martyn's or Danny's version; others are passing into the tradition and we hope to hear more of them The continuing life of such songs is in the hands and the mouths of musicians like Martyn Wyndham-Read and Danny Spooner - singers, entertainers, raconteurs - who have played a great part in perpetuating and promoting Australian traditional music. Bless them.
Look Out Below
Regarded as the official songster of the Victorian diggings, Charles Thatcher came here as a young man at the beginning of the gold rush: his last tour in 1866 ended almost 15 years of entertaining the rapidly diversifying gold communities.
Look Out Below sums up the different opportunities available ein Europe and Australia in the early 19th century. "They bear the test of careful reading ... and if circulated in England, woud give a much better idea of the life at the goldfields than most of the elaborately written works upon them do." ('Argus' 7 April 1854)
Found in many collections of Australin songs, Brisbane Ladies is said to have been composed by Saul Mendelson, a storekeeper of Nanango who died in 1897. It is a perfect illustration of the adaptability of folksong: the tune is an English sea shanty Spanish Ladies, and the chorus is a parody on the English whaling song Talcahuano Girls. The similarity between the lives of sailors and drovers is glimpsed in this song about one of Australia's famous stock routes.
Collected by Joy Durst and Ron Edwards from Mr Ure of Gembrook, Victoria. Our Jack can be found in Ron's collection, The Overlander Songbook. It is an example of how the folk tradition can turn a serious situation into a source of fun. Humour has long been important in overcoming adversity but this makes a moral point.
Four Little Johnny Cakes
This another from the Joy Furst collection still available through the Victorian Folklore Council. It is mentioned in the Bulletin in 1898 so must have been in circulation by then. The song celebrated the simple and comfortable life of an itinerant, living off the good food of the land and working his way temperately through his shearing cheque. "Men, when on the tramp through the Riverina country, often carry a piece of twine and a hook to catch cod or blackfish. This is termed Murrumbidgee whaling." (J.C.F. Johnson, Christmas on Carringo, Adelaide 1873)
Put a Light in Every Country Window
From the pen of one of Australia's most prolific songwriters, it celebrates the coming of the electricity grid, and the heroic engineering feats that were entailed - and reminds us that such progress causes the passing of some great Australian institutions like the Coolgardie safe.
Where the Brumbies Come to Water
From Ron Edwards' collection, The Overlander Songbook. This version is adapted from Will Ogilvie's ballad, considerably altered and shortened. Ron writes that this "real old stockman's song" was around in 1908.
Where the Brumbies Come to Water is a moving epitaph for a fellow horseman, and reminds us that tough workers can be tender also.
One of Australia's best known traditional songs, made famous at first by Joy Durst and A.L. Lloyd, then the Bushwhackers. It commemorates a gang of shearers working along the sheds of the Lachlan River, competitive and heroic - and hard driven by a watchful pastoralist.
New Life, New Love
Henry Lawson wrote the poem in 1903 and Martyn put the tune to it.
Australia's best known balladist for 20 years, in middle age, Lawson was drinking heavily and living a hand-to-mouth existence. He had a love and a marriage behind him at this stage when he was taken in hand by Mrs Isobel Byers and penned this in a tone of promise.
Shearing in a Bar
Danny's favourite shearing song - for its honest admission, or for the story of its composition?
"Well that came to me by being up at the Tarcoon pub one afternoon, one Saturday, and I suppsed there'd be thirty or forty shearers there from various sheds, and every one of them was talking about his shearing ... shearing and nothing else. And the point that struck me, nobody seemed to gash them, no matter how rough they were. Well, I got stuck into that, and I thought, 'Well that's an idea' and I made up a story about it in rhyme." (Duke Tritton, Time Means Tucker, Akron Press 1984). Duke was a bushman, shearer, swaggie, author and poet. Martyn and Danny heard him sing at the Melbourne Town Hall a year or two before he died in 1965.
I Don't Go Shearing Now
W.A. Woods "John Drayman"
Did Martyn put the tune to this as his song of remembrance of his own days as a station hand?
The full text appears in Stewart & Keesing's Australian Bush Ballads (Angus & Robertson 1965) and runs to three pages - a detailed recollection of a shearer's life.
The Pommy's Lament
Another from Ron Edwards' collection.
Ron got it from a neighbour, 'Tiger' O'Shane, who learned the first bit when he was working on immigrant ships in the 1920s. He recited it around the campfire while shearing in WA in the 1930s and was astonished to hear the bushman's reply from Eddy Bird who'd learned it in Queensland. A classic example of the oral tradition. As two Poms singing about Australia, Martyn and Danny felt it would be appropriate to finish the record with this comment on a certain type of their countrymen, as an appreciaton of the laconic humour that has at times reduced them to hilarious tears!
Gael Shannon, October 1988
Garry Gillard | New: 30 October, 2010 | Now: 15 February, 2018