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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
49
4.5 out of 5 stars
The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (Penguin Classics)
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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 31 December 2013
If you like English folksongs this is a must for you. One can always criticize omissions and yesterday after a discussion with a fellow folksong lover I found one: "High Germany", which was, damn it, collected by Cecil Sharp himself but doesn't appear here. Nevertheless, it is a very good selection of some of the best-loved traditional songs and the links with the "Full English" work of the English Folk Dance and Song Society are very important.
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on 22 May 2017
Really interesting, but there is no index to the songs, which is a real pain on the ebook version.
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on 12 June 2015
Note that this book has lxi + 542 pages, but only 151 folk songs. For those of us who grew up with Liege and Leaf, mark that there is no Matty Groves and no Tam Lin. And we have learned a few more songs since then I daresay. All in all, for a big book, I find it a rather meagre selection. Many of us by now probably have more than 151 folk songs in our record collections, and I was surprised how few of them I found here. In other ways, a fine book. But in a book of 600 odd pages, I'd expect at least twice as many songs. I am certainly no expert, but I had thought that Old King Cole was a nursery rhyme rather than a folk song? And no Lord Franklyn? I'm afraid this book has now found a home in a charity shop.
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on 20 March 2017
Very useful source book with interesting commentaries on the songs and tunes.
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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 28 June 2017
Text is a bit small
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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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