Article MT199

Meeting's a Pleasure

Folk-songs of the Upper South

Volumes 1&2

Dedicated to the memory of Annadeene Fraley


Musical Traditions Records' first release of 2007 is the 4-CD set: Meeting's a Pleasure: Folk-songs of the Upper South (MTCD341-2 and MTCD343-4), which is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the records, or who might find the small print hard to read, I have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

Track Lists:

Vol 1:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -
20 -
21 -
22 -
23 -
24 -
25 -
26 -
27 -
28 -
29 -
30 -
31 -
32 -
33 -
34 -
35 -
36 -
37 -
38 -
39 -
40 -
41 -
Come all you Men and Maidens
Everybody's Favorite
Ain't it a Shame to Work on a Sunday?
I Come from West Virginia
Hook and Line
Groundhog
The Devil and the Farmer
Granny Went to Meeting with her Old Shoes On
Susan's Gone
Natural Bridge Song
The Little Mohee
Wildwood Flower
Old Virginia Gals
Come all you Young Men and Maidens
The New River Train
Cambric Shirt
Pretty Fair Miss all in the Garden
Schottische
Farewell Sweet Jane
The Preacher and his Specs
The Preacher and the Fiddle
Something Sweet to Tell
Crawling and Creeping
Come all You Reckless, Rambling Boys
Free a Little Bird
I Won't Marry at All
Kate's Horn
One Morning in May
The Nightingale
I Never Will Marry
The Lover's Return
Little Sweetheart, We've Done Parted
Last May Morn
Nobody's Business but my Own
Fine Sally from London
Deep Blue Sea
Fair and Tender Maidens
Inconstant Lover
Little Birdie
Woe Unto You, the Time has Come
Come All You Young and Tender Little Girls
Adieu, False Heart
 
Blanche Coldiron
The Dixon Sisters
Mildred Tucker and Carol Foster
Bert and Keith Garvin
Wash Nelson
Hobert Stallard
Vernon and Zora Judd
Francis Gillum
Nova Baker
Hobert Stallard
Alva Greene and Francis Gilllum
Mary Lozier
Wash Nelson
Blanche Coldiron
Sarah Gunning
Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover
John Lozier
Gracie Baker
Sarah Gunning
Hobert Stallard
Ray Hilt and Group
Asa Martin
Nova Baker
Henry Hurley
Sarah Gunning
Ray Hilt
Mildred Tucker
Hobert Bowling
Mary Lozier
Margie and Gene York
Hobert Stallard
Mary Lozier
Henry Hurley
Gracie Baker
Annadeene Fraley and Daughters
Mary Lozier
Buell Kazee
Roscoe Holcomb
Hobert Stallard
Nova Baker
Margie and Gene York
 
1:13
0:23
0:47
1:01
1:53
2:17
1:02
0:41
1.39
1:39
1:05
1:54
2:11
2:35
1:59
1:56
0:45
2:10
0:50
0:36
1:35
2:19
1:53
0:59
1:51
0:58
0:55
1:03
1:08
2:46
2:10
2:04
2:01
2:28
2:30
2:22
3:55
2:27
1:55
1:52
2:25
Cover picture - Annadeene and J P Frayley
   Total: 69:04  
Vol 2:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -
20 -
21 -
22 -
23 -
24 -
25 -
26 -
27 -
28 -
Cruel Willie
My Little White Hat
The Rowan County Troubles
The Rowan County Crew
Darling Cory
The Roving Moonshiner
Captain Devin
I was Born and Raised in Covington
The Highwayman
Hangman
Callahan
Harlan County Tragedy
Hick Carmichael
Dixon said to Johnson
The Death of Harry Sims
Old Banjo Tune
Jealous Lover
Poor Ellen Smith
In London City
Little Mattie Grove
Pretty Polly
Cruel Willie
Charlotte of Edinborough Town
Katy Dear
The Gay Spanish Maid
The Silver Dagger
Jim Luther
Death of Edward Hawkins
The House Carpenter
 
The Dixon Sisters
Mary Lozier
Alva Greene
Bert Garvin
Jim Garland
Sarah Gunning
Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover
Asa Martin
Sarah Gunning
Hubert Bowling
Asa Martin
Wash Nelson
Nimrod Workma
Jim Garland
Manon Campbell
Elsie Vanover
Annadeene Fraley
Emma Pruitt
Mary Lozier
Francis Gillum and Alva Greene
J P and Annadeene Fraley
Nimrod Workman
Margie and Gene York
Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover
Lulabelle Greene
George Hawkins
Asa Martin with the Cumberland Rangers
Nimrod Workman
 
2:43
4:57
1:53
2:11
1:37
2:01
2:49
2:44
3:22
0:40
3:42
1:57
1:49
3:06
1:28
2:42
2:46
1:14
4:20
1:33
2:00
1:35
1:49
2:49
1:12
2:11
4:58
5:02
Booklet Cover picture - The Dixon Sisters
   Total:71:07  

Introduction:

This four CD set represents a sampling of largely unpublished folk music materials that several associates and I have accumulated across a wide arc of territory stretching along the Ohio River from Covington, Kentucky to Ashland and then up the Big Sandy to Williamson, West Virginia and a bit further on.  This region might be loosely designated as 'the Kentucky highlands' although some of these materials were actually recorded astraddle of that nominal political border within the adjacent parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.  As such, the area is too large to represent a truly homogeneous musical region, for local stylistic characteristics shift continually as one moves from one end of our band to the other - for example, the airy melodies of easygoing Estill County near the prosperous horse farms of the bluegrass region differ considerably from the harder driving tunes that used to be characteristic of the coal fields of Bell County.  Indeed, insofar as fiddle tunes specifically go (although they do not represent the chief focus of this collection), we often encountered little pockets of distinctive airs that seemed unique to a very small geographical compass.  More importantly, both human individualities and their residential wanderings greatly complicate any attempt to capture a musical region within a uniform characterization.  For example, the blind street singer J W (Bill) Day traveled to court days whenever they were held in little municipalities over an astonishing wide span of territory and in this fashion his Rowan County Troubles became familiar to most of our performers.  In a similar pattern, Ed Haley, another blind street fiddler who lived a few doors away from Day in Ashland and was related to him by marriage, dramatically affected fiddle performance over an equally expansive region through the same sort of travels, although in quite different ways (interestingly, they seem to have divided these regions between themselves for, insofar as I have been able to determine, informants who knew one of them rarely knew the other).  Likewise, the former radio entertainer Asa Martin lived most of his life in and around Estill County nearer the center of the state but often toured the faraway coal fields with his little entertainment troupes throughout the 1930s.  Through these visits he picked up the Harlan County Troubles heard on volume 2.  In addition, most of the performers on these CDs were young enough to have also learned a significant portion of their repertories from radio shows like Asa's or from records: some of these sources will be marked in the notes below.  Finally, a severe economic diaspora in the years after World War II drove many Kentuckians closer to the Ohio River in search of work, if, indeed, they managed to stay in the South at all.  These migrations further scrambled the musical potpourri sampled here.  In truth, the only defensible thread that legitimately binds these materials together may simply be the pattern of our own wanderings, as my friends and I were led from one informant to another through word of mouth recommendation.

Let me immediately indicate that the great majority of these materials were gathered with the collaboration of the late Guthrie T ('Gus') Meade in my first (1971-4) substantive interval of Kentucky recording and of John Harrod in the second (1994-present) period (the two of them worked together on fiddle music in the years in between, but I was teaching college in faraway places and did not participate in their endeavors).  Because of work schedules and the brute fact that I happened to be the fellow with the good tape recorder, sometimes only I was present at many of the sessions sampled on these CDs, but it was often the prior legwork of my two friends that made them possible.  Let me also acknowledge the great assistance of the reference work that Gus left to posterity: Country Music Sources (completed after his death by his son Doug and Dick Spottswood).  There's no published work that provides a fuller picture of where our songs came from and I've relied upon its annotations heavily in the notes below.

Gus, although raised in Louisville, worked as a computer programmer in Washington, DC, while John has mainly taught high school in Frankfort, Kentucky (whose governor recently honored John for his vital contributions to the state's folklore).  In our early years, I was a graduate student in Cambridge, Massachusetts and later a professor of the philosophy of science at a variety of institutions, never living closer to Kentucky than Columbus, Ohio.  Such distances forced a considerable degree of what is often criticized as 'blitzkrieg folksong collecting' upon our endeavors, but I'll have a few reflections to offer on such matters later. 

It should be strongly stressed that none of our efforts would have succeeded but for the assistance of many friends, located both in Kentucky and elsewhere.  This topic is so important that I've devoted the opening essay to volumes 3 and 4 to the issue, using Annadeene Fraley's very special contributions as an exemplar (I've needed to divide our introductory discussion in this artificial manner due to space limitations).

Because many of the songs to follow are fairly well known, I have restricted myself to minimal citations adequate to provide readers with some conception of their historical circumstances as well as their value and relevance to our performers.  Many of these songs were cherished by our informants precisely because they embodied perceptions of ancestry and current social circumstances in manners that meant a lot to them (even if, sometimes, these historical accouterments were not entirely accurate in terms of brute fact).  These are the aspects of our songs that I've emphasized most.  Indeed, I do not see how traditional singing can be adequately appreciated unless it is experienced with some appreciation of these wider spheres of personal significance.  Well meaning revivalists often view their borrowed materials through gauzy layers of misconception but I regard such disengaged attitudes as a disservice to the country people who were kind enough to let us sample their music in the first place.

In these notes, I have endeavored to cite other available recordings by the artists heard in this collection, as well as other appearances of these songs upon Musical Traditions Records' other CDs (which allow listeners to sample the British prototypes for many of our Appalachian songs).  Much of this recording work transpired during trips when my collaborators and I were preparing other projects for America's Rounder Records, which were released (in later years) under the banner of its North American Traditions Series.  As a research group, we have worked independently of Rounder, but we are grateful for the company's help in underwriting our expenses, providing recording equipment and, most importantly, offering our performers an opportunity for commercial publication (I'll describe the importance and limitations of this support more fully in my introduction to volumes 3 and 4).  Please visit our group's website at http://www.rounder.com/rounder/nat for a full listing of these CDs (upon which many of the artists in this collection reappear, often in a much fuller sampling).

For meeting is a pleasure: John Harrod and I would like to convey our sincere thanks to all that have opened their parlors to us, whether it was for an afternoon's brisk visit or a friendship of many years, for we gained much from each and every encounter.  And parting is grief, the old song continues, for it is distressing to reflect upon how many of the lovely people heard here are no longer with us.  I have dedicated these records to Annadeene Fraley, but I remember all of the others just as fondly.

Conventions that I employ for record labels in these notes: Rdr: Rounder; MT: Musical Traditions; Fwys: Folkways; SF: Smithsonian-Folkways; JA: June Appal; FRC: Field Recorders Collective; Cty: County; FL: Folk Legacy; AH: Augusta Heritage; AC: Berea College Appalachian Center; Co: Columbia; Br: Brunswick; Vi: Victor; Vo: Vocalion; Bb: Bluebird; OK: Okeh; Bwy: Broadway.


Volume 1: Come All You Young Men and Maidens

In attempting to arrange my cacophony of materials into these four CDs, I found myself sorting them out roughly according to mood or theme, although scarcely adherent to any rigorous logic.  This volume is intended to be the happiest of the four, although its selections eventually shade into some of love's less genial aspects later.  Although these CDs mainly focus upon vocal performances, I have interspersed a number of instrumental interludes that bear tangentially upon our themes.  Blanche Coldiron was every bit as merry in person as she appears in her photos and I can't think of a more appropriate musician to strike the opening chords for our 'cheerful' set.

Blanche Coldiron1.  Everybody's Favorite - Blanche Coldiron, banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson, Heathen Ridge, Ky, 7/03/99).  John Harrod introduced me to Blanche in the course of compiling our Kentucky Old-Time Banjo project (Rdr 0394), for which Blanche supplied many sterling contributions.  As a young teenager, she joined Asa Martin's Kentucky Hillbillies as 'Blanche, the Mountain Girl' and traveled to many a country schoolhouse up many an isolated hollow in consequence (Blanche supplies a vivid description of these occasions in the notes to Rdr 0394).  At seventeen she married and started a household, which put an end to her traveling.  One of her daughters was badly disadvantaged and her care kept Blanche near to home for many years, although she greatly enjoyed performing, when she could, at local festivals and fairs (she could play many instruments, although she excelled on the banjo).  Out of John's earshot, she once whispered to me how grateful she was for his interest in her music and his help in arranging places where she could play.  Last winter Blanche passed away after a very rich lifetime. 

John, Gus and I ran across several local tunes entitled Everybody's Favorite, the very multiplicity betraying the descriptive hyperbole of its title.  Of these, the present melody was the most prevalent and fine performances by Lella Todd and Travis Wells can be heard on Rdr 0377 and Rdr 0394 respectively.  Although Blanche excelled in the clawhammer style, she here utilizes two-finger up-picking for a more delicate effect.  Playing of this sort derives, as both Blanche and Asa Martin explained to us, from the so-called 'classical' or 'guitar style' that flourished in the Gilded Age just before the emergence of virtuosos like Vess L Ossman and Ollie Oakley.  As such, the style's affective contours differ markedly from those of the southeastern manner of 'two finger picking' that Roscoe Holcomb employs on Walk around my Bedside (on volume 3). 

2.  Ain't it a Shame to Work on Sunday? - The Dixon Sisters (Faye Ginn, Wanda Rhodes, Carol Foster, Geneva Boyd, Mildred Tucker), vocals (Rec: Mark Wilson, Roger Cooper and Wally Wallingford, Salt Lick, Ky, Fall, 2002).  Roger Cooper and I were introduced to this remarkable group of harmonizing sisters by Wally Wallingford, who is Faye's son and a music promoter friend of Roger's.  Although now settled with their families along both sides of the Ohio River, the sisters often get together to sing in church or to cheer up inmates in the local nursing homes.  Generally, they sing gospel numbers or popular fare (e.g., Sentimental Journey) familiar to their audiences, but they also remember a range of older songs from their father, John Henry Dixon, who came from Wolfe County and regularly sang to them as kids. 

The present piece, set to the tune of This Train Is Bound for Glory, is indubitably of Holiness origin.  Many Holiness songs are so piquantly expressed that they can appear humorous in intent, although I imagine that this ditty was originally conceived as a serious admonition to keep the Sabbath.  Be this as it may, it immediately inspired more sardonic recastings such as Fiddlin' John Carson's It's a Shame to Whip Your Wife on Sunday? (Ok 45122).  Incidentally, the Dixon Sisters also sang us a snatch of I'm Glad My Wife's in Europe which their father probably learned from another of Fiddlin' John's records (it represents a drastic recasting of a popular song from 1914).

Ain't it a shame to work on Sunday, ain't it a shame? (x2)
Ain't it a shame to work on Sunday
When there's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Ain't it a shame to work on Sunday, ain't it a shame?

3.  I Come from West Virginia - Carol Foster and Mildred Tucker (Rec: Mark Wilson, Roger Cooper and Wally Wallingford, Salt Lick, Ky, Fall, 2002).  Although all of the sisters know these words, performing them in synchronization proved the effective equivalent of adapting a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song successfully for a choir, so we eventually settled upon this charming rendition by Carol and Mildred.  Learned from their dad, the verses of this recitative derive from a widely printed minstrel song of the 1840s entitled A History of the World or some such (a distinct, but related, piece called Bible Stories is also found in tradition).  These couplets often attach to a refrain: 'Walk in the parlor/ Hear my banjo play'.  Indeed, as a purely instrumental item, Walking in the Parlor represents a commonly encountered fiddle and banjo tune (common versions: Al Hopkins, Vo 5024; Wilson Douglas, Rdr 0047; more unusual, D D Hollis, Pmt 33153, Fiddler Beers, Fwys 2376).  In a concert I once attended in Boston, the noted West Virginia fiddler Clark Kessinger whimsically borrowed an instrument from his banjo player and rapped out a memorable rendition of more or less the same verses as Carol and Mildred sing here, followed by an instrumental chorus where he rapped serially on the corners of the banjo head in the performance manner of the old Scottish tune The Four Poster Bed.

Well, I come from West Virginia with my head full of knowledge
I never went to free school and I never saw a college.
But I've been told that it was a certain fact
That the world was made in a twinkle of a whack.

Made the world in six days and finished on the seventh
According to the contract it ought to been eleven.
Well the mason got drunk and the carpenter wouldn't work
And the only way to finish it was to fill it up with dirt.

First they made the sun and then they made the sky
Then they hung it overhead to let the dirt dry.
Then they made a star out of a nigger woman's eye
For to give a little light when the moon it wasn't high.

Then they made the ocean, then they made the whale
Then they made the raccoon, a ring around his tail.
They made all the other animals one by one
Set them up against the fence as soon as they were done.

Bert Garvin4.  Hook and Line - Bert Garvin, banjo; Keith Garvin, jew's harp; Danielle Fraley, guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson, Denton, Ky, 3/8/99).  Bert is a retired railway worker from Flatwoods, Kentucky, close to the big Russell yards where a number of good musicians used to work.  In his youth, Burt heard a great variety of banjo players, ranging from his father's clawhammer style to a number of 'classical banjo' virtuosos who played with four fingers.  In high school, he became friends with the late fiddler Curley Parker who made a number of pioneer bluegrass recordings (see Rdr 0544 as well as Rdr 1017).  Bert himself became an excellent bluegrass banjoist, influenced not only by Ray but other local acquaintances such as the well known virtuoso Jack Hicks.  Bert also used to back up J P and Annadeene occasionally when they ran square dances over in Ironton in the early 'sixties.  When old-time music began to make a local comeback, partially because of the popularity of the Fraley Festival and allied events, Bert became motivated to revive the banjo style of his youth and the tunes he used to hear his father and brothers play.  He was never able to duplicate his father's clawhammer stroke, so he devised an up-picking approach of his own (that style was not uncommon in the vicinity either, although Bert's particular approach is unusual in that it incorporates downstrokes somewhat in the manner of Pete Seeger's 'basic strum').  Other tunes in this style (as well as a spot of first class bluegrass accompaniment) can be heard on Kentucky Old Time Banjo (Rdr 0394).  In fact, Bert's recording for that project proved so charming, we arranged for a later session at J P's, the results of which appear scattered throughout the present collection.

