She is without a doubt a folk treasure.
Mike Brocken, Folkscene, BBC Radio Merseyside
Mike Brocken, Folkscene, BBC Radio Merseyside
In January 2020 when Gerry recorded a live concert in St John the Evangelist Church Great Sutton, none of us had any idea of what would happen during the weeks and the year that followed. In retrospect it was a momentous occasion and the last live concert that many of those present would attend that year. In acknowledgement of this, the names of those audience members who signed an attendance list on the night is included on the CD sleeve, for posterity.
Dave Burrows engineered the concert, mixed the recording and produced the entire CD which went through eight incarnations, and after Gerry wrote and recorded three songs in her kitchen during lockdown, Dave mixed them too and added them to the tracklist. But it was the last song of that evening: “The Road May Rise” which took on a deeper significance during the darkest days of lockdown, and in the end it had to be the title track.
The concert features local musician Harry Lowry on guitar and concertina who is now performing with Gerry at her live gigs. Arthur Garnett, Harry’s musical partner in Yesterday’s Men, came along to add his Bandoneon to the musical mix. Local singer songwriter Paul Reaney played bass on most of the tracks. The CD was launched at Bromborough Folk Club on 25th August, and is now available through all the usual channels.
Saturday 14th The Folk Museum , Westgate St. Gloucester. GL1 2PG. 7.30 pm Tickets £10.
Sunday 15th The Forest Folk Club, at the Orepool Inn, Chepstow Road, Sling, Coleford. GL16 8LH 7.45 pm
Weekend of 1-3 Edgeworth Folk Festival.
16th Thornton Hough Village Club and Bar with Harbour Moon. Tickets available from The club Facebook page.
25th Dingle History Group at the Alfred Stocks Centre, DIngle Lane, LIverpool.
17th Bromborough Folk Club With Yesterday’s Men
26th West Kirby Arts Centre with Fake Thakray. Tickets from The Arts Centre website.
7th West Kirby Arts Centre at 7.30. “Women’s Winter Songs.”
5th Floral Pavillion New Brighton with Port Sunlight Seadogs. Tickets from Floral Pavillion theatre website.
23th Philharmonic Music Room with Merry Hell (SOLD OUT)
2nd Hungry Horse Folk Club,Whitby Sports and Social Club, Dunkirk Lane, Ellesmere Port. CH65 6QF
4th Gloucester Folk (museum) 50th Anniversary celebrations.
“As an artist Gerry Ffrench is able to successfully bridge the gap between the deeply authentic and the contemporary. Her songwriting truly reflects not only her locality, but also a universality. She is without doubt a folk treasure.”
Mike Brocken, BBC Radio Merseyside, Folkscene.
“Gerry Ffrench is a remarkable singer songwriter …with her musical feet firmly in the tradition , she writes and performs superb songs that have a sense of story and reality. She is also an accomplished guitar and banjo player. It’s a compelling combination.”
Phil Beer 2018
My Brother’s Shoes
When Paddy Came Marching Home
The Liverpool Irish
The Thingummybob Girls
Released in Autumn 2015, and Gerry’s first foray into recording, it contains four of Gerry’s poignant songs of War. The eponymous My Brother’s Shoes was inspired by a pair of combat boots left at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC by a veteran of the war. The boots appear on the cover of the CD.
Released in 2016, it contains eight of Gerry’s own songs about life in the city and Gerry’s arrangement of the traditional Irish song My Laggan Love which was popular in her live performances. Put together like a live set, it mixes hard hitting songs such as Docker’s Pen and its historical context, with light hearted songs such as Cunard Yanks or The Claims Solicitor which has a totally contemporary message.
The River Song
The Calm Before The Storm
The Docker’s Pen
Summer In The City
The Claims Solicitor
The Liverpool Irish
My Laggan Love
Released at Christmas 2016 this contains three of Gerry’s popular Christmas songs. Love in A Box was initially written for the Wirral Christmas Shoebox Appeal Charity. Days of Grace celebrates love in later life while Christmas in The Holy Land harks back to a recent past recalling Christmas savings clubs, and Tonnies (tontines) but mentions several other parts of the city besides the legendary “Holy Land” in the Dingle!
Love In A Box
Days of Grace
Christmas in The Holy Land
Recorded over the course of a year as the songs were written, this album contains eleven of Gerry’s self penned tunes, and one re arrangement of The Lowlands of Holland, a traditional Irish song.
