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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 August 2012
This is a superb book - beautifully produced, full of great songs (many that will be unfamiliar and not just all the usuals that appear in folksong collections).

Songs are gathered into categories and each section is preceded with interesting, well written notes about historical and social issues. The themes are -

Soldiers and sailors
Happy relationships
Unhappy love
Lovers' tricks, disguises and obstacles overcome
Lust, infidelity and bad living
Rural life and occupations
Animals and nonsense
Songs of death and destruction
Pochers, highwaymen and other criminals
Traditional religious songs

There is then a HUGE 130+ page section titled 'Notes to the songs' which provides individual historical and social information about the songs.

The book itself is immaculately produced with high-quality stitched and bound binding and a very unusual and beautiful printed cover. (No dust jacket). I have uploaded a few images which illustrate these points and also give an idea of how music appears in the book. (You can also use the 'Look Inside' feature to explore more for yourself.)

Music is printed in notation form for all songs. There is no guitar tab and there are no chord diagrams. Most songs are shown just as melody lines, but a few also suggest some form of ornamentation. This is very much a resource book, but as such it is superlative.

Two other resources I can recommend through experience that are well worth exploring are -

The Folk Handbook: Working with Songs from the English Tradition (English Folk Dance/Song Societ)

The wonderful website 'The Contemplator[...] which has a massive resource of song lyrics, music, links to other history-based websites and associated midifiles in sections such as -

Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America
Francis J. Child Ballads
Popular Songs in American History
Songs of the Sea
Turlough O'Carolan
Contemplations on Life
Taylor's Traditional Tunebook

If English folk music is a key interest for you (and why else would you be reading this?), I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending the Penguin Book of English Folksongs as well as the two resources shown above.

Enjoy.
Learn and enjoy.
Play and enjoy.
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on 20 June 2012
This is not a reproduction of the earlier Penguin book of English folk songs edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd! This is a completely new selection of folk songs as chosen by the eminent writer and folklorist Steve Roud, and music scholar Julia Bishop.
The new selection was made by examining all major folk song collections and finding those songs which had been most widely collected around the country, thus producing a true representation of the voice of the people and the songs which stuck in their collective memory.
With extensive notes for each song, and extensive notes on the development of folk song and music in England, this is a must have book for any serious folk singer, folklorist, and academic.
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on 11 March 2013
This fine hard back will stand comparison with many earlier collections. This intoduction and notes on the songs tell you a lot of what you should know about this tradition. The songs are taken from genuine country preformers, and the only possible problem is that they are sometimes a bit different from the ones already sung in folk clubs, which can cause some confusion. But no doubt the folk process will even that out eventually

Essential for any English folkie
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on 20 February 2013
I recently purchased this wonderful book and feel the need to share how satisfied and excited I am by it. It provides enough detail whilst being succinct. This book will aid me and many others in breathing new life in into Traditional English Folk Songs. Bravo!
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on 12 February 2013
An absolutly fantastic book with an outstanding.

Full of some of the best, well known songs with all the relevant music and lyrics aswell as all the notes / history to join it.

A must have for anyone interested in folk music!
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on 29 August 2013
A collectors item!
Some really good old folk songs that need to be sung- good layout of categories and a super selection backed up by an associated CD with good modern performers- a must have (for both)
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on 17 December 2014
Excellent - I just wish I read music so I could have the tunes as well.
The canon is well represented by the decision to split the subject matter into categories.
There will always be disagreements over inclusions and exclusions - some of my favourites do not make it - but I do think a good stab at a rounded representation has been achieved. That a major publisher has produced this book is heartening at a time when many of our other traditions seem to be in danger of teetering on the edge of extinction.
Perhaps an accompanying CD might have been an idea but really I treasure this book. I hope you will too.
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Having played Folk music for a number of years I’m always interested to not only hear new songs but traditional epics that whilst I’m aware of a variation, lost something in not only the translation but changed meaning through oral tradition. This wonderfully researched book by Steve and Julia not only gave me a whole host of songs to sit back and muse over but included the music so that I could learn them.

It’s a wonderful book to flick through, has tales for all styles of folksingers and when added to an easy to reference section all round gives the reader a few new titles to play around with. Magic.
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on 27 July 2012
This is a most enlightening book which casts new beams upon very old material - the folk songs of
England. I do remember being taught one in primary school in which the words of the chorus were
'O Rare Turpin Hero, O Rare Turpin O! - I didn't find that, but one in similar vein. If you have
any interest in our folk history then this book is not to be missed.
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on 30 May 2014
Lots of meat in this collection. The book is well laid out and the notes comprehensive. Just as with the original Penguin Book of English Folksongs, of which I have worn out two of my three copies, I will be learning and singing songs from this volume for many years. It is also an excellent book for newcomers to folk song. The melodies lines are set out clearly, and the information is illuminating. These are songs for singing.
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