I was charmed to come across this video yesterday:
I posted about Sam Lee's version of 'Puck's Song' a while ago, and you can now hear it on youtube here. Do read the Guardian article which accompanies the video, too, if only to be reminded of the tantalising strangeness of 'The Bitter Withy' - a folk song based on a medieval legend based on apocryphal gospels about the childhood of Christ (did you follow that? It's explained better here).
Gypsy songs are close to my heart, because my father's father (whom I never met) was from a Romany family. He was born in a caravan in a field in Buckinghamshire, as all his family were, as far as I can trace; he settled down in a house for a while when he married my grandmother, but disappeared into the night when his youngest child was four years old, never to return. Thus, all I know about his family comes from my own research with birth certificates and census records - although they did their best to avoid such things! - rather than personal knowledge. I can't think very kindly of him for the way he left his wife and children, but nonetheless there's a part of me that yearns after all things gypsy, and wonders what in me would be different without that genetic strain. In almost every way my life couldn't be more different from my grandfather's: just about the only thing I know about his character is that although he was illiterate, he used to carry a newspaper around under his arm; and now here's me, a creature of books and libraries, essentially a professional reader. His family had been travelling around the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire countryside for generations - how bizarre it would have seemed to them that their grandchildren should be studying at Oxford University, not camping at the gates but inside the walls.
Anyway, that video reminded me about this:
The singer is Sheila Smith, a gypsy girl who was seven years old when this was recorded in 1952. It's just extraordinary.