On this occasion, Bert's son Keith came along to play a few tunes on the jew's harp. Keith normally plays rock music, but he greatly enjoys participating in an old time session such as this. In yet another turn of the generations, Keith's son Michael has taken up old time fiddle with a dedicated intensity and we'll sample a few numbers from him on volume 4.

Along with Cripple Creek, virtually every old-time banjoist is likely to play some member of the variegated Hook and Line / Shout, Little Lulu tune group, although the exact choice of melodic materials utilized may differ greatly.  Typically (as here), the banjo is tuned GCGCD.  Older versions often mention shad fish, as in Travis Wells' 'Shad Lou, shad along / Caught a little shad fish about so long'.  Such verses allow us to date the piece to at least the 1840s, for similar quatrains appear in minstrel songsters of the period (I've never seen any associated music, however).  A few prototypical Kentucky performances: Roscoe Holcomb, SF 40079 & Rdr 0394; Lee Sexton, JA 0080; Lily Mae Ledford, JA 0078.

5.  Groundhog - Wash Nelson, vocal and banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson, Annadeene Fraley and Mary Nelson, Ashland, Ky, May, 1973).  Annadeene met fellow musician Orin Nelson in Ashland while working at Jean Thomas' festival.  His father Wash was a fine traditional singer with a repertory very much in the mold of John Cox' best informants in his well-known Folk-songs of the South.  Although I never met Orin, one evening his wife Mary took Annadeene and me up to meet Wash for a splendid evening of old songs.  He lived up a hollow somewhere outside of Ashland proper.  It was a hot evening and we recorded outside.  Unfortunately, a popular moonshiner lived up the road a bit and the diligent listener can hear the crunching of gravel as cars drove back and forth on their nocturnal missions.

Wash was about ninety-three when we recorded him and had just survived a dreadful house fire.  Nonetheless, he talked and sang virtually nonstop for a period of several hours.  He was a vivid storyteller and told many tales of a rugged pioneer life.  These were a bit disconcerting, because sometimes he would describe himself as a devout Christian penitent and sometimes as a thuggish near-outlaw.  Which presentation was accurate?  Well, probably a mix of the two.  At one point in his life, he had sung in medicine shows.  He told us that you could sing anything one wanted at those, including old ballads like The House Carpenter, but he indicated that Groundhog represented a particularly effective comic favorite.  Wash no longer owned a banjo but I happened to have one along.  Groundhog is a justly popular banjo tune, with many fine recordings (Jack Reedy; Morgan Sexton; Arnold and Doc Watson; Cousin Emmy on the Berea College Library website), but Wash's older, minor key setting is less common (the banjo is probably tuned gDGCD).

Wash NelsonOne old woman was the mother of them all (x2)
Fed them on groundhog before they could crawl.
Refrain: Whack fod-de-ling-a-day.

Picked up my gun and called my dog (x2)
Out to the hills for to catch a groundhog.

Run here, Sal, with a great long pole (x2)
Twist this groundhog out of this hole.

Looked at the groundhog, looking very stout (x2)
I grabbed him by the tail and I couldn't pull him out.

Sal was sick and she wanted to go to bed (x2)
She got choked on a groundhog head.

Mam, oh Mam, look at Sam (x2)
Eating all the groundhog and sopping up the pan.

Mam, oh Mam, make Sam quit (x2)
Eating all the groundhog, wouldn't get a bit.

Two in a bush and one in a log (x2)
Two for me and one for my dog.
Mam, oh Mam, now make Sam quit (x2)
Eating all the groundhog and sopping up the pan.

6.  The Devil and the Farmer - Hobert Stallard (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Waterloo, Oh, 8/29/73).  Roud 160, Child 278.  In June of 1973, I accompanied Bill Nowlin of Rounder Records on a journey where Bill interviewed a large number of pioneer bluegrass musicians for Rounder's important reissue project The Early Days of Bluegrass.  This trip carried us into parts of southern Kentucky that I had never reached before.  When we had time, we sometimes inquired about local musicians and such a tip sent us from Jenkins, Kentucky over the mountain to Pound, Virginia, into what was called Stallard's Branch.  We were looking for Lexie Baker, a fine old time fiddler who was an uncle to the well known bluegrass musician Kenny Baker.  We met Mr Baker briefly, but it was beginning to rain and he needed to get his farm equipment in from the fields.  I then wandered next door to visit his sister-in-law Gracie Baker while Bill took the tape recorder off to visit a bluegrass dobro player who lived up the road.  Mrs Baker was extremely nice and very shyly sang me her family versions of Lord Bateman and Lord Lovel.  A little while later, her daughter-in-law Nova came home and it turned out that she also had learned quite a few old-time songs from her father, Hobert Stallard, among which was the present song.  Eventually Bill returned with the recorder and we were able to record a few numbers from Nova and Gracie before we left.  This brief visit left me with the strong impression that a good deal of traditional music must reside in that little mountain pocket.  Unfortunately, I had already been finding it difficult enough to reach the Fraleys' northeastern Kentucky location from Boston in the intervals of free time I had available in college and Pound lay several hollows too far for me to reach easily.  However, J P happened to be working through the week at a mine site in the region and so I loaded the Fraleys up with recording tape and commissioned them to visit Lexie Baker and the others.  The purpose was to record some samples so that I could determine whether I should make extra efforts to return to the region.  This task they dutifully accomplished, but unfortunately the friend who provided the tape recorder retained the tapes and I wasn't able to hear the material they recorded for nearly thirty years.

When I finally did, it became evident that a very rich pocket of folklore then resided in Stallard's Branch: in addition to Lexie, Nova's husband Travis was also a good fiddler who sang songs like Stackolee to his own accompaniment.  Kenny Baker's father Thaddeus lived nearby and he also knew a considerable range of exquisite tunes that I've never encountered elsewhere.  Kenny Baker has recorded a few of these (Indian Eat a Woodcock and Denver Belle) and Snake Chapman eventually provided me with a few more (Rdr 0418).  Nonetheless, a good deal of wonderful music seems to have been lost from this delightful locality, a tragedy that has indubitably often reoccurred elsewhere across the entire American South.  Why our professional custodians of folklore didn't think to serve us better in the last quarter of the twentieth century is beyond me.  By the time I finally managed to return to Stallard's Branch in 1996, most of these musicians were dead, although I was fortunate to meet Nova's sister, Elsie Vanover, whom we'll hear later on this CD.

In any event, Nova provided me with her father's address.  At this time Hobert was living near Waterloo, Ohio which was situated out in the country across the river from Ashland.  One hot summer's day Annadeene, my ex-wife Carole and I drove up there for a very pleasant visit.  He had sometimes played the banjo in medicine shows but had broken a string and on this trip I didn't have an instrument with me.  Many years later I interviewed his son Chester in Ironton who claimed that his father had been quite good in an up-picking style.  Chester himself had once played the banjo as well but I couldn't persuade him to revive his interest.  It then emerged that Annadeene had known Chester for years, but hadn't realized that he was the son of the singer we had visited back in the 'seventies.

Hobert's daughters possessed approximately the same repertory as he did and their renditions are invariably delightful as well, in their individualized ways.  I have already issued Nova's performance of this song on a CD for children (Rdr 8041) which also includes several more selections by Hobert.  I very much regret that I haven't been able to issue more of these Stallard/Baker recordings earlier but I've found few opportunities to issue vocal compilations in recent years.

The book title for this well known song is The Farmer's Curst Wife: there are innumerable excellent versions available (Horton Barker, Rdr 1511; Jean Ritchie, Fwys 2302; Texas Gladden, Rdr 1661; Phyllis Marks, AH 008; Walter Pardon, Topic 514).

There was an old man went out to plow (whistle)
Seen the old devil come over the mount.
Refrain: Sing tie-a-rattle-ring-day.

He sold his plow and he started to run (whistle)
Says, "The Devil's right after my oldest son."

"It ain't your oldest son I crave (whistle)
It's your scolding wife and her I'll have."

"Oh, take her, old devil, with all of your heart (whistle)
I hope you and her may never part."

He got her up all on his back (whistle)
Like a jolly coal peddler came wagging his sack.

He took her in at Hell's back door (whistle)
Gave her a kick, says, "Go in there."

Up stepped a little devil a-rattling his chains (whistle)
She upped with a shovel and she beat out his brains.

Nine little odd devils poking their heads over the wall (whistle)
Crying, "Take her back, Pappy, she's going to kill us all."

He got her up all on his back (whistle)
Like a jolly coal peddler came wagging her back.

Well, her old husband so sick in bed (whistle)
With her old pewter pipe she beetled his head.

What to do with her, I cannot tell (whistle)
She ain't fit for hog heaven and just from Hell.

7.  Granny Went to Meeting with her Old Shoes On - Vernon Judd, banjo; Zora Judd, vocal and banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson, Irvine, Ky, December, 1972).  Previously issued on Rdr 0145.  Gus Meade's and my first project in Kentucky was to make an LP of the pioneer recording artist Asa Martin and his radio band, the Cumberland Rangers.  Gus needed to return to work but I stayed around to do more recording in the area.  Asa promised me, "Stick around; you're in for a real treat."  Vernon and Zora Judd were an elderly farm couple who still plowed with mules and Travis Wells was a somewhat younger acquaintance who ran an old-fashioned lumber mill.  They were all good friends of Asa Martin's and would come over to his house regularly for a few old time tunes and a few stiff shots of bourbon.  Once upon a time Asa had been a musical entrepreneur of some prominence within the central Kentucky scene and through his radio show had advanced the careers of artists such as Stringbean and James and Martha Carson ('James' was, in fact, Doc Roberts' son James with whom Asa extensively recorded and 'Martha' was Martha Amburguey who had also worked with Asa).  Nonetheless, Asa retained a great affection for the simple, older dance music of the Estill and Powell County region and some of the nicest old-fashioned square dance music recorded on Gennett (the Hatton Brothers; Charlie Wilson) represented local friends of Asa's that he had pitched to the company.  Typically, Asa would introduce these selections with a bit of hokum and then call a square set while they performed, probably more or less as he would do on his radio broadcasts of the time.  Indeed, although I've not included any of these for lack of space, Asa and the Judds automatically fell into a few of these routines in our informal recordings.  Vernon JuddOn later trips, the group invited in the fiddler Lella Todd whose family had raised Vernon and had been the chief dance musicians in the region around the turn of the century.  Performances by this augmented group can be heard on Rdr 0377 and 0394.  Normally Zora played guitar but she knew all of Vernon's banjo pieces herself and so, on a trip when I had a banjo along, I encouraged them to attempt a few charming duets.  Rarely did any of them except Asa sing, but on this occasion Zora offered a few satirical verses.  Dock Boggs set his version of Hook and Line to essentially this tune (FRC 305).

Granny went to meeting with her new dress on
She came back with her old one on.
Granny went to meeting with her new shoes on
She came back with her old pair on.

Granny went to meeting with her old shoes on
She came back with her new pair on.
Granny went to meeting with her old dress on
She came back with her new one on.

8.  Susan's Gone - Francis Gillum, harmonica (Rec: Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlin, Isom, Ky, 6/14/73).  Francis was in his late 'eighties and had formerly played the fiddle.  He had met Alva Greene, whom we shall soon encounter, at a county senior citizen recreational center and liked to beat straws for Alva's fiddle in the old-fashioned manner.  Although Francis was rather short of breath, he also played a few tunes on the mouth organ for us, including this prototypical eastern Kentucky dance tune.  It is linked to the previous selection by a similar lyric:

Can you tell me where Susan's gone?
Gone to the dance with her new dress on.

J W Day recorded the air for the Library of Congress (as Sweet Susan) and Roger Cooper (Rdr 0380) and Emma Lee Dickerson (Rdr 0544) have recorded nice versions as well.  J P Fraley's The Girl with the Blue Dress On (Rdr 0037) is related.

9.  Natural Bridge Song - Nova Baker, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlin, Pound, Va, 6/12/73).  All of the Stallard kinfolk greatly enjoyed this homemade ballad from the early 'thirties, that celebrates an occasion when a group of Pound teenagers inadvertently entered the celebrated Natural Bridge monument from the back end and were fined and briefly jailed for not paying an entrance fee.  As I recall, Hobert Stallard claimed to have had a hand in its composition.  Nova accidentally omitted a couplet in the version heard here:

Then they all went back to the truck
While Olaf and Allen was hunting us up.

This verse refers to two of the party who escaped arrest because they were searching for moonshine at the time.  In Hobert's version, the news 'stops right there at Jimmy Tank's', which nominates the residence of a local whiskey seller.

Although American traditional musicians tended to be quite conservative with respect to lyrical innovation, specializing instead in omission and rearrangement, they seem to have made an exception with respect to satirical poems of this nature.  Shortly before she died, Snake Chapman's older sister Chloe was visiting at his house and recited several of her own droll compositions of this same type, to the great merriment of all the Chapmans assembled.  She indicated that one needed to be careful about where these were sung, for mountain people were prideful and apt to take offense.

A crowd of girls and a crowd of boys
They gathered together for a trip of joy
The trip they planned was mighty fine
They thought they'd have one more good time.

They gathered together at the appointed place
All had a smile upon their face
They rode away to a country town
And then their smile changed to a frown.

They went up on the lover's leap
They went up there to take a peek
Oh, many sights and wonders they saw
But they did not see that dreadful law.

They ate their melons 'til they were filled
And then they all walked down the hill
They walked up down to the railroad track
And soon they'd all fix and go back.

Then they all began singing a song
They thought that they had done no wrong
Up stepped the law, took a-hold their arms
And proved to them that they had done harm.

They took them away to that Gates City jail
Where there's no one there to go their bail
The news come back to old Bold Camp
And stopped right there at Stallard's Branch.

10.  The Little Mohee - Hobert Stallard, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Waterloo, Oh, 8/29/73).  Roud 275, Laws H8.  This nineteenth century broadside remains astonishingly popular both in England and throughout North America (it was one of the first 'folk songs' I collected as a teenager out in Oregon).  Particularly influential early recordings were by Buell Kazee (twice: Br 156 and Br 436) and Bradley Kincaid (Ge 6856 and his radio broadcasts) and, in the late 'forties, by Burl Ives.  Sometimes more salacious versions are found, but I think they are merely parodies.  The song family enjoys another major branch - see The Young Spanish Lass on Leader 4057 (also in Fowke's Traditional Singers and Songs from Southern Ontario).  I especially enjoy Hobert's old fashioned Virginia manner of phrasing on songs like this, with his characteristic hesitations and gracings.

As I sat down musing, myself in the grass
No one could I spy near me but a fair Indian lass
She come sat down beside me and gave me her hand
Said, "You are a stranger and of a strange land."

"If you will consent, sir, to stay here with me
I'll teach you the language of the Little Mohee"
"Oh, no, my fair maiden, that never can be
For I have a true love in my own country."

"I'll never forsake her and I know she won't me
She has a heart true as the Little Mohee."

The last time I saw her, she was kneeling on sand
And as my boat sailed by her, she waved me her hand
Saying, "When you get over to the land that you know
Remember Little Mohee in the coconut grove."

Oh, now my boat's landed, not a one can I see
No one to compare with the Little Mohee
I'll turn my course backward across the deep sea
I'll go spend my days with the Little Mohee.

Francis Gilllum, straws; Alva Greene, fiddle11.  Wildwood Flower - Alva Greene, fiddle; Francis Gilllum, straws.  (Rec: Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Isom, Ky, April, 1974). Roud 757.  Here we hear Alva and Francis playing an old parlor tune I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets utilizing the old-fashioned technique of "beating straws."  Usually the beater will play on the same instrument as the fiddle, taking care to strike on the strings upon which the fiddler is not noting, but Francis found it easier to tune his own fiddle to Alva's and play independently.  Alva had been a good friend of J P's father, but had left the region to work in a shoe factory in Portsmouth and raise his family there.  J P was fishing one morning below Sandy Hook and heard the sound of old-fashioned mountain fiddling.  He followed the sound and soon encountered Alva, who had returned to Sandy Hook and was practicing on his porch.  Alva was a keenly intelligent man with all sorts of interesting opinions on religion, politics and the status of women ("Honey, I can prove to you six different ways that the women's got the men beat altogether").  He was one of our greatest sources of old tunes and Gus and I visited him many times (he is one of the primary performers on Rdr 0376 and John Harrod and I hope to release more of his music in the future).

The melody was published by J P Webster and Maud Irving in 1860 and popularized within rural circles chiefly through the influence of the Carter Family's several waxings (it became a 'first number' for many a budding country guitarist).  It is strange that its sheet music origins eluded folk music experts so long, as Joseph Philbrick Webster was one of the most prominent composers of the middle nineteenth century, having written In the Sweet By-and-By and Lorena (not the item heard here, but that recorded by the Fraleys on Rdr 0351) amongst many other popular numbers.  Webster's original setting is recognizably that of the Carter's Wildwood Flower, as is often not the case with such traditional music derivatives; in fact, Webster's may even be a bit prettier.

12.  Old Virginia Girls - Mary Lozier, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Ky, Summer, 1996).  Mary and John Lozier, who both passed away a few years ago, were quite well known as folk performers in the Portsmouth, Ohio region and were good friends with Annadeene.  They were recorded by several other collectors and once performed at the Smithsonian Festival in Washington.  Nonetheless, except for a privately issued cassette of John's harmonica pieces, I believe that these are the first general releases of any of their music, save for a few fiddle tunes on Rdr 0544.  I didn't meet the Loziers back in the 'seventies, although I heard much about them from Annadeene.  Roger Cooper (who had lived several years in the same mountain holler) took me over to see them on a number of later occasions in the 1990s.  In personalities, the pair couldn't have been more different, John proving as reliably irascible as Mary was invariably gentle (Roger: 'Oh, old John's a character alright: he's apt to say anything in the world to you if he takes a mind').  In local folk fairs, Mary was usually called upon for her knowledge of traditional crafts such as canning and sewing, but she kept a large notebook in which she had typed out the words to the many songs she knew, most of which had come from her mother.  The present song, however, was learned from a sister.

Judging from its many songster printings, this satire, in its many variants, represented a staple upon the American music hall stage in the 1840s.  Cousin Emmy made a nice recording of it, as did Al Hopkins and his Buckle Busters.  For more information on its tune, see There's a Hard Time Coming on volume 4.

