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Burd Ellen, Debbie Armour and Gail Brogen, with flowers in their mouths. The image is black and white.
Photo credit: Audrey Bizouern

The Old Songs Podcast: Se2Ep6 – ‘When I was on Horseback/ The Unfortunate Rake’, ft. Debbie Armour (Burd Ellen)

Debbie Armour of Burd Ellen discusses 'When I was on Horseback' or 'The Unfortunate Rake' [Roud 2] with Jon Wilks.

Roud 2 goes under so many titles, it might be easier just to stick with ‘Roud 2’ and be done with it. Whether you know it as ‘When I was on Horseback’ or ‘The Unfortunate Rake’, or any of the other titles you may find, it’s a grizzly old song with a fascinating history. And who better to discuss it with than Debbie Armour of Burd Ellen, always a fun person to chat with, not to mention an absolute font of folk knowledge. Debbie discusses the fact that it appears to be more than one song, the golf course approach to traditional song, as well as the ways she went about interpreting it… and the ways in which her daughter responded. It’s a funny conversation, in spite of the misery that the song brings. Dig in, why don’t you?

Click to listen on: Apple | Spotify | Google | Mixcloud

The Old Songs Podcast is supported by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

‘When I was on Horseback / The Unfortunate Rake’ podcast notes


Over the course of the episode, Debbie Armour and Jon Wilks mention the following things:

Track listing

  1. ‘When I was on Horseback’, performed by Mary Doran
  2. ‘When I was on Horseback’, performed by Steeleye Span
  3. ‘Katie Cruel’, performed by Bert Jansch, Beth Orton & Devendra Banhart
  4. ‘St James Hospital’, performed by Martin Simpson
  5. ‘The Girl who was Poorly Clad’, performed by Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones
  6. ‘St James Infirmary Blues’, performed by Louis Armstrong
  7. ‘Adieu Adieu’, performed by The Watersons
  8. ‘The Chariot’, performed by Burd Ellen
  9. ‘When I was on Horseback’, performed by Susan McKeown
  10. ‘The Trooper Cut Down in his Prime’, performed by Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp
  11. ‘When I was on Horseback’, performed exclusively for the Old Songs Podcast by Debbie Armour

For more info on Debbie Armour and Burd Ellen, including the new album, head to burdellen.bandcamp.com.