Green Ribbons - Press Release


Green Ribbons is a project dedicated to the celebration of unaccompanied song. The current line-up features Debbie Armour (Burd Ellen), Frankie Armstrong, Alasdair Roberts and Benjamin “Jinnwoo” Webb (Jinnwoo, Bird in the Belly). Their debut release is an intimate collection of traditional and newly composed songs. Recorded live at Studio 95 in Brighton by engineer Tom Pryor, GREEN RIBBONS sees each artist featured solo, in duet and in full ensemble. Ben “Jinnwoo” Webb brought the project together in July of 2018:


“Very broadly speaking, unaccompanied singing seems to have gone out of fashion in more recent years – but it’s always something I have enjoyed performing and listening to when I’ve had the chance. I wanted to get a group together whose voices I feel really lend themselves to storytelling, and focus purely on the voice and the stories. We wanted to make something very rough around the edges and unpolished, a kind of documented swapping of songs…”


Of the track that gives its name to the project and album, he says:


“I found these words in the Bodleian Archive and set them to my own melody. Green Ribbons were used to label people as ‘insane’ in the 1800s. I enjoyed the historical reference to mental health, a subject which features in some of my own writing. I liked, too, the directness of the lyric.”

“restoring the voice to its rightful place at the epicentre of folk storytelling” - The Living Tradition


TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2019 - Folk Radio UK


GREEN RIBBONS will be touring the UK in April & May 2020



07919 028481

video - garden song
ALBUM ARTWORK & PHOTOS - click image to download
Artwork by Jinnwoo. 35mm images by Jinnwoo.
Polaroid images by Burd Ellen

Debbie Armour:

Debbie Armour is a Glasgow based musician, working primarily with traditional song from Britain and beyond. Broadly, her work is motivated by ideas of persistence, resonance and deep cultural roots. In her current solo project, Burd Ellen, she uses traditional song to explore women's narratives, as well as the metaphor and symbolism used to ornament their stories. Burd Ellen released their debut album Silver Came in February 2019. She has worked with a variety of musicians from the folk world and beyond, appearing and recording with Alasdair Roberts, Alex Neilson, Howie Reeve and Sharron Kraus.


In addition to her performance work, Debbie develops and delivers a variety of community projects. As an associate artist with organisations like The Village Storytelling Centre and Cinemor77 she uses archive material to look at ideas around threads of community and shared cross-cultural heritage.

"the sonic equivalent of Ingmar Bergman's immaculate Winter Light" - Stewart Gardiner, Concrete Islands

Frankie Armstrong:

I’ve been singing professionally since 1964 and more recently (1975) began teaching voice and singing through developing a variety of voice and singing workshops. My journey with the voice began with the skiffle boom in 1957, moving through the British folk song revival of the early 1960s, and having the good fortune to study, perform and record with leading figures of the folk revival such as Louis Killen, Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd. With Peggy Seeger and Sandra Kerr, I researched and developed The Female Frolic (1966) for live performance and a recording, which began my particular interest in women’s lives as illuminated through song. Since 1962, I’ve built up a repertoire of British songs and ballads, which, along with contemporary British songs, still form the basis of my musical vocabulary. I find the song form extraordinary, despite its brevity, as a way of expressing the widest and deepest range of human emotions.


I have made 9 solo albums as well as featuring on numerous shared and themed recordings, contributed chapters to 11 books, written an autobiography and co-edited Well Tuned Women (on women and voice) with Jenny Pearson.


“Her voice conveys utter conviction and great humanity.She is an incredible story teller and has me on the edge of my chair listening to Tam Lin even though I”ve heard it dozens of times.” - Maggie Holland - fRoots

Alasdair Roberts:

Born in Germany and raised in central Scotland, Alasdair Roberts is a Glasgow-based musician – primarily a songwriter, singer, guitarist and interpreter of traditional songs. Acclaimed by Folk Radio UK as 'one of our most talented, important and relevant songwriters and song-adapters', he has released several critically acclaimed albums of his music via Drag City Records over the past two decades, featuring both self-written material and interpretations of the traditional song of Scotland and beyond. He enjoys a wide range of collaborations and has toured extensively both in the UK and worldwide both solo and with various musical companions. His most recent album, What News (a collection of eight traditional Scots ballads made in collaboration with pianist David McGuinness and electronic musician Amble Skuse) was released in March 2018 on Drag City Records.


Jinnwoo is the moniker for Leicester-born, Brighton-based folk musician and artist, Ben Webb. Listed as one of the Independent's 'Artists to Watch', they gave his debut album 4/5, stating "Jinnwoo is the most singular new folk talent i've heard in some time".


His unique vocal delivery has been praised by critics - "Jinnwoo’s ardent vocals convey a modern-day high-lonesomeness" (Folk Radio UK) - "Jinnwoo is a true original" (Clash) - and have featured on other artist's work, such as Kyla La Grange's second studio album "Cut Your Teeth" (Sony).


Aside from his solo work, Jinnwoo sings with folk group Bird in the Belly, using forgotten lyrics set to contemporary folk compositions. Their debut album 'The Crowing' became the Express's album of the week, and received critical acclaim from fRoots, R2R and Songlines.  


