Introducing Gerry Ffrench

“Gerry Ffrench is a remarkable singer/songwriter from Liverpool. 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. Germany September 2018.

About Gerry

Winner of Folk Northwest Magazine’s talent showcase at Costa del Folk Portugal in October 2017, Gerry is one of the finest singer songwriters working in the Northwest today. Her Liverpool-Irish roots have helped nurture a wonderful performer, writer and recording artist of rich contemporary folk music.

With their strong local flavour, Gerry’s own songs make many references to Liverpool’s maritime history while their style is firmly rooted in traditional folk and shanty. Now she is embarked on a mission to record and celebrate a way of life which has all but disappeared from Liverpool and every other major seaport. The hard lives of the sailors’ wives have never been fully given a voice in the same way that the lives of their husbands and sons were; Gerry’s songs such as The Other Maggie May, When the Wind Blows Up From The Mersey and of course Cunard Yanks – do just that, telling the stories of the wives and the families left behind.

A regular performer in the Northwest, Gerry is a musician with a great voice who is in demand at festivals and live venues across Merseyside and the UK. Holland, Ireland and Costa del Folk – in both Ibiza and Portugal – have now been added to her list of Festival destinations. Her appeal is growing as her own songs and stories are played out in her very popular live performances.

Latest News

Following her success in Folk Northwest Magazine’s talent showcase in October 2017, at the Costa del Folk Festival in Portugal, Gerry performed at the two following Costa del Folk festivals in Ibiza (May) and Portugal (October) The Floral Pavilion New Brighton and the Philharmonic Music Room were once again added to her list of concert venues, where she supported Port Sunlight Seadogs.

October 2018 saw the release of her third studio album Rivercity Echoes which has been very well received, and is getting regular radio play. And after joining Yesterday’s Men (Harry Lowrey and Arthur Garnet) in a number of live performances, adding harmonies, banjo and guitar – she is currently collaborating with them on a new album containing both traditional maritime songs and some of Gerry’s own compositions which they regularly perform.

Gerry’s itinerary in 2019 includes Wirral Folk Festival, Gloucester Shanty Festival; Enkhuizen Deunen and Deinen Maritime Festival, Whitby and The English Folk Music Club, Costa Brava Spain – which is a beautiful part of the world but Gerry is equally at home in the folk clubs of Merry Old England, as a quick look at her forthcoming gig list will show!

Discography

My Brothers Shoes (EP) 2014 – SOLD OUT

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.

Rivercityology CD 2016 (£9.99)

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
Riverside Drive
The Claims Solicitor
The Liverpool Irish
My Laggan Love
Cunard Yanks
 

Take a look at the review of Rivercityology in Buzz Magazine

Review by Pete Massey in Folk Northwest Magazine

This a really good album from Gerry Ffrench who, at this moment in time, is a little known artiste outside of Merseyside. However, I have a feeling this may all soon change as her fame spreads.

Once again, I am reminded how many really good talented performers we have on Dee & Merseyside. How lucky I am to live here.  In a fairer world we should be seeing Gerry on the BBC2 folk awards, – but may never happen.

Gerry is a real folk singer – songwriter from Liverpool, and just as Jess Lowe takes his inspirations for his songs from the northeast, Gerry takes hers from Merseyside. On this album Gerry sings her own songs with honesty and feeling. The songs are well crafted with lyrics that are clear. Even if you don’t live in this area, you are sure to find them interesting.

Gerry wrote all the songs on the album, apart from one, which is a traditional Irish ballad. She accompanies her self on guitar and banjo nicely, keeping the accompaniment to a minimum and its tastefully done. One other thing I liked about this album. This is how Gerry sounds ‘live’ – so should you go to one of her performances you won’t be disappointed.

The play list…

  1. The River Song – A song of hope.
  2. The Calm Before The Storm – Songs reflects feelings before the Great War
  3. The Dockers Pen – A song about the hardship and employment Liverpool Dockers’ had to endure
  4. Summer in the City – A romantic look at today’s Liverpool in the summer
  5. Riverside Drive – Another romantic look at the Mersey on a nice day
  6. The Claims Solicitor – A comic song about the claims process solicitors make money out of
  7. The Liverpool Irish – A lament about the Irish Battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment who fought in the Great War in 1916.
  8. My Laggan Love – Traditional Irish ballad
  9. Cunard Yanks – A nickname given to the guys who worked for Cunard on the transatlantic run. They brought back with them many things that were not yet available here, including American Records (Many of the Merseyside bands got hold off, including The Beatles, and took inspiration from and developed ‘the Mersey beat’ sound back in the 60’s)

I enjoyed this album. There is no ‘album fodder’ on it. A pity there is only 9 tracks. However, Gerry also has an EP with 4 tracks on it called * My Brothers Shoes *. I recommend if you seek out this album you get the EP as well.

