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Judy as a traditional folk singer
on 2 April 2009
Judy's first two albums, presented here together in one magnificent package, were dominated by traditional folk songs, while the few songs of more recent vintage blend in well with the traditional songs.
The first album, Maid of constant sorrow, originally appeared in 1961. Two of the most famous songs here are Wild mountain thyme (a song of Scottish origin) and John Riley, both of which the Byrds later covered for their Fifth dimension album. Another highlight is The wars of Germany, which is actually not so much about the wars themselves but rather the bereavement caused by them. Judy feels that it illustrates the futility of wars, but the lesson is never learned as the world seems unable to stop fighting them. Many of the other songs are about Irish rebellion, reflecting the influence of Judy`s Irish father.
The second album, Golden apples of the sun, originally appeared in 1962, with tracks taken from a variety of sources. The title track is a poem (Song of the wandering Angus) originally written by W B Yeats, but later set to music. Little brown dog is a traditional song that may have originally had a political meaning, though that meaning appears to have been lost, so now it's just a fun song for children. Great selchie of Shule Skerry originates from the Orkney Islands to the north of Scotland, being about a selchie (seal-man) from as islet (Shule Skerry) there. Legend has it that the creature spent most of the time as a seal in the water, but occasionally came ashore as a man. Yeah, right. Poland is the source for Tell me who I'll marry, though I don't know how the song evolved and when it was originally translated. British folk fans should be familiar with Lark in the morning, a traditional English song still popular in folk circles. There are several other excellent tracks here including some of Irish origin.
Following these two albums, Judy became interested in contemporary folk music as subsequent albums show. Though she continued recording traditional songs as and when it suited her (notably reviving Amazing grace), I don't think she recorded another album dominated by traditional songs. As such, this twofer is somewhat different from anything that Judy did afterwards and we should treasure it for that.