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Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs

MGM·Lion 31 May 11 - 04:08 AM
GUEST,lively 31 May 11 - 04:15 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 31 May 11 - 04:27 AM
Richard Bridge 31 May 11 - 04:36 AM
RobbieWilson 31 May 11 - 06:26 AM
Midchuck 31 May 11 - 07:27 AM
Dave Sutherland 31 May 11 - 07:41 AM
GUEST,Arfurbrain 31 May 11 - 07:51 AM
GUEST,Gerry 31 May 11 - 08:35 AM
Marje 31 May 11 - 08:36 AM
MGM·Lion 31 May 11 - 08:36 AM
MGM·Lion 31 May 11 - 08:38 AM
DMcG 31 May 11 - 09:19 AM
DrugCrazed 31 May 11 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,leeneia 31 May 11 - 10:55 AM
Tiger 31 May 11 - 01:18 PM
Deckman 31 May 11 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Seonaid 31 May 11 - 01:38 PM
Artful Codger 31 May 11 - 02:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 May 11 - 02:29 PM
Bernard 31 May 11 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,kenny 31 May 11 - 04:43 PM
Anne Lister 31 May 11 - 04:49 PM
Gurney 31 May 11 - 05:11 PM
MGM·Lion 31 May 11 - 05:12 PM
Effsee 31 May 11 - 11:09 PM
J-boy 31 May 11 - 11:16 PM
Ron Davies 31 May 11 - 11:53 PM
Ron Davies 31 May 11 - 11:56 PM
Kent Davis 01 Jun 11 - 12:07 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 01 Jun 11 - 12:07 AM
MGM·Lion 01 Jun 11 - 12:48 AM
SteveMansfield 01 Jun 11 - 04:20 AM
Marilyn 01 Jun 11 - 05:22 AM
GUEST,Working Radish 01 Jun 11 - 09:04 AM
mayomick 01 Jun 11 - 03:25 PM
Genie 01 Jun 11 - 09:09 PM
Genie 01 Jun 11 - 09:35 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Jun 11 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Marianne S. 03 Jun 11 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jun 11 - 01:07 PM
Ebbie 03 Jun 11 - 01:58 PM
Tattie Bogle 03 Jun 11 - 02:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Jun 11 - 02:55 PM
Tattie Bogle 05 Jun 11 - 08:06 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 06 Jun 11 - 04:27 AM
Artful Codger 06 Jun 11 - 03:39 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 14 Jun 11 - 06:05 PM
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Subject: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:08 AM

On the ongoing 'Binnorie' thread, I wrote to a poster who preferred the tune linked to the usual one, which he said he found too 'perky', "I have frequently relished the polarity between the tragic content of a song and the perkiness of its tune. The Bonnie Lass Of Fyvie has always struck me as a prime example of such".

Does anyone else enjoy this quite frequent anomaly between the happy tune & the unhappy mood or events of a song? Any other examples?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,lively
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:15 AM

An interesting point and an interesting question, I'll have to think on while following the discussion.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:27 AM

What is the usual tune to Binnorie? The one we do was considered ancient even at the time of The Northumbrian Minstrelsy, and the others I know are similarly effecting. More often than not you hear the Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom melody (and refrains) which you still might hear misplaced from Child #1 popularised by Pentangle as The Cruel Sister.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:36 AM

The Princess Alice (Dave Rickard). Cheerful music-hall style tune, about the worst inland shipping disaster in the UK until the Bow Belle came along. 640 deaths, many caused by the poisonous state of the Thames at that time - as the song says, "poisoned by the black stinking river".


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 31 May 11 - 06:26 AM

I agree a very good question and I have some good examples lurking in the back of my bonce which I will bring when I manage to retrieve them.

I thought I would respond now because I don't think the Bonnie Lass o Fyvie O is a sad song. I am always trying to get my daughters to learn this. Get to my bed wench and feel honoured about it---piss off and die.   You are a mere wench and me a captain--- piss off and die.   I'll give you baubles --- piss off and die---- I'll give you money----piss off and die. In the end he pisses off and dies. Result


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Midchuck
Date: 31 May 11 - 07:27 AM

You're talking about the very essence of much of Bluegrass music - the vocals, anyway.

