Hey diddle, diddle! Old Calf channels nursery rhymes

For local folky Americana quartet Old Calf (the name reflects the conglomeration of founding members Ned Oldham and Matty Metcalfe), the inspiration for their newest release, the instrument-heavy, melodic Borrow a Horse, is found not in the future, but in the past– as far back as old English nursery rhymes. They say the rhythms found in original Mother Goose lyrics embody a universality and fuel a certain kind of energy that speaks to all ages.

"The cadence and meter just flow off the tongue– they're lyrics that are meant to be sung," notes accordionist and multi-instrumentalist Metcalfe. "A lot of the rhythms from our current vernacular can be traced to the way they might have been said in Old English."

But don't expect the group– Oldham is the primary songwriter, with Brian Caputo and Michael Clem rounding out the ensemble– to be spouting G-rated lyrics. Most of the original Mother Goose rhymes (of which Oldham has a hefty collection) are full of slightly brutal imagery and stark 17th and 18th century realism.

"A lot of them are cautionary tales, talking about the plague or other news," says Oldham. "I made a conscious effort not to research the backgrounds of them, because the imagery and nature of the rhymes stand on their own. They're so cool, most people don't even notice what they really are."
Old Calf releases Borrow a Horse Friday, April 22, at the Southern. Doors open at 7pm: tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.