What Are You Afraid Of? is a podcast broadcast on Para-X Radio. It was initiated by T. Fox Dunham and his friend Phil Thomas. Right at the beginning Fox asked me to contribute the occasional ghost themed folk song. He also asked me to read stories that have been contributed by listeners. Some of the stories are genuine listener experiences and some are paranormal themed short stories or extracts from novels. This all began in November 2015 and we’re still going strong, with a growing listener and fan base.
I can rarely offer recordings of the stories, since the copyright on them doesn’t belong to me. But there are a couple where I obtained permission from Obelisk Publications in Devon, so I feature one of them here as an example of my speaking voice.
Because I carefully choose songs to which no copyright claims are attached, I’m free to make the following examples available for your enjoyment.
Lady Howard’s Coach
This is a story local to where I live that I came across in a small book of Dartmoor ghost stories. The story contained the lyrics of the song, but I couldn’t find any recordings. So I had to make up the rest. That’s folk music in development, I suppose.
This is a story local to where I was born. I quite like this embedding a song in a story thing that seems to be developing. As and when appropriate, I’ll be doing this fairly regularly – I hope.
There is a persistent belief that Greensleeves was composed by King Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn. However, the style of the song originated in Italy and didn’t surface in England until some years after his death, making the song more likely to be Elizabethan than Tudor.
The Lover’s Ghost
I decided to give this one a fairly contemporary arrangement. It’s a good story, well told and I’m happy with the result, though a folk music purist might not agree.
Fox has been to Dublin and has seen the statue created in her honour. For me, Molly Malone is a song that is now most commonly found in beginner guitar playing books, since it is very simple to play. Prompted by Fox, I realised that it is quite a beautiful song and was very happy to record it.
Grim King of the Ghosts
This is one I came across on YouTube and once I’d checked that it is indeed as old as it sounds, I gave it my own distinctive treatment.
The Hearse Song
I was surprised that I had never before heard this song until Fox introduced me to it. It might have been written as far back as the Crimean War – mid-nineteenth century, but it was certainly popular on both sides of the Atlantic during the First World War.
This was one that Fox wanted fairly urgently and at the time I had a heavy cold. I found it difficult to breathe when I recorded the lyrics and had to make several attempts. I think you can hear quite distinctly that at the very end of the song, I simply run out of air! In hindsight, I guess that’s quite appropriate.
Sweet William’s Ghost
Another one of my discoveries on YouTube – what an amazing resource that has become.
The Cruel Mother
This took me quite a while to record. There is something about the phrasing that makes it quite difficult to place the words correctly. In other words, I had to do a bit of work rehearsing it before I could get it right and yes, I’m whining. Life can be so cruel at times.
The Unquiet Grave
It can be quite difficult to get the tempo right when dealing with a song about somebody waiting at his lover’s grave for over a year. It can’t exactly be bright and upbeat. However, I did a very slow, mournful and downright turgid version of this song for one of the very early editions of the podcast. As soon as I heard it within the podcast, I knew that I would have to do it again. It only took me a couple of years.
I originally thought that there would be loads of traditional folk songs with a ghostly theme. After I’d found six or seven I started to run out of steam and much of what I found were dishearteningly poor quality songs. So, we decided to expand the brief and now Fox periodically sends me a list of the songs he thinks that his audience would appreciate and leaves me to get on with them at my own pace. As a result, I’ve been able to increase the quality by a significant margin. Occasionally, I come across a song that I know hits the brief well, so I record it and present it to Fox as a surprise.
If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them. IM me in Second Life with your suggestion.