Big Big Train’s “Wassail” Brings New Life to Traditional Music

Apple tree, old apple tree, bountiful we raise a glass to thee

by Steve Blomerth

Big Big Train “Wassail “EERCD0015”

EP release date: 1st June 2015
Available for Purchase at

Wassail is the latest release by the British band “Big Big Train”; a four song 25 minute EP that has a lot to offer. This CD is designed to give long term fans a preview of their full length work to be released in 2016. But the variety, power and musicality of these four pieces may also serve as a nice introduction to a group that has been making music since 1993.

As an eight piece band Big Big Train has the ability to make symphonic scale arrangements using its two keyboards, two guitars, electric bass, drums, violin and singer who doubles on flute. But they can also be acoustic and intimate because several of their members may switch to mandolin, banjo, upright bass and most everyone sings harmony vocals as well.

Cover art - Wassail EP - Green Man

The variety and musicality of Big Big Train’s instrumentation and arrangements is matched by it’s compositions and subject matter as they write intelligent pieces that range from the historic to the personal. The hallmark of their music is they have depth and yet are accessible and melodic. Even if you have to look up the origin of the Wassail tradition the lyrics and music informs you well enough to get it’s sense. If you already know the Orchard Wassail background you will appreciate how they have built upon the spirit of the tradition, working the rhythm of some wassail lyrics into their own jig, and giving them a bit of rocking energy, then giving way to strings and acoustic instruments as the song moves seamlessly from section to section. The song sings some of the wassailing traditional words then revels like a drinking song over the chorus, and glides you deep to it’s earthen roots with fiddle and mandolin singing gently ‘ We douse the roots With cider kept from last year’s fruits. Cut in twain A five pointed star, A sign of who we are’ , and then returns you to it’s reveling chorus. Big Big Train takes you on this musical, and elemental journey in such a well developed fashion that you may not realize that 6 minutes and 53 seconds have just passed as you revisit an old tradition in a fashion you may not have expected, but will likely love at first hearing.

This level of completeness is something that runs through all Big Big Train compositions. The music is by turns melodic, complex, rhythmic, energetic, and wistful. And in the course of a song you may want to label it progressive rock, jazz, or folk by turns. I prefer just to call it good music with many different elements. In the course of listening to this EP I have learned a few things about the wassail, the lost rivers of London, and mudlarks; and I can go back and listen again and again because Big Big Train gives you so much music with charm, emotion and depth.

1. Wassail (6.53) 2. Lost Rivers of London (6.12)3 .Mudlarks (6.20) 4.Master James of St George (6.18)The CD can be ordered at Burning Shed here:


Apple tree, old apple tree
Bountiful we raise a glass to thee
We sing our song
Stand fast, stand strong
Bough and leaf bear fruit aplenty
In Eden gone, when the world was young
Paradise was where it all began
Just one bite was all it took
Expulsion and the fall of man
Apple tree, we bless your crown
Yield much fruit or fell ye down
Raise your roots
Hear me, tree!
Bough and leaf bear fruit aplenty
Wassail – Bring new life
Wassail – Be alive
Wassail – Blessed be
Wassail King, hear us sing
Through the orchards
And the village green
We sing our song
Stand fast, stand strong
Bough and leaf bear fruit aplenty
Wassail Queen – Oh my, oh my
She is beauty personified
Raise her up to the bough of the tree
Blessed be
Return to the womb
Deep down in the earth
Wait for the spring rebirth
The clayen cup
We douse the roots
With cider kept from last year’s fruits
Cut in twain
A five pointed star
A sign of who we are
Let spirits fly
The apple of my eye



Wassail – words and music by David Longdon
Lost Rivers of London – words and music by Greg Spawton
Mudlarks – music by Greg Spawton
Master James of St George – words and music by Greg Spawton
Arrangements by Big Big Train
Produced by David Longdon and Andy Poole
Recorded by Big Big Train at English Electric Studios
David Longdon vocals and Dave Gregory guitars
recorded by Rob Aubrey at Aubitt Studios
Strings recorded by Ken Brake at Regal Lane Studios
Drums recorded by Rob Aubrey at Real World Studios
Master James of St George recorded live at
Real World Studios by Rob Aubrey in August 2014
Mixed and mastered by Rob Aubrey at Aubitt Studios
Cover and booklet paintings by Sarah Louise

English Electric Recordings 2015

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