Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Folk Songs and Renovations Now Available for Digital Download

a0519677708_2I'm pleased to announce that 'Folk Songs and Renovations' is now available for digital download through the 'Band Camp' website.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Introduction to 'Folk Songs and Renovations'

This web page gives background information for my CD, Folk Songs and Renovations.

The musicians are:
  • Tim Chesterton: vocals, guitar, cittern
  • Alex Boudreau: additional vocals, mandolin, guitar

Tim Chesterton plays a Larrivée OM-03E guitar and a Nikos Apollonio cittern.

The CD was recorded, mixed and mastered by Stew Kirkwood at Sound Extractor Studios in Edmonton.

Design is by Tim Chesterton, layout and graphic realization are by Carrie Day. Cover photographs are by Thomas Brauer, Brian Zahorodniuk and Tim Chesterton.

Many thanks to Alex, Stew, Carrie, and Rob for expertise, help, encouragement, and the gift of friendship. Many thanks to my musical heroes, Nic Jones, Kate Rusby, and Martin Carthy, who have passed on and reinterpreted the rich heritage of traditional folk music for a new generation; their ‘renovations’ have inspired a good many of my own! Thanks also to the wonderful community of musicians in Edmonton, especially the good friends who gather month by month at Rob Heath’s place to help each other write better songs. Finally, many thanks to my family, without whom none of this would ever have happened.

Track List

Click on links for lyrics and background.

The Ballad of Jake and Rachel
William Glenn
Fire of Love
Cold Blow And The Rainy Night
Lord Franklin
Master Kilby
I Know You Will Be There
What A Day It Will Be
As I Roved Out

The Ballad of Jake and Rachel

© 2007, 2011 Tim Chesterton

Jakob the farrier’s son
fled from Russia in twenty-one;
cleared land in Saskatchewan,
and there he built his home.

Rachel was newly wed
when/Hans was murdered by the Reds;
all the family fled
to a land they’d never known.

Jake rode to town one day,
goods to buy and bills to pay;
Rachel was passing that way,
and so she caught his eye.

She wasn’t easy to win -
the light of hope was burning dim -
but/in the end she married him
beneath the prairie sky.

Times were tough but smiles were cheerful;
cash was short but love was strong.
Work was hard but sleep was easy,
Though the days were long.

Children came along:
they had four girls and then one son;
always chores to be done,
and clothes to make and mend.

Crops failed in thirty-five,
they barely managed to stay alive;
somehow the farm survived
with help from all their friends.

Times were tough but smiles were cheerful;
cash was short but love was strong.
Work was hard but sleep was easy,
Though the days were long.

Times were tough but smiles were cheerful;
cash was short but love was strong.
Work was hard but sleep was easy,
Though the days were long.

Now they’re a flourishing tribe –
the family tree grows deep and wide!
Grandkids on every side 
with children of their own.

Love flows on and on
Though Jake and Rachel now are gone;
God watches over them
in their heavenly home.

My son Nick and I were playing guitar in my Mum and Dad's living room in England in the spring of 2007, and we made up this tune by accident. A couple of days later I wrote the lyrics for it, which I've tweaked a little since then. At the time I was studying the history of the Mennonites and the history of their migrations from Russia to Canada in the 1920s crept into this song. I often describe it as my 'Canadian prairie Russian Mennonite immigrant family history love song'!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


© 2011 Tim Chesterton

I like an old book, its cover all faded, 
its pages all dog-eared and torn;
I visit it like a familiar companion,
its company friendly and warm.

I like an old house with old-fashioned windows -
the rooms with their comfortable chairs,
the whistling kettle that sits on the stovetop,
the boards that go creak on the stairs.

I like an old forest, its trees scarred and weathered
with mosses and lichens below;
I like the old paths that lead off into shadow,
and clearings where wild flowers grow.

I like old people with white hair and wrinkles
and lessons they’ve learned through the years;
I like all the wisdom that’s etched on their faces
from decades of laughter and tears.

I like my old marriage; it’s been through its struggles,
But somehow our love has won through;
to walk hand in hand in the cool of the evening
and share in the quiet with you.

