Liner Notes

All the Salt

For song lyrics, click on the individual title.

1. All the Salt - Jess Arrowsmith. Jess describes this as a non-religious spiritual—a Humanist hymn perhaps.

2. The Smiler - Steve Turner. Rich may have evolved this lovely upbeat tune slightly from the playing of the very smiley Steve Turner - sorry Steve!

3. The Handloom Weaver's Lament - John Grimshaw. Written by a Lancashire Luddite in the dark satanic days of the early 19th century, this song still resonates in a world where profits are valued more than people. Tyrants are still lying and hypocrites still go to church on Sunday. Though it was originally sung to a different tune, Ian heard this version sung by Critics Group member Denis Turner, in the late 1960s

4. The January Man - Dave Goulder. Jess and Rich learned this from the singing of their good friend Pete Smith "down the pub" in Sheffield.

5. On a Sunday - Mike Harding. A mighty song protesting against pointless rules and faceless bureaucracy, with a wonderfully singable chorus.

6. The New Mistress - A.E.Housman / Ian Robb. Ian came across this poem when browsing through Housman's dark and pessimistic collection, A Shropshire Lad, published in 1896. The New Mistress, AKA Queen Victoria, probably seduced many a disillusioned or rejected young man into serving—and often dying for—her imperial ambitions. Ian re-purposed the second stanza as a chorus and wrote the tune.

7. Haste to the Wedding - Jess Arrowsmith / Trad. Jess wrote this to celebrate the marriage of dear friends Carmel and Edd.

8. The Trees They Do Grow High - Trad. A lesser-known version of the arranged marriage ballad, from the great Norfolk singer Walter Pardon, via Peter Bellamy.

9. The Old Red Duster - John Archbold. Our Toronto friend John Archbold's father and great uncle, both Tyneside men, were in the British Merchant Navy, whose flag, the Red Ensign, is referred to as the "red duster" by those who sail under it. Thanks to his union, John's father narrowly avoided being assigned to the notoriously dangerous Arctic convoys supplying the Russian war effort in WWII, only to survive the sinking of the S.S. Lylepark by a German cruiser in the South Atlantic. The song's chorus was inspired by John's great uncle Norman, who clearly had little time for the "spit-polished boot" wearers of the Royal Navy.


10. Ye Mariners All - Trad. Ian learned this many decades ago from the first edition of the great Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

11. The Mermaid and the Swallow - Ian Bell. Singer, songwriter, broadcaster and visual artist Ian Bell used to run a small marine museum in the Lake Erie community of Port Dover, Ontario. While preparing for the opening of an exhibit on tattooing, he was visited by an old sailor, Trevor Hodge, who had grown up in Bristol, England and learned tattooing as a boy, from an artist down on the docks during WW2. Trevor brought Ian a wonderful box of hand-made tattooing gear to use in the exhibit. They got to talking, and it turned out that Trevor had been in both the Merchant and Royal Navies, and latterly had worked on Great Lakes freighters before finally settling in Ontario and plying his trade as a tattoo artist in country fairs along the St Lawrence seaway. The Mermaid and the Swallow is Ian Bell's beautifully crafted take on Trevor's life story.

12. Bright New Year - Alec Thompson. A song of the seasons which feels traditional even though it isn't.

13. Set de la Baie-Saint-Paul / The Old Sod - Trad / Ian Robb. Two tunes from the repertoire of The Old Sod Band, Ottawa's venerable contra dance band, the first a traditional Québécois tune that Ian apparently learned backwards, playing the B part before the A. The second tune was written by Ian for the Old Sod Folk Music Society of Ottawa, an organization that Ian co-founded in the 1980s and in which he is still involved.

14. Welcome Home My Sailor - Trad. A lovely Newfoundland version of the classic broken token story, from the late singer and accordion player Dorman Ralph of Little Harbour Deep, White Bay, NL, who lived his latter years in St John's. Ian credits Jim Payne & Fergus O'Byrne and also Ellen Power for catching his ear with this song. The words are known in England but set to a different melody, and the tune, a variant of Monk's Gate, is matched there to several other sets of words, but it may be that this text and tune fell into each other's arms in Newfoundland.