Since I first started up Songs I Love, the series has been a way for me to share songs with some of the different friends and artists that I play with. So last summer while recording Jenny Lysander’s album Northern Folk, we also found the time late one August evening, to record a cover for the ongoing Volume II of the series.
Nottamun Town is an old English folk song that I first discovered on Fairport Convention’s 1969 album ‘What we did on our holidays’, their version was sung by the great Sandy Denny. Between takes recording Jenny’s album, we’d spend a lot of the down time listening to music. I love playing records for friends and seeing the excitement on their faces as they discover new music. I played Jenny some of my favorite singers like Anne Briggs, June Tabor or Joni Mitchell.
Listening to Nottamun Town, some of you may be reminded of Bob Dylan and he used the same melody for his song Masters of War. There’s a trance like cadence to the strange and original lyrics in Nottamun Town and Dylan used this relentless and hypnotic rhythm to great effect in his timeless anti-war anthem. According to various sources the original song dates back to medieval times and there’s a theory that the surreal nature of the text relates to the traditional day The Feast of Fools, during which time which power was briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. On this day, the fool took his revenge, the servant beat his master and the cat chased the hounds! So for the full sensory experience as you listen to this song, picture a Hieronymous Bosch painting in your mind and enjoy!
“Met the King and the Queen and the company more
Came a riding behind and a walking before
Come a stark naked drummer -a beating a drum
With his heels in his bosom come marching along”