Robin and Barry Dransfield

TrackAlbum
The Rout Of The BluesThe Rout Of The Blues
A Fair Maid Walking All In Her GardenThe Rout Of The Blues
Faithful JohnnyLord Of All I Behold
General WorthingtonBarry Dransfield
The Handsome Meadow BoyThe Fiddler's Dream
Fair Maids Of FebruaryTidewave
When It's Night-Time In Italy...Tidewave
Jezebel WaltzBe Your Own Man
Gossip JoanBe Your Own Man
Irish SessionWings Of The Sphinx

Dransfields photo 1

Barry & Robin

 

 

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Dransfields playlist

 

 

Contributor: Dave Wilcox

I first came across Robin & Barry Dransfield in about 1970 at a London folk club. I was there with my soon to be wife, Irene, so we discovered them together. Irene pointed out that she’d seen Barry previously at a regular Sunday Irish music session at The Favourite in Islington, a pub which is sadly no longer there.

Whilst at the folk club, we bought The Rout Of The Blues album there. It wasn’t long before we wore it out through too much playing; the title track and A Fair Maid Walking All In Her Garden are included in the list. Scarborough Fair (without the herbal references) is also on this album.

In 1971, the Dransfields produced another album, Lord Of All I Behold, which I found in a record shop. This one had a track on it called Faithful Johnny which took me straight back to my childhood and my primary school where we used to listen to a BBC Home Service broadcast called “Singing Together” presented by William Appleby. This was one of the songs the class used to sing during the broadcast and it’s now also included in my list. Here’s a live version by Robin from his A Lighter Touch album.

In 1972, Barry Dransfield brought out an eponymously titled solo album. I bought a copy of that at the time and I’ve included a track from it called General Worthington which I particularly like.

Later we saw Robin on his own at the Romford Folk Club. Two of the songs that night stood out for me. One was Fair Maids Of February (see clip at foot of post), a song written by Robin about snowdrops – with global warming the February part could now be changed to January! The other was When It’s Night-Time In Italy It’s Wednesday Over Here. I heard Robin play the banjo for the first time on this song and I’ve always had a passion for the instrument. Apparently, he learnt this song from his mother’s singing. “Fair Maids” and “Italy” can be found on an album by Robin, first released on Topic in 1980 called Tidewave and reissued in 2008 as A Lighter Touch, which I discovered more recently and downloaded.

At the folk club, Robin was selling copies of a new album, The Fiddler’s Dream. The album was recorded for Transatlantic in 1976, the artists were billed as “Dransfield” and, as well as Robin and Barry, included Brian Harrison on bass, organ and piano and Charlie Smith on drums. We bought a copy and asked Robin to sign it. He did and also forged Barry’s autograph which apparently he was good at. The stand out track for me was The Handsome Meadow Boy.

 

A long time after all of the above, during the 1990s, Irene and I attended the Sidmouth Folk Festival and Barry Dransfield was one of the featured artists. Obviously we went to see him and that was the first time we had seen Barry live. He was very entertaining and was selling a new CD, Be Your Own Man, which included lots of the songs and tunes he’d just played. I’ve included two songs from that album on my list. The first is Jezebel Waltz (written by Dave Stewart in his pre- Eurythmics days), the second, Gossip Joan, is a folk song which I’d previously heard as a child when my older sister used to sing it. I think she heard it from “Singing Together” (mentioned above). Her version was, I think, less bawdy than Barry’s.

The final track on my list comes from a Barry album called Wings Of The Sphinx. It is called Irish Session and features Kenny Craddock playing piano. The album was produced in Kenny’s home studio in 1996.

Much of the attraction of the Dransfields comes from their harmonies, which brothers can often do very effectively because of their similar sounding voices, e.g. The Everlys. Interestingly, on some of their solo records, I think each Dransfield brother sometimes double tracks his own voice and it sounds very much like the two of them together. Obviously they couldn’t do that in live performance. I’d love to see the two brothers play live again one day.

As well as their harmony singing, Barry plays the fiddle and sometimes the cello. Robin mostly plays guitar. The tracks I chose were very hard to select and may well have been different if chosen at another time and/or in a different mood. For anyone wishing to hear more of the Dransfields there are other albums including Unruly and Bowin’ And Scrapin’ both by Barry and Popular To Contrary Belief by both brothers. Up To Now is a 2CD 39-track compilation released in 1997. I’ve also recently seen a live performance of Robin at Sidmouth with his two young sons backing him on guitar and fiddle. Here they are doing Spencer The Rover.

 

 

Dransfields photo 2

 

THE DRANSFIELDS – STUDIO ALBUMS

Robin and Barry Dransfield The Rout Of The Blues (1970)
Robin and Barry Dransfield Lord Of All I Behold (1971)
Barry Dransfield Barry Dransfield (1972)
Dransfield The Fiddler’s Dream (1976)
Robin and Barry Dransfield Popular To Contrary Belief (1977)
Barry Dransfield Bowin’ And Scrapin’ (1978)
Robin Dransfield Tidewave (1980)
Barry Dransfield Be Your Own Man (1994)
Barry Dransfield Wings Of The Sphinx (1996)
Barry Dransfield Unruly (2005)

 

 

 

Dransfields Discography at Mainly Norfolk

Barry Dransfield official website

Robin Dransfield on Topic Records

Steve Winick reviews Up To Now, the Dransfields compilation CD

Robin & Barry Dransfield biography (AllMusic)

Dave Wilcox played the plastic ukulele aged 8, shortly followed by banjolele and then guitar and banjo by ages 10 & 11, inspired by Pete and Peggy Seeger. He played the folk clubs and pubs of Essex from the sixties onwards. Inspired by the likes of Martin Carthy and particularly Bob Dylan, he played solo and in groups, forming his current bluegrass band in 1980 which gradually evolved into the One Tree Hillbillies in which he sings and plays banjo.

TopperPost #837

4 Comments

  1. Ian Ashleigh
    Feb 9, 2020

    Thanks for the essay Dave, really good. I had the LP of The Fiddler’s Dream that I wore out and was delighted when I found that Transatlantic had issued it on a CD that I still play often to this day. Whilst I love the whole album, my stand out track is Violin – The Handsome Meadow Boy would have to take a back seat (in the nicest possible way).

    • Dave Wilcox
      Feb 9, 2020

      Thanks. I like “Violin” as well. I like lots of Dransfield tracks. The tracks I chose were based on 50 years of listening to Dransfield music and might well have been different on another day.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Feb 10, 2020

    Dave, thanks for this fine piece. Knew the Dransfields vaguely (mainly through Robin’s version of ‘Spencer The Rover’) but will definitely explore them further now. Thanks again.

    • Dave Wilcox
      Feb 11, 2020

      I really enjoyed it Andrew.

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