I know of one local Bluegrass band that advertised, on its business card, "Happy Little Dead Chick Songs."

Peter


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 31 May 11 - 07:41 AM

Nic Jones' arrangement of "The Lakes of Shilyn" setting an up tempo version of "The Banks of the Bann/Lord of all Hopefulness" to a tale about some poor sod getting drowned in an enchanted lake.
A bit like Richard's post there is a North East Music Hall song "The Fire Doon on the Quay" which has a rollicking tune and chorus to a most tragic tale.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Arfurbrain
Date: 31 May 11 - 07:51 AM

The original tune for "The Gresford Disaster" in the 1930s was a rather jolly waltz. Personally, I think the Albion Band version, using the hymn tune "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds" is much more appropriate.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 31 May 11 - 08:35 AM

You Won't See Me by the Beatles. Lyrics are almost suicidal, tune very upbeat.

There's a Henry Lawson poem, Past Carin', a real tearjerker, that has been set to music by several people. Hugh McDonald chose to set it to a very jaunty tune, a choice that made little sense to me.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Marje
Date: 31 May 11 - 08:36 AM

"The trees they do grow high" has numerous variants, but the major-key version I know is quite a jolly, bouncy tune, despite the dismal plotline of the lyrics.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 31 May 11 - 08:36 AM

Robbie ~ ROTFL at your synopsis of Lass Of Fyvie: result indeed! Hope your daughters will take it to ♥ !

Talking of Nic, his {+ Martin's similar thought not identical} tune for Clyde Water seem to me to qualify.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 31 May 11 - 08:38 AM

... 'THOUGH not identical': why will keyboards and things keep FIGHTING me!?


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: DMcG
Date: 31 May 11 - 09:19 AM

My daughter LOVED the bonnie lass of Fyvie when she was 5 or 6. I wonder if that's what she got from it ... could be, y'know!


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 31 May 11 - 10:34 AM

I sang at an Open Mic and someone called up "WHY IS IT SO HAPPY!?"

To which I replied "It's a folk song. Trust me, there are sadder stories to happier tunes".


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 May 11 - 10:55 AM

I think the twittering tune often used for "Wild Rover," with its 'nay, nay never' chorus is a mismatch. I'd never sing it.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Tiger
Date: 31 May 11 - 01:18 PM

"The Wind that Shakes the Corn", up-tempo version, would certainly qualify.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Deckman
Date: 31 May 11 - 01:25 PM

I've always thought that "The Titanic" as recorded by the late Bob Gibson was a serious missmatch of words and tune. bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 31 May 11 - 01:38 PM

I nominate "He Is Coming To Us Dead," from the New Lost City Rambler's 1973 album "Remembrance of Things to Come."
To an extremely bouncy melody, it relates the story of a father awaiting the arrival of his son home from the battle front -- in a casket.
Tracy Schwartz's liner notes posit: "The deceptively bright nature of the tune leads the creative folklorist to suspect that it once belonged to another set of words and completely different subject."


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Artful Codger
Date: 31 May 11 - 02:12 PM

The jaunty, major tune Tony Rose sang to "Banks of Green Willow" seems bizarrely upbeat for the story, but for some reason I prefer it to the more "fitting" modal variant Martin Carthy used, despite that generally such variants (darker, non-major, freer pacing...) appeal to me more. One of those little mysteries.

Then there are all those lullabies like "Rock-a-bye baby" which relate horrendous impending disasters, or "Alouette", which gleefully encourages sadistic animal cruelty.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 May 11 - 02:29 PM

A lot depends on how a song is sung - the actual notes may ssay the same, but with a different pacing of the singer, the mood can be completely different.