As a visual artist, Jinnwoo has photographed the likes of June Tabor, Stick in the Wheel, Nic Jones, Lisa Knapp, Lankum, Ben Walker and Furrow Collective

sleeve notes
The Well Below the Valley.jpg

Trad, Arr Armour & Green Ribbons

(Roud 2335) Superlative Irish singer and writer Liam Weldon recorded this on his 1976 album Dark Horse On The Wind. I found it there when I went looking for a different song of his. He learned it from the Irish Traveller community. I love how opaque the story is, particuarly when compared to other iterations of the narrative.

The well below the valley

Geordie 2.jpg

Trad, Arr Roberts & Green Ribbons

My Geordie, Oh, My Geordie, Oh The text for this song appears in Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads, a collection of songs from the agricultural North East of Scotland first published in 1930. Ord’s notes tell us that the hero of the ballad was George, fourth earl of Huntly, who was afterwards slain at the battle of Corrichrie on 28th October, 1562. We set the words to a tune often associated with other songs such as ‘Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie’ and ‘The Bonnie Hoose o’ Airlie’.

my Geordie, oh

Jeanie Jenkins.jpg

Trad, Arr Armour

(Roud 731) This children's skipping song came from a Tobar an Dualchais recording of Isla St Claire. A Scottish version of an predominantly North American song, she learned it from her granny. I'm an avid collector of children's song and rhyme and I'm always curious to see which tunes and ideas continue to thrive in today's playgrounds. 

Jeannie jenkins

Heathery Hills.jpg

Trad, Arr Roberts

The Heathery Hills (Roud 5295). This is from the singing of Brigid Tunney, who was born in Rushen, Co. Donegal in 1886. She lived between there and the city of Glasgow, where she worked, and later in Garvary, Co. Fermanagh from 1927 until her death in 1975. Brigid claimed to have picked up the song from her sister who, in turn, was living in Glasgow when she learnt it. It began life as a poem ‘The Heathery Hill’ by Ethna Carbery (1866-1902), published in a collection entitled The Four Winds of Eirinn.

heathery hills


Words & Music Jinnwoo; Arr Green Ribbons
Another endless day in a temp job - another song I shouldn’t have written. This tells the story of an island community turning against one of the inhabitants, and closing in on them. I grew up in a very small farming village, so it’s a reflection on the paranoia that comes with close-knit community. 

sea snake island

a question.jpg

Words & Music Armstrong; Arr, Green Ribbons

I began this song back in the early 1990s. I found myself increasingly distressed by the growing inequality and persuit of
materialism  but somehow I wasn't satisfied with what I'd written. Last year with such blatant increase in inequality and environmental destruction, I rewrote it for our current times.  I'm constantly questioning whether being optimistic is justified!

a question

Lady Margaret.jpg

Trad, Arr Armour & Green Ribbons

(Roud 50) I learned this from a recording of the wonderful Paddy Tunney, made in the crypt of a London church. He's one of my favourite singers. Born in Glasgow, as it goes, he did some jail time in the 40s for "illegal nationalist activities"...

lady margaret

Green Ribbons.jpg

Words Trad; Music Jinnwoo; Arr Green Ribbons
(RoudV2178). I found this in the Bodleian Archive and set them to my own melody - I liked the directness of the lyrics, as well as the historical links to mental health
(Green Ribbons once used to label people as ‘insane’ in the 1800s). Pentangle used an adaptation of the lyrics, it seems, in their ‘Once I Had a Sweetheart’.

Green Ribbons

The Week Before Easter.jpg

Trad, Arr Armstrong

(Roud 154) This beautiful evocative song has been collected widely in Britain and Ireland, the first printed version from the oral tradition being in 1867. However versions were found in broadsides as early as the 17th century, all of which indicate how widely loved the song has been. I'm sure my text is an amalgam of versionsI've heard over decades. 

the week before easter

Garden Song.jpg

Words & Music Jinnwoo; Arr Green Ribbons

I think I wrote this song early 2018, sat at the desk of one of many temp jobs. I can’t remember what work I should have actually been doing instead of writing songs. It’s about looking at a garden and  seeing it decay beyond repair, then thinking “Well, I suppose I’m not doing so well either”. It was written with the help of expert gardener Gervase French, who knows all the plants by name (and tolerates me only wanting to learn about the ones with funny names). I dedicate this song to my friend Adele and her daughter Kitty who took a liking to a demo version I sent them when it was fresh off the notepad.

garden song

Ima Nema.jpg

Trad, Arr Armour

This is a fragment of a Bulgarian song that was taught to me by Kate Young. Our arrangement owes a debt of inspiration to Duo Piperki. The complete version sees two people debating whether their friend has a new boyfriend or not. "She does! She doesn't!"

ima nema

Here's a health.jpg

Trad, Arr Roberts & Armour

Here’s a Health Unto All True Lovers (Roud 1235). This song is from the singing of Mary Doran, a Traveller singer from Newross, Co. Wexford, as recorded in 1952 by Sean O’Boyle and Peter Kennedy on the outskirts of Belfast.

here's a health unto all true lovers

Softly Spoken Man.jpg

Words & Music Jinnwoo

I wrote this song in 2013 after I had a dream about visiting myself in hospital, and spent the following week researching Doppelgangers and Bilocation (as a substitute for day time TV). As a result, the song is about a man being stalked by himself, with the premise that the Doppelganger represents death, or things you’re afraid to face. It was recorded with a full band in 2015 for my debut solo record Strangers Bring Me No Light, but was cut by the label I was working with at the time - I’ve felt sorry for this song ever since.

softly spoken man

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