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I wasn't halfway into the first paragraph of this review before I started saying to myself "talk about Dave Mattacks, damn it, Dave Mattacks". Patience, Fnarf, patience. Thanks for this.

There's some good stuff about these guys in Joe Boyd's recent "White Bicycles". Boyd produced Fairport and a bunch of other folk-rock stuff from the era (including Nick Drake).

I actually prefer Fairport's pop stuff, especially with Sandy Denny, better than this kind of weirdo folk hybrid stuff, but it has a wonderful swing to it.

I think Morris dancing is actually derived from a 15th-century British attempt to imitate the North African (i.e., Moorish) tribal dancing that some people saw on their travels. Of course, much of this same music got miscegenated back into African music when, as Appalachian white folk ballads, it came into contact with American slaves and their proto-blues.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 5:03 PM

The dance itself is ancient. There are references to it throughout all of Europe, back to the time of Ancient Greece - thought not by the name Morris dance. As well, there is a horn dance in Mexico that is very similar. These come from an agricultural traditions and the world was agricultural with all it's rites and rituals before later religions supplanted them.

The name occurred rather late in the scheme of things. There was a great popularity in naming things after the Moors, mimicking them and making fun of them,... once they were made to leave Europe of course.
During certain times of year, in Old and Ancient England, the peasants would put on pageants that mocked the land holders, the local officials and anyone else that usually they weren't allowed to contradict. They would also make pageants about current events and heroic fantasy,... (such as fighting off the Moors)
One tradition was the Mummers plays, where the dancers would come to the landholder's house (local lord), Morris dance, sometimes do a pageant and have dinner at the lord's table all without speaking and usually in blackface (though customs in different villages and counties differ.)

Most often the items used in Morris dance were kept in parish church. The dances were outlawed under various religious leaders- Cromwell, for instance. And the horn dances in particular, were strictly outlawed when the peasants lost their hunting rights. (Only the landholders were allowed to hunt deer).
The dances almost did die out. They were resurrected by Cecil Sharp, who's passion was folk music and dances. He traveled to different villages and talked to the old men,.. some of whom only remembered seeing the dances as children. They taught him what they could and it became an academic pursuit for a good while.
This is one reason why so many times the dances are done without the energy and passion that a fertility rite would inspire. Old men taught them to scholars. Academia is not known for it's dancing passion.

Fertility... It is said that the hand-kerchiefs are representative of the head of the grain. So the higher one jumps the higher will grow the grain. It is also said that it represents sperm. The bells awaken the spirit of the land, and scare off any evil. The sticks, the same.

Posted by Batanita | February 8, 2008 9:18 AM

In the same series of recordings are:
Son of Morris On,
Grandson of Morris On, and
Great Grandson of Morris On

Posted by Dragan | February 12, 2008 5:06 PM

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