Come all you old Virginia girls and listen to my noise
Don't you never marry none of these Kentucky boys.
'Cause if'n you do, your fortune will be
Cornbread and buttermilk is all you will see.  (x2)

If you want to go courting, boys, I'll tell you where to go
Down to the old man's house below.
The girls all mad and their heads not combed
The children's all a-crying and the old folks gone.  (x2)

When they go to milk, they milk in a gourd
They set it in the corner and they cover it with a board.
An old cotton apron, creased all around
And an old leather bonnet with a hole in the crown.  (x2)

All I saw for supper was an old piece of beef
About half done and about half raw
About half done and about half raw
And the ashcake, cornbread, bran and all.(x2)

They put me to carving on an old piece of beef
They had no knife and they had no fork
They had no knife and they had no fork
And I sawed about an hour and I couldn't make a mark (x2)

I just kept a-sawing 'til I got it off the plate
One of them girls said, "You'd better wait"
I just kept a-sawing 'til I got it on the floor
I give it a kick and I kicked it out the door (x2)

Saw the old man a-coming with a double barreled gun
One of them girls said, "You'd better run"
I stood my ground just as brave as a bear
And I tangled my fingers in that old man's hair (x2)

13.  Come all Young Men and Maidens - Wash Nelson, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Annadeene Fraley and Mary Nelson, Ashland, Ky, May, 1973). Roud 182, Laws M34.  Jean Thomas' best book is Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky.  It is a pity that she filled its text with such patent malarkey, for, judging from our own field work, many of the songs themselves seem accurate reports on northeastern Kentucky tradition.  The present song provides a case in point: it appears in Thomas' collection as The Truth Told Twice and is credited to 'Jilson Setters'.  Wash learned a number of songs directly from Bill Day (Setters' real name), presumably including this one (although he did not happen to say so; I began asking him about Day only later in our conversation).  Wash's text is quite similar to Thomas' except that several lengthy verses have been collated into a smaller set.  I am not familiar with any earlier prototype, although I would predict that such exists.  Bill Day did undoubtedly compose a lot of material that entered Kentucky tradition, but I would be surprised if its great lyrical and thematic range can be entirely explained by his singular inspiration alone.

Come all young men and maidens and listen to my rhyme
I'll tell you what you're doing, all at the present time.
You're taking from your parents a young and youthful day
You're spending them in folly and many wicked ways.

Now, about the age of eighteen, boys think they're very smart
They think they know it all but their parents knows their part
No matter what he does, he'll have some place to flirt
He'll order his old mother to wash and starch his shirt.

"Now, stop," said the old man, said, "Now, Son, you cannot go.
The work is all behind and this you very well know."
"I do not care for that, Dad, I'm bound to see my fun.
Now do your work yourself, old man, or let it go undone."

Now perhaps he goes a-courting, no one but him can tell
He'll sit down by his sweetheart, perhaps he loves her well.
He'll sit awhile cross-legged, with now and then a flirt
And watch him chew his tobacco, but daddy does the work.

Now, about the age of sixteen, girls think they're very smart
They think they know it all but their parents knows their part
To every show and frolic they are bound for to go
For they are all the time a-thinking they'll catch theirselves a beau.

Now the girls are just as guilty as this you plainly see
They generally make the matters worse by being most too free
I hope you don't get angry when I sing to you this song
But if you do get angry, it'll tell us where you're wrong.

14.  The New River Train - Blanche Coldiron, banjo and vocal; Jim Coldiron, guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson, Heathen Ridge, Ky, 7/03/99). Roud 4568.  As noted earlier, Blanche had joined Asa Martin's troupe as a banjoist when she was a teenager; for a while it was de rigeur in Kentucky that a 'hillbilly band' should include a female banjoist (to the extent that the Renfro Valley impresario John Lair insisted that Lily Mae Ledford play the instrument in the celebrated Coon Creek Girls despite the fact that she was a fiddler by choice).  This old song probably celebrates North Carolina's New River and has been popular on the country music stages for a long time.  Blanche is here accompanied by her son Jim, who was a great help in arranging our sessions.

I'm leaving on that New River train (x2)
That same old train that brought me here's
Going to carry me away again.

Darling, you can't love but one (x2)
Oh, you can't love but one and have any fun
Darling, you can't love but one.

Oh, you can't love two and still be true ...
repeat first verse
Oh, you can't love three and still love me ...
Oh, you can't love four and love me any more ....

Darling, remember what you said? (x2)
Remember what you said? That you'd rather see me dead
Than leaving on that New River train?

15.  Cambric Shirt - Sarah Gunning, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Ma, 5/7/74).  Roud 12, Child 2.  Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable recording sessions I have supervised was the several day period that I spent with Jim Garland and Sarah Ogan Gunning, who were both already well known in the 'folk' world because of the 'protest songs' they had written when they lived in New York in the late 1930s.  Brother and sister, they had been raised near Pineville, Kentucky and knew an enormous amount of traditional song.  Sarah, who then lived in Hart, Michigan, had been invited to the big Smithsonian Festival in Washington and Jim had flown in from Washougal, Washington just for companionship.  Rounder had already included several of Sarah's protest songs from the 1930s on their Coal Mining Women LP and on this occasion had paid Jim and Sarah's fare to come to Boston for a fuller recording.  They asked me if I'd be interested in assembling another record of traditional materials from Sarah (in 1965 Archie Green had already put together a fine selection for Folk-Legacy (FL 26)).  I wound up recording quite a bit of material from both of them over a period of several days.  Along the way I learned much about the terrible labor troubles they had endured in Kentucky as well as hearing of their very interesting reactions to the urban 'folk scene' they encountered after they had migrated to New York's Lower East Side.  As is well known, their half sister, the redoubtable Aunt Molly Jackson, had come north with the Dreiser Committee after the latter had visited Bell County in 1931 to report upon the miserable labor conditions.  Not long after, Jim's friend, the young labor organizer Harry Simms, was shot by some company militia in Knott County and Jim himself was forced to leave Kentucky, coming north to speak about Simms' murder at labor rallies across the northeast.  Settling in New York City, Jim eventually became good friends with NYU professor Mary Barnicle and recorded for her (many of these discs eventually wound up in the Library of Congress: Jim also assisted on some of her recording trips down into Kentucky).  When it became evident that Sarah and her young family were literally starving to death in Kentucky, Jim and Mary drove south and brought them north (Sarah's husband Andrew Ogan had already become so ill from tuberculosis that he soon returned to Kentucky to die).  Even in New York, her family conditions remained dire and Sarah lost one of her children to malnutrition there.  Adding to her woes, Sarah herself contracted TB and lost one of her lungs.  Under the urgings of the New York labor scene, Sarah composed her now celebrated radical songs of protest; their palpable anger reflects the very real miseries she and her family had suffered (although, by native personality, Sarah was more stoical than militant).  The history and political intrigues of this period have been well documented: in a general way, within Bear Family's remarkable reissue collection Songs for Political Action and, in a book more specifically centered upon Aunt Molly and the Garlands, Shelly Romalis' Pistol Packing Mama (I find some of her attributions of personal motive strange, however).

All the same, Jim and his wife Hazel enjoyed their time in New York because of the lively intellectual stimulation it offered.  Leadbelly lived just around the corner and Woody Guthrie was a good friend.  Jim was very proud that a few of his songs (eg, I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister) had been taken up by the labor movement.  He ran a short-lived radio show and formed a little family performance group that including Sarah.  I don't believe that she was quite so enthusiastic about New York because of her continuing litany of tragedies, but her life greatly improved when she remarried Joe Gunning.  When the war broke out, both families moved to Washington State for defense work.  Jim and Hazel permanently settled there, while Joe and Sarah eventually moved to Detroit where they managed an apartment house.  Hazel regretted leaving New York, but reported that Jim remained just as buoyant about his new western habitat as he had been about everything else in life.

The most delightful aspect of our recording session, beyond the astonishing bounty of the traditional material that each knew, lay simply in the pleasure of watching the two of them interact.  Both possessed very amiable senses of humor but Jim approached his songs in an utterly ebullient spirit, sometimes mixing ingredients into his family songs that he had picked up elsewhere along life's path.  Sarah, in contrast, was one of those singers who had learned most of her songs from her cherished mother and could reproduce these childhood materials with pinpoint accuracy.  So it was amusing when Jim would offer me some song and Sarah would then comment in her droll manner, "Well, I guess some people puts those things in there, but our mother always sang it this way ..."  But there was never a speck of rancor in any of this: just an affectionate brother and sister who understood each other's foibles very well.  As it happened, an elderly Mary Barnicle then lived part of the year in Wellesley and I drove Jim and Sarah over to see her.  I didn't stay long, not wishing to intrude upon their first reunion in many years, but it was touching to witness the same easy going affection amongst the three of them.

It was a pity that Jim's great talents couldn't have been put to greater use, as he greatly enjoyed, without being in the least obnoxious, participating in the wider 'folk music' scene (he was very proud, for example, that Pete Seeger had recorded several of his compositions on American Industrial Ballads).  He had recorded a large body of material for Moe Asch of Folkways records who then refused to issue it, preferring instead to release an album by Jim's daughter Betty (he also commissioned Jim to record other musician's material in Bell County in the middle 1950s; I would love to know what happened to those tapes).  At the time, I could only manage to include a few of Jim's duets with Sarah on her LP and then, a few years later, several of Jim's performances on scattered Rounder projects (an LP of 'blaggardy' songs (Rdr 0141) and a CD for children (Rdr 8041)).  So I am gratified to finally be able to include more of his songs here: I only wish that Jim had lived long enough to see them released.

After our recording session, I commissioned Jim to write a portion of the liner notes for Sarah's record.  What he first mailed in was a little stiff (as often happens when a good conversationalist attempts formal prose), but he had also been working on a partially completed autobiography that proved absolutely fantastic, so we eventually interwove the manuscripts until we were able to tell Sarah's story in a very satisfying way (I intend to rerelease a supplemented version of her old LP in Rounder's new Archive Series as soon as I can manage).  I urged Jim to work further on his manuscript, but my own life temporarily fell into shambles a year later and I was unable to maintain our correspondence.  Fortunately, Bess Hawes continued to encourage Jim in his writing and, soon after his death, Julia Ardery did a superb job assembling the manuscript as Welcome the Traveler Home.  It is surely one of the most endearing books written about traditional music.  My only regret is that there were so many intriguing aspects of Jim's life remaining that he hadn't managed to cover in his manuscript.  If Jim hadn't died so soon (1978), I would have attempted to probe his vast well of folklore further.  Sarah herself passed away a few years later, in 1984.

Perhaps the listener can glean a bit of Sarah's warm personality from the explanation she offers of this song's significance (or lack thereof).  The esteemed folk song scholar Norm Cohen made the following interesting observation after listening to a mockup of this project:

One of the passages I most enjoyed when I listened to the CDs was Sarah Gunning's comment about some song that obviously had a few lines of nonsense.  I felt this was a powerful antidote to the folklorists who struggle to read a deep subconscious meaning into such texts.

I might enlarge upon this remark by observing that I've generally found that the majority of traditional musicians can provide quite pointed and detailed explanations of why they happen to like a particular song or instrumental piece and it is often patronizing to presume that some other explanation need be given.  In its original Child ballad context as The Elfin Knight, this song told a narrative story, but in most modern versions, its essence has been reduced to a poetic, tit-for-tat taunt.  A good note on the ballad's background can be found in Palmer, Folksongs Collected by Ralph Vaughn Williams.  Some excellent recorded versions: Tom Newman, MT 311; Sarah Cleveland, FL 33; Annadeene Fraley, JA 58.

Go buy for me a cambric shirt and make it without a needle or thread
And wash it out in yonder's well where well never sprung and rain never fell.
And hang it up on yonder's thorn where thorn never growed and root never sprung.
And every grove go merry by time and you shall be a damsel of mine.

Now you have asked me questions three and I will ask a few of thee
Go buy for me an acre of land between the sea and the sea sand
Plow it all up with an old buck's horn and sow it all down with culpepper corn
And reap it all up with a peafowl feather and tie it all up in an old stirrup leather.

And when you get your day's work down, come and get your cambric shirt.
And every grove go merry by time and you shall be a true lover of mine.

16.  Pretty Fair Miss all in the Garden - Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover, vocals (Rec: Mark Wilson, Pound, Va, 9/08/96).  Laws N42, Roud 264.  On my first visit to Stallard's Branch in 1973, I did not encounter Nova's sister Elsie, although Annadeene later told me about the excellent duets they sang together, as well as the wonderful songs that Nova would sing with her husband Travis on fiddle.  By the time that I finally managed to get that far south again, Travis had passed away but I was able to record some of Elsie.  She had recently had a throat culture and was apologetic about her voice, but the two sisters supplied me with a number of harmonized ballads, most of them learned from their dad.  I believe that there are many families scattered through present day Appalachia that remember old songs like these yet, but they are hard to locate, largely because the chief occasions for their performance occur only when families get together.  Once upon a time, a Nimrod Workman or Wash Nelson could find a non-family audience in the mines, at a lumber camp or in a medicine show, but once these venues vanished, there was only the family to sing to and the younger folk frequently lost interest in this material after early childhood.  Fiddle music, in contrast, managed to retain a larger component of social utility longer and so we have been able to locate instrumental traditional music more easily.

This broadside derivative, which Sharp called The Broken Token, remains extremely popular today, even on the bluegrass circuit.  An elderly lady once came to Annadeene's festival who knew exactly two songs, this piece and Merle Haggard's All my Friends are Going to be Strangers (well, they are both good songs).  Cousin Emmy's Decca recording remains unbeatable; see also MT 308, 324 and 329.

Nova Baker and Elsie VanoverPretty fair miss all in the garden
A soldier boy came riding by
Saying, "Pretty fair miss, don't you want to marry?
Don't you want to be a soldier's bride?"

"Oh, no, kind sir, a man of honor
A man of honor I take you to be.
How could you intrude on a single lady
Who never intends your bride for to be?"

"I have a true love in the army
He has been gone for seven long years
And if he's gone for seven years' longer
No other man shall marry me."

He pulled his hands all from his pockets
His fingers being both slim and small
He spied the ring that he had gave her
When this she saw at his feet she did fall.

He picked her up all in his arms
And kisses gave her one, two, three
Saying, "This is your old and single soldier
Who has returned for to marry thee."

17.  Schottische - John Lozier, harmonica (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Ky, 9/26/99).  John played a wide variety of material on the harmonica, ranging from old fiddle tunes to Nashville pop.  He had no fuller name for this piece, which he probably picked up across the river in Portsmouth, Ohio.  As John Harrod and I have tried to document in our Rounder fiddle compilations, many different sources of musical influence seemed to convene in this once bustling river town.

18.  Farewell, Sweet Jane - Gracie Baker, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlin, Pound, Va, 6/12/73).  Roud 3243, Laws B22.  While I was recording Nova, Gracie went in a back room and copied me out a 'ballit' of this song which I deeply cherish.  Sometimes the term denotes a printed copy of some kind, for street singers like Dick Burnett sometimes sold such items in their travels, but more often, it indicates a handwritten copy.  The widespread reliance on such texts helps explain why Appalachian tunes sometimes shift so radically while their accompanying texts remain relatively stable.

In all my years of attending concerts, night clubs and so forth, one of my fondest musical memories remains that of sitting with Mrs Baker in a light mist while she shyly sang me a few old songs like this on the steps of her cold granite porch.  Such are the humble settings in which the old songs properly thrived and I feel privileged to have witnessed some of it first hand.

Farewell, sweet Jane, I now must start
Across the foaming sea
My trunk's on board with Johnson's men
With all good company.

She wet my lips with flowing tears
And then I kissed her hand
Saying, "Think of me, my dearest Jane
"When I'm in some distant land."

I loaded up my trunk with gold
And then I thought of Jane
Then anxious soft did homeward run
Until I received command.

I heard the loudly thunder roar
Out of the cannon's mouth
To welcome me back home again
Back to the sunny south.

I saw a crowd of lovely girls
Come motion towards the ship
I saw sweet Jane with all her curls
Then I began to skip.

I ran and met her on the walk
I caught her in my arms
It looked so nice to be with Jane
With all her lovely charms.

We marched along the marble walk
Up to her father's door
The crowd did look so neat and clean
While standing on the floor.

The parson read the marriage law
That bonds us both for life.
Now I've got Jane without a doubt
A sweet and loving wife.

19.  The Preacher and his Specs - Sarah Gunning, spoken (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Ma, 5/7/74).  Sarah believes that she actually heard her tale from someone in New York and I recall hearing some similar routine somewhere myself.  But universality in jokes is not uncommon: Jim told me an off-color church joke from Bell County, Kentucky that my older brother had also encountered in the guise of an anecdote involving the Cambridge philosopher C D Broad and the Society for Psychical Research!

20.  The Preacher and the Fiddle - Hobert Stallard, spoken (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Waterloo, Oh, 8/29/73).  Another gentle satire of the cadences of country preaching style.

As I was going along the road one day
And I looked and saw my son John a-coming
And he had something under his arm, said like unto a red rooster
And I got up a little closer and a little closer
And he says, I looked and, behold, it was an old fiddle.
And I said, "Son John, you ought to lay down that old fiddle and try to serve God."
He says, "Father," said, "you don't know nothing about it."
Said, "Just let me play you one."
He let out on something, said, like unto this:
A-nogging, a-nogging, a-niggy naggy nogging (x2)
He said, "It'd just make the hair stand on your head, my brethren, to hear it."

21.  Something Sweet to Tell - Ray Hilt, fiddle; Rich Dean, guitar; Joshua Holtshulte, banjo; Marion Holtshulte, fiddle; Bob Lucas, mandolin (Rec: Mark Wilson, Marion, Oh, 6/27/98).  Ray Hilt grew up on isolated farm outside Portsmouth, Ohio where the land was poor and subsistence meager, according to Ray.  Ray Hilt and groupHis father, who apparently emigrated from Pennsylvania, played a number of old-time settings on the fiddle and Ray also liked to listen to the radio shows with fiddle music then broadcast out of Portsmouth, including those presided over by Asa Neil and Forrest Pick.  After World War II, Ray moved north to Marion, Ohio where he worked in the seed business for many years.  He had set the fiddle aside for a long time but he happened to travel to the Fraleys' festival one summer and was inspired to pick it up again.  It was, in fact, Annadeene and the banjo player Jack Strickland who gave me Ray's address when I lived in Columbus.  After he recommenced playing, he met Rick Dean who was looking for a fiddle instructor for his daughter Marion.  They surely could not have found a kinder or more patient soul than Ray and they eventually formed the charming little string band heard here (Joshua is Marion's husband and was then a student at Ohio State).  Other selections by the group can be heard on Rdr 0544.

