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Gresford Disaster

[ Roud 3089 ; Ballad Index PBB116 ; trad.]

The Albion Band sang Gresford Disaster in 1977 on their album Rise Up Like the Sun. In the same year, they played it in a BBC session, possibly on 31 May 1977 - this became available on the Albion Band's CD BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert in 1993 - and Live at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

The Rise Up Like the Sun sleeve notes said:

The epic closing track of the original Rise Up Like the Sun album tells of a mine explosion at Gresford near Wrexham in September 1934. A 20th century ballad, it was written in the form of the great black lettered broadside ballads to raise funds for those who had been widowed and orphaned by the accident. John Tams had first performed the song at an acoustic concert with Pete Bullock accompanying him on harmonium. In the summer of 1977, the band had rehearsed this arrangement at the Hertfordshire home of Ashley Hutchings's erstwhile sister-in-law, Dolly Collins, and during these extended rehearsals, Graeme Taylor developed the perfectly appropriate chord structure and Ric Sanders created the central cyclic passage. In a 1986 interview, Tams described how their version developed: “I don't know what drove me to look at that Gresford song. I looked into its background and found that the colliery band was at the pithead as the bodies were being brought out, playing to try to raise the spirits of the wives, children and friends who were waiting. One tune they played was How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds in a Believer's Ear, which was written by D.H. Lawrence's great-grandfather. I tried the words to the tune and they seemed to fit, seemed to yield to each other.” Several versions of Gresford Disaster were recorded during the Rise Up Like the Sun sessions, including one with Tams and Richard Thompson singing alternate verses, and a take with a complicated overdubbed drone by Martin Carthy. With Martin Carthy, vocals.