Telfer's Cows: Folk Ballads of Scotland: CD
  • Telfer's Cows: Folk Ballads of Scotland: CD
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  1. King Orfeo
  2. The Two Sisters
  3. The Battle of Harlaw
  4. Eppie Morrie
  5. Jeannie o’ Bethelnie
  6. Hughie Grime
  7. Kinmont Willie
  8. Telfer’s Cows
  9. Clark Colven
  10. A Shake in the Basket
  11. The Beggarman
  12. The Unquiet Grave

Elizabeth Nicholson, harp Bob Soper, fiddle, mandola, vocals Rob Stroup, vocals Joe Root, accordion Donny Wright, bass William Pint, octave mandolin, vocals Felicia Dale, hurdy-gurdy, bodhran, vocals

Reviews of “Telfer’s Cows: Folk Ballads From Scotland”:

Bill Margesak, Irish American News:

Andrew Calhoun of Portland Oregon has brought us an incredible piece of creativity. Calhoun is a terrific singer, but never mind that for the moment. What does he sing? Centuries old Scottish folk ballads. And, they are wonderful! Calhoun “gets it”. Each of these incredibly powerful songs has to be closely listened to, and his easily accessible voice and precise pronunciation guarantee we hear them all. And, what subjects! Heroic women and men, battles, love, forgiveness, revenge, and—-let us brace our collective selves—-sex!! Good Lord, each of these songs is an epic!! This album took a ton of work. Translations, discovering the songs, the songbooks, the history, the pronunciations of the Scots Gaelic phraseology, the approach, the tone! This album is produced perfectly. Sparse instrumentation and proper miking techniques assure the fact that what is really important will be stressed—the songs themselves. We found ourselves putting down whatever else we were doing as these songs came on. We listened. Every song is like a book or a great movie. Close your eyes and you will see all the heroes, heroines and villains anyone could possibly want. Lesser talents try this type of material and produce silly little songs no one could really care about. Calhoun is a man and artist in his prime. We understand the power these ballads would have held over people hundreds of years ago. No television, radio, or dancehalls. What there was, was music—including these songs, each of which is hundreds of years old. We understand why these songs held such power over people’s ears and hearts—-and some, indeed, held power in the formation of the very culture itself. This is magic. It is great fun—and it is important. Wow!!!!! Rating: Four Harps

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 1/04 “Kevin’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews”

Singer-songwriter turned musicologist Calhoun, with assistance from a bevy of others, has researched and “channelled” 12 Scottish ballads, resulting in what will be considered one of the best CDs of 2004. He has provided a lengthy assortment here, with the longest song, the title cut “Telfer’s Cows,” running 7:55. Most of the remaining offerings run five or six plus minutes. “Kinmont Willie” is described as a Hollywood Western prototype and “Telfer’s Cows” similarly qualifies, as this morality tale builds and builds to a climatic battle, with some similarities to “High Noon,” although the aggrieved here does not have to go it alone. Love (and necessity) is the mother of invention in”A Shake In The basket,” a cut that visually conjures up scenes and images reminiscent of a Marx Brothers film. A couple of the songs are compelling a cappella renditions: “The Battle Of Harlaw” and “Hughie Grime.” Renaissance music man Calhoun, also the writer of the best Dave Carter tribute song, “I Shall Not Look Away,” has triumphed again with this release. It is that good.

from Songbook, UK: Reviewed by Dai Jeffries

Subtitled Folk Ballads From Scotland, this CD does exactly what it says on the tin. Singer-songwriter Andrew Calhoun, from Portland, Oregon, has taken twelve Child ballads and, collating a number of versions of each one, rendered them into modern English. The first thing to strike me was Andrew’s voice. He sounds so much like Stan Rogers with all the power, depth and richness of the great man that I had to check that I had the right disc. The second thing was the quality of the material. Three titles are well known: ‘King Orfeo’ was immortalised by Archie Fisher and both ‘Two Sisters’ and ‘The Unquiet Grave’ are in the repertoires of many singers. The rest are new to me and it’s always a pleasure to hear unfamiliar traditional material. One or two are sung accompanied with vocal support on the chorus lines and the accompaniments on the remainder range from the delicate harp and fiddle on ‘King Orfeo’ to the full-blooded band treatments of ‘Eppie Morrie’ and ‘Kinmont Willie’. Andrew’s solo guitar features on four tracks including ‘Jeannie o’Bethelnie’ and the long title track but all the musicians play an appropriate second fiddle to the lyrics. This is not background music. These are big songs with complex stories, frequently red in tooth and claw, and lots of dialogue and they demand your full attention. As an exercise in making ancient ballads accessible to modern listeners Telfer’s Cows is a great success but it isn’t just an academic document. It’s also very entertaining and I know that I’ll be very lucky if I hear a finer collection of traditional material this year.

Judith Gennett, “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies, KPSU: “This is one of my favorites of the year, perhaps because of his attention to singing the true heart of the songs though in American voice, and because he sharpens the same edge of bright magic and barren darkness as on his own compositions.”


Traditional, arr. Calhoun, recorded on Telfer’s Cows

Child #78 This expresses the belief that excessive grieving disturbs the dead ‚ it’s seen as a disapproval of the will of God, of Nature’s way. The notion that the tears of mourners wet the shrouds of the dead, upsetting them, is commonplace in folklore. Another angle sees the anguish as mutual ‚ she’s as unhappy about her condition as he is, and asks him to respect that ‚ to find another form for his love.


Cold blows the wind tonight, sweetheart And soft fall the drops of rain I never had but one sweetheart In cold clay she is lain I’ll do as much for my true love And any a true love may I’ll sit and mourn at her graveside For a twelvemonth and a day

When twelve months and a day had passed The ghost began to speak “Whose salten tears come tricklin’ down And wet my winding sheet?” “It’s only I, your own true love; There’s just one thing I crave, That’s one kiss from your sweet lips, Then I’ll go from your grave”

“Your breath is sweet as roses, love, My breath is earthy strong If you get one kiss from my clay cold lips Your time will not be long Go and fetch me water from the desert Blood from out of a stone Go and bring me milk from a maiden’s breast

That babies never had none.”

“All down in yonder garden, love Where you and I did walk The fairest flower that ever grew Is withered to a stalk.” “The stalk is withered and dry, sweetheart The flower no more we’ll see Go make yourself content, my love Lament no more for me.”

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