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Up The Cut

by Jon Wilks

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    Download include 15-page PDF of notes on the history of the songs, plus complete set of lyrics. Also included is a hi-res PNG file of the album cover, featuring the linocut by Jon Nice.
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  • Full Digital Discography

    Get all 11 Jon Wilks releases available on Bandcamp and save 20%.

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality downloads of Before I Knew What Had Begun I Had Already Lost, The Cruel Mother, Up The Cut, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Mary Ashford's Tragedy, Tell Old Bill, The Jovial Hunter of Bromsgrove [Roud 29], Toryanse - 通りゃんせ, and 3 more. , and , .

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Let poets sing about the fair And praise their wit, their grace and air The country has its damsels rare That many hearts have undone But for rosy cheeks and forms divine For sparkling eyes and teeth so fine No other maidens can outshine The pretty girls of Brum The dandy takes such mighty care To spruce his person, curl his hair Wears whiskers too, a killing pair, He thinks he’s not by one done Then up New Street he struts so gay Smokes his Havannah on the way He swaggers in his fine array To charm the girls of Brum The shopman saves up all his cash About the streets to cut a dash In beauty’s heart to make a smash With pride enough to stun one On Saturday his clothes get out On Sunday proudly struts about By Monday he’s all up the spout Through charming girls of Brum The chimney sweeper cries, “Oh wow I hate this vulgar calling now I means to be a slap-up beau And go where there is fun done I’ll wash my skin so lilly white And sport my Benjamin all right Then shan’t I flare up, blow me tight I’ll game the girls of Brum Old gentlemen of sixty-four By gout and asthma plagued so sore Inspired by love he feels pain no more He's anxious as a young man Cry talk of age – poh poh all stuff I’m quite the lad, I’m hale and buff I’m sixty four, that’s young enough To charm the girls of Brum So in every rank, in every stage The Brummagem girls are all the rage Their beauty charms both youth and age They really are by none done Their bliss, their lovely faces dear Wherever or when they may appear And may good fortune always cheer The charming girls of Brum
The Stowaway 05:26
From Liverpool across the Atlantic A big ship was sailing the deep The stars shining brightly above us And the water beneath us asleep Not a bad-tempered mariner amongst us And a jollier crew never sailed Though the first mate's a bit of a savage A fine seaman as ever man hailed One day he comes up from below deck And he's grasping a lad by the arm A poor little ragged young urchin That ought to have been with his ma And the mate asks the boy pretty roughly How he dared for to be stowed away He's cheating the owners and captain It's passage and board without pay "My step-father brought me on board sir When nobody else was on board And he hid me away down the stairs there For to keep me he could not afford And he told me the big ship would take me To Halifax town oh so far He said, "Remember the Lord is your father Who lives where the good angels are"" That's a lie, that's a lie, not your father But one of the big skulkers here Some milk-hearted, soft-headed sailor Tell the truth now or die, do you hear? Then that pair of blue eyes bright and winning Clear and shining with innocent youth Looks up at the mate's bushy eyebrows And says, "Sir, I've been telling the truth" Then the mate pulled a watch from his pocket As though he was drawing a knife "If in five minutes' time you don't speak, lad Here's a rope and goodbye to your life Three minutes had gone by in silence Says the mate then, "Speak lad, say your say" And the boy's eyes are filling with teardrops And he faltering says, "May I pray?" Then soft came the first words, "Our father" Low and clear from the little lad's lips But low, they were heard like a trumpet By every man on that ship Each word of that prayer that he went through Through "forever and ever amen" Not for all the bright gold in the Indies I would not have heard them again Off his feet was the lad sudden lifted And clasped to the mate's rugged chest And his husky voice muttered, "God bless you" And his lips to his forehead he pressed "You believe me now?" then says the youngster "Believe you?" he kissed him once more "You'd have laid down the life for the truth, lad I believe you from now evermore"
Edward 03:22
What did you kill your dear little brother for My boy come tell it unto me For killing three little dicky birds That flew from tree to tree What will you do with your houses and land My boy come tell it unto me I will leave them there for the birds all in the air There’ll be no more welcomes there for me What will you leave your dear little brother now My boy come tell it unto me I'll leave him a rope to hang himself On yonder high tree What will do you when your father comes home My boy come tell it unto me I will place my foot on board a ship And so to Amerikee When shall I see your dear dear face again My boy come tell it unto me Never till the sun sets on yonder high tree And that will never never be
John Riley 04:01
