Sandra and Nancy Kerr

English duo singing mainly traditional English songs and traditional English tunes.

"Neat and Complete" liner notes

1. Lads of Alnwick

A Northumbrian small-pipes tune taught to us by Nancy's father, Ron Elliot (6.6.46 - 6.11.89) piper and Northumbrian.

2. The Milkmaids

Also known as the Bird in The Bush, the tune was collected by Vaughan Williams from someone he described as 'gypsy', in s village a few miles from Rotherham. Our text is made up of favourite verses from other versions .

3. The Wee Weaver

A rarity: a happy love song. It's very gratifying to find that Nancy's generation is inspired by the singing styles of people like Bridget Tunney (from whom this was collected). For Sandra's contemporaries, she was one of the great role models.

4. David Malone's/ James Fagan's

Two of Nancy's tunes, the first of which betrays the influence of great Northumbrian shepherd fiddler and composer, Willie Taylor, while the second betrays the influence of a certain James Fagan...

5. The Shoemaker

Nancy's dad used to sing this is a rich regional accent we couldn't begin to imitate. We have found our vowels broadening over the years, but they still owe more to North London than Northumberland. the song can be found in Stokoe's 'Songs and Ballads of Northern England'.

6. The Maid on the Shore

John Lyons, the delightful singer from Co. Clare, came over to England some twenty five years ago to record an LP for Topic. SK kept him company in the studio and wrote some sleeve notes. This song was on the album. When asked "John, in the song is it 'booty so gay' or 'beauty so gay?'", he said "Yes".

7. The Welcome Home/ Saucy Nancy

Two of Sandra's tunes. The first was written for her friends in the Oyster Band when they returned after a world tour of the er, world, and the second was a little Christmas present for Nancy, who says that one day SK might succeed in writing a fiddle tune.

8. Seven Yellow Gypsies

A great favourite with travellers, this version was collected in Dublin from a man called John Riley. SK once sang this in a session in Milltown Malbay during the Willie Clancy School. There was an audible gasp at the (then) shocking last verse about being in bed "with seven yellow gypsies to annoy me".

9. The Yellow-Haired Laddie/ Lovely Nancy

The first is a slow air, very popular in Northumberland, and the second is a bit of an oddity. It's generally thought that what we play as the tune was mistakenly notated and is actually a harmony. Which could mean that either of the harmonies we play are tunes. Or not. The title is strange, too.

10. The Great Silkie

As a small child Nancy was sung this at night in the hope that it's undulating melody and imagery of mothers singing lullabies to seal babies might send her to sleep. Recently she confessed that the ballad terrified her and that for years she was puzzled as to why the visiting seal/man should have been "grumbly".

11. George Collins

Another ballad with magical elements. SK learned this so long ago that she's forgotten where it came from. It's not the version A.L. Lloyd included in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, in which he notes that the ballad is rare. However, in 1906 Dr Gardiner collected three versions in Hampshire villages: two on the same day..

12. Jackie Monroe

The source for this was the late A.L. Lloyd. The song is known more widely in Scotland and it's always been assumed that Bert collated and adapted to create this version. We like the fact that the maiden warrior get promoted and can then keep her lover in the style to which he's been accustomed.

13. Rusty Gully/ Go To Berwick, Johnnie

These Northumbrian tunes are in 5/2 time  and are sometimes referred to as "English hornpipes". A gully is a knife used to cut meat - when there was any around. A tune from hard times perhaps, like the one called Small Coals and Little Money. Learned from Nan's dad. She has added her own variations in the second tune.

14. Sheepcrook and Black Dog.

One of the few songs in which a young man is deserted by his lover. Queen Caroline Hughes, from whom this was collected, must have specialised in the genre for she had an equally stunning version of Barbara Allen.

Last updated on 27/07/2010