THE WANTON SEED - Revised Edition Published April 2015

English Folk Songs from the
Hammond and Gardiner Manuscripts

Originally selected and edited by Frank Purslow
Revised by Malcolm Douglas and Steve Gardham
with notes by Steve Gardham

Over 150 songs

ISBN 978 1 903427 98 9
paperback 206 pages

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The Wanton Seed
A Review by Bob Askew – Founder of The Hampshire Songs Group

Frank Purslow's great Marrowbones series of folk songs from Hampshire and Dorset revolutionised the content of folk singing in the 1960s and 70s, but has sadly been out of print for ages. This began to be rectified with the updated version of Marrowbones published in 2007, but it has taken another 8 years to see the second in the series: The Wanton Seed in print again. The delay was largely due to the untimely death of Malcolm Douglas who had the project in hand. He is sadly missed for his great research skills and huge knowledge of folk music which he freely shared. Steve Gardham has completed the task, and is responsible for the excellent notes on the songs in particular.

Steve has produced an excellent book, so it has been well worth the wait. The music and texts of the songs are clearly presented, and most are wholly viewable without turning the page. Details of the singers, date collected and VWML reference, are also provided beneath the title. Notes on the songs are provided in a separate section at the rear of the book. The notes are more extensive than Frank Purslow's originals, and they give great up to date insight into up to thinking on the songs. References to traditional and revival recordings are also provided, which is very useful for many of us who cannot read music.

Steve's introduction on the origin of the songs concentrates on the influence of broadsides and stage songs. Marrowbones provided a general introduction to the series with biographies of Gardiner and the Hammond Brothers, so it is great that Steve deals with a topic close to Frank Purslow's heart. I would have liked to have seen some reference to the source singers, but this will hopefully happen when and if the final two volumes are published.

This is an excellent and very useful book, and it is a must to anyone interested in singing traditional songs. I hope that the final two volumes - The Constant Lovers (1972) and The Foggy Dew (1974) - can be published soon, and that they continue to this excellent standard.

Bob Askew June 2015