Ray acquired this jig, a time signature rarely employed in the Southern fiddling of today, from Asa Neil's radio broadcasts (Forrest Pick and Jimmie Wheeler also played versions - see FCR 401 as well as Roger Cooper on Rdr 0380).  The tune undoubtedly stems from a composition of the 1850s entitled I've Something Sweet to Tell You! or I'm Talking in my Sleep with words by Francis S Osgood.  But which one?  The Library of Congress has a large number of sheet music settings, all similar yet distinct and by different authors, with none of them (up to the point I checked) with melodic lines identical to Ray's tune.  It is often the case that traditional versions of published nineteenth century compositions often deviate from their originals melodically and, in this case, we have an army of competitors striving to prove the canonical setting for Mr Osgood's lyric.  Over on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, Charlie Kinney and his friends also played a Something Sweet to Tell but they employed a tune more akin to The Merry Girl as recorded by DaCosta Woltz' Southern Broadcasters.

22.  Crawling and Creeping - Asa Martin, vocal and guitar; Jim Gaskin, second guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson, Irvine, Ky, December, 1972).  Roud 329.  Asa Martin was an important recording artist during the 'Golden Age of Hillbilly Recording', working both as a solo and as a member of a large number of different aggregations - eg, his well known duets with James Roberts and with Roy 'Shorty' Hobbs.  He also served as an exemplary backup guitarist for the great Doc Roberts (a splendid illustration of these talents can be found on the Van Kidwell selection on volume 4).  Asa also presided over a long-running radio show that nurtured local talents such as Stringbean and Cowboy Copas.  Gus Meade and I began our Kentucky collaborations with the hope that we might persuade Asa and Doc to record again (Gus, Norm Cohen, Archie Green and others had already interviewed Asa for an important set of articles that appeared in the old JEMF Quarterly).  Well, Asa was willing but Doc wasn't (and, in truth, was too rusty to have made a good recording).  Asa had lived away from Kentucky in the 'fifties, working as a night watchman in Ohio after the radio business fizzled, but he had recently returned to his Irvine home and was now playing in a little band called The Cumberland Rangers on the local radio station (Asa's fiddler and sometime second guitarist, Jim Gaskin, then managed the station; he now presides over the proceedings down at the celebrated Renfro Valley).  So we wound up making a nice LP with the new band (Rdr 0034) and a number of unissued selections are included in the present collection.  All in all, Gus and I recorded a lot of material from Asa, much of it quite unusual, but I don't believe that we remotely got to the bottom of his repertory: Asa had picked up hundreds of songs in his many years in music.  He was sometimes a bit cagey about where he learned his songs, but otherwise was a wonderful and charming host to Gus and me.  We were both proud that we had helped get these last recordings of Asa's issued.

With respect to the present song, it is understandable that Asa was a bit diffuse about its origins, for it, in fact, represents a temperate bowdlerization of a quite naughty song.  Or, to be more precise, the song is comparatively tame in its original British form, for it merely narrates the tale of an unlucky lover who experiences difficulty in opening his breeches (see Harry Cox, Rdr 1778, or Bill Whiting, MT 311).  And in America, this is sometimes so: Dan Tate provides an equally gentle version (as Lightning and Thunder) on MT 321, but his version misses the opening verse which usually serves to identify the song over here.  However, considerably more ribald treatments can easily be found in both England (Roll Your Leg Over in Mess Songs and Rhymes of the RAAF) and North America (Jim Garland, Crawling and Creeping on Rdr 0141) and Asa's song undoubtedly represents a very chastened cleansing of one of these.  Asa recorded this impressive guitar arrangement previously (in 1934) with James Roberts (Banner 33400).

Well, I dreamed last night I went a-crawling and a-creeping (x2)
And I crawled in the room where my baby was sleeping
And I never want to do it again.

My baby woke up and she called the law (x2)
The next stop I made was the City Hall.
And I never want to do it again.

The judge said, "Young man, don't you laugh (x2)
"This crawling and creeping's gonna be your last.
"You'll never want to do it again."

Well, he gave me nine months for crawling and a-creeping (x2)
For going in the room where my baby was sleeping
But I never want to do it again.

Listen here, young men, when you're sleeping
Don't never get the habit of crawling and creeping
And going in the room where your baby is sleeping
You'll never want to do it again

23.  Come all you Reckless, Rambling Boys - Nova Baker, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlin, Pound, Va, 6/12/73).  A quite comparable text appears as The Range Riders in the Lomaxes' Cowboy Songs and Sharp's Appalachian Married and Single Life seems related.  I am not aware of any previous recordings.

Come all you reckless, rambling boys wherever you may be
I'll tell you of some trouble that happened unto me.
I'll tell you of some trouble with the saddest distress
Among all the charming girls, boys, I love Molly the best.

It's when you go out riding, boys, all on your highway
You'll meet with the ladies a-looking so gay
With curly black hair and sparkling blue eyes
A warm place in your heart, boys, your bosom arise.

It's when you are single, boys, you can live at your ease
You can ramble this world over and do as you please
You can ramble this world over and do as you will
Hug and kiss the girls, boys, and run your own still.

It's when you are married, boys, you're done with this life
You've sold your sweet comfort to win you a wife
Your wife she will scold you, your children will cry
It's enough to make a poor face wither up and die.

It's when you step aside, boys, to talk to a friend
Your wife with her nose snarled up, saying, "What does this mean?"
You can drink your whiskey, oh, you can fight your booze
But, oh, a married life, boys, is worthwhile to refuse.

24.  Free a Little Bird - Henry Hurley, banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Flatwoods, Ky, May, 1973).  One afternoon Annadeene took me to visit Henry Hurley, a friendly gentleman who lived in Flatwoods near Bert Garvin (although nobody today seems to remember him).  Henry used to come to the Fraley's festival sometimes with a sister from Virginia whom Annadeene described as a very good blues singer.  He had been a good friend of Bill Williams, a black guitarist who worked in the Russell railway yards and had made two excellent LPs for Blue Goose (Williams had died not too long before I began to visit the region).  Gus Meade and I were just beginning our Kentucky record work and I wasn't sure whether I had anything to offer Henry in that line, so my only recordings of Henry were done that afternoon on Annadeene's little cassette recorder (I generally used a big, heavy Revox that couldn't be set up without a fair measure of fuss).  I had always wanted to go back for a better recording, but finding the requisite time was not easy and my Kentucky recording work soon came to a sudden halt anyway.  I retain a little notebook of 'leads' that I kept at the time and it is heartbreaking to read the names of all those that we never managed to visit (when Gus recommenced his research work with John Harrod later in the 'seventies, they generally worked to the west of our own target area).

Henry was mainly a guitarist, but he also played a fine two finger style banjo.  The usual words to this piece suit the nominal themes of this CD: I'm just as free a little bird as I can be (x2)
I'm as free at my age as a birdie in the cage
Just as free a little bird as I can be.

Meade's discography correctly cites L V H Crosby's Kitty Clyde of 1851 as the progenitor of this extremely popular banjo piece, although the linkage is largely effected through its concluding verse:

Or if I was some little bird
I would not build nests in the air
But keep close by the side of sweet Kitty Clyde
And sleep in her soft silken hair.

Several times in this collection we shall witness the astonishing redactions that country banjo players exerted upon the sentimental strains of the nineteenth century.

25.  I Won't Marry at All - Sarah Gunning, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Ma, 5/8/74). Roud 2774.  Again, another song that frequently shows up in tradition: Buell Kazee and Rexroat's Cedar Crest Singers recorded nice versions on Br 157 and Vo 5294 respectively (the latter includes odd spoken commentary, which I hypothesize represents the suggestion of a Vocalion A&R man).

Sarah GunningAnd I won't marry at all, at all
And I won't marry at all.

Refrain: And I won't marry at all, at all
And I won't marry at all.

I won't marry a man that's poor
For he'll go begging from door to door.

I won't marry a railroad man.
For he will drink the buttermilk down.

I won't marry a man that's rich
For he'll get drunk and fall in a ditch.

I won't marry a man that's little
For he can't carry my big wash kettle.

I won't marry a preacher's son
For he won't let me have no fun.

I won't marry a farmer's son
For all he wants is a dog and a gun.

I'll take my stool and sit in the shade (x3)
For I am determined to be an old maid.

26.  Kate's Horn - Ray Hilt, fiddle (Rec: Mark Wilson, Marion, Oh, 6/27/98).  Roud 555, Laws N22.  This 'first fiddle tune' came as somewhat of a surprise, for Ray has indubitably recollected a characteristically Appalachian air for Kate and her Horns (or The Clothier in Sharp's collection), an old humorous broadside dating to 1690 or so in which the heroine frightens her lover into submission by dressing like the devil ('He went to Kate and married her / For fear of doleful Lucifer').  Cazden et al, Folk Songs of the Catskills provides a good text and an exemplary headnote.  I believe Ray acquired the tune from his father.

27.  One Morning in May - Mildred Tucker, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, Maysville, Ky, 12/14/03).  Laws P14, Roud 140.  This familiar broadside remains extremely popular in America and the Fraleys often performed it in their stage appearances (J P plays the air in tribute to Annadeene on Rdr 0037).  Most American singers, I have found, fail to discern any double entendre in the imagery.  I have encountered the song many times and, with respect to the performers sampled here, Mary Lozier, Nimrod Workman and Sarah Gunning (Rdr 0051) all provided me with sterling performances; Mildred's text runs rather brisker than theirs.  A nice version by George Dunn can be found on MT 317.

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I saw a young couple a-heading my way
Oh, one was a maiden and a fair one was she
The other was a fiddler and a fiddler was he.

Then said to the fiddler, "It's time to give o'er"
"Oh, no" said the lady, "just play one tune more
I'd rather hear the fiddle, the touch of one string
Than see the water gliding, hear the nightingale sing."

Come all you young maidens, take warning by me
Don't ever place affections on a fiddler so free
For if you do, he will leave you like me
To weep and to mourn o'er the green willow tree.

28.  The Nightingale - Hobert Bowling, fiddle (Rec: Mark Wilson and John Harrod, Burlington, Ky, 10/27/97).  Laws P14, Roud 140.  Hobert Bowling moved from southeastern Kentucky to the outskirts of Covington for the sake of its employment opportunities.  Other selections by Hobert on banjo and fiddle can be found on Rdr 0394 and 0544.  It was once common in old Kentucky to perform songs and hymns as slower airs on the fiddle.  Here Hobert arranges a popular melody for Mildred's song in the same DDAD crosstuning that J P utilizes on volume 2's Cruel Willie.

29.  I Never Will Marry - Mary Lozier, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Oh, 10/14/97).  Roud 446, Laws K17.  A British prototype can be found as The Drowned Lover in Baring-Gould's Songs of the West.  'Dungbeetle' (ie, Steve Gardham) provides an excellent brisk discussion of its tangled broadside derivation in his entry on Stow Brow on the Musical Traditions webside.  In America, most traditional texts have been influenced by the Carter Family's celebrated recording and that may be true of Mary's truncated text (although I think not).  The fuller version that Granny Riddle recorded for me as The Seashell Song on Rdr 0017 is plainly independent of the Carters'.

One night as I wandered, down by the seashore
The wind it did whistle and the waters did roar
I heard a fair maiden make a pitiful sound
It sounded so lonesome on the waters around.

"I never will marry, I'll be no man's wife
I intend to live single all the days of my life."

She plunged her fair body in the waters so deep
She closed her blue eyes in the waters to sleep.
The sands of the ocean will be her death bed
While the fish of the waters swim over her head.

30.  The Lover's Return - Margie York, vocal; Gene York, vocal and guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson and John Harrod, Corinth, Ky, 4/06/97). Roud 3590.  As a young girl, Margie was raised in the little hamlet of Beef Hide in Pike County, Kentucky where she heard a good deal of traditional music.  Her people had lived in the area for a long time, dating back to a figure known in the family as "Revolutionary John", and Margie is proud of her family's long pioneer heritage: "When you're from the mountains," Margie says, "you know who you are, for your roots grow straight up."  Her mother played the banjo and Margie also recalls that "Half the people in Beef Hide had those old organs that reached to the ceiling."  When she was about six, her mother moved to Cincinnati for work, although they often returned to Pike County on visits.  She met Gene as a teenager when they lived in the same Ohio apartment building.  "She was just a poor old country girl until she met me," Gene jokes, "but then she became sophisticated."  In fact, Gene's background was every bit as countrified as Margie's, a commonality that attracted them to each other.  Gene's father John was originally from Tennessee and was related to the Sergeant Alvin York of World War I fame.  John sang and played lots of instruments (fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica and jew's harp).  He worked in a machine shop and was billed (to the annoyance of Gene's mother) as "Lonesome Johnnie" on the popular radio stations WLW and WKRC.  Eventually, Gene and Margie moved back to Kentucky and became involved in the local musical scene.  Margie regularly sings old songs like this as she goes about her chores, but remains self-conscious about performing in public without Gene's harmony and guitar accompaniment.

This piece is a tradition-improved version of a song from the late 1880s or early 1890s entitled Too Late, You Have Come Back to Me.  Sigmund Spaeth prints a full text in Weep Some More, My Lady that he mocks as 'a specimen from the School of Self Pity'.  Indeed, his text does carry a resentful tenor of 'you were fickle when we were young for which I'll now punish you' that has completely evaporated from Margie's version (it instead expresses a world weary resignation akin to the resolution of Wharton's Age of Innocence).  In fact, the original Too Late song seems to have subsequently divided into two song branches as Gus' discography documents.  Almeda Riddle learned this same song c.1906 and the Carter Family recorded a good version with a somewhat different second verse.  I was under the impression that Margie had learned this back home, but she recently informed me that she had learned it from the revivalist singer Ginny Hawker at the annual festival at Berea College.  Hawker's version can be heard on JA 0060.

And so you have come back to me
The old love, you say, is flowing yet
You tried through all these weary years
You tried too vainly to forget.

Chorus: Oh, no, I cannot take your hand
God never gives us back our youth
The loving heart you slighted then
Was yours, my friend, in perfect truth.

Come close and let me see your face
Your raven hair is tinged with snow
Oh, yes, it is the same sweet face
I loved so many years ago.

Fare you well, I think I love you still
As friend to friend, God bless you, dear
And guide you through these weary years
To where the skies are always clear.

31.  Little Sweetheart, We've Done Parted - Hobert Stallard, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Waterloo, Oh, 8/29/73).  Laws P14, Roud 262.  This well traveled song is often dubbed The Girl I Left Behind Me, although that nomenclature only invites confusion with the familiar Samuel Lover / Brighton Camp composite.  Versions of the song often initiate in a wide variety of ways but then settle onto a relatively stable lyrical core, although some texts then continue onto an account of a second romance with one Maggie Walker or some such personage (the lengthy Angelo Dorian text found in Creighton's New Brunswick collection illustrates this branch of the song family nicely).  Buell Kazee recorded a wonderful rendition for both Brunswick and June Appal (as The Roving Cowboy) and other well known versions include those of Tom Ashley and Grayson and Whitter.  See also MT 321.  The Dixon Sisters knew a few verses of this as well.

Little sweetheart, we've done parted
Many miles of separation
From each other we may be.
My parents they treated me kindly,
Not having no other boy but me
My mind was bent on rambling,
But we never could agree.

Hobert Stallard There lived a rich old farmer
Who lived a neighbor nigh
Who had the only one daughter
On whom I cast my eye.
She was so tall and handsome,
So delicate, so fair,
There's not another girl in old Virginny
With her I could compare.

I asked her if she would consent
For me to cross the plain
Or if she'd prove true to me
'Til I come back again.

I quit my work one evening,
Started off down the street
The mail coach having arrived
And the news boy I did meet.
He handed me a letter which
Gave me to understand
The girl that I had left in old Virginia
Had took some sorry, low down man.

I read on a little further,
Hoping it was not true
My mind being shocked with misery,
Oh, no, what will I do?
My mind being shocked with misery,
This wide world I'll resign
I'll spend the rest of my days in rambling
For the girl that I left behind.

32.  Last May Morn - Mary Lozier, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Oh,10/14/97).  Laws P18, Roud 564.  The sagacious Mr 'Dungbeetle' prints a facsimile of the original The Distressed Maid in his nineteenth entry and correctly observes that the song remains popular in England (MT 311; Topic 512) and, in altered form, in Ireland (Sarah Porter's Down by the Deep River Side on MT 309 begins like ours but then strays along a different trajectory).  He comments that the piece is 'seemingly scarce in America', but, in my experience, this is not so.  Indeed, Wash Nelson supplied us with a fine text (which I once issued on Rdr 0141, perhaps misguidedly, given its companion company).  William May on AH 010 and Clay Walters for the Library of Congress have also recorded texts similar to Mary's.  Indeed, the popular radio singer Bradley Kincaid even included a version in the 1928 songbook that he used to sell over the airwaves on WLS in Chicago.  Mary loved listening to Kincaid, as many fellow Kentuckians did, for his songs reminded her of home, during the unhappy period when she and John attempted to settle in Circleville, just outside of Columbus, Ohio:

I don't know but it seemed like people up there weren't as friendly up there as down here in Kentucky and I was very homesick.

Mary learned a number of songs from Kincaid, including The Housewife's Lament, but not this one, which she got from her mother (her chief source of songs).  Kincaid's text, in fact, is considerably different than Mary's and I always found it odd that an employee of the Young Men's Christian Association would be willing to sing the song even in the chastened form in which he published it.  I have also wondered at Mary's strange 'There's fish that dies from swallowing flies / There's no young man who'll prove true', but I recently located one of Baring-Gould's texts that serves to rationalize it: 'When fishes fly as swallows high / Then young men will prove true'.  Awkward, to be sure, but more comprehensible.

As I walked out one bright May morning
Down by the riverside
I spied a fair young couple a-courting
It filled my heart with pride.

He wooed her gently as lovers have
Since this world begun.
He asked her if she would marry him
She answered, "I am too young."

"The younger you are, the better," he said
"The younger, the better for me.
For I will swear to you, my dear
I'll marry no other but thee."

