New Road to Alston (The)

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NEW ROAD TO ALSTON. English, Country Dance Tune (4/4 time). England, Northumberland. A Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Victorian-era musicologist Frank Kidson noted that Alston, at the time of his writing, was a "wild and remote district of Cumberland," although it had a significant lead-mining industry in the 19th century. The inventor of modern road-building, John Macadam, made a road to Alston from Penrith in the early 1800s. In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles recorded:

Alston.-- par. and market town, E. Cumberland, 36 miles ESE. of Carlisle by rail, 36,968 ac. (248 water), pop. 4621; P.O., T.O., 1 Bank. Market-day, Saturday. It has cotton and thread mfrs. and trade in minerals.

Kidson found the melody is from a Northumbrian piper's MS of about 1816. Knowles thinks the tune has "more of a French feel to it." Malcolm Douglas identifies it as a relative of "Davy Davy Knick Knack."

Source for notated version: A Kidson MS [Knowles].

Printed sources: Kidson (Old English Country Dances), 1890; p. 22. Knowles (A Northern Lass), 1995; p. 5.

Recorded sources: BLOWZABELLA1, Blowzabella - "Octomento" (2007). Folksound Records FSCD37, The Band of the Rising Sun - "Setting it Right" (1996). Wild Goose WGS392CD, Dave Townsend and Gill Redmond - "New Road to Alston."




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