John Riley was her true love's name An honest man was he He loved a farmer's daughter dear As faithful as can be Her father, he had riches But John Riley, he was poor Because she loved this honest man He would not her endure "Oh mother dear, oh mother dear Where shall I send my love? His very heart lies in my breast As constant as a dove" "Oh, daughter dear, I'm not severe And here's a thousand pound Send Riley to Americay To purchase there some ground" Soon as she's got the money To John Riley she did run "This very night to have your life My father's charged the gun But here's a thousand pound in gold My mother sent to you Go quickly to Americay And quickly I'll pursue" Soon as they've got the money Next day they sailed away But very quickly came a storm That lasted all the day The ship went down, all hands were lost Her father grieved so sore They found her in John Riley's arms Drowned upon the shore Upon her breast a note was found It's written all in blood Saying, "Cruel was my father Who went out to shoot my love But let this be a warning To all you maidens gay Never to let the lad you love Sail to Americay
Sir Robert Bolton had three sons Wind well thy horn good hunter And one of them Sir Rylas Well he was a jovial hunter He ranged all round the woodside Wind well thy horn good hunter Till in a tree top a lady he spied For he was a jovial hunter What dost thou mean fair lady Wind well thy horn good hunter The wildest boar has killed my lord As thou art a jovial hunter So he put his horn into his mouth Wind well thy horn good hunter And he blowed north, east, west and south For he was a jovial hunter And the wild board heard him in his den Wind well thy horn good hunter And he's made the best of speed to him To Rylas the jovial hunter They fought four hours in a long summer's day Wind well thy horn good hunter Till the wild boar fain would have gotten away From Rylas the jovial hunter So Rylas drew his sword with might Wind well thy horn good hunter And he fairly cut his head off, quite, For he was a jovial hunter Then from the wood a wild woman flew Wind well thy horn good hunter Saying my pretty spotted pig thou has slew As thou art a jovial hunter If there's one thing I demand of thee Wind well thy horn good hunter It's that my sword and thy neck can agree I am a jovial hunter Then Rylas drew his sword again Wind well thy horn good hunter And he fairly split her head in twain For he was a jovial hunter In Bromsgrove Church they both do lie Wind well thy horn good hunter With the wild boar's head on a spike nearby To Rylas the jovial hunter
An old tramp was resting One day down by the lane When a gang of young sportsmen came by They passed many jokes on his old tattr'd coat And the tramp he look up and he sighed You may laugh, you may chaff Just because I am down in the world When you find out to your sorrow You're up today and down tomorrow Well you can't put a stop to misfortune For whatever will be will be I might have been up in the world like you And you might have been down like me "He looks just like a scarecrow" Said some young fellow there "Like a bag of old rags left untied" And the sportsmen they laughed At the joke of their friend And the tramp he looked up and replied Misfortune it came down Through the top of my hat And lower and lower I feel And from this day to that When the sportsmen they met They'd recount the old tramp's ordeal Don't you laugh, don't you chaff Just because I am down in the world When you find out to your sorrow You're up today and down tomorrow You can't put a stop to misfortune For whatever will be will be And I might have been up in the world like you And you might have been down like me
It's of a tradesman and his wife I heard the other day Who did kick up a glorious row They live across the way The husband proved himself a fool His money was all spent He called upon his wife, my life, To know which way it went CHORUS So she reckoned up and show'd him And she show'd him all complete How five and twenty shillings was Expended in a week He said my wages are all gone And it does me perplex Indeed, said she, then list to me My bonny cock of wax Continually you make a noise And fill the house with strife I'll tell you where your money goes I will upon my life CHORUS There's two and thrupence house rent Now attend to me she said There is four shillings goes for meat And three and ninepence bread To wash your nasty dirty shirt There's sixpence hapenny soap There's one and eightpence coals old boy And tenpence wood and coke CHORUS There's fourpence there for milk and cream And one and tuppence malt Three half pence for vinegar And tuppence happeny salt A penny goes for mustard Three halfpence goes for thread You gave me thruppence t'other night For a half an old sheep's head CHORUS A red herring each morning Is fivepence farthing a week Sometimes you send me out for fish You say you can't eat meat Last Monday night when you got drunk There's ninepence went for capers You'd a penny box of congreves And hapenny baked potaters CHORUS There's a penny goes for pepper too As you must understand Tuppence hapenny starch and blue And a farthings worth of sand Fourpence hapenny candles Three farthings go on matches And a penny's worth of corduroy You had to mend your breeches CHORUS A shilling taties, herbs and