Byker Hill: Collier Lads For Ever More (Now with Trombones!)

“Byker Hill” is an English folk song about coal miners in Newcastle; and not coincidentally, my eldest came to me a couple of days ago and asked if I’d buy a particular recording of it for him. That recording is by a group called the Cottars, of which I know nothing except that they do a really good “Byker Hill”:

It’s sung to several tunes, the but the one I first encountered is a rather frenetic folk-rock version with klezmer influences by Boiled in Lead, which alas doesn’t appear to be on YouTube. Here’s another song by Boiled in Lead, “My Son John”. It’s refreshing to hear Americans sing English folk songs without affecting English accents.

There are quite of few recordings of Byker Hill floating about; I found one by Chanticleer that was so overly refined I’m not going to link to it, and a remarkably strident one by the Young Tradition from the 1960’s that’s otherwise similar to the Cottars; and then I found this one by the Barely Works, a group I’m going to have to look more closely at. Here it is, The Barely Works, complete with trombone and lovely close harmonies:

And then this one by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick that’s just entirely different, starting with the tune, all lovely fiddle and guitar:

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