Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Long Songs: Matty Groves

Fairport Convention: Matty Groves


My first thought when I learned of this week’s theme was, “There must be one of those English folk songs with tons of verses that would work this week.” And, of course, there is.

There was a time when most people in England, particularly the lower classes, were illiterate. Songs like Matty Groves served the same role that tabloid newspapers do now. And the juicier the story, the more details people wanted. And in this case, details are what they got.

As songs like this worked their way into the body of traditional material, they tended to acquire verses from other songs. So it is impossible to say what actually happened here. Enjoying songs like this is like enjoying the beauty of a patchwork quilt. And this musical quilt is a particularly fine example of the form.

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