FolkLaw - Lyrics, Back-stories, Tales from the Road

Click on the arrows to scroll through the tracks and see the lyrics for the the Smokey Joe Album (2016) and the stories behind the songs.
 
Smokey Joe Album Cover
2. I Made Them

They say Columbus discovered America, but it was me, up in the crows nest
While he lay fast asleep below decks, getting his beauty rest
I spied a gleaming shoreline, and I knew that we'd struck gold
I scrambled down the riggin' as fast as my feet would hold

Cos history was written by the fountain pens of the men who lie below the decks
I ain't bitter, cos in the end I know, that I made them.

I shook him by the arm, he wouldn't wake, for he was gone on the red wine,
That I'd hauled aboard months before in the ports of sunny Spain
So I jumped Santa Maria's bow and headed for land
And my feet sank in Hispaniola's golden sands

chorus

I made them, I made them, yes I made them

chorus
3. Waterways of England

One day I'll have a house on the move, with paint on the sides and flowers on the roof
And inside a cabin will be everything that I'd ever need
When that day comes I'll take one for the road - it'll be a road that ebbs and flows
And winds like a ribbon of blue through shades of green

And I'll navigate the waterways of England,
Till the daylight fades and the stars come out to shine.
I'll pray those days will last a thousand seasons,
And the willow's dappled shade will be my home.

The ways of the narrowboat man are steeped in history laid around our feet
As we walk through the locks and the ways of the great Grand Union
With steaming kettle and gleaming brass, from London town up to Birmingham
A hundred and thirty-seven miles that can't be beaten

chorus

- harp solo -

chorus
4. Talk to Me

Talk to me. Talk to me like the sparks thrown from the fireside.
Talk to me like the sheepdog running by my side
Talk to me like buried history talks to me

I am a man of the land. My words are the words of the early morn
In the quiet of the night before the city lights come on
I hear the wings of the hawk. I hear the feet of the new born fawn
I hear the mice amongst the corn. I've heard these things since I was born they've talked to me

chorus

I am a man of the earth. My hands are the hands that turn the soil
touching mans forgotten lives from a thousand years ago.
I hear the vikings roar. I hear the rich, I hear the poor.
I hear the battle cry. I've heard these things my whole life, they've talked to me

chorus

- fiddle break -

Talk to me like the last rays of the evening sun
Spoke to our forefathers when their day was done
And when all these things are said and done, talk to me.
5. Gloucester Boys

Oh my family worked the land, of the fields in which I stand,
for more than I can count by generation.
And these hillsides clothed in red, dry the tunics of the dead,
as in Stroud scarlet many men met their salvation.

As we stood back to back, though the air was turning black,
we'll never be dammed cry the boys from Cheltenham,
we'll never be told say the farms of the Cotswolds, 'cause we are the Gloucester boys.

We made needle we made match, and from the silvery elvers catch,
we built up our county's first foundation.
From our corn and from our sheep, and the free Minners slag heap,
we became the pride of our whole nation.

As we stood like the oak of the mighty forest folk,
push through the wire for our dreams of the shire.
We trade the waters of heaven for our homes by the Severn.
'cause we are the Gloucester Boys

Fiddle Break

As we stood back to back, though the air was turning black,
we'll never be dammed cry the boys from Cheltenham,
we'll never be told say the farms of the Cotswolds, 'cause we are the Gloucester boys.
We are the Gloucester Boys, we are the Gloucester Boys.

6. Lorelei

In the bubble of the brook that ripples through the dales
I hear you cry Lorelei
And in the lichen on the walls lining the fields
I see your emerald eyes, Lorelei

Lorelei, let me hear your name
Lorelei, let me love you again

As the mist rolls in shrouding the land
I feel you breathe on me, Lorelei
And as the eagle soars on thermals high
I see your spirit fly, Lorelei

chorus

- mandolin solo -

Lorelei, let me hear your name
Lorelei, let me love you again
Lorelei, let us love again, us love again,
Lorelei, let me love you again
7. Mad Fiddler

I spied an old mad fiddler rubbing his hands in glee
He'd made a mint in a stint in the streets of Dundee
The air was ablaze with airs and refrains
He'd learnt from his sweetheart in Tiree


And though he weren't a betting man, he headed to the Tote
And laid down his earnings for a 3-way on the ropes
The Pipes of Loch Lochee came in at 10 to 1
And he left with a spring in his toes, A spring in his Glaswegian toes


He headed down to Murphy's bar and hung up his old coat
And said that every dram that night would be on his account
And every man was merry, the whisky freely flowed,
They smiled as he rosined up his bow
They smiled as he rosined up his bow