greens Ten pence on butter, see? Sixpence coffee, eightpence sugar And one and fourpence tea There's two pence goes for this thing A penny that and t'other Last night you broke the chamber pot I had to buy another CHORUS There's eight pence for tobacco And seven farthings swipes There is three pence hapenny snuff And two pence happeny tripes A penny, well, you owed for strings O'er at the cobbler's shop And you know last Sunday morning You bought a pint of pop CHORUS There's twopence goes for blacking And eightpence halfpenny cheese Three farthing rushlight every night To watch the bugs and fleas And while each night to a public house You go to drink and sing I hit the tavern across the way To have a drop of gin So reckon up again old boy And you will find complete How five and twenty shillings were Expended in a week
I must be going, no longer staying The burning Thames, well I have to cross I must be guided without a stumble Into the arms of my dear love And when he's come to his true love's window He's knelt down gently on a stone And it's through the pane he's whispered slowly My darling girl, are you alone She lifts her head from her down-soft pillow And snowy were her milk-white breasts Saying, who's there, who's there at my bedroom window Disturbing me from my long night's rest Well, I'm your lover, don't discover I pray you rise and let me in For I am fatigued from my long night's journey Besides, I am wet to the skin And so she's gone to her bedroom window And swiftly let her true love in Well, they kissed, they held and loved each other Until that long night was at an end Then it's, Willie dear, my dearest Willie Where is that colour you had some time ago O Mary dear, the cold clay changed me I am the ghost of your Willie O Then it's cockerel, cockerel, handsome cockerel I pray you not crow until it is day For your wings I'll make of the very first beaten gold Your comb I will make of the silver ray But the cock he crew and he crew so fully He crew three hours before it was day And before't was day, well, my love had to go away Not by the moon nor the light of day Well, it's Willie dear, my dearest Willie Whenever shall I see you again When the fish they fly, love, and the seas run dry, love And the rocks they melt in the heat of the sun
Long time I’ve travelled the north country Seeking to find good company Good company I always could find But none was pleasing to my mind With my fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee I had in my pocket but one penny I saddled my horse and away I did ride ‘Til I came to an alehouse beside the roadside I called for a pint of good ale that was brown And along with it I took myself and sat down With my fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee I had in my pocket now no money I saw three gentlemen playing at dice I took them as being some noble knights As they were a-playing and I looking on They took me as being some nobleman With my fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee I had in my pocket now no money They asked me if I would play I asked them what bets they would lay They says a guinea, and I says five pound The bets they were laid but no money put down With my fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee I had in my pocket just no money I handled the dice and I gave them a spin It happened to be my good luck for the win If they had’ve won, and I had’ve lost I should have to have pawn-ed my little grey ‘oss With my fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee I had in my pocket now five pound three Was ever a mortal man more glad Than me and myself with the money I had Now I'm a good fella as you shall find And I’ll make you all drunk with the drinking of wine With my fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee The pound in my pocket I’ll share with thee I stayed there all night and part of the next day Then I thought to myself I would be on my way I asked the landlady what I had to pay She said, “Nothing, love, kiss me and be on your way” With your fal de dal lee Fal de dal lee Was ever a rich man gladder than me?
God rest ye merry gentlemen Let nothing you dismay Remember Christ our saviour Was born on Christmas Day To save our souls from Satan's thrall Which long have gone astray This brings tidings of comfort and joy From him that is our father A blessed angel came And unto certain shepherds Brought tidings of the same That there was born in Bethlehem The son of God by name This brings tidings of comfort and joy Fear nothing said God's angel Let nothing you affright This night was born our saviour Of a virgin pure and bright He's able to advise you And throw down Satan quite This brings tidings of comfort and joy Then these certain shepherds Rejoiced much in mind And left their flocks a feeding In tempest, storm and wind And straight they went to Bethlehem The son of God to find This brings tidings of comfort and joy And when they came to Bethlehem Where our sweet saviour lay They found him in a manger Where oxen fed on hay The blessed lady kneeling down Unto the lord did pray This brings tidings of comfort and joy Let me to you all invite Who are within this place To live in love and unity The gospel to embrace The merry time of Christmas Is drawing on a-pace This brings tidings of comfort and joy credits