I remember once in a workshop Jez Lowe talking about how when he was writing The Bonny Boat the Bergen he intentionally avoided using a minor key, and in fact the tune he made for it is lyrical rather than sad, and with different words and a different pacing could fit well with a happy song.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Bernard
Date: 31 May 11 - 02:32 PM

On the other hand, 'The Loyal Lover' has such a lugubrious tune (beautiful, but miserable!), yet the words are upbeat and optimistic...! 'I love my love because my love loves me'... not sure what the message is, though...!! ;o)


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,kenny
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:43 PM

"Gin I Were Whaur The Gadie Rins" comes in for some dreadful treatment when you consider it's about a woman whose 2 loves are
a)- murdered and b)- drowned.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Anne Lister
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:49 PM

I remember hearing an arrangement of "The White Cockade" which sounded as jolly as could be - it's all in the tempo and the phrasing, I suppose. Made the final verses seem a bit pointless as the girl didn't seem bothered at all about the press gang taking her young man off to die.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Gurney
Date: 31 May 11 - 05:11 PM

The 'My Son Tim' variants, English and Irish, have jolly tunes but lyrics about a sailor getting his legs "Both shot off by a cannon-ball.' The last verse, where his mother swears vengeance on "The King of France and the Queen of Spain' is especially incongruous to my ears.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 31 May 11 - 05:12 PM

In the interests of accuracy ~~ a recruiting party [army] should not be confused with a press gang [navy]. The young man in The White Cockade was not pressed, he had '[en]listed' into the Royal Fusiliers [they are the regiment who wear the white cockade]: an entirely different proposition.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Effsee
Date: 31 May 11 - 11:09 PM

I'm often surpised by the jaunty versions of "Me and Bobby Gee" I hear. Which is essentially a Kriss Kristofferson song, about regret, as originally recorded by him.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: J-boy
Date: 31 May 11 - 11:16 PM

My Grandfather's Clock. A jaunty little tune about death.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Ron Davies
Date: 31 May 11 - 11:53 PM

A huge number of Sacred Harp tunes.    By far the most upbeat Sacred Harp tunes are about death.

Had at least partly to do with the Hobbesian view of life at the time the songs were written.

As well as the strong religious faith of the writers.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Ron Davies
Date: 31 May 11 - 11:56 PM

So from their perspective it was not in fact a mismatch.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 12:07 AM

Ernest Stoneman's 1928 recording of "The Raging Sea, How It Roars" (Child 289, The Mermaid) is the most cheerful-sounding song about a shipwreck that I know. You can hear it at #17 here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/recsradio/radio/B000001XKH/ref=pd_krex_dp_001_017?ie=UTF8&track=017&disc=001

Kent


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 12:07 AM

Its the 'happy lick' that takes away from the lyrical story..you all know it!

Wrong back up for what is really tragic lyrics

Less silly

There is another version, but I couldn't find it, sung by a rather soulful black lady, that makes this an even better piece!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 12:48 AM

In fact, re The Mermaid Child #289, the 'tune everyone knows' {"One Friday morn as we set sail"} will do very well here also {♫"And tonight she a widow will be, Way-hay!"}

~M~


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 04:20 AM

My nomination (noting that The Titanic Song has already been cited) would be the various versions of the Blacksmith song ('hello-a-lo-a-lo-a-lo-a-lo-a-lo you coal blacksmith' etc.)

A song about forced seduction, death, and extreme coercion, all sung to a rollicking 6/8 tune with sing-along choruses.

Ken Clarke would be proud ....


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Marilyn
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 05:22 AM

I sing the Titanic and, at a recent sing-around, one person commented that the jolly tune / tragic story mismatch was very powerful; it made her far more aware of the tragedy than a sad, minor tune would have done.

Prior to her saying that I had always felt a tiny bit uncomfortable about singing it in case anyone thought it was callous but now I don't - she's right, it really does draw your attention to the horror of it.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 09:04 AM

The other day I found the original tune of "The death of Bill Brown" on the British Library Website, and I think that would qualify - it's a jolly major-key tune with a "fol-de-rol" refrain. I'm learning Bellamy's much grimmer version at the moment, but I don't think I'd have the nerve to do the original.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: mayomick
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 03:25 PM

I find that the cheerful tune of Sacco and Vanzetti somehow manages to add to the poignancy of the lyrics.
It works the other way around as well - funny songs often sound better in sad minor keys .