Gerry will be appearing at the Wirral Folk Festival at Ellesmere Port in June, and later on in the year on 12th Sept at The Mucky Duck Folk Club in Ewloe.

Catch Gerry’s act if you can. She is an artiste that is on the way up!

Love In A Box (EP) 2016 (£2.99)

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

Over Sea Under Stars (CD) 2017 (£9.99)

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
Lampedusa
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.

Rivercity Echoes (CD) 2019

  • The English 4.32
  • Do Your Washing for a Penny 5.04
  • The Admiralty Regrets…5.43
  • The Woman Loved by All 5.50
  • When Paddy Came Marching Home 4.26
  • Dorothy and The Calico Printer’s Clerk 5.37
  • Where Did All the Flowers Go? 3.35
  • The Fox 2.32
  • The Thingumabob Girls 5.40
  • My Brother’s Shoes 4.18
  • Bound for Glory 4.12
  • Tara 1.57
  • The Merchant Banker 2.32

All songs are the intellectual property of Gerry ffrench, and are written and performed by Gerry Ffrench. Any unauthorised broadcasting, public performance or re-recording will constitute an infringement of copyright. All songs were recorded at Angel Valve Studios Birkenhead and engineered by Lem Mellor.

Catalogue number GF 004 Copyright 2018 

About the Songs on Rivercity Echoes

Several songs on this album mention war but none of them glorify it. We can learn a lot from history, so I make no apologies for the fact that some of the songs seem to be looking into the rear-view mirror, because in fact it’s almost impossible to drive without one.

The English 937 was the year that Aethelstan the high king of the Saxons fought and defeated the Vikings from Cumbria and Ireland at the Battle of Brunenburh in the Wirral. It was the great   watershed that turned the Saxons into “the English”.
Vocal, guitars, bodhran, whistle Gerry
Second vocal Shannon Brooks-Lee Djembe Lem Mellor

Do Your Washing For a Penny Kitty Wilkinson was probably one of the finest people ever to have lived and during the terrible cholera epidemics in the early part of the 19th century she  worked selflessly bringing hope to her neighbours in Liverpool. Thanks to her humanity and steadfast efforts, the wash house movement was eventually to ease some of the awful living conditions of the poor. Her portrait adorns a window in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.                                                                                        Vocals, guitar, banjo Gerry                                                                                                                              Bouzouki Chris Kelly

The Admiralty Regrets…. The Thetis submarine sank in Liverpool Bay on 1st  June 1939 with ninety-nine men onboard. The mystery is why they were never rescued, despite the vessel’s hull being visible and accessible for over twenty-four hours and salvage experts ready and willing to go onboard.                                                                                                                                              Vocals, guitar, whistle Gerry 

The Woman Loved By All  Another war-time story inspired by the life and adventures of a friend’s Mother, whose gravestone reads “a woman loved by all who knew  her”. Light-hearted and based very loosely on the facts, it reminds us how cosmopolitan Liverpool was at that time, and how tragedy was always just a telegram away.                                                                                                 Vocals, guitar, whistle Gerry                                                                                                                                                                                                

Ballad of Dorothy Drew The alternative story to The Calico Printer’s Clerk.                                                                                                                                                           Vocals, guitar, banjo, whistle Gerry                                                                                                                                                                                                 

When Paddy Came Marching Home The true story of an eccentric Irishman who joined the Royal Navy just before WWII and  didn’t like it, so while on leave he joined the Army and fought all the way from North Africa                                                                                                                                                                                                 a to Germany with the Eighth Army.                                                                                                Vocals, guitar, banjo, whistle and bodhran Gerry 

Where Did All The Flowers Go? Pete Seeger’s Where Have All The Flowers Gone?  is one of the best anti-war songs ever written. Taking it as inspiration, I use flowers as a different kind of metaphor and attempt to unpick the reasons for so much unhappiness and injustice in the world.                                                                                                                                               Vocals and guitar Gerry