They spent the day as lovers do
In sporting and in play
As evening come, his conquest won,
Close in his arms she lay.

The night wore on and morning came
The morning dawn so clear
That young man arose, put on his clothes
Said, "Fare ye well, my dear."

"Is this the promise you made to me
Down by the riverside?
You promised that you would marry me
And make me your own dear bride."

"This isn't the promise I made to you
Down by the riverside
For I could never marry a girl
As easily fooled as you."

"So go back to your father's house
Sit down and cry your fill
Whenever you think of the way I've done
But blame your own good will."

There's trees that grow in father's garden
Some people call them yews
There's fish that dies from swallowing flies
There's no young man who'll prove true.

33.  Nobody's Business but my Own - Henry Hurley, vocal and guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Flatwoods, Ky, May,1973). Roud 17344.  Two popular compositions plainly relate to Henry's piece: It's Nobody's Business But My Own composed by Skidmore-Williams and recorded by Bert Williams in 1919 and Tain't Nobody's Business But My Own claimed by Everett-Grainger and first recorded by Sara Martin in 1922 (more famously, later by Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday).  I think it is plain from internal evidence and the great number of early 'hillbilly' 78s similar to Henry's that the two published pieces derive from a folk original like ours, rather than vice versa.  Indeed, these lyrics recall the venerable and well-known satire, Charming Betsy.  Here Henry demonstrates what a good finger style guitarist he was - Kentucky is famous for them, although their true heartland lies further to the west, in Muhlenberg County.

It's nobody's business how my baby treats me
It's nobody's business but my own
It's nobody's business, nobody's business
It's nobody's business but my own.

My gal drives a Ford machine but my money buys the gasoline
It's nobody's business but her own
It's nobody's business how my baby treats me
It's nobody's business but my own.

My gal drives a Cadillac, oh boy, she makes her jack
It's nobody's business but her own
It's nobody's business how my baby treats me
It's nobody's business but my own.

34.  Fine Sally from London - Gracie Baker, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlin, Pound, Va, 6/12/73).  The common book title for this is The Brown Girl and it is often identified as Child 295, but this assimilation seems entirely the product of a 'Piltdown man' style hoax perpetuated by Baring-Gould (see 'Dungbeetle' note #1 on the MT site).  Instead, the lyric merely represents the excellent descendent of the broadside Sally and her True Love, Billy.  As such, it can be readily found within all of the major North American collections.  Other good versions: Sarah Gunning, FL 26; Maggie Hammons, Hammons Legacy 003; Cas Wallin, on the CD that accompanies Rod Amberg's book, Sodom Laurel Album.

There was a fair lady from London she came
A beautiful creature called Sally by name.
There came a young squire to court her but on him she did deny
Upon this young man she scarce cast her eye.

Six months and better had gone by and past
This beautiful creature took sick at last.
"Oh, go for the doctor, oh, go in great speed
Our Sally is sick, she's sick, indeed."

"Oh, Sally, oh Sally, oh, Sally," said he
"Am I the doctor you've sent for me?"
"Oh, yes you're the doctor, can kill or can cure
Without your assistance I'm ruined I'm sure."

"Oh, Sally, oh Sally, oh, Sally," said he
"Don't you re member when you slighted me?
You laughed at my courtship, you denied me with scorn
And now I'll reward you for things past and gone."

"All things past and gone, forget and forgive
And spare me a little while longer to live."
"I'll never forgive you enduring my breath
But I'll dance on your grave when you're cold in the earth."

She pulled off her gloves, her diamond rings three
Saying, "Take these and wear these when you dance upon me."
"I never will wear them enduring my breath
But I'll dance on your grave when you're cold in the earth."

Now Sally is dead as you all may suppose
Left other fair ladies to wear her fine clothes.
Her body is lying in a bank of cold clay
Her red rosy cheeks are molding away.

35.  Deep Blue Sea - Annadeene Fraley, vocal and guitar; J P Fraley, fiddle; Robin and Danielle Fraley, vocals (Rec: Mark Wilson, Denton, Ky, December, 1995). Roud 3119.  Annadeene learned this odd distillation of stock broadside imagery from two harmonizing, guitar playing uncles, although the only recording Gus Meade lists is a rather rare item by the Vass Family (De 5432).  Virtually identical copies appear in Richardson's American Mountain Songs and Arnold's Alabama Songbook and the Brown collection contains a related Weeping Willow Tree.  I imagine that this song was promulgated over 'thirties radio.  Somehow it also gained some currency within the early folk revival, presumably from the Richardson book.

When I had last seen Robin Fraley in the 'seventies, she was about nine years old and playing spoons behind her dad's fiddling.  Twenty-five years later she was singing in a rock and roll band and it was amusing to see her come to our recording session dressed in leather and chains, having not had time to change her 'work clothes'.  But she and her sister Danielle proved just as nice as ever and have been greatly helpful to J P after Annadeene passed away.

I expand upon my dedication to Annadeene in the introduction to volumes 3 and 4, where a fuller description of the Fraley family will be given.

Deep blue sea, Mama, deep blue sea (x3)
It was Willie what got drownded in the deep blue sea.

Wrap him up in a silken shroud...

Dig his grave with a silver spade...

Let him down with a golden chain...

Repeat verse 1

36.  Fair and Tender Maidens - Mary Lozier, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Ky, Summer, 1996).  Roud 451.  One of the best known and rightly celebrated of Appalachian lyric songs, other lovely versions are available from Sara Cleveland (FL 033; a particularly full version) and Jean Ritchie (Prestige 13003).  Two more fine exemplars can be found on Mike Yates' Far in the Mountains compilation for Musical Traditions (MT 321-2 & 323-4), a collection that can be profitably viewed as a North Carolina/Virginia companion to our own.  Roscoe sings it as Willlow Tree on SF 40104 and Ed Haley plays it as a fiddle air on Rdr 1133 (as Silver Dagger).  Sometimes this melody also attaches to The Silver Dagger, cf. Rdr 1133.  Both the Osborne Brothers and the Carter Sisters with Mother Maybelle have recorded treatments in a country-western vein.  Although the Osbornes stemmed from a rural Kentucky background, their influential MGM recordings of the early 'seventies represented a beachhead where the chord structures favored within the 'fifties urban folk revival first made landfall within the Nashville scene.  Where such harmonic conceptions originated is unknown to me, for they are unlike anything previous in the American vernacular.  In our own times, however, the term 'folk song' has come to connote a composition displaying this revivalist harmonic flavor, depriving us poor traditionalists of any convenient label for the music we cherish.

Come all you fair and tender maidens
Take warning how you court young men
They're like a star on a summer morning
First they appear and then they're gone.

They'll tell to you some loving story
They'll make you think that they love you true
Then away they're gone to court another
And that's the love that they have for you.

I wish I was a little sparrow
Had wings that I might fly so high
I'd fly in search of my false lover
And when he'd talk I'd be close by.

But I am no little sparrow
Have not those wings nor can I fly
So I'll sit down here in grief and sorrow
And try and pass my troubles by.

If I had known before I courted
That love had been so hard to win
I would have locked my heart within a golden locket
Never more to love again.

37.  The Inconstant Lover - Buell Kazee, vocal and banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson, Seattle, Wa., 6/20/69). Roud 454.  I first met Rev Kazee when I was an undergraduate and sponsored several of his concerts out in the Pacific Northwest (through the proceeds of a film club I then ran).  Kazee was celebrated for the estimable 78s he had recorded for Brunswick in the late 1920s and he had later made a record for Folkways that he did not like.  He was unusual in that he had obtained a fair degree of formal vocal training while in college and, in fact, was running a vocal studio in Ashland at the time of his 78 recordings.  Later he worked as a Baptist minster, first in the coal fields and then in Winchester and Lexington (for an excellent biography, see Loyal Jones' notes to JA 0009).  When Gus Meade and I set out to record Asa Martin, I wrote Buell and suggested that we attempt a project as well.  We enjoyed a very fine, if unusually deliberate, session with the banjo but he hoped to extend the range of the recording with the use of a larger group (he suggested J P and Annadeene, whom I had not yet met, as well as the bluegrass group of the local instrument craftsman, Homer Ledford).  Unfortunately, I would have experienced considerable difficulty if I had attempted to persuade Rounder into underwriting such a session, as several of them hadn't been very keen on the Kazee project in the first place (nor permitting me to produce records at all, if the truth be told).  Moreover, Buell himself was continually ambivalent about recording, I think (I stress this is merely my own interpretation of his frame of mind) because he worried that getting swept up in the swirl of the music business again might run the risk of distracting him from his spiritual duties.  He was quite exacting about the quality of his performances and I imagine he worried about this strain of intense perfectionism within himself.  I found it revealing that he once remarked that the aspect of his Brunswick career that he had enjoyed the most was plotting 'hit' skits and songs with the influential A&R man, Jack Kapp - he plainly enjoyed the intellectual challenges set by that business task (Annadeene Fraley displayed much of the same curiosity and cleverness).

But these concerns were all rendered moot by the fact that Rounder had meanwhile begun to adopt a corporate identity that was aggressively radical politically and I realized that Rev Kazee, who was conservatively inclined, would feel embarrassed by such an association.  It was not that he was intolerant of other views - I was left-leaning myself during a turbulent time (the Vietnam War) and he was thoroughly considerate of my opinions - but he did not like being presumptively tagged with views he did not share.  And, truly, the urban revival of the 'sixties and 'seventies was irresponsible in its doctrinal arrogations with respect to traditional performers.  Even the rather radical Sarah Gunning did not enjoy being employed as a prop within a political movement that wasn't truly concerned with the economic injustices that bothered her.  So Buell and I decided not to proceed further with our recording plans at that time, as I knew of no way to get the music released otherwise.  A few years after his death, the noted Appalachian scholar Loyal Jones edited a fine LP on June Appal (0009; soon to be reissued, I'm told) that included quite a bit of my Seattle and Kentucky recordings.  John Harrod and I subsequently issued a few additional items on Rdr 0394.  Interested listeners should also seek out the excellent cassette (AC006) by Buell's son Philip available from the Berea College website, where Philip sounds astonishingly like his dad.

Folk Songs of the Catskills supplies a well researched headnote on the broader lyric family to which this song belongs (The Cuckoo in Sharp's English Country Folksongs).  Cox has it as A Forsaken Lover and a similar text is found in Belden.  The great Ohio balladeer, Capt Pearl Nye, provides an unusual setting (Johnny and Molly) in the pamphlet Scenes and Songs of the Ohio-Erie Canal where our song appears reconfigured as a tit-for-tat dialog between Johnny and Molly; presumably Nye's text reflects some adaptation for the music hall.  In his spoken concert introduction to the song, Buell commented on the inclusion of some of the lyrics in the Weaver's 1951 hit version, On Top of Old Smokey and expressed puzzlement as to how the latter acquired the air traditional for The Little Mohee (he plainly regarded the trade as a poor swap and I agree).  Buell KazeeAlthough I know that Rev Kazee sometimes consulted folk song books to fill out his texts, I believe that he learned the core of this version as a boy.  The practice of singing certain songs to a lightly strummed accompaniment is traditional amongst Kentucky banjo players, although I was sometimes disappointed when he favored this treatment for songs that he could play both ways (for example, when he sang Jay Gould's Daughter during our practices, he employed the steady frailing accompaniment characteristic of his celebrated 78s, but when we actually sat down to record, he adopted the freer strumming).  I believe that he worried that his audiences might be bored by 'the same old banjo sound over and over'.  With the present song, however, I find the musical results glorious: I believe that his performance enters the realm of 'Americanized art song' that I later praise in connection with Jo Stafford.  Rev Kazee wanted his music to be experienced as part of a wider cultural continuum and I concur with his instincts.

Often in America, the 'cuckoo is a pretty bird' verses detach from their customary British groupings and become an independent song, either as a short lullaby (Jean Ritchie) or in the banjo setting made famous by Hobart Smith (SF 40101) and Tom Ashley (Co 15489; SF 40029).  The remarkable African-American versions of the latter provided on Black Banjo Songsters (SF 40079) indicate the vital role that black musicians played in extracting snippets of British tradition and assigning them an altogether novel musical role within the confines of a banjo tune (we shall discuss similar influences upon American fiddle music in volume 4).  Roscoe Holcomb performs a driving mountain version of Old Smokey on SF 400104.  In verse three, Buell probably intended to sing 'conceal.'

To meeting, to meeting, to meeting goes I
To meet loving William he is coming by and by
To meet him in the meadow, it's all my delight
I can walk and talk with him from morning 'til night.

For meeting is a pleasure and parting is grief
An inconstant lover is worse than a thief
A thief will only rob you and take what you have
But an inconstant lover will bring you to the grave.

Your grave it will rot you and turn you to dust
There's not one in twenty that a poor girl can trust
They'll kiss a poor maiden, it's all to deceive
Not one in five hundred you'll dare to reveal.

If I am forsaken, I am not foresworn
And you're badly mistaken if you think I'd do more
I'll dress myself up pretty in some high degree
And I'll pass as lightly by him as he does with me.

Come young men and maidens, take warning by me
Never put your affection on a green willow tree
The top it will wither and the roots they will rot
And if I'm forsaken, I know I'm not forgot.

38.  Little Birdie - Roscoe Holcomb, vocal and banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson, Cambridge, Mass, Fall, 1972). Roud 5742.  At this point in time, Roscoe probably represents the best known performer in our collection, thanks to the energetic advocacy of John Cohen.  I first met Roscoe when he came to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a concert with John and he stayed at my apartment.  Later Bill Nowlin and I visited Roscoe at home in Daisy, Kentucky.  Although he sometimes appears dour and forbidding in his published presentations, in person he was always jovial, blessed with a prototypically droll Kentucky sense of humor.  When he stayed with me, he wandered into Cambridge's Central Square and purchased a pair of the loudest hippy era pants.  Down in Daisy, the topic came up again, prompting me to politely ask why he had chosen them.  'Oh, it's just that when I'm tired and don't feel like going to meeting,' he replied, 'I say to my wife, "I think I'll wear those fine Boston pants of mine" and she lets me stay home.'

We recorded the Cambridge performance on Rounder's big Revox and Cohen has extracted a number of selections from these tapes for one of Roscoe's several important CDs for Smithsonian-Folkways (SF 40144; in addition, the concert-derived The Old Village Churchyard appears on SF 40104).  I was surprised to learn that Roscoe hadn't been more extensively recorded than seems to have been the case.  In any event, more unissued selections from the Cambridge concert appear in this collection, and several more can be found on Rdr 0394.

This popular banjo song has been recorded many times (Wade Mainer, Lily Mae Ledford, Ralph Stanley, George Gibson, Morgan Sexton, Ola Belle Reed) and usually (in the Kentucky versions) with the beautiful tuning eCGAD utilized here.  "That tuning ain't nothing but Little Birdie", Pete Steele remarked, indicating how its odd consonances render this tune utterly distinctive (two versions of Steele's own exquisite setting can be found on Fwys 03828 and Yazoo 22000).  I hazard the guess that the song derives from some nineteenth century piece of sentimentality such as the Little Birdies found in Newman, Never without a Song.  I would normally hesitate to make such a drastic extrapolation, but a number of Kentucky dance melodies (Banjo Picking Girl, Birdie (the fiddle tune)) enjoy similarly transmogrified parlor song antecedents.  The changes wrought in setting a melody upon the five string banjo remind one of Euler's famous comment upon the willful intelligence of his pencil: the instrument heads off in its own independent direction whenever one attempts to adopt a tune to its contours.  Sometimes the lyrics of Little Birdie get mixed up with those of Free a Little Bird, an otherwise distinct banjo piece.  Another rendition by Roscoe can be found on SF 40104.

Roscoe HolcombLittle birdie, little birdie, what makes you fly so high?
Dissatisfied, dissatisfied and I will be until I die.

Fly down, fly down, little birdie, and sing to me your song
Sing it now while I'm with you, to hear you when I'm gone.

If I were some little birdie, I'd never build my nest on the ground
I'd build my nest in some pretty fair grove where the bad boys would never tear it down.

Little birdie, little birdie, won't you sing to me your song
Sing it now while I'm with you, for tomorrow I may be gone.

39.  Woe unto You, the Time has Come - Hobert Stallard, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley, Waterloo, Oh, 8/29/73).  Although most of the elements within this lyrical package are British in origin, they seem to have stabilized into an identifiable cluster of their own within America, usually identified by their opening salutation, either as here or as My Dearest Dear, the Time Draws Near.  Gordon McCann and I obtained an Ozark text that is quite similar to Hobert's and Belden quotes a Missouri Civil War diary to the same effect.  Some good recorded examples: E & D Ramsey, MT 321; Doug Wallin, MT 323; Dolly Reed, Rdr 0129; Banjo Bill Cornett, FRC 304; Tommy Jarrell, Cty 2718.

Woe unto you the time has come
That you and I must part
There's no one knows the grief and woe
Of my poor aching heart.

What I have suffered for you, my love
It is to you, my dear
I wish that I could go with you
And you could tarry here.

Your eyes are of a sparkling blue
Like diamonds they do shine
Your disposition is so true
It charms this heart of mine.

I wish my breast was made of glass
Within yourself behold
Your name engraved upon my heart
Those letters sealed with gold.

Your name's a secret to my heart
Believe me what I say
You are the one that I love best
Until my dying day.

Your eyes are of a sparkling blue
Your lips like rubies shine
Your disposition is so true
It charms this heart of mine.

The crow that is so black, my love
Will surely turn to white
If ever I prove false to you
Bright day shall turn to night.

Bright day shall turn to night, my love
The elements shall mourn
The fire shall cease and be no more
The raging sea shall burn.

40.  Come All You Young and Tender Little Girls - Nova Baker, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Pound, Va, 9/8/96).  Roud 3606.  In her Singing Family of the Cumberlands, Jean Ritchie cites this as an example of the 'banjo songs' that she believed were driving out older fare in the mountains: she was probably thinking of performances like that of Banjo Bill Cornett on SF 40079.  In fact, the song most likely represents nineteenth century fare of a vintage comparable with many of the other ballads in the Ritchie song bag; it merely happens to suit the banjo well.  Sharp has it as Come All You Young and Handsome Girls, but it can be encountered under a wide variety of titles.  A few recorded examples: Doug Wallin, MT 323; Stanley Bros, King 7000; Green Maggard, Yazoo 2200.

