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Geordie – Wychbury

Arguably one of the finest traditional folk songs from the United Kingdom, Wychbury reveal their version of the classic 'Geordie', exclusive to Tradfolk.

‘Geordie’ [Roud 90] is our debut single released today, on the 5th of April. It is our arrangement of a centuries-old folk song, tracing back at least 300 years. It tells of a woman’s journey to save her husband from execution. His crime? Stealing from the king to feed his family. Our version casts Geordie as a man who goes beyond the law to provide for his family; a man who is shown no empathy for his circumstance. The song highlights the inequalities between the richest and the poorest in society, depicting a world where the rich hoard vast amounts of wealth, land and property, and where others are penalized for merely making ends meet.  

We first heard ‘Georgie’ sung by Levi Smith on the 1998 album The Voice of the People: My Father is King of the Gypsies, released on Topic Records. The album is a collection of recordings from traveller singers across the south of England and Wales. It captured a living and breathing oral tradition, songs which had been passed down the generations over lifetimes. Levi Smith’s version resonated with us particularly as we could relate to the characterization of Georgie, as a normal man rather than a man of ‘noble kin’ – as his is often depicted. Delving deeper, we found the earliest recording of the song, sung by Joseph Taylor and collected by Percy Merrick in 1908 on wax-cylinder. This recording inspired our choice to use the name “Geordie” rather than “Georgie”. Other versions that have inspired us came from Martin Carthy and Dominie Hooper and Nick Hart.

We arranged the song with our good friend Alana Middleton, who is an amazing folk musician that we met at Leeds Conservatoire. We reimagined ‘Geordie’ musically as well, tweaking its melody and adding a verse-chorus structure. We used the chorus to capture the raw emotion of grief, anger and despair and to give a greater voice to our heroine who comes too late to save the life of her Geordie. Later, as a duo, we experimented with mixing acoustic instrumentation with modern production – drums and synths – fusing the old with the new. We created a sound which we felt was true to ourselves and which enabled us to breathe new life into the story. We recorded and produced the track in our flat in Leeds; the sirens, shouting and dogs barking at the beginning of the track were recorded as they came through our window and were captured by Che as he was producing the track. It seemed fitting to put the sounds of the 21st century in our version as we intend to draw parallels with the traditional song and the present day, offering a fresh perspective for contemporary listeners.

This single has been a true passion project for us, mixing our joint love of art and music, seeing us produce everything from the track, to the single art to the music video. We take a very DIY approach to making our music and art. As two freshly-graduated students it can be hard to find the funds to pay out for studios, producers, artists, videographers, so over the past year we have been working on self-producing our artistic vision. 

We had a great time filming our video in our community allotment in Leeds. We have both grown up singing and playing music around the fire, and we felt like it was the perfect place to share this version of ‘Geordie’. The fireside has been a place where people have shared their oral histories for millennia. The smoke, sparks and flames of the fire also helped us portray the pain and anger of the song. We fused this together with footage we had taken of our talented friend Tor Satherley fire spinning over the summer. We are looking forward to sharing the song with audiences throughout the year including performances at Van Life Festival, Holmfirth Folk Festival, Dart Fest, Green Gathering, Sidmouth Folk Festival and more.

Out today, Wychbury’s version of ‘Geordie’ can be downloaded from their Bandcamp page.