A Soundtrack for Agricultural Games (with downloads)
Matt Thrower
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To celebrate the release of the English edition of Agricola - a game I will likely never play - I present for your enjoyment a suggested selection of tracks to accompany your games.

As a fan of folk music, I'm fairly sure I can mine one of the few musical seams available with a rich source of songs about cattle-rearing and tilling the land.

I'm fairly sure most of you will hate most of the songs presented here - all in low bitrate format so you can enjoy and hopefully be inspired to buy - but you never know.
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1. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:16]
Matt Thrower
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One of the most ubiquitous of all English folk songs, "John Barleycorn", is about farming. It's also about what happens to farming produce in order to make something else which is a common and excellent accompaniment to both traditional singing and game-playing.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pcWup1fGG6ybkVL4n-g7HS...
 
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Matt Thrower
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Indeed so ubiquitous is John Barleycorn that quite a number of folk artists have recorded versions which have both different arrangements but quite different lyrics as well. Collecting and comparing these versions is, for me, one of the great delights of folk music. Here's a much more downtempo version of the song for you to enjoy.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pYZOKzOBk7CkhhyuRwLTfg...
 
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3. Board Game: Key Harvest [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1310]
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One of the other great delights I find in folk music is the way it represents a voice from the past. Not covering, usually, great historical events but rather the day-to-day minutiae of living in a bygone age. This next song is an excellent example of what I mean.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pZ0ChGMb-fQCqBKcC3qglz...
 
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During the seventies it became all the rage to perform traditional material with electric instruments. There was (arguably) no finer proponent of this than Steeleye Span. Curiously for a band which obviously had a forward-thinking outlook, they also seem to have recorded a lot of songs about agriculture. This isn't *strictly* about farming, but a cow does play a central role in the narrative.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pITBleHzY790pNZLK8-yB-...
 
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In contrast to "modernists" like Steeleye, some artists like to do ultra-traditional folk as it might have been sung by the farmhands gathering in the harvest in years gone by. It doesn't have much appeal outside the folkie set, but the finest of these traditional singers is undoubtedly Ewan MacColl. Father of the late Kirsty MacColl. When you hear this song about shepherding, you'll no doubt realise why his daughter went for a nice line in chirpy pop instead.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pLh55kn3WbQbdqjE73CEBL...
 
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And after that, here's Steeleye again with yet *another* song about a cow. You start to wonder whether they don't have a bit of a thing for livestock ...

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1p_zg7vO6HJJNCKSwIyhjQR...

 
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This is another song which isn't strictly about farming, but the narrative is quite clearly about people who live on a farm. You may find the singing on this one a bit impenetrable unless you've a passing familiarity with the regional dialects of north-east England. Again, cows feature heavily.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pNqTTKWDHnRSPKV7N6Txix...
 
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And here's Steeleye again with a stab at doing the trad angle without the electric guitar in this delightful ballad about sheep shearing.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1ptkzoHBvetY3ovm3Tbgm_g...
 
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Possibly one of the finest acoustic guitarists of all time is a folk singer. Active during the 70's Nic Jones produced a series of stunning albums before a car crash sadly left him unable to play guitar professionally any more. This song doesn't showcase his guitar skills to their best advantage. Nor is about farming. But it is so stuffed with agricultural metaphors for something the young shepherds and milkmaids no doubt practiced often that it seemed a shame to leave it out.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pmfR4Nw3eoYjScd1BWaZfk...
 
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Another fine slice of history here, this time concerning The Diggers, a movement begun in 1649 with the intent of fighting off land enclosure and farming land in common for the benefit of all.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1pLh55kn3WbQbF_CKV_BoO9...
 
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Finally, if you're not sick of both Steeleye Span and John Barleycorn by now, I present for your enjoyment their version of that famous song.

http://xgqhjq.blu.livefilestore.com/y1ppapO83-7CSTGBCWWob2_D...
 
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