Come all you young and tender little girls, take warning by a friend
And learn the ways of this wide world and not the ways of men.

When I was in my sixteenth year, dear Willy said to me
"If you'll run away, run away with me, my lawful wife you'll be."
When we were in some far off land, enjoying a happy life
Dear Willy got dissatisfied and wanted him another wife.

"Oh, Willy, how can you be so unkind to me?
You persuaded me away from home: how can you leave me here?"
"Tis nature.  nature, my little girl, no fault to you I find
My mind is bent on rambling around, at home I can't agree."

"My papa he was kind to me and my mama loved me dear."
"If your papa he was kind to you and your mama loved you dear
You'd have better have stayed at home, little girl, and not come with me here."

For the mind of women are very weak while the mind of men are strong
If you listen awhile to what men do say, they're sure to lead you wrong.

41.  Adieu, False Heart - Margie York, vocal; Gene York, vocal and guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson and John Harrod, Corinth, Ky, 4/06/97). Roud 11042.  The York's version undoubtedly traces, as do most modern texts, to Fiddlin' Arthur Smith's remarkable 78 (Bb 7651); in fact, from that source, the number has gained a fair degree of currency within the folk and bluegrass festival movement (which is where Margie and Gene learned it, apparently again from Ginny Hawker).  Smith claimed the song as his own, as he typically did, doubtlessly because he early learned the advantages of copyright registration.  However, the piece is much older.  A late eighteenth century broadside in the Madden collection, The Irish Lovers or Curragh of Kildare, concludes with these verses:

My love is like the sun, in the firmament doth run
That always proves constant and true;
But yours is like the moon that goes wandering up and down
And every month is new.

Farewell my joy and heart since you and I must part
You're the fairest I ever did see
I never did design to change my mind
Although you're below my degree.

These verses usually drop away in the more modern versions of the song.  Insofar as early American texts go, Roud's index cites a Sharp manuscript that I've not seen and Davis' Folksongs of Virginia includes a brief 1931 citation of what seems to be our lyric (why Davis and crew found it preferable to print endless minor variations on Child ballads rather than providing a more useful sampling of their wider collection is beyond me).  Boswell's Folk Songs of Middle Tennessee contains a full text that is probably independent of Smith's recording.

Gene and Margie YorkAdieu, false heart, now we must part
May the joys of the world go with you
I loved you once with a faithful heart
But never any more can I believe you.

I've seen the time I'd have married you
And been your constant lover
But now I'd gladly give you up
For one whose heart is truer.

My heart is like the constant sun
From the east to the west it ranges
But yours is like the moon above
It's every month it changes.

When I lay down to take my rest
There'll be no one can wake me
I'll go straightway unto my grave
Just as fast as time can take me.

Repeat first verse.


Volume 2: Cruel Willie

Jim Garland used to designate numbers that celebrate criminal or otherwise socially hostile actions "blaggardy songs" (derived from 'blackguard', presumably).  Well, the selections on this CD don't usually applaud such activities, but blaggardy behaviors of one sort or another stand at their thematic cores.  As to 'Willie' himself, Margie York commented, "All of those songs about him: he must have been a bad guy, killing all those women!"

1.  My Little White Hat - The Dixon Sisters (Rec: Mark Wilson, Roger Cooper and Wally Wallingford, Salt Lick, Ky, Fall, 2002).  Roud 691, Laws E17.  This lyric cluster shows up across North America in an astonishing variety of forms, ranging from the compressed (Hobart Smith's Hawkins County Jail) to the extended, as the Dixons nicely provide here.  The earliest American version of the full song apparently appears in John Lomax' original Cowboy Songs and Cox's Folk-songs of the South provides several versions of Logan County Court House quite comparable to the Dixon's, acquired from their dad.  Moundsville, also in West Virginia, is the location of its state penitentiary, a fact their father, coming from Wolfe County, would have recognized whereas his daughters, raised further to the west, seem a bit uncertain about the name.

'Dungbeetle' prints a broadside text of Botany Bay (see note on I was Born and Raised in Covington) that includes:

Up comes the turnkey, it was about six o'clock
With the keys in his hand the doors to unlock.
Rise up you lads and lasses, you shall appear this day
For your orders they have come to go to Botany Bay.

Similar echoes appear in the British Gaol Song (The Penguin Book of English Folksongs) as well.  I would predict that other portions of My Little White Hat possess broadside prototypes as well, but I've not managed to track them down.  Other admirable renditions include Watts and Wilson, Bwy 8112, and the Allen Brothers' Prisoner's Dream (Vi 40210).

I used to wear my little white hat, my horse and buggy fine
I used to court those pretty girls and always called them mine
I courted them for beauty, their love for me was great
And when they seed me coming, they'd meet me at the gate.

The Dixon SistersWhen I laid down the other night, I dreamed a noble dream
I dreamed I was a rich merchant called up some golden stream
I woke up broken hearted in Logan County jail
Looking all around me, found no one to go my bail.

Down came the jailer about ten o'clock
The keys all in his pocket, he brushed against the lock
"Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner," I thought I heard him say
"You're just going down to old Moundsville, just seven long years to stay."

Down came my mother, ten dollars in her hand
Saying, "Oh, my dear Willie, I've done the best I can.
The jury's found you guilty, the judge says you must go
Way down to old Moundsville, just seven long years to stay."

Down came my true love, about two o'clock
Saying, "Oh, my dear love, what sentence have you got?"
"The jury's found me guilty, the judge says I must go
Way down to old Moundsville, just seven long years to go."

I'm sitting on this railroad, just waiting for the train
I'm going down to old Moundsville, to wear the ball and chain
I'm going down to old Moundsville, so, true love, don't you cry
Just pass around the bottle, boys, and let her all pass by.

2.  The Rowan County Troubles - Mary Lozier, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Ky, 10/14/97).  Roud 465, Laws E20.  A good account of the complicated events narrated here can be found in Charler Mutzenber, Kentucky's Famous Feuds and Tragedies; it is available on the internet.  Essentially, the ballad captures the events accurately, but their progression is hard to follow without a larger picture of the political tensions that continued to divide northern Kentucky throughout Reconstruction (the sequence of incidents began with a drunken brawl on Election Day, 1884).  Mutzenber comments:

It may be well to add that Rowan County was not a remote, inaccessible region where civilization had made but little progress, as was the case along the border of West Virginia and Kentucky, the scene of the Hatfield-McCoy war.  Good roads and railroad communication had introduced to Rowan County even then a civilization which should have made the bloody conflict impossible; it certainly made it inexcusable.

Even today the temperament of northeastern Kentucky is apt to strike the visitor as rather different than that belonging to its southeastern coal mining region.

This lengthy ballad was certainly composed, at least in part, by J(ames) W(illiam) Day, generally known as 'Blind Bill' within Kentucky and as 'Jilson Setters' in Jean Thomas' books.  However, Buell Kazee and Asa Martin credited the piece to 'the Day brothers', one of whom was the Robert Day who sang the song to Alan Lomax in Cincinnati (issued on Yazoo 2200).  I have always presumed that Bill was the other 'brother' but Thomas insists in her Devil's Ditties:

[Several books] have given credit to Day brothers for its composition - cousins of James William Day.  But affidavits and the old man's word himself - he still lives - are evidence that James William Day composed it and set it to music.

However, Thomas herself struggles with coherent identifications as she evades the awkwardness occasioned by the fact that her 'Jilson Setters and wife Rhuhamie' are the same people as 'J W Day and wife Rosie', who appear in Thomas' narratives under their proper names for other reasons (I believe that 'Setters' couldn't be given assigned credit for The Rowan County Crew because 'Day' would be needed if a copyright dispute ensued).

The tune that both Alva and Mary employ is that traditional for The Texas Rangers; we shall encounter it several times before this compilation runs its course.  Further to the west, however, Asa Martin and Ted Chestnut utilized The Little Stream of Whisky melody as a setting, despite the fact that Asa had heard J W Day in person.  Presumably at some point in its transmission by 'song ballit', the original setting was lost and became replaced by a metrical equivalent.  Asa also informed me that Jean Thomas had contacted him in the 'thirties about a possible dramatization of the Martin-Tolliver feud, having contacted suitable scions of the Tolliver family for the project as well (Asa was related to the Martins of the song).  These particular plans never came to fruition, but allied enactments did get performed in Kentucky, for these unhappy events once attracted much national attention and served as a grim magnet to attract tourists to the region.  Dock Boggs recorded a good version on SF 40108 and Asa Martin sang it for Gus and me on Rdr 0034.

Come fathers and ye mothers, brothers and sisters too
I'll relate to you the story of the Rowan County crew.
Concerning bloody Rowan and many heedless deeds
I pray you pay attention, remember how it reads.

It was in the month of August, was on election day
Johnny Martin was shot and wounded, they said by Johnny Day
But Martin wouldn't believe it, he didn't think it so
He said it was Floyd Tolliver who shot that fatal blow.

They shot and killed Saul Bradley, poor sober, innocent man
They left his wife and children to do the best they can.
They wounded Edward Sizemore, although his life was saved
He seemed to shun the grog shop since he stood so near the grave.

Old Martin did recover, some months had come and passed
It was in the town of Morehead these men they met at last
Tolliver and a friend or two about the streets did walk
They seemed to be uneasy and no one wished to talk.

They stepped up to Judge Carey's grocery, they walked up to the bar
But little did they know, my friends, that he'd met his fatal hour.
The sting of death was near him, Martin rushed in at the door
A few words passed between them concerning the row before.

The people all got frightened; they rushed out of the room
A ball from Martin's pistol laid Tolliver in his tomb.
His friends soon gathered around him, his wife to weep and wail
Old Martin was arrested and soon confined to jail.

He was placed in the jail at Rowan, there to remain awhile
In the hands of law and justice to bravely stand his trial.
Some people talked of lynching him but the prison walls they fail
His friends soon removed him to the Winchester jail.

Some men they forged an order, their names I do not know
A plan was soon agreed upon for Martin they did go
He seemed to be uneasy, he seemed to be in dread
"They've set a plan to kill me," to the jailer Martin said.

They placed the handcuffs on him, his heart was in distress
They hurried him to the station, stepped aboard the night express
Along the line they lumbered, at her usual speed
It was only two in number committed this awful deed.

Martin was in another car accompanied by his wife
They did not want her present when they took her husband's life.
She heard a horrible sound, she was in another car
She cried, "My God, they've killed him, I heard that pistol fire."

The death of those two men caused great trouble in that land
Caused men to leave their families and take the parting hand
Related still as war, oh will it never cease?
Oh God, I long to see this land once more in peace.

They shot and killed the deputy sheriff, Bumgartner was his name
They shot him from the bushes taking deliberate aim.
The death of him was dreadful, may it never be forgot
His body was pierced and torn by thirty-three buckshot.

I composed this as a warning, beware young men, my friends
Your pistol will cause you trouble, on this you may depend
In the bottom of a whiskey glass the lurking devils dwell
Burns the breast of him who drinks it and they will send their souls to hell.

3.  The Rowan County Crew - Alva Greene, fiddle (Rec: Mark Wilson, Sandy Hook, Ky, May, 1973).  Laws E20.  The practice of playing old songs as fiddle airs was once common in Kentucky and West Virginia - see the beautiful exemplars by Edmon Hammons (West Virginia University SA-1) and Ed Haley (Rdr 1131-4).

4.  Darling Cory - Bert Garvin, vocal and banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson, Denton, Ky, 5/05/97). Roud 5723.  Bert learned this gentle version of a classic mountain song from his older brother.  Lyrically, it displays wide variation, sometimes shading into the Hustling Gamblers cluster that Dock Boggs made famous as Country Blues (Br 131).  To list just a few of its many great recordings: Roscoe Holcomb, SF 40144; B.F.  Shelton, Vi 35838; Monroe Brothers, Bb 6512; Buell Kazee, Br 154; Nimrod Workman, Rdr 0076.

The first time I saw Darling Cory
She was sitting on the banks of the sea
With a pistol in her apron
And a banjo on her knee.

Wake up, wake up, Darling Cory
How can you sleep so sound?
Those highway robbers are coming
Going to tear your playhouse down.

Wake up, wake up, Darling Cory
And bring to me my gun
I ain't no man for trouble
But I'd die before I run.

Go away, go away, Darling Cory
Quit your hanging around my bed
Whiskey has ruined my body
Pretty women has killed me stone dead.

5.  The Roving Moonshiner - Jim Garland, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Ma, 5/7/74).  This is a parody of the popular Roving Gambler, Laws H4, which, in turn, represents a radical American recasting of the British Roving Journeyman.  Jim attributed his parody to a coal mining friend from Bell County, T J Miller.  Asa Martin also recorded a Roving Moonshiner for the American Record Company, but it's been so long since I heard it that I can't compare its similarities to Miller's song (certainly, the impulse to mimic The Roving Gambler in this fashion would have seemed very natural).  For a good version of the original Roving Gambler (and many of the other songs found on these CDs), see Doug Wallin, SF 40013.  Henry Bandy's Five-O represents an unusual setting for the fiddle.

Jim GarlandJust an old moonshiner, I've moonshined all around
Wherever I meet with a nice cold spring, I set my old still down (x2).

I hadn't been a-making in Four Mile, not many more weeks than three
When I sold a quart to a revenue man, his badge I could not see.

Took me to the jailhouse with the handcuffs on my hand
He whispered low in the jailer's ear, "Lock up this moonshine man." (x2)

I heard the judge a-talking, his voice was loud and clear
Said, "Take this man to Atlanta, give him just one year." (x2).

"Mister Officer, Mister Officer, what makes you treat me so?
If you don't quit bringing these liquor men in, my jail's going to overflow." (x2)

"Listen here, my little wifey I'll tell you if I can
If'n you see me coming back again, wash out my liquor can."

Now Mister Moonshiner, Mister Moonshiner, I will tell you what
Your sweet little wifey has used your liquor can for a pot.

6.  Captain Devin - Sarah Gunning, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Mass, 5/9/74) Roud 533, Laws l13a.  Previously issued on Rdr 0145.  This song, which seems to be more popular in North American tradition than in Britain, commenced its career as a mid-nineteenth century broadside, The Sporting Hero or Whiskey in the Jar.  Additional American versions can be found on FL 125.

Oddly enough, through a descent through Irish revival groups like the Dubliners, the piece seems to have recently become a staple for heavy metal rock bands!  These versions all stem from the Lomax/Warner rearrangement of a version originally sung by New Hampshire's Lena Bourne Fish, a snippet of which appears on Appleseed 1035.  Sarah's version came from her mother and another rendition appears on her Folk-Legacy recording.

I am a young sportsman and never yet been taunted
I've always had money and plenty when I want it
Courting these fair ladies, I know it was my folly
In my life I would adventure for you, my dearest Molly.

Chorus: With your mush-a-ring-a-row, and right to my loddy,
Right to my loddy, for there's whiskey in the jar.

As I was going across King's Mountain
I met Captain Devin and his money he was counting.
First I pulled my pistol and then I pulled my saber
Saying, "Stand and deliver, for I am your bold deceiver."

I picked up his gold, feeling gay and jolly
I picked up his gold and took it home to Loddy.
I told her all about it, thought she never would deceive me
But the devil's in the women and they never can be easy.

I went to Molly's chamber for to take a slumber
I went to Molly's chamber, cold wet and hungry.
I laid down to take a nap, not thinking any matter
She discharged both my pistols and filled them full of water.

Next morning very early, between six and seven
There I was surrounded, for killing Captain Devin.
I reached for my pistol and I found I was mistaken
For my pistol was discharged and a prisoner I was taken.

7.  I was Born and Raised in Covington - Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover, vocals (Rec: Mark Wilson, Pound, Va, 9/08/96).  Roud 261, Laws L16B.  Most often called The Boston Burglar, this song represents a straightforward Americanization of an early nineteen century broadside, The Transports or Botany Bay (of which we witnessed a snatch in the headnote to I was Born and Raised in Covington).  Folk Songs of the Catskills credits the American recasting to Michael J Fitzgerald, although the song appears under a variety of accreditations in nineteen century songsters.  As such, the song became very popular in both Britain and America, often reconfigured to suit local circumstances.  Roscoe Holcomb also localizes its setting to Covington, Kentucky (SF 40144).

I was borned and raised in Covington, a place you all know well
Brought up by honest parents, the truth to you I'll tell.
Brought up by honest parents, raised up most tenderly
'Til I became a burglar at the age of twenty-three.

And then I was arrested, placed in a county jail
My friends and relations standing around trying to get me out on bail.
Up stepped my old aged father, a-pleading at the bar
Likewise my old gray headed mother, came a-tearing down her hair.

Came a-tearing down her old gray locks, the tears came twinkling down
Saying, "Son, oh son, what have you done that you're bound for Frankfort town?"
The jury found me guilty, the clerk he wrote it down
The judge pronounced my sentence: "Ten years in Frankfort town."

They put me on that eastbound train one cold December day
And every station I passed by, I heard those people say
"There goes a noted burglar, bound down in iron so strong
For some great crime or other, he's bound for Frankfort town."

These hills and valleys I'll see no more for years and years and years
I turned right around with a broken heart, my poor eyes were filled with tears
Come all of you young boys that's got your liberty
It's wrote upon the prison walls, "Don't break the laws of man."
For if you do, I'm sure that you will be like me someday
A-working for your hash, my boy, in the penitentiary.

8.  The Highwayman - Asa Martin, vocal and guitar; Jim Gaskin, second guitar. (Rec: Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Irvine, Ky, Fall, 1972).  Mixture of Child 95 and Laws I4.  Asa almost certainly acquired this odd blending of Hangman, Slack Your Rope and parts of As I Sat Down to Play Coon Can (Roud 114) from Charlie Poole's Columbia recording (Co 15260; reissued on Columbia Legacy), for the texts are virtually identical.  Asa's unusual parlor guitar setting is his own, however.  When American traditional musicians claim to 'have written songs', they have often framed a composite through juxtaposition, for some conservatism about wholesale textual innovation seems to inhibit most rural singers.  Surprisingly, Poole recorded a more orthodox Hangman, Hangman, Slack the Rope a few years later (Co 15385).

Asa MartinI went down to the old depot to see that train go by
Thought I saw that woman I love, hang down her head and cry.

The night was dark and stormy and it surely looked like rain
Not a friend this wide world o'er and no one knew my name.