I've been fortunate to have a marriage that's lasted (so far) thirty-three years and is still going strong. This song is a celebration of that privilege. Mind you, it's possible that my increasing love of other 'old' things has crept into it as well!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

William Glenn

Traditional, adaptation and tune © 2013 Tim Chesterton

There was a ship and she sailed the sea,
And she was bound for New Barbary.
Her captain’s name was William Glenn,
With/a crew of four and eighty men,
We’d only sailed but a week or two
When all that fine and hearty crew
They all fell sick but twenty-three
As we were sailing to New Barbary.

One night our captain he had a dream;
He heard a voice and it said to him,
“Prepare yourself and your company -
Tomorrow night you must lie with me”.
Our captain woke in an awful fright;
It being the darkest hour of night.
He called the Bosun with no delay,
And when he came, these words did say:

“Bosun, my friend, I’m sick at heart;
I know I’ve played a villain’s part.
I killed a man in Devonshire
Because I loved his lady fair.
It’s of his ghost now that I’m afraid,
Whose voice this night spoke from the dead.
I fear my curse hangs o’er the crew;
Only my death will see them through”.

That very night there blew a gale
And it quickly robbed us of many a sail.
The main mast sprung and down it fell;
We feared our ship was bound for hell.
At last the Bosun he did declare
That Captain Glenn was a murderer,
And so afraid were our whole ship’s crew
That overboard we our captain threw.

Our treacherous captain, him being gone,
Immediately there came a calm;
The winds abated and calmed the sea,
And so we came to New Barbary.
Now seamen all who hear my tale,
I pray my warning it will prevail:
If you love your life, then have a care,
And never sail with a murderer.

Now seamen all who hear my tale,
I pray my warning it will prevail:
If you love your life, then have a care,
And never sail with a murderer.

There is apparently an eighteenth century broadside song sheet called 'Captain Glen's Unhappy Voyage to New Barbary' which is probably an ancestor to this song. It is sometimes called 'Sir William Gower' and was collected under that name by Cecil Sharp in the early 1900s from a singer in Somerset. It also appears in 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' by A.L. Lloyd and Ralph Vaughan Williams under the title 'The New York Trader'. Information about different versions of this song is summarized at The Ballad Index here.

I learned this song from Nic Jones, who recorded two versions of it, one on his 1978 album 'From the Devil to a Stranger' (now sadly unavailable), and one on his live compilation recording 'Unearthed' in 2001. Earlier versions have as many as twenty-two verses; Nic's have twelve and seven, respectively. I have reduced them to five, made some attempt to modernize the lyrics, and written an entirely new tune.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


©2007 Tim Chesterton

Sitting on my porch one day,
I thought I heard the Lord God say,
“Go down to Nineveh, with no delay!
Speak my words, and point them to my way”.

This was not my cup of tea -
I’d rather have my weekends free –
So I found a ship and sailed across the sea,
In search of a place where God wouldn’t bother me.

But he sent a storm and I ended up in the drink,
Inside a fish with plenty of time just to sit and think.

The fish burped me up on the shore,
I thought it best to rebel no more,
So it’s off to Nineveh, to lay down the law.
Them Ninevites will string me up for sure!

But to my surprise they listened to what I said;
Left behind their wickedness and turned to God instead.

I was none too pleased with this,
The judgement plan had gone amiss.
I wanted to see God using his mighty fist.
“Come and wipe them out, O God, I must insist!”

But he laughed at me with my face all in a pout;
He said, “Jonah I love those Ninevites,
and I want to help them out”.

You just can’t argue with the Lord,
He always gets the final word,
So I slipped off home to think on what I’d heard.
Sometimes the love of God seems quite absurd.

This is my first and (so far) only attempt to write a tune in the Delta blues style. The Book of Jonah is one of my favourite books in the Bible, but modern readers often miss out on the power of the story because they don't realize that Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, Israel's mortal enemy. Of course Jonah didn't want to see the people there repent - he wanted God to wipe them out!