The Fox (recorded live) based on the traditional American tune, I explore the issue of fox hunting and allude to Oscar Wilde’s definition of fox hunters as ”the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable”.                                                                                                               Vocal, banjo Gerry

The Thingumybob Girls  A song dedicated  to my Mother who worked at the ROF Aintree and to all the other women who kept the home fires burning throughout the dark days of war. A reworking of a song recorded in 2014                                                                                                                               Vocals, banjo, guitar Gerry

My Brother’s Shoes Inspired by a pair of boots left at the Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC, this song is dedicated to the veterans who, as young men were conscripted and sent half way around the world, to fight an unpopular war which lasted almost twenty years. Another reworking of a song recorded in 2014                                                                                                           Vocals, Guitar, banjo  Gerry.                                                                                                           Fiddle Johnny Baxter

Bound For Glory With thanks to  Mike Jacob who did the initial research and  suggested  it would make a good song.  The Ben My Chree (woman of my heart in Gaelic) was owned by the Isle of Mann Steam Packet Company  and  still holds the record for the fastest crossing from Liverpool to Douglas by a steamship.  On the outbreak of WWI she was commissioned by the Royal Navy. Mike’s great grandfather Walter served as an officer onboard, as did Tony Benn’s father and the novelist Erskine Childers.                                                                                                                                               Vocals, banjo Gerry

Tara a lament.                                                                                                                                     whistle Gerry                                                                                                                               

The Merchant Banker An expression of my feelings about these creatures.                                                                 Vocals, guitar, banjo, bodhran Gerry                                                                                                                                                                       Bouzouki Chris Kelly   

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Johnny Baxter for coming into the studio to put some lovely country fiddle into My Brother’s Shoes and Chris Kelly who did likewise to add Bouzouki to Do Your Washing For a Penny and The Merchant Banker. Shannon Brooks Lee whose lovely voice sprinkled fairy-dust onto the chorus of The English inspired me to change the title of the song.  Lem Mellor engineered the cd but he has offered me constant encouragement and advice throughout the process, as well as playing djembe on The English. Karen Richards took the photographs of me in Liverpool and she too has been a steadfast supporter to me in all my endeavours. 

                                    

Forthcoming Gigs

2019

January 

2nd Grateful Fred’s Acoustic at the Atkinson, Southport.
20th Heswall Folk Club, Brimstage Lane, Heswall.13 Earl
22nd Wooden Horse Folk Club, Rainford. 

February 

19th The Everyman Folk Club,Cross Keys Pub, 13 Earle St. L3 9NS
15th The Barlow, Bolton Road, Edgeworth. BL70AP with Harry Lowrey of Yesterday’s Men.
22nd 24th Deunen & Deinen Maritiem Festival, Enkhuizen, Holland. 

March

7th Wrexham Folk and Acoustic Club, the Nags Head Wrexham. 

April

4th Lymm Folk Club with Yesterday’s Men.
5th 81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool for Liverpool Acoustic.
17th Bromborough Folk Club, The Bridge Inn, Port Sunlight, WIrral.

May 

4th House Gig Gloucester
17th Bromley Cross Folk Club, The Barlow, Edgeworth. Supporting The Melrose Quartet.
18th – 19th Whitby  with Yesterday’s Men
25th 26th Gloucester Shanty Festival
31st – 2 June Wirral Folk Festival

June

1-2nd Wirral Folk Festival
7th Bollington Folk and Boat Weekend, @ The Arts Centre, Bollington. http://www.bollingtonartscentre.co.uk/events/
14th-16th Sligo, Rosses Point Festival.

July 

11th Emmanuel Church Ladies Night, New Brighton.  8.00pm
27th TBA

September 

5th The Hungry Horse Folk Club, Whitby, Wirral.
17th The English Folk Music Club, Costa Blanca Spain. https://www.englishfolkmusicclub.com/

October

5th Edgeworth Folk Festival.@ The Barlow, Edgeworth.  http://www.thebarlow.co.uk/edgworth-folk-festival/

2020

January

7th Grateful Fred’s Acoustic Night at the Atkinson Theatre, Southport. Supporting The Jaywalkers. (again!) 

Contact Gerry

Contact Gerry by email at gerryffrench@hotmail.com or call her on 07739 025660.

© Gerry Ffrench 2015