"Wait, Mister Judge, wait, Mister Judge, just wait a little while
I think I see that woman I love, and she's walked for miles and miles."

"Dear girl, have you brought me silver, or have you brought me gold?
Have you walked these long, long miles to see me from the hangman's pole?"

She walked up to that scaffold, she untied my hands,
Whispered low in the hangman's ear, "I love this highway man."

"I love this highway man, poor girl, I love this highway man"
She whispered low in the hangman's ear, "I love this highway man."

9.  Hangman - Sarah Gunning, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Mass, 5/8/74).  Roud 144, Child 95.  In contrast, here is Child 95 (book title: The Maid Freed from the Gallows) in its full glory.  It is one of the few of the classic British ballads to have regularly passed into black tradition as well, as Sarah and Jim's good friend Leadbelly's Gallis Pole energetically illustrates.

"Oh, hangman, hangman, hold your horses, hold them for a while
I think I see my mother's face, come riding many a mile."

"Did you come to bring me silver or gold or come to set me free
Or did you come to see me hang beneath the gallows tree?"

"No, son, I didn't you bring you silver or gold or come to set you free
But I did come to see you hung beneath the gallows tree."

"Oh, hangman, hangman, hold your horses, hold them for a while
I thought I saw my father's face, come riding many a mile."

"Did you come to bring me silver or gold or come to set me free
Or did you come to see me hang beneath the gallows tree?"

"Oh no, I didn't you bring you silver or gold or come to set you free
But I did come to see you hang beneath the gallows tree."

"Oh, hangman, hangman, hold your horses, hold them for a while
I thought I seen my brother's face, come riding many a mile."

"Did you come to bring me silver or gold or come to set me free
Or did you come to see me hang beneath the gallows tree?"

"Oh, no, I didn't you bring you silver or gold or come to set you free
But I did come to see you hang beneath the gallows tree."

"Hangman, hangman, hold your horses, hold them for a while
I thought I see my sister's face, come riding many a mile."

"Did you come to bring me silver or gold or come to set me free
Or did you come to see me hang beneath the gallows tree?"

"Oh, no, I didn't you bring you silver or gold or come to set you free
But I did come to see you hang beneath the gallows tree."

"Oh, hangman, hangman, hold your horses, hold them for a while
I think I see my true love's face, come riding many a mile."

"Did you come to bring me silver or gold or come to set me free
Or did you come to see me hang beneath the gallows tree?"

"Oh, yes, I brought silver and gold and come to set you free
For I could not bear to see you hang beneath the gallows tree."

Hobert Bowling10.  Callahan - Hobert Bowling, banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson and John Harrod, Burlington, Ky, 11/22/97).  This tune, sometimes called The Last of Callahan (eg, Luther Strong on AFS L2), is usually associated with a tale where (in Alva Greene's version) 'a big spy in the Civil War' composes this tune while waiting at the gallows and then 'breaks the fiddle across the sheriff's neck'.  As such, the fable represents an Americanization of the 'hanged fiddler' motif evoked in the celebrated MacPherson's Lament (D K Wilgus wrote a well known article on these themes).  On an obscure homegrown LP issued in Hazard, Kentucky, an elderly banjo player named Manon Campbell relates an interesting variant in which a miner named 'Callahan' is trapped underground playing his fiddle until he dies.  Campbell lilts a little ditty with the refrain (as best I can decipher):

Rock away, roll away, go away Callahan (x2)

This lyric links the piece to the 'Calloway' banjo tune often encountered in West Virginia (eg, Lee Hammons on YPC-003; other references to 'Callahan' sometimes appear in the Little Betty Larkins play party tune).  In its fiddle tune settings, versions of Callahan have been encountered everywhere in the South and Midwest, although Kentucky remains its prime homeland.  Sometimes the melody shades into that belonging to the independent 'book tune' Old Sport (eg, Cyril Stinnett).

11.  Harlan County Tragedy - Asa Martin, vocal and guitar, with the Cumberland Rangers: Jim Gaskin, fiddle; Buz Brazeale, autoharp: Earl Barnes, banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Irvine, Ky, Fall, 1972).  Asa often traveled with his troupe into the southern coal fields and was good friends with local musicians like Corbett Grigsby (see SF 40077).  Most likely he picked up this local versification on one of those trips.  He recorded the number previously with his Kentucky Hillbillies in 1938 (Vo 04894), incorporating an early utilization of the electric lap steel guitar by Don Weston.  Frank Dupree, incidentally, was an American criminal of the 1920s who was celebrated in several songs of his own.

Two old boys from Harlan town, they was Perry County bound
The law caught them upon their way and they bound these poor boys down.

The jailer man he wouldn't turn them loose, he kept those boys tied down
"Turn me loose," said little Sam Ward, "or I'll tear your jailhouse down."

Now these two men from Harlan town was very bad men, you see
When you met them on the street, they were as bad as Frankie Dupree.

They quarreled while in the prison about some things that had happened before.
One boy said to the other one, "Now let's not quarrel no more."

"Well," he said "I guess you're right, my boy, but you called me a liar
You'll never go back to the old coalmine, my boy, you're going to die.

They turned around, walked ten spaces, pulled their guns and fired
When this poor boy looked around, Lord, he'd shot and killed his pard'.

He fell down and hit the curb and he lay there on the street
When they picked that poor boy up, Lord, he couldn't stand on his feet.

The sheriff rushed down, picked him up, and he placed him in the can
Said, "I guess you'll be good now 'cause this was made by man."

But he escaped on a Wednesday night, they caught him on the Perry County line
Said "I'm sorry for you, my boy, but you're gonna pull out your time."

But he escaped again on a Saturday night, I never did know how
But he'll never leave the jail no more 'cause he's in the graveyard now.

So listen to my story, boys, if you don't want graveyard bound
Keep your tongue right in your mouth when you visit Harlan Town.

12.  Hick Carmichael - Wash Nelson, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Annadeene Fraley and Mary Nelson, Ashland, Ky, May, 1973).  This goodnight seems patterned upon the better known Charles Guiteau (Roud 444, Laws E11) and commemorates an African-American thug who killed Deputy Sheriff D A Snipe and was hung on July 20, 1888 in Knoxville.  Charles Wolfe provides good notes on the event in the booklet accompanying The Kirkland Recordings (Tennessee Folklore Society LP 106), which contains another version sung by Sam 'Dynamite' Hatcher.  Dillard Chandler also performs the song on Fwys 2418.

Kind friends, please give attention, I'll tell you if I can
Concerning of a murder done by a colored man.
His name was Hick Carmichael, his conducting it was bad
Such men has caused great trouble, has made a many heart sad.

The sheriff he went to arrest him, all on one Sabbath day
"I have a warrant for you, sir," to Carmichael to him did say.
"Then read your warrant to me, sir," Carmichael to him said
As he proceeded to read the warrant, Carmichael shot him dead.

He went into Wise County, where they said his mother lived
The people was excited and a hot pursuit was give.
"My name is Hick Carmichael, my credit it is bad
But I have caused great trouble, have made a many heart sad."

"But my name is Hick Carmichael, and my name I don't deny
Now for the murder of Sheriff Caldwell on the scaffold I must die."

13.  Dixon Said to Johnson - Nimrod Workman, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Ken Irwin, Chattaroy, WV, 3/01/76).  Laws L4, Roud 17.  Nimrod Workman became familiar to the outside world through his involvement with the struggle to obtain better benefits for Black Lung victims in 1970s (Nimrod had the disease himself, as did most of the other former coal miners I knew).  His son-in-law was, in fact, an important labor lawyer with the UMWA.  Nimrod had composed a few pertinent songs and Ken Irwin of Rounder Records wished to make a second LP recording of Nimrod (an album for June Appal had already appeared).  Ken asked me to supervise the session which was mainly devoted to Nimrod's quite extensive knowledge of traditional material.  I have been lately preparing that Rounder LP (Mother Jones' Will, Rdr 0051) for reissue and extension within Rounder's Archive Series.  Because so much fine material was recorded, I thought we might include a few additional items here.  The Rounder set includes a fascinating autobiographical statement drawn from our interviews with Nimrod.

This evocative ballad remains popular in both England and America.  Flander's The New Green Mountain Songster reprints a very lengthy broadside of the 1600s by one Paul Burges.  Henry's Songs of the People includes an odd version with a happy ending.  Other versions: Biggun Smith, MT 307; Walter Pardon, Topic 514; Harry Cox, Topic 512.  Another rendition by Nimrod appears on JA 001.

Nimrod and Mollie WorkmanDixon said to Johnson upon one holiday,
"Let's ride around the mountain to pass the time away."
Old Johnson being willing as they sat down to rest
They spied a naked woman a-sitting by herself.

"Oh, woman, foolish woman, what are you doing there?"
"The robbers they have robbed me; they've left me here to die"
Old Johnson being willing, a willing man in mind
He threw his greatcoat around her and took her on behind.

They rode on a few miles further as they sat down to rest
She drew a bloody dagger; she plunged it through his chest
"Woman, foolish woman, see what that you've done done
You've killed the bravest soldier that ever fired a gun."

"I know I've killed many a man; I've killed them all my life
I know I've killed a many a one; I am that robber's wife."

14.  The Death of Harry Simms - Jim Garland, vocal. Roud 19329. (Rec: Mark Wilson, Medford, Ma, 5/7/74).  Composed by Jim Garland.  Harry Simms (né Hersch) came to Kentucky as a representative of the Young Communist League (YCL) and the associated National Miner's Union (NMU) at a time when the established United Mine Workers had been neglecting the difficult plight of the coal miners of southeastern Kentucky.  Young Simms hadn't been in Kentucky long when he was ambushed by agents of the mine owners.  Upon my invitation, Jim explained the song in this fashion:

I made this song about a boy who lived in my house - he was a Jewish boy.  He started organizing working people into unions at sixteen.  He was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts - he led an unemployed demonstration when he was sixteen in Springfield.  Later he went to Birmingham, Alabama and worked among the white and black workers there organizing for better conditions.  When we had our trouble in Kentucky, he came up to help in the mine strike and I got acquainted with him and he helped start the first successful Youth Conference in the South.  He lived in my house, he was a friend, he got killed and I made this song about him.

Shortly thereafter, Jim himself was blacklisted and was asked to come to Springfield and other northern cities to speak about Harry and the terrible struggle in Kentucky.  Further details on these events can be found in Green's Only a Miner and Romalis' Pistol Packing Mama.

Before he recorded this selection, Jim asked, "Do you want me to sing it the original way or the way that Pete Seeger cleaned it up?", alluding to the latter's well-known Folkways recording American Industrial Ballads.  He further explained:

You see Pete kinda cleaned it up.  Instead of saying 'YCL', he said something else.  I had put it:

But he had to clean it up to: He just had it a little bit different.

Of course, it was understandable why Seeger, under blacklist himself, would wish to downplay the Communist associations critical to this stage of the American labor movement, but both Jim and Sarah felt that it was these organizations that had come to help them and they loyally wished to honor that assistance under their rightful titles.  True, when Sarah rerecorded her well known composition I Hate the Capitalist System for Archie Green in 1965, she altered it to I Hate the Company Bosses (issued on FL 26).  However, she later explained to me that, in her lexicon, 'capitalist' simply served as a name that epitomized those economic powers who were responsible for conditions that led to her baby's starvation and that the song didn't sound right if those associations became watered down (she then recorded it for me in its original form, issued on Rdr 0051).  It always seemed to me that the great amount of academic writing devoted to fussing about 'folk music's communist associations' neglects the simple clarity, and profound humanity, of Sarah's straightforward explanation.

Aunt Molly Jackson later claimed this song as her own, despite the fact that it plainly expresses Jim's personal experience (she also appropriated credit for some of Sarah's songs as well).  Even today, one often finds Harry Simms posted as a joint composition.  Indeed, Molly had the audacity to complain to John Greenway that some unknown radical had mutilated 'her song' by adding the verses about YCL et al.  In all of our interchanges, Jim was invariably open-hearted and forgiving of others: he even explained that he personally knew the men who were the thugs and sheriffs back home and understood why they had acted as they did.  And he was generally easygoing about Molly's transgressions, although if there was a single worldly good of which Jim was proudest, it was his authorship of songs like this and I Don't Want your Millions, Mister.

For discographical completeness, I should indicate that this selection and Sarah's The Hard Working Miner have also been issued on Rounder's recent Harlan County USA CD (Rdr 4026).  I had already prepared these cuts for the present collection when Rounder asked if I had any more pertinent selections from Sarah and so I sent these two cuts along.

Jim's tune should seem familiar; it is essentially that of Bill Day's Rowan County Troubles.  To be more exact, Jim has used the melody of his family's version of The Battle of Mill Springs (see FL 29), which (in their version; others vary more) represents a Civil War adaptation of the widespread Texas Rangers ballad.  Almost certainly, Day was borrowing from the same prototype.

Comrades listen to my story, workers, listen to my song
I'll tell you of a hero, who is now dead and gone
I'll tell you of a worker, whose age was just nineteen
He was the strongest union man that I have ever seen.

Harry Simms he was a pal of mine, we labored side by side
Expecting to be shot on sight or taken for a ride
By the dirty capitalist gun thugs who roamed from town to town
To shoot and kill our comrades wherever they may be found.

Harry Simms and I was parted at five o'clock that day
"Be careful, my dear comrade," to Harry I did say.
"I must do my duty," was his reply to me.
"If I get killed by the gun thugs, please don't grieve over me."

"Just remain a faithful worker, dear comrade to be wise
Remain a faithful worker, dear comrade to be wise
Help destroy this rotten system, don't fail to organize."

He was walking up the railroad track one bright sunshiny day
He was young and handsome and his step was light and gay
We did not know the gun thugs was a-waiting on the way
To take our dear young comrade's life this bright sunshiny day.

Harry Simms was killed on Brush Creek in nineteen and thirty-two
He organized the miners in the good old NMU
He fought for the union, that's all that he could do
He died for the union, also for me and you.

Now, comrades, in these battle days there's one thing we must do
We'll organize all the miners in the good old NMU
We'll get a million volunteers for the YCL
And sink this rotten system in the deepest pits of hell.

15.  Old Banjo Tune - Manon Campbell, banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlin, Linefork, Ky, 6/11/73).  For notes on our brief visit with Manon, see volume 4.

16.  The Jealous Lover - Elsie Vanover, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Pound, Va, 9/08/96).  Roud 500, Laws F1.  Next to Pretty Polly, this was once the best known of the characteristically American murder ballads.  To the best of my knowledge, its generic narrative has never been pinned to any authenticated historical event, although some later versions adjust its setting to suit the dreadful Pearl Bryan abduction of 1896 in Cincinnati (eg, Burnett and Rutherford's sterling performance on Co 15113).

Down in the lone green valley where the violets fade and bloom
That's where my sweetheart Ella lies molded in her tomb.

She died not broken hearted nor by disease she fell
But in a moment she parted from the ones she loved so well.

One night the moon was shining, the stars were shining too
And slowly to her cottage her jealous lover drew.

"Come, love, and let's go wander out in these woods so gay.
While wandering we will ponder and plan our wedding day."

The way grew dark before them, said she, "I'm afraid to roam.
I'll bid fare ye well forever, to parents, friends and home."

"Now, Ella, you see I have you, you have no wings to fly
"You have no hands to guide you; Ella, you must die."

Down on her knees before him, she pleaded for her life
Into her fair small bosom he plunged a dagger knife.

"Your parents must forgive me for the deed that I have done
I'll go to some far country and never more return."

"Yes, Willy, I'll forgive you; I wish we never had met.
Yes, Willy, I'll forgive you" and she closed her eyes in death.

One night the moon was shining, a-coming through the mound
The angels found her body a-lying upon the ground.

He took little Ellen's body and placed it in the grave
Way down in yonder's valley where the weeping willows wave.

17.  Poor Ellen Smith - Annadeene Fraley, vocal and guitar; J P Fraley, fiddle; Doug Chaffin, bass (Rec: Mark Wilson, Denton, Ky, December, 1995) Roud 448, Laws F11.  Previously issued on Road's End 001.  Cox indicates that one Peter deGraff killed Ellen Smith in Forsyth County, North Carolina in 1892.  The song is extremely well known, although with great variation in its lyrical content.  Molly O'Day recorded an especially influential version (Co 20629).  Annadeene learned her version from Clovis Hurdt, an emigrant North Carolinian who ran a car dealership in Ashland with whom they often played music.  Its tune represents the first half of a folk setting commonly utilized for How Firm a Foundation, appearing as such in The New Harmony of 1837.

Poor Ellen Smith, how she was found
Shot through the heart, lying cold on the ground.

J P and Annadeene Fraley and groupHer clothes were all scattered and thrown all around
Her blood marked the spot where poor Ellen was found.

They picked up their rifles and hunted me down
They found me a-loafing in Mt.  Airy town.

They picked up her body and carried it away
And now she lies sleeping in some lonesome old grave.

I got a letter yesterday, I read it today
The flowers on her grave have all faded away.

Some day I'll go home and stay when I go
On poor Ellen's grave pretty flowers I'll sow.

I've been in this prison for twenty long years
Each night I see Ellen through my bitter tears.

The warden just told me that soon I'll be free
To go to her graveside 'neath that old willow tree.

My days in this prison are ending at last
I'll never be free from my sins of the past.

Poor Ellen Smith, how she was found
Shot through the heart, lying cold on the ground.

18.  In London City - Emma Pruitt, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, John Harrod and Roger Cooper, Hillsboro, Bath County, August, 1996).  Laws P24; Roud 409.  In 1996 Roger Cooper and I visited the African-American musician Sammy Bowles in a retirement home out in the country to see if he could remember any of the old fiddle tunes he once played (he couldn't).  Just as we were leaving, one of Sammy's co-residents inquired in a friendly way, "Oh, are you in interested in those old songs?  I know some of them."  We couldn't linger at that time but I arranged a follow up visit with John Harrod a few months later.  But when we sat down to record, Emma seemed distressed and generally only intriguing fragments emerged, such as this verse, presumably from The Raggle, Taggle Gypsies-O:

There were two gypsies came to our door
One sang high and one sang low
"Who is there among you all
That will feed my dark-eyed gypsies-o?"