And when the last drop was drunk and the last song was sung
And the music had faded away
He headed for the night with nothing but his case
And his fiddle to play another day.
8. My Town

If you're travelling from the city to the slum, past the terraces and tower blocks in grey
There's washing hanging on balconies picking up pollution on the breeze
and streets where kids don't go out to play
You'll be ducking down the alleyways to navigate the concrete maze,
reading graffiti on the wall
Past windows of broken glass, needles and empty cans, and houses that aren't houses at all


A begger in the street with nothing to eat picks up his breakfast of the floor
It's a piece of pizza dirty and cold, dropped by a kid the night before
He sits by a drunken man, finishes his last can, and throws his empty bottle at the wall
We call this living in the western world, but this ain't living at all


And a homeless girl wanders around, pushing her life possessions in a shopping cart
It might not seem a lot, but it's all that she's got and it's all she's had since the start
While over the street, where the houses are sweet, with their neat cut lawns and sobriety
They see her pass by, turn a blind eye, and talk of a classless society


So if you're travelling from the city to the slum, past those terraces and tower blocks in grey
Take heed of the writing on the wall, it ain't some random scrawl
of a kid who left home and ran away
It's a social commentary of everything that you and me have done to make the world this way
And don't believe a word of the politicians blurb, the writing on the wall is here to stay
9. Forever and a Day

Follow me down a tree-lined road, down to the place we call home
Where we can run and our hearts roam
And if we reach out our hands we can touch the stones
as we live our lives on the road

And dance beneath the stars, listen to our hearts, dodge our shadows on the plains
And sit around fires and talk about life, and live forever and a day
Forever and a Day, Forever and a Day, Forever and a Day

Hold my hand until the end, down to the caravans of Tubingen
where they live their lives by the power of the sun
And make their own bread from the crops they've grown
as they live their lives on the road

Chorus

Forever and a day, that's what they used to say
when the young men bade farewell to their maidens
And went to fight for freedom so we could live today to dance in the pouring rain
So when you fight your own battles each and every day, walking through those furrows of life
Don't tread on your beliefs no matter what they say,
and we can keep on living forever - forever and a day

Forever and a Day
10. My Time

This is my time, for walking in the sunshine,
for the drinking of the red wine, and skimming stones off shore lines.

And I will go to where the rivers flow, and no one knows my name oh no,
and I'll go to where the mountains touch the sky.
And I'll be seen where the only low is rising from the fiddle bow
'cause this times not coded on my screen.
Chorus

Now I know that things come off our screens that interrupt our pleasant dreams
and I don't know, how this will all go.
But I hope that before now and then, by plucking on those strings my friend,
we'll find a way to ease some troubled souls.

Chorus
Yeah this is our time, for singing in the sunshine, with voices that all intwine, as the people sing the bands lines.

They go: Ba ba ba ba da da da, la ba da da da da da, Ba ba ba ba da da da da da.
Ba ba ba ba da da da, la ba da da da da da, Ba ba ba ba da da da da da.

Yeah this is our time, for gigging in the sunshine,
it's rhythm moving feet time, and dancing to the FolkLaw fiddle line.
11. Cradle to the Grave

She's the girl with the heart of steel, hot as hell like her Sheffield mills.
That's the woman that I love still,
Cradle to the Grave.


Mines the girl who made my babes, brought to me by the oceans waves.
Bound together in the lives we've made,
Cradle to the Grave.


I've journeyed far and I've journeyed long. Round the world as I've sung my songs.
Now to home where my love belong,
Cradle to the Grave.


Back in the day, we first met. No power on earth can divide us yet.
All life long we're your surest bet,
Cradle to the Grave.


No greater joy have I yet found, than stood together in this wall of sound.
Left to right my friends surround, the quaver and the stave, from Cradle to the Grave.
Yes left to right my friends surround
The quaver and the stave, from cradle to the grave.
One of our best memories of this song, albeit a bit of a strange one, was in the back of a white ford transit van back-stage at BearFest. The rain was lashing down outside and FolkLaw were next band on the stage, but Nick was so keen to try out the song that he'd just written, there was a last-minute rehearsal and Martin managed to learn the song in a blinding 10 minutes It was played out that same day on the Bearfest stage and they've never looked back.

Different people manage to see different things in this song... Lyndon's managed to find references to marajuana in nearly every line and reckon's it's end-to-end about a life of music and the ganja leaf. Others see it simply as a story of a wayward lad finding his redemption in music. One thing's for sure - the banjo is pretty cool - and we need one in the band!

