Introducing Gerry Ffrench

“One of the best singer-songwriters Merseyside has to offer”

About Gerry

One of the best singer songwriters working in the Northwest today, Gerry’s Liverpool/Irish roots make her a wonderful performer, writer and recording artist of rich contemporary folk music.  Her song writing has evolved over the years, influenced initially by the music that her Irish Father – who was  a Cunard Yank – brought home from  America during her childhood. Rock and Roll and  Country and Western  made up the musical diet at home, together with the Irish folk songs that her Irish Grandmother used to sing. These different but connected genres made an engagement with the Folk Revival a natural progression for her.

With their strong local flavour, Gerry’s own songs make numerous  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 women left behind when the sailors went off to sea have never been given a voice in the same way that the lives of their husbands and sons were,  in traditional Shanty.  Songs such as The Other Maggie May, When The Wind Blows Up From The Mersey  and of course  Cunard Yanks do just that, being written from the point of view of the wives and families left behind.

Gerry is a musician with a great voice who is in demand at festivals and live venues across Merseyside, the UK and Europe.  She is a regular performer in Holland and this Summer  sees her adding Rosses Point in Sligo  and the Maritiem Festival at the Zuiderzee Museum, Enkhuizen and Costa Del Folk Portugal  to her festival destinations. Her appeal is growing  and developing as her own songs and stories are played out in her very popular live performances.

Discography

My Brothers Shoes (EP) 2014 (£3.99)

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.

Forthcoming Gigs

March 2017
3-5th Deundenddeinen Festival, Enkhuizen, Holland.
10th The Bluebell Folk Club, Halkin, North Wales
13th (Monday) The Prospect Folk Club, Weston Village.
18th The Bridge Inn, Port Sunlight, Wirral with Port Sunlight Sea Dogs, Yesterday’s Men & Hughie Jones of The Spinners. Tickets £5.

May 2017
6th Liverpool Phil Music Room with Port Sunlight Sea Dogs & friends
13th Light Nights at Blackburn, House Liverpool

June 2017
16-18th Ross’s Point, Sligo

August 2017
12-13th ZUIDERZEE Museum Festival Holland

September 2017
1st  Benefit for New Ferry  at Christchurch Port Sunlight . Tickets available on the door.
22nd Northwich Folk Club supporting Archie Fisher

October 2017
9th – 15th Costa del Folk, Portugal (finalist in talent showcase)
6th Theatre Clwyd
Folk and Roots Session with Port Sunlight Seadogs.
Tickets £7. (£8.00 on the door)

November 2017
Longridge Folk Club (British Legion Townley Road, Longridge, Nr. Preston PR3 3EA)
Together with Yesterday’s Men and Keith Price.

—-

March 2018
13th Louth Folk Club,  in the Brown Cow Pub, Louth, Lincolnshire.
20th Maghull Folk Club

October 2018
19th Frodsham Folk Club

Contact Gerry

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

© Gerry Ffrench 2015