I met Shirley Collins

I met Shirley Collins!


I met Shirley Collins yesterday at a Folk Song workshop in Lewes. She is every bit as warm and delightful as I've always been told. I've watched her film, I've read her book, I've seen her at the Barbican and the Roundhouse, I've been spellbound by her and amazed what she has achieved and overcome. She’s a wonderful woman as well as an absolute legend. I got tongue tied, I probably talked nonsense, I sang slowly. I sang Salis(berry) not Salisbury. I don’t tend to get particularly nervous these days, but I was so nervous. She didn’t seem to hold it against me, and I think it’s going to be one of the most valuable singing lessons of my life. It was a privilege, I want to know how to look after the songs like she does in my little way, and I'll never forget it.

The more I learn, the less I realise I know, it's like going backwards.

A lady there told me that you couldn't really listen to someone with my tone of voice sing more than one or two songs without (rolled eyes and sighed deeply simultaniously) and so I should sing more upbeat songs. I don't know what to do with that. I've come to think I'm not too bad, although I can't hear compliments and I get through things by promising myself I'll be better next time. Hey me! I promise I'll be better next time. Take Courage.

On the Radio

I've been delighted to have a few songs appear on the radio over the last couple of months. The Invisible Folk Club played all 22 verses of Prince Heathen, bless them very much for that act of bravery. I also recorded a Christmas song, Remember the Poor especially for their Christmas special. The Classic Folk Show on EFDSS Radio played Pretty Saro with storywheel thanks to the lovely Mike Norris. Catch up with these great shows here and add them to your playlist:

The Invisible Folk Club
Classic Folk with Mike Norris

1000 Folk Songs

I'm going to learn and record 1000 folk songs, this may take a while, we've done the maths; still there are plenty unrecorded as yet, so I've got a good head start. They will mostly be traditional, some will be because I love them. You might find a couple of these accompanied if you are lucky as I've recorded a couple with storywheel.

  1. Geordie
  2. Rambleaway
  3. Silver Dagger
  4. Twa Corbies
  5. Salisbury Plain
  6. What A Voice
  7. Go Away From My Window
  8. Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
  9. False, False
  10. Cruel Mother
  11. The Snow It Melts the Soonest
  12. My Son David
  13. London Lights
  14. Young Waters
  15. Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk (Mickey's Warning)
  16. Pretty Saro
  17. King of Rome
  18. No Man's Land / Green Fields of France
  19. Prince Heathen
  20. Remember the Poor / The Snow is on the Ground
  21. I Am Stretched On Your Grave
  22. Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
  23. Flash Company
  24. Both Sides the Tweed
  25. Lowlands (Away)

The Invisible Folk Club - Podcast

It was a lovely and surreal experience joining the Invisible Folk Club for the afternoon a little while ago, it made me look at how storywheel and I approach our songs with new eyes for a moment, I'm not sure how I'd feel if I'd regularly have to analyse where my instincts take me, but it was fascinating all the same, it's always interesting hearing Keith talk too, it makes me realise how little I know about him (and don't tell him, but he is very interesting), and John Bickley and Steve Yarwood's enthusiasm is wonderful. You can listen and subscribe to their Invisible Folk Club podcast now on iTunes, or listen Spotify or download, the links are all below.

"Top class new podcast released today, there's been something of a buzz around this one. Please share with your friends. Host Jon Bickley shares songs and conversation with Catherine Earnshaw Music & storywheel. It's the quiet joys of voice and oud. Catherine has previously performed as an unaccompanied singer, in recent times she has been working with storywheel to perform folk songs of the British Isles, but with an unusual dimension. Beautiful and emotive vocals float over music that mixes Middle East and North African influences. Storywheel (aka Keith Clouston, formerly of Transglobal Underground) creates the atmosphere with Oud (Arab lute), voice, percussion and occasional drones."

How to listen Invisible Folk Club podcasts:


Where are you from?

A while ago some friends were talking about disliking a question which comes up in folk music.

Where are you from?

A way of generally finding out what tradition you might sing in I think or a way to work out who you might be. The negative taken from this being a judgement, that if you are from a place you may be expected to sing its songs, and if you don’t, you are in someway wrong. (Thanks Ewan)

I don’t think where you are from has to be where you were born or where you grew up or where you live, or where your family are from, it can be all of these, any of them or none of them, so I am reclaiming it.

When you close your eyes and look out of the windows in the Home you have built out of everything you are in your heart, what do you see? What do you hear? The sea? The mountains? Birds? Rows of bleak lonely houses? A cityscape from high above? A Greek island?

When people ask where you are from what they should really be asking is where your heart is at home, where geographically in the world inspires you to sing. What landscape your soul rambles in.

Where are you from? I’m fascinated, I’m not afraid to ask, and I genuinely want to know.


Where are the women in folk?

The other day a talk was pointed out to me that someone thought I might enjoy entitled Where are the women in folk?

Looking around me, the majority of people in the room were indeed men, illustrating the well meant and no doubt accurate point, but my reaction surprised me.

I had never thought about it. All of my heroes in folk music are women. All of them. I thought the world was jam packed full of them, because they’re pretty much all I hear, everything else becomes quieter. Don’t get me wrong, I can get my head turned by a deep male voice very easily, and I love a male folk singer as much as the next man...unless the next man is a woman, then I love her a bit more.

Jeannie Robertson, Sandy Denny, Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Norma Waterson, Lal Waterson, Shirley Collins, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Niamh Parsons, Anne Briggs, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Judy Henske, Linda Thompson, Margaret Barry, Melanie...

Legends all.

There are so many more contemporary artists too I admire, love and adore, and whilst I enjoy every single person who gets up and performs at my folk club, I’m always a little bit more excited when it’s Pam’s turn.

Where are the women in Folk? As far as I’m concerned, everywhere and they are wonderful.