There were quite a few attempts at album covers for Smokey Joe. Early cover prototypes had Nick rodeo'ing on a cow at a cattle ranch while Bryn danced with his guitar on the porch, while other attempts were deemed a bit too edgy and got vetoed by the pc brigade at BWM Promo!

The final print inside the album case means you can actually take the banjo out off the wall as you put the CD in the CD player, we hope enables you to feel almost part of the band. The missing link in the line-up where you can lift the instrument and play that 5 string sound.
I Made Them was first played live in 2013 by Nick and Bryn as the duo at the fantastic Wads Stock Festival. The infamous day when Bryn ripped his trousers in front of a packed crowd while mounting the table with Bodrhan flailing!

What's less well known is that a group of local lads and lasses had a private FolkLaw gig in the grounds of the Wootton and Dry Sandford Community Centre just 2 hours prior to the main festival. It came about when the FolkLaw duo made for a quiet spot to get some rehearsal time on I Made Them, and while rehearsing by the graffiti sprayed walls a small crowd of 5 or 6 youngsters built up and before you could say "main-sail" a mini-gig was happening. The photo on the right was taken by the happy crowd just after the gig.

Not sure if the mural is still there or not... but if you find it, you'll notice that the photo's been strategically cropped to avoid quite a few slightly less imaginative spray painted offerings which had been the skulls companion for many years. Not your normal FolkLaw back-drop but one to remember.

After that day in 2013 "I Made Them" was put back in the cupboard and in fact never played again until Martin joined the band and helped bring the song alive with his sparkling guitar work.

You can also catch the song in a live video of "I Made Them" at Banbury Folk Festival - one of the gig highlights of 2015.
Contrary to the popular legend told at gigs, Waterways of England was mostly written on the towpath of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Walking back to Saul from Gloucester docks in the sunshine with that steady pace and the feeling of peace with the world as you leave Gloucester and find your self in the countryside, gave rise to the verses of the song.

It is true though that a few weeks later, FolkLaw percussionist of the time Marty Fitzgibbon sat under the branches of a weeping willow tree in the grounds of the Trout Inn at Lechlade Riverfolk Festival, said he thought there was nothing better in life than that moment by the river in the shade of the tree ...and the rest of the song was born.

As well as appearing on the Smokey Joe album as a proper polished studio recording, live versions of the Waterways of England can also be found on the collection of Songs of the Inland Waterways www.waterwaysongs.co.uk, the FolkLaw live album "Live at Treefest". The song was also captured on film at the Bath Folk Festival "New Shoots" show in April 2013.
We long wanted to find a song for Gaz to sing and to showcase his fantastic voice. After going down a few rabbit holes and even seeing a few gigs with nick on Mandolin we decided to write a song for Gaz, about Gaz, and a song he could sing and believe in. The words sum up our Gaz and what he's about - at one with the countryside, and his log burner, and the countless days walking the fields with his sheep-dog Fly in search of his historical artefacts from the Celtic, Saxon and Roman times. Sadly Fly's no longer with us now - but he'll never be forgotten, he's here in the song for eternity, and his spirit is still running over the fields.

"Talk to Me" was only rehearsed a couple of times before it was recorded - but it's helped to keep it feeling fresh on the album. First time the song was tried out was back-stage at Stroud Subscription rooms, upstairs while the Wurzels were doing their sound-check. It hit a few problems though... the Dm key was great for fiddle players but wasn't working for Gaz's voice and Gaz wasn't too happy about the lyrics - which were talking about "sparks flying from the welders gun" and stuff like that!... so over the next few months the song was re-hashed, shifter into Bm (which was great for Gaz's voice and a PITA for the fiddle) and then pulled together in a second attempt at Gaz's house just days before going in the studio.

First played out live at Cheltenham Food Festival in 2016 and now hopefully a feature of many FolkLaw gigs to come as we love the song and it's Nick's favorite on the album.
Gloucester Boys began life during a photo shoot we did just before TreeFest at Westonbirt Arboretum. We stood in a very freshly ploughed (but not planted and we were very careful don't worry!) field.

Our photographer on the day was brilliant, and very dedicated so not unreasonably took some time getting great pictures (you've probably seen some of them on the website)... ...and in this time, stuck in position Bryn found himself kicking the earth. As he did so the handle of a 1930's cup showed its self.