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Genie
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 09:09 PM

J-boy, I have to disagree a bit about "My Grandfather's Clock." The song is really about a full life, from birth to death. It's only the last verse and the last line of the chorus that are about death. And even the parts about death aren't really sad, with the 90-year-old man & his clock taking their leave surrounded by loved ones.

But some songs that I do think pair rather morose lyrics with tunes that seem too pleasant or happy for the story are:
Banks Of The Ohio   (even the lyrics to the chorus are at odds with the story)
John Hardy
The Baron O' Brackley (Inverey)
Lily Of The West
Mrs McGrath
various incarnations of "Stagolee," "Pretty Polly," "Matty Groves," Binnorie, O Binnorie, House Carpenter, Frankie & Johnny,
Duncan & Brady


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Genie
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 09:35 PM

BTW, MtheGM, I hadn't noticed (or had forgotten) that "Binnorie" was mentioned in the first post as one of the songs that spurred interest in this topic. But it really does fit the category, doesn't it?


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 06:03 AM

What can be interpreted as "a cheerful tune" can often be better heard as "a defiant tune" or "a poignant tune". It all depends on context and on performance.

Do people hear "A long way to Tipperary" as particularly cheerful?

We shouldn't get hung up on the idea of minor keys being sad and major keys being cheerful


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,Marianne S.
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 12:56 PM

Banks of the Roses. The jaunty little tune bobs happily along while the words are about murder. Unfortunately because it has a chorus, in fact a jolly chorus, audiences roar it out like a music hall song.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 01:07 PM

McGrath, you're right about major and minor.

People have mentioned songs with nonsense refrains. One way to deal with those is to have an instrument play that part or to hum those notes. And nothing says you can't change 'paddy-whack-folderal' to syllables which seem less silly.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 01:58 PM

Does anyone remember Don Reno and Red Smiley? They were some of my favorite performers back in the 50s and 60s.

However, they had a serious mismatch in one of their songs. The tune is perky and fast, the title of the song is 'The Lord's Last Supper'.

The chorus goes:

He knew the time had come when he'd die to free the world
The world he loved so lost in sin
The blessed promise that he left for you and me
I go but soon I'll come again.

We play it only as an instrumental. Good guitar picking tune. :)


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 02:25 PM

Banks of the Ohio (as well as Banks of the Roses.)

In a minor key but often sung in very jaunty (and defiant) style
"Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk" - the song being about alcohol-fuelled domestic violence. Never been a victim of it myself, thank goodness, but it's a song that makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable in case anyone in present company has.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 02:55 PM

Perhaps the most heartbreaking song I know, one which actually gets people dropping out of singing the chorus because they are crying, is Home lads Home.

And one of the things that makes it so wrenchingly sad is that there's nothing in the least sad about the tune, while the words are so understated and almost matter of fact.

Home lads, home, with the sunset on their faces
Home, lads home, to those quiet, happy places,
For there's rest for horse and man when the longest day is done
And they'll all go home together at the setting of the sun.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 08:06 PM

Same reaction tonight to Davy Steele's "The Last Trip Home" about the demise of the (Clydesdale) horse-drawn plough versus mechanisation. The tune is not rollickingly cheery, but for the most part it's in a major key.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Jun 11 - 04:27 AM

"Stone Cold Dead In The Market" aka the only upbeat song about domestic violence.


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: Artful Codger
Date: 06 Jun 11 - 03:39 PM

For what it's worth, the "Binnorie" I'm most familiar with is hardly a jaunty tune. Here's a sound clip of Mediaeval Babes playing it on hammered dulcimer (which to my ear is a near direct rip of Dorothy Carter's rendition from her album Troubadour):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4DFPssGYzg


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Subject: RE: Cheerful tunes mismatch to serious songs
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 06:05 PM

"Linstead Market", actually an expression of despair by the narrator, a woman selling ackee fruit in the market, over her inability to feed her children because no-one has bought the fruit she came to sell, is played with an up tempo tune.


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