We’re holding back on the interviews on Episode 347 of Folk Roots Radio as we bring you a themed hour of music for Remembrance Day. We had lots of great music choices to consider – starting with 30 songs before narrowing it down to the thirteen thought-provoking songs that we can squeeze into an hour. Heading off the beaten track we also feature a lot of fairly recent music. We hope you enjoy the mix we’ve put together. Check out the full playlist below.
We started off the hour with Blind Colour and their music version of the poem “In Flanders Fields”, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. John McCrae was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.
We followed that with Alberta’s Lizzy Hoyt from Alberta, with “Vimy Ridge” from her 2010 album “Home” and then English folk singer Lucy Ward performing “Lion”, her own World War One themed song, commissioned by Billy Bragg for 14-18 Now, and performed for the first time on the Leftfield Stage at Glastonbury 2014.
Lucy Ward’s song relates to the true story of Rifleman Robert Loveless Barker who was summarily executed – ‘shot at dawn’ – in November 1916 for cowardice. Cowardice, in this case, being defined as a reluctance to leave his trench to face the enemy, despite having done so many times before. These days we would describe Robert Barker’s behaviour as being more likely to be associated with extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rather than cowardice.
Robert Barker was one of 306 servicemen to face a similar fate. He is now commemorated along with the others at The National Memorial Arboretum in the UK.
We also heard from Lancashire UK folk trio Harp And A Monkey with “Soldier Soldier” a song adapted from a Rudyard Kipling poem from his Barrack Room Ballads which were immensely popular in the lead up to the First World War. Lyrically, its best described as black humour, as the song is told from the point of view of a serviceman talking to the lover of one of his fallen comrades, on his return home.
“The Soldier Song” by Brantford ON’s Benjamin Dakota Rogers was one of the winners of Songs of the Heart at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference. The Soldier Song appears on the 2016 album
“Whisky and Pine”.
Michael McDermott’s “Soldiers Of The Same War” comes from his great 2016 album “Willow Springs”, named after the small town south of Chicago where he now lives with his family.
Tannis Slimmon’s “Edmonton” was written with her musical partner Lewis Melville and can be found on her great 2007 album Lucky Blue.
Jon Brooks has to be one of Canada’s finest songwriters. On this episode we play “Hill 677”, a song set in Korea in 1951, and part of “Ours and the Shepherds” his 2007 collection of war stories from WW1 through Afghanistan. An album that won that went on to earn Jon the Canadian Folk Music Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2007.
Martyn Joseph’s “The Good In Me Is Dead” is from his 1999 album “Far From Silent”. The song was written from the perspective of a Kosovo refugee in the light of the atrocities that occurred during the wars in the Balkans. The version we played on this episode was recorded in Texas at the 2011 Kerrville Folk Festival.
“Why Can’t We Get Along?” is a 2009 song from Shari Ulrich that featured on her 2010 album “Find Our Way” (2010. Esther Records). On this episode we play the Barney Bentall, Shari Ulrich & Tom Taylor live version from their 2009 album “Live At Cates Hill”.
I find it very hard to coming up with any programming for Remembrance Day without including the heartbreakingly beautiful words of the Sullivan Ballou letter, written by a union soldier before his death at Bull Run and read by Paul Roebling in the 1990 Ken Burns documentary The Civil War, with musical accompaniment from Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar.
I get a lump in my throat every time I listen to that reading. It really brings home the scale of the sacrifice that people are willing to make. Ken Burns put it better than anyone when he discussed why he carried a copy of the letter in his wallet:
“It’s the most beautiful letter I’ve ever read in my life. It’s a Grand Canyon of a letter. You can read the strata of meaning… It’s all about love. First and foremost… love of country. . . . It’s about love of government. . . . It’s a love of cause. . . . It’s a love of family.”
And that’s all we have time for, this time around. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have a lot of great music and interviews to bring you on future shows. I hope you’ll join us!
You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via iTunes, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises (Demo)
Roll Right (Pre-release, self)
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields – Single (2010, Self) CDN
Home (2010, Self) CDN
Live At Left Field Glastonbury 2014 (Demo) (2014, Demo)
Eight Winds (2015, Self) CDN
Harp And A Monkey
War Stories (2016, Moonraker)
Soldiers Of The Same War
Willow Springs (2016, Pauper Sky Records)
Benjamin Dakota Rogers
The Soldier Song
Whisky and Pine (2016, Self) CDN
Lucky Blue (2007, Self) CDN
Ours and the Shepherds (2007, Exile Music) CDN
The Good In Me Is Dead
Martyn Joseph Live at Kerrrville Folk Festival (2011, Self)
Bentall Taylor Ulrich
Why Can’t We Get Along?
‘Live’ At Cates Hill (2009, Esther Records) CDN
We Want Peace
At Home (2011, Self) CDN