"Up The Cut is a beautiful album. Affecting, simple guitar, exquisitely accompanied by Wilks’ authentic, honest voice. A raw, but entirely seductive, performance. One for all lovers of traditional songs delivered with minimal frills." - Folk Radio UK review

If this album is the result of anyone's hard work, it's that of Roy Palmer. Seven out of the nine songs came to me via his research, publishing and collecting. Thanks, too, must go to Pat Palmer, Roy's widow, who sent me (via a kind introduction from Pam Bishop, another Birmingham folk researcher) a sheath of songs that Roy had worked on a number of years before his death. Pat's kind gift prompted me to realise that there were plenty more traditional songs from Birmingham and the wider Midlands that had yet to be recorded. From that realisation, this album was born.

I began working on "Up The Cut" in August, 2019, and am completing it with these sleeve notes in early December, 2020. It feels like I've had these songs going around in my head for a very long time indeed. While my initial intention was to treat them to the same larger-scale production I used on my previous album, "Midlife", in the end I decided to offer up this collection of straightforward acoustic guitar and vocal performances, with the intent of not distracting the listener too heavily from the songs themselves. My hope is simply to put some of the lesser-known songs back into circulation so that people with a little more verve and flair can give them even more life than I can.

In getting the songs to this stage, I owe a huge amount to Tom Moore and to Andi Lee. Tom and I recorded a version of the album in October, 2020, at his wonderful studio in Yaxham, Norfolk. In the end, I was disappointed with my own performances, but it served as a very useful kind of demo. Tom is a fantastic producer, and of course a wonderful musician in his own right. The few days I spent with him were incredibly productive, and very helpful for me to be able to nail down some of the more troublesome arrangements.

Returning home, I re-recorded the songs with my own recording setup, and then sent them to Andi Lee at Kosi Studios in Slovakia. Andi is a very patient recording engineer with a great pair of ears. Over the final two months of 2020, he helped me take my rough re-recordings and turn them into something you might actually want to listen to. He became a great friend in the process, too. I shall look forward to working with him again in the future.

Aside from that, my thanks go to Emi, Kai and Hana – my long-suffering family who have had to put up with hearing endless iterations of these songs over the last 16 months. I'm sure they could sing them, word for word, better than I can. Also to Jon Nice, whose wonderful linocut I was able to use for the album cover. Thanks, too, go to Debbie Armour, Jackie Oates and Katherine Priddy for lending me their ears during mixing, and to Paul Sartin for helping me with a few Midlands tunes at a time when I thought more of that might be included. An album for another day, I reckon.


As I mentioned above, a few of these songs came from a collection of street ballads given to me by Mrs Pat Palmer, the widow of the late, great scholar, Roy Palmer. The collection is an unbound sheath of papers that includes photocopies of some fairly obscure Brummie songs, put together by Roy in 1979 for the City of Birmingham Education Department. Each song has details attached to it, which I cross-referenced against a book called Street Literature In Birmingham, edited by Trevor Jones in 1970. I got the latter book as a Christmas present and, yes folks, I've spent hours upon hours since then with my nose stuck in what is essentially a list of Birmingham printers' addresses from the 1800s. My family despair of me.

Roy Palmer's collection begins with an overview of 19th century street balladry in Birmingham. I find this stuff fascinating, so I hope you will, too.

The city has a rich history of street songs. In 1790, the poet George Davis noted that The Fox, a pub on Castle Street (a fraction of which still exists near the new Primark), was home to “hawkers and ballad singers – sworn foes to dull sobriety and care”. Indeed, so many of them haunted the streets of Brummagem that the authorities decided to act. In 1794, “beggars, ballad singers and other vagrants” were outlawed, and license was given to apprehend any caught “strolling… within the parish”.

However, this didn’t last long. Songs meant income, and the balladeers appear to have done such a roaring trade in villages outside of the parish that the authorities eventually relented. As Roy Palmer deftly illustrates: In the year 1800 there were no ballad printers in Birmingham, and in 1885 there were also no ballad printers in Birmingham. But during that 85-year span, 40 came and went. By his estimation, millions of songs were printed and sold. Writing and singing songs became a vast Brummie industry.

It was sometimes very lucrative, too. Ballad printer, Joseph Russell, left an estate of £20,000 in 1839. That’s roughly £2 million in today’s money. One of his contemporaries had approximately 4,000 individual songs on his books. With these numbers you begin to see just how enormous the Brummie back catalogue must have been. Sure, much of it was doggerel, but there are gems there if you will but look.

Most of these song publishing fortunes were built on the pennies of the poor, of course, and in order to write for the masses the songwriters had to really get inside their everyday wants, pleasures and needs. In the archives you’ll find plenty of ghost stories, songs about sporting events, political screeds, descriptions of arguments between noisy neighbours, declarations of love, and descriptions of everyday street life. In short, you get a strong sense of how little changes as the centuries roll on. Humans will be humans, after all.


released February 12, 2021

Arranged, performed and recorded by Jon Wilks.

Mixed and mastered by Andi Lee at Kosi Studios.

Cover art linocut by Jon Nice.


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Jon Wilks Whitchurch, UK

'The sort of performer folk circles mean when they talk of the living tradition' - Mike Davies, Folking.com

“One of the best of the New Wave of Folk Blokes. As a guitar player and arranger of traditional songs, Jon Wilks already deserves speaking of in the same breath as your Simpsons and your Morays.” – Ian A. Anderson, fRoots Mag
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