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Elle Osborne, The Goose Is Out, The Mag, East Dulwich, April 16th 2010

April 19, 2010

Astral and I went round the corner to The Mag pub to see Elle Osborne, whom we’d seen play with Alasdair Roberts last month. It’s The Goose Is Out‘s smaller folk night in a room above the pub, where floor singers and players are welcome in the traditional way, and the evening kicked off nicely with various acts, including the fine hurdy-gurdy of Jess from local duo Salt and Blue.

Elle was on for two sets and covered a large range of traditional accompanied songs, fiddle tunes and a cappella songs. Her self-taught fiddle style is strong and distinctive, and between songs she talks about her background up in Lincolnshire, the folk singers she heard when she was young and some of the stories behind the songs and tunes.

One of her most affecting songs is Henry, My Son, about a young man’s poisoning. There are various versions, as there are of every folk song, but the climax leaves the listener in no doubt as to the ‘back story’ as the poor man expires:
   What will you leave your sweetheart, Henry, my son,
   What will you leave your sweetheart, my beloved one.
   A rope to hang her, a rope to hang her,
   Make my bed, I’ve a pain in my head
   And I want to lie down

She also has a number of shanties and nautical songs in her repertoire, including I Drew My Ship Into The Harbour, first recorded by Shirley Collins more than 50 years ago. In addition to some standards, such as The Wind And The Rain and The Four Marys, she sang Scottish traditional song Anachie Gordon, which tells the tale of young Jeannie, in love with ordinary fella Anachie but betrothed to Lord Saltoun. No surprises for guessing that it ends unhappily…

Elle puts on a very good show and deserves to be heard more widely. So I’ll do my bit – here she is singing Wise Eyes Wide at last year’s Brighton Festival:

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