Bryn called over to Gaz, pulling his leg due to his own love of the earth via his metal detecting and informed him of the new found "hoard"! Quick as a flash Gaz pointed to the tractor finishing the ploughing in the distance as said "that's no hoard, that that blokes great great great grandfathers lost mug."
...."Oh my families worked the land, of the fields in which I stand, for more than I can count by generation." Bryn sang the line there and then, and the tune, the lot, was in his head.

That idyllic day continued as Bryn went on to Sunday lunch with his parents and in talking with his Dad learnt for the first time about Stroud Scarlett and that until recently all of the red scarlet of the British Army; like you see at the change of the guards at Buckingham Palace, was made in the mills in Stroud. The material would be dried after dying, by spreading out on the surrounding hillside...."Oh these hillsides clothed in red, dry the tunics of the dead as in Stroud Scarlet many men met their salvation"

The seeds of the song were born, and all Bryn needed to finish it off was a good drive - to focus on the rest of the song writing! And so it happened that on one trip while driving alongside the river Severn, and passing by the trees of the Forest of Dean on the way to meet friends - all the thoughts combined - the friendship "Pals Companies" that joined the First World War efforts together, and inspired by the commemorative year that it was, the song was written.

We hope it does justice to the Gloucestershire Regiment (The Rifles), about whom the songs written and in whose ranks some of our families have served in times past. They are the only Regiment in the British Armed forced to be allowed to wear a "back badge" on the rear of their Beret.
A song of few words and many emotions.

Some reviewers in the folk press said of the Tales That They Tell album that they felt of all the tracks, "Gypsy Rain" was one of the songs that projected best - being a more softly spoken personal message straight from the heart.

Lorelei found itself floating in a similar vein. With the simplicity of the guitar and difficulty of the vocals we were initially sceptical of whether the recording would work. ...but in the end, thanks in part to those reviewers positive comments on Gypsy Rain we gave Lorelei the studio time, and over the course of a few months it grew and mellowed into a beautiful track.

If you want to get closer to the touch and sounds of the song, head over to Rukin's Campsite deep in the Yorkshire Dales by the river Swale. It's one of those rare places where you can camp by the stream and light a fire in the evening. Take a walk around the upper swaledale waterfalls and you'll be in the place where the song Lorelei was born.
Whether this song was inspired by Mad Fiddling Mark Knight or not, we'll probably never know! He's a mean fiddler mind you... we remember seeing him spinning round on the spot while fiddling for K-Passa in Gloucester Guild Hall, and he took over from Nick in the Bleeding Hearts in 2010... ...but he's not Scottish and he hasn't got a sweetheart in Tiree ...yet!

What's for sure though is that Murphy's Bar in verse 3 is a million miles from Scotland. Murphy's Corner in Bremen is the place. One of those real live music venues which gets very warm on a gig night, the barman wears chain-mail behind the bar sweltering in the heat, they keep the windows shut to try and keep their music license and crazy things always seem to happen. It was one of those nights in 2005 on tour with the Hearts when Nick was taken by some kind of possession of the mind*, stepped on to a chair, then went one further and played his fiddle on the bar, before dancing his way between the ashtrays and glasses of Guiness. It's the kind of thing that most landlords frown on, but in Murphy's corner everything goes, and on that night everything went, and it's stuck in the mind for over 10 years.

* might have been one too many JagerMeisters!
Maybe because it's because we're all getting a bit older, or maybe it's the joy of playing in the band, ...but as the days go by FolkLaw find themselves less angry with the world than in days gone by. Nothing much has changed for the better in the outside world of course but we reckon there's two ways of reflecting on it - like in "I Made Them" you can either tell a tale of a down-trodden barrelman stuck up in the crows nest, or a tale of the pride felt by a young man who finds greatness and whose heart leaps when he discovers land. In the Smokey Joe album pretty much every track is a positive tale. We really wanted to keep it that way, and very nearly left "My Town", out of the track list just on that basis - but here it is "revisited"

Despite appearing on this latest album, My Town was the very first FolkLaw song ever written - way back in 2010 (during the angry disgruntled phase). But it's a song that's transformed over the years, and the track on Smokey Joe is a million miles from the solo guitar & blues-harp track that first appeared on Nations Pride. We're still playing it a lot at gigs too, and as Nations Pride is on the verge of being sold out and won't be re-pressed, we thought we'd revisit the track with the new full band flavour.