I was Born in the Holy Land
The Other Maggie May
The Caged Linnet
The Liverpool Girl
It Was Never Like Downton Abbey
The Scaler Lad
Lowlands of Holland
The Gunner’s Prayer
When The Wind Blows Up From The Mersey
My Cheatin Heart
Over Sea Under Stars
Sleeve Notes from Over Sea Under Stars
I was Born in The Holy Land. Moses, David, Isaac and Jacob Streets are known affectionately in the Southend of Liverpool as “The Holy Land” and in a city where family ties are sacred the Holy Land maintains a reputation for being particularly clannish. Despite the surrounding streets having been flattened for redevelopment, the Holy Land remains, a reminder of a way of life which has all but disappeared.
The Other Maggie May Challenged by John Coleman to re write the traditional Scouse anthem, this song tells the story from Maggie’s point of view. Based on the traditional tune it tells the story of what happened to the young girl who was deserted and left to the mercy of a hard world, describing the events which turned a good girl to the bad.
The Caged Linnet. Between 1645 and 1650, the English under Cromwell transported about 50,000 Irish people, mostly women and children whose only crime was to be related to a rebel. They were used as indentured workers (and sometimes “comfort women” ) in the tobacco plantations of Barbados and Virginia. (See Hell or Barbados by Sean Callaghan)
The Liverpool Girl is the story of an old salt whose home is the sea. He looks back on a life e spent wandering freely, and only “allows his heart to break” late at night, when he yearns for the Liverpool girl who once loved him in his youth; maybe she wasn’t unlike Maggie May?
The Lowlands of Holland (trad) This version of a popular folk song from the Napoleonic Wars shares a tune with The Boys of Wexford. The latter was a rallying tune a hundred years ago, for the Liverpool Irish during the bad old days of sectarianism in the city. The tune was also known as The Flight of the Earls.
The Scaler Lad. When steam replaced sail, one of the maintenance jobs that had to be done was the de scaling of the steam boilers in the ships’ engine rooms. Little boys were the only ones small enough to climb inside the boilers and it was a dangerous, unpleasant job. This song tells the tale of hapless Johnny who graduated from being a scaler lad to becoming a trimmer; an equally dehumanising occupation, trimming coal to the stokers in the boiler room. The tune is based on the traditional folk song : The Sailor’s Life .
It Was Never Like Downton Abbey Harry Smith, a wonderful gentleman and nonagenarian was the inspiration for this song . When he spoke at the Labour Party Conference a few years ago, he used this phrase. Point of fact : £25 per annum (yes per year!) was the usual wage for a housemaid a hundred years ago.
The Gunner’s Prayer Is a song dedicated to the brave men of the Arctic Convoys of WWII.
Lampedusa Tells the true story of a fisherman in Lampedusa who went to the rescue of a boat load of refugees which sank in the Mediterranean. The women and children were below decks and the men above when the boat sank suddenly. It is a tragedy which continues to be played out again and again out there on the high seas.
When The Wind Blows Up From The Mersey Describes a way of life long gone ; from the point of view of the wife left behind who never knew whether her sailor Johnny was going to come home to her or be tempted by an easier life with another woman in America (or anywhere abroad) In houses with no bathroom, men often shaved at the sink in the kitchen… as the song describes…. And here’s brief Glossary
The Husky – is Huskisson Dock
The Maurie – what RMS Mauretania was called by locals. Blind Scouse is vegetable stew without any meat, eaten during hard times. Jars Out – celebrations with alcohol
The Throstles – The Throstle’s Nest Public house on Scotland Road Liverpool
Scotty Road – Scotland Road Liverpool.
My Cheating Heart Liverpool took Country and Western music to its heart; popularised by the Cunard Yanks in the fifties who brought home the music from America. The tales of hard lives and broken hearts sung by Williams, Cash and Cline resonated with the people of the city. This song, inspired of course by the fabulous old Hank Williams classic, tells the story of a lady whose constant companion in her chaotic love life is her cheating heart.
Over Sea Under Stars An instrumental tune inspired by my Father’s birthplace, Shell Cottage on the cliffs in Cullenstown, Bannow County Wexford.
Catalogue number GF 004 Copyright 2018
Review of Rivercity Echoes
“The past eighteen months have been the busiest in Gerry’s music career so far and her gigs have increased in number whilst her songwriting has reached a new high. Her city and the river provide inspiration, with both wars also represented though only to explain how some things happened, rather than any glorification of conflict. This CD is a good ,balanced release which shows Gerry at her best, with understanding and empathy of each subject she tackles.
Folk Northwest Magazine Autumn 2018
Recorded live with an audience of over 100 people in January 2020. There are sixteen tracks in all ten of which are previously unrecorded, and it includes three songs written and recorded during lockdown.