My Town was written when Nick had only just departed ways with the Bleeding Hearts and is heavily influenced by his time on the road with the band. Verse 1 talks of Nick's old home town of Bristol, while vs2 heads to the Axe & Cleaver in Boston Lincs, vs 3 the sights and sounds of Vancouver on welfare wednesday when the drugs come in on the coast, and there's a smattering of Winnipeg and Gloucester thrown in. Every town across the world has it's bright lights contrasting with it's darker side, and the song really could've been written about anywhere in the world.
Forever and a Day - a song about living your life on the road, self-sufficiency, eco-friendly societies and taking time for the important things in life!

Inspired by the community of the Tubingen caraven site in Germany where Nick and Gaz played a solar-powered gig with the Hearts and the post-gig folk session around the campfire which followed. They didn't grow their own wheat, but they did bake their own bread and it was fantastic.

It was also the same gig where the bass player fell through a rotten floor-board in the stage and his notes blew away in the wind (bass players eh?!) ...but they're stories for another day from a long time ago.

To the right you can see the prototype album cover from the time when we thought the album might've been called "forever and a day". The constellation patterns represented characteristics of the members of the band (can you work out which one was for which person?! now there's a challenge!). In the end it never made it through the artwork screening process, but it was Martin and Emma's favorite of all the prototype album covers, so we ended up keeping it in the inside sleeve of the smokey joe album, hanging on the wall in a picture frame for posterity.
Turns out Nick didn't know this, but when we put the notes together for the CD, Bryn revealed that he'd been thinking of Nick when he wrote the song - a song about being out walking, enjoying nature, and family and drinking plenty of red-wine. Bryn imagined Nick teaching his lads that essential life skill of "skimming stones off shore lines" just as he'd taught his own children that law-of-physics-defying Dad magic a few years before!

The final phases are based around the whole band and the fantastic FolkLaw audiences we've had over the years. We did a festival gig once where another band were in the artist tent behind the stage and being unable to hear clearly they were just humming along with the tune. Bryn coupled this with a memory of our friend and fabulous song writer Gerry Colvin when we played on the same bill as his band. He had the whole crowd singing "Ba ba ba da da" during one of his songs. Bryn thought that sounded like a great idea as everyone remembered the words! Some months later Bryn found himself absent mindedly singing out loud "Ba ba ba" on tour with CQ and from next door came "da da" in reply and out jumped Gerry! From that moment Bryn reckoned a FolkLaw song definitely needed something that memorable and here it is in the middle of My Time.

The final verse is a nod to the FolkLaw rhythm section that get those feet moving and "Dance to the fiddle line". Bryn was running out of ideas by that stage, so that bit repeats, but when we find ourselves at a festival with everyone itching to dance - it's great cos it means we don't have to stop!

Some would say as its drop-D tunning like Leaves of Gold from our album Tales That They Tell, is just an excuse for Bryn not to have to retune to quickly and keep people on their feet...but it's not that (honest!).
Now, what to tell you about this song?! ...It started unlike any other song we've ever written, with a desire to have a FolkLaw song to fill a particular role. Unlike some of the songs which spark out of nowhere or are inspired by a specific injustice in the world and so on, this one was planned out step-by-step, almost written to commission!

We have our dancing songs, out ballads, our harmonius songs, but what we didn't have and what we really needed was our own quiet gentle end of the night encore song. We also wanted a song where we could take a verse each and make sure we could include the fantastic singing voices of Gaz and Martin.

Choosing a subject for the song was a bit tricky... something we all have in common that us and hopefully audiences would all feel connected in singing? It didn't take long to settle on love, music and friendship. Things that will last from cradle to grave.

We started realising it could be the final word on the album, and probably the final word in the quieter gigs at folk clubs and so on.... "No greater joy have I yet found, than stood together in this wall of sound. Left to Right my friends surround..."

Hopefully you'll think it's a fitting end to the album and if you join us at a seated gig sometime there's a good chance we'll sing it at the end of the gig too! Sit back and enjoy, and get your voices warmed up ready :)


The inside of the album - where you can take the Banjo off the wall and play

~-~



Some of the early prototypes which never made the cut!


Back-stage at Wads Stock 2013 rehearsing "I Made Them"


The river by the Trout at Lechlade, home of Lechlade RiverFolk Festival,
and the very spot where the chorus of Waterways of England was born


Two of Gaz's favorite things - a bottle of red wine and a fire in the hearth


"The Glorious Glosters" - By are deeds we are known.


The bubble of the brook that ripples through the Dales

The river Swale, by Keld, Swaledale


Murphys Bar in Bremen


Looking for a meal through the trash cans on California in San Francisco


"Dace beneath the Stars" - the first prototype album cover for Smokey Joe!


"skimming stones off shorelines"


"Left to right my friends surround, the quaver and the stave"

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