I later inquired of a number of Emma's sisters but none of them had any recollection of such songs, which Emma had learned from her father, who had moved from highland Wolfe County to the farmlands of Bath County sometime in the 'twenties.  But the only songs her sisters recalled from their dad were items such as Let Me Call you Sweetheart with which he often serenaded their mother.  Emma had been severely stricken with meningitis as a young girl and her father had sat up day and night, bathing her fevered head and, apparently, summonsing his own childhood memories of balladry to comfort her.  So when Emma recalled these old verses, it was as if we had turned on a tape recorder and had involuntarily captured stray moments from a terrible time that she could have scarcely comprehended.  However, this portion of The Butcher's Boy emerged more happily and displays Emma's fine singing style.

This old broadside is well remembered in both Britain and North America, a retention that was doubtlessly augmented by Vernon Dalhart's very popular 78 recordings in the 1920's.  Buell Kazee also made a Brunswick recording (Br 213) that became very influential in the folk revival through its inclusion in the Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (I will parenthetically complain of current propensities to glorify editor Harry Smith while approaching the original artists as if they represent specimens of American gothic; I was lucky to have met a fair number of them and they were, without exception, perfectly sensible and kindly people).  Both MT 311 and 323 contain fuller versions of this familiar song.

In London City where I did dwell
A merchant boy I loved so well
He courted me my life away
And then with me he did not stay.

Oh, there's pretty young girls all in this town
My love goes there and he sits down
He'll take the girls upon his knee
And tells them things what he won't tell me.

It's hard, it's hard, I'll tell you why
There is more gold and silver than I
The gold will melt and silver will fly
In a few years be as poor as I.

She went upstairs, oh, to her bed
And not a word to Willy said.
Her father called up and asked for Lou
"Oh, where is my darling, Melinda Lou?"

19.  Little Mattie Grove - Mary Lozier, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Roger Cooper, South Portsmouth, Ky, 10/14/97) Roud 52, Child 81.  It is rather surprising that Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard has remained so popular in the United States, given that many singers (eg, Buell Kazee and Almeda Riddle) have pointedly informed me that they consider it a 'dirty song'.  Excellent renditions by Nimrod Workman can be heard on both Rdr 0076 and JA 001.  Two additional versions can be found on MT 321 and 323.

It was on a high, high holy day, the very best day of the year
Little Mattie Grove he went to church, some holy words for to hear.

The first come down was dressed in red, the second was dressed in green.
The third come down was Lord Daniel's wife, as fair as they were seen.

Then Mattie Grove said to one of his men, "See the fair one dressed in white
Although she is Lord Daniel's wife, I'll be with her tonight."

Well, a little foot page was standing by, he heard every word that was said
He said, "Lord Daniel will hear of this before I go to bed."

He had fifteen miles for to travel that night and ten of them he run
He run 'til he came to a broke down bridge, then he bowed to his breast and he swum.

He swum 'til he came to where the grass was green, then he jumped to his feet and he run
He ran 'til he came to Lord Daniel's gate and he rattled at the bells and they rung.

"What news, what news," Lord Daniel said, "What news to me do you bring?"
"Little Mattie Grove's in bed with your wife and their two hearts beat as one."

"Now if the truth you've told to me, a rich man you shall be.
"But if a lie you've told to me, I'll hang you to a tree."

He gathered him up about fifty good men and he done it with a free good will
And he brought his bugle to his lips and blowed it loud and shrill.

"I'd better get up," Little Mattie Grove said, "I'd better get up and go.
I know your husband's coming home for I heard his bugle blow."

"Lay down, lay down, my precious one, lay down and go to sleep.
It's only my father's shepherd horn, he's a-calling for his sheep."

So they lay down together again and soon were fast asleep
And when they awoke, it was broad daylight, Lord Daniel was at their feet.

"Get up, get up, you naked man, get up and put on some clothes
For I never intend for it to be said that a naked man I slough."

"Give me a chance," Little Mattie Grove said, "A chance to fight for my life
For I see you have a very fine sword and not so much as a knife."

"Oh yes, I have two very fine swords and they cost me deep in the purse
And you may have the finest one and I will take the worst."

Little Mattie Grove struck the very first lick and he wounded Lord Daniel sore
Lord Daniel struck the very next lick and drove Mattie Grove to the floor.

Then he taken his lady by the hand and he put her on his knee
And he said, "Now, which of us do you love the best, Little Mattie Grove or me?"

"Fair well I love your rosy cheeks, fair well I love your chin
"But better I love Little Mattie Grove than you and all your kin."

"You can dig my grave on a pretty green hill, go dig it wide and deep
You can bury Little Mattie Grove in my arms, Lord Daniel at my feet."

20.  Pretty Polly - Francis Gillum, vocal; Alva Greene, fiddle (Rec: Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Isom, Ky, April, 1974).  Laws P36; Roud 15.  This song represents a locus classicus of how American pruning can sometimes improve a rather gaseous original, in this case the broadside ballad variously called The Gosport Tragedy or The Cruel Ship's Carpenter (vide MT 307 and MT 317).  As such, it was widely printed in The Forget-Me-Not Songster and similar Yankee publications, but seems to have begun to shed its excess verses sometime in the later nineteenth century, possibly as the banjo drifted from the minstrel show into the countryside (Jim Garland and others told me that mountaineers would often return home from log drives down river with banjos or, at least, a notion of their construction).  There are many, many wonderful recordings available: Pete Steele, Rdr 1511 & Fwys 3828; The Stanley Brothers, Co 20770; B F Sheldon, Vi 35838; E C Ball, Rdr 0072 & 1511 & 1705.  Here Francis sings just a snatch of the song, but the duo's quintessential hill country sound proves quite stirring, I think.

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly, you think it unkind (x2)
For me to set down by you and tell you my mind?

My mind is to marry and never part (x2)
For the first time I saw you, you wounded my heart.

21.  Cruel Willie - J P Fraley, fiddle; Annadeene Fraley, guitar (Rec: Mark Wilson, Rush, Ky, May, 1973).  Previously issued on Rdr 0145.  J P learned this moody march from Roy Acuff's fiddler, Howdy Forrester, who included it on one of the most influential fiddle LPs ever issued: Town and Country Fiddler (UA 6295; Big Howdy rerecorded the piece later for Stoneway as well).  On the latter LP, Forrester credited the composition to Arthur Smith, which is not surprising as the latter was fond of melodies in this tuning (DDAD), although I am not aware of any recordings of Cruel Willie by Smith himself (whereas home recordings do exist for another evocative Smith set in this tuning: Hickory Leaf).  Traditionally, the tuning is employed most often for Bonaparte's Retreat which Smith recorded in the 'forties.  Snake Chapman, who was also a keen student of Smith's repertory, believed that Smith had composed both Hickory Leaf and Cruel Willie by improvising on Bonaparte's Retreat, although the title suggests some traditional inspiration.  Be that as it may, Cruel Willie has been recorded frequently subsequently, invariably descended, via Howdy Forrester, from Arthur Smith.  Its languid contours fit J P's style perfectly and Annadeene provides an especially effective accompaniment.  J P's father played an excellent Bonaparte's Retreat but the intervening appearance of the Pee Wee King/Redd Stewart recomposition (popularized by Kay Starr in the early 1950s) has robbed J P, of any capacity to remember his dad's setting completely.  The practice of setting a melody on the upper strings of the violin and retuning the bass to sustain a complementary drone was common in both old-time Kentucky and Cape Breton fiddling, although the practice has practically vanished today (for fear of breaking strings, inter alia).

22.  Caroline of Edinborough Town - Nimrod Workman, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Ken Irwin, Chattaroy, WV, 3/1/76).  Laws P27, Roud 398.  In America, the dissemination of this old broadside was undoubtedly abetted by its frequent printing in pamphlets like the many editions of The Forget-Me-Not Songster.  The ballad is confusing enough even in its amplified forms and Nimrod's text is both truncated and garbled.  Usually Charlotte's foraging for fruits occurs after Henry has abandoned her to go to sea.  Cox gives the penultimate line as: 'She gave three shrieks for her Henry and plunged her body down'; Nimrod didn't reply when I asked him what the song meant.  Tom Lenihan provides a nice version on MT 331.

Went to see his own true love out in Edinborough Town
"Come and take a stroll with me, we'll see the ocean 'round."
Over hills and lofty mountains this couple they did go
To eat such fruit as they could find upon the bushes grow.

They had not been together but about a couple of years
"I've been to see your parents, upon me they did frown
Now beat your way, without delay, to Edinborough Town."

Down by yonder spreaded oak where she sat down to cry
Watching of the gallant ship as they went passing by
She gave the ship her Henry while the fish were watching 'round
For the body of young Caroline who plunged her body down.

23.  Katy Dear - Gene York, vocal and guitar; Margie York, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and John Harrod, Corinth, Ky, 4/06/97).  This venerable Old World lyric (eg, Sharp, English Country Songs) often gets entangled in America with elements of The Silver Dagger.  The song is a great favorite amongst country harmony groups like the Yorks, usually in a version that seems to derive, courtesy of later covers by the Blue Sky Boys and the Louvin Brothers, from a 1934 ARC recording by the Callahan Brothers.  Earlier, B F Sheldon recorded a haunting version of a different text on Vi 40107.

"Oh, Katy dear, go ask your mother
If you can be a bride of mine?
If she says, yes, we'll go and get married
If she says no, we'll run away."

"Oh, Willie dear, there's no need asking
She's in her room taking a rest
And by her side is a silver dagger
To slay the one that I love best."

So he picked up that silver dagger
And plunged it through his troubled heart.
Saying, "Goodbye, Katy, goodbye darling,
It's now forever we must part."

So she picked up that bloody dagger
And plunged it through her lily white breast
Saying, "Goodbye, Papa, goodbye, Mama
I'll die for the one that I love best."

24.  The Gay Spanish Maid - Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover, vocals (Rec: Mark Wilson, Pound, Va, 9/08/96).  Laws K16, Roud 708.  This song is found fairly commonly all over North America, especially in New England and Canada.  According to Flanders, there do not seem to be British texts.  Roud lists a WPA recording of another version from Pound, sung by Lorraine Mullins, and the well-known West Virginia fiddler Melvin Wines knew it.  Edmund and Sadie Henneberry perform it as a duet on Fwys 04006 and Sarah Cleveland's son Jim sings it on Treasures from The Attic.

Oh, the gay Spanish maid at the age of sixteen
O'er the meadows she did ramble far and wide
But beneath the beech tree she sat down for a rest
With a gay, gallant youth by her side.

"Oh, my ship sails tomorrow, my darling," he said
"And with you I can ramble no more.
But tonight when your parents retires to their rest
Will you meet me, my love, at the shore?"

That night when her parents retired to their rest
Lovely Nell she slipped out the hall door
With her hat in her hand she ran down the dry sand
And sat down on a rock beneath the shore.

Oh, her lily white hands to her bosom she clasped
When he told her how long he'd be gone
"May God bless you," he said, when he turned to the boat.
And the teardrops softly fell on the sand.

O'er the sea she watched with her wandering eye
'Til the sky and the sea seemed to meet
A cold and dashing wave came from over the sea
And it broke on a rock at her feet.

With softly footsteps she returned to the house
Her father met her alarmed at the door
Oh, he took her in his arms and he kissed her and said,
"He has left you in sorrow to mourn."

That night passed by with a terrible storm
And a shipwreck at sea did adorn
But he got on a plank and he made his escape
While the rest made the watery grave.

"I'll go back to the girl that I left on the shore
And without her I'll ramble no more." But she died like the flower that was bitten by the frost And she left him in sorrow to mourn.

25.  The Silver Dagger - Lulabelle Greene, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson, Sandy Hook, Ky, August, 1973).  Laws G21, Roud 711.  Alva Greene, although he undoubtedly knew many old songs, steadfastly refused to sing a note for us.  One day I was asking him about such matters and he said, 'Oh, I think Lulabelle knows that' and called out his wife, whom I had scarcely met before she had previously always hidden in the back part of the house during our visits (or so I presume).  This is only the second half of the song and it may well be that, when I invited her to come over to the microphones, she began where she had last left off (she was understandably very nervous).  I would have like to work with her further, but this was unfortunately the day on which Social Security checks arrive in the mountains and Alva terminated our session soon after, just as soon as the mailman arrived.  Since all of our later sessions with Alva occurred over at Francis Gillum's place, I never met Lulabelle again.  Her short selection gives a good representation of the common style of Appalachian singing that was undoubtedly once universal in the region.

Folk Songs of the Catskills has a good note on the complications of this nineteenth century song, whose elements sometimes entangle with those of Katy Dear.  Early recordings of the ballad seem comparatively scarce and completely at odds with its popularity in tradition, possibly because its normal length is not easily telescoped to a three minute span.  Sarah Gunning sang it for me on Rdr 0051 and Tommy Moore supplies a version on SF 40029.  More recent versions can be found on MT 321 and MT 323.

Alva and Lulabelle GreeneShe pulled out a silver dagger
She pierced it through her snow white breast
At first she reeled and then she staggered
Saying, "Farewell, wide world, I'm going to rest."

Young Willie down by the roadside wondering
He thought he heard his true love's voice
He ran, he ran like a man distracted
Saying, "Love, oh love, I'm afraid you're lost."

Her coal black eyes like a diamond cinders
"Love, oh love, you've come too late.
Propose to meet me on Mt Zion
Where all of our sorrows will be complete."

He picked up the silver dagger
He pierced it through his own true heart.
Saying, "Let this be a youthful's warning
Where all true lovers hates to part."

26.  Jim Luther - George Hawkins, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Bethel, Ky, April, 1974).  Roud 447, Laws F4.  A true instrumental virtuoso, fiddler George Hawkins represented one of our most important informants (Rdr 0376; we are planning to issue more in the future).  Although the topic only came up at the end of our last recording session, George knew various little snatches of ballad and song from early in the twentieth century (his wife, who died very young, was reportedly a good singer).  George mainly worked as a hired hand, although he ran a radio show for a brief period and developed his technical skills on the violin to a very high degree (he was briefly recorded for the Library of Congress in the late 1940's by Artus Moser).

Brown and other sources provide good basic accounts of the 1807 murder of Naomi Wise by Jonathan Lewis in Randolph County, North Carolina.  Ed Cray has an interesting perspective on the ballad in The Journal of American Folklore, 2004 and Eleanor Long-Wilgus has recently published a book length study of the subject (Naomi Wise).  According to the latter, most modern versions stem from an 1874 recomposition published by Braxton Craven in the Greensboro, NC Patriot.  Long-Wilgus also indicates that, having already had three children by three different fathers, the original Ms Wise was probably more studied in the ways of the world than the ballad suggests.  Burt's American Murder Ballads prints a text where the villain is 'George Luther'; perhaps George's version has been adapted to some intervening crime.  George's surprising conclusion appears to be an interpolation from an altogether different song: see The Horse-Thief in Randolph.  This song has been recorded many times over, displaying considerable variation in the process.  Versions by Grayson and Whitter, Tom Ashley, Morgan Sexton and Doc Watson come immediately to mind.

George Hawkins, with Nancy McLellan and Gus MeadeJim Luther he goes a-courting, he dresses so well
It's many a fine story they say he can tell.
He promised to meet 'Oma at Adam's Spring
He promised her money, lots of other fine things.

"Come and get on behind me; it'll be no disgrace
We'll go and get married some other fine place."
She got on behind him and away they did ride
He took her to Elk River where dark waters flow.

"Leoma, Leoma, I'll tell you my mind
It's made up to drown you so I'll leave you behind."
"Have pity, oh, have mercy," that poor girl she mourned
"If you won't go and get married let me go back home."

He beat her, he shook her, and he knocked her all around
He threw her in the river just below the mill dam
He got on his horse and he rode out of sight
Oh, the screams from Leoma heard forty miles that night.

Next morning the people were looking all around
Leoma was missing but could not be found.
Up steps her old mother, has a few words to say,
"Jim Luther's killed Leoma and now has run away."

They've got him in prison for killing a man
They've got him hanging for killing 'Oma
He stole from the rich man, he give to the poor
Jim Luther'll be a good boy, he'll do so no more.

27.  The Death of Edward Hawkins - Asa Martin, vocal and guitar, with the Cumberland Rangers: Jim Gaskin, fiddle; Buz Brazeale, mandolin; Earl Barnes, banjo (Rec: Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Irvine, Ky, December, 1972). Roud 17595.  This goodnight purports to be the confession of a real criminal who was born in Estill County in 1836 and hanged in 1857.  Hawkins, who specialized in serial polygamy and occasional murder, left behind a lengthy confession that echoes traditional balladry at various points and he might very well have truly authored this song (in our notes to Rdr 0034, Gus and I quoted portions of Hawkins' declaration at considerable length).  Asa's friend, the schoolteacher Green Bailey, recorded this selection for Gennett, but it was never issued (Asa claimed that he utilizes the same tune as Bailey's here).  Jean Thomas' Ballad Makin' includes a rather different version, also stemming from Estill County.  On Asa's old LP, this song was sung most mournfully by Earl Barnes; he had picked up the tune while listening to Asa practice.  He did a wonderful job, but he told an acquaintance a few years ago that he has never sung the song since.  In any case, here is Asa's original version.

Young men, young men, come learn of me
A sad and mournful history
And may you not forgetful be
Of the story I relate to thee.

For murder now I am arraigned
Down in a dungeon bound and chained
Where I am here compelled to stay
Until the twenty ninth day of May.

And then I'll leave my dungeon home
And be consigned to the cold, cold tomb
And there I must forgotten lie
Then come, young men, and see me die.

Come see me meet my youthful grave
To trouble then no more to slave
My friends, I do not care to die
Or meet my Maker in the sky.

My sins are grave I do admit
Our Saviour's power is greater yet
Then on his mercy I rely
For pardon when I come to die.

Oh, welcome, Death, how sweet the sound
When I no longer will be bound
I've twenty-eight days yet left to mourn
Bound down in my dungeon home.

And then my soul must fly away
To the darkest night or brightest day
And there it yet forever be
Throughout the vast eternity.

Come stand around me young and old
And see me welcome Death so bold
My youthful heart it is so brave
I do not care to meet my grave.

Young men, young men be warned of me
And always shun bad company.
Now I must bid you all adieu
Remember my advice for it is true.

28.  The House Carpenter - Nimrod Workman, vocal (Rec: Mark Wilson and Ken Irwin, Chattaroy, W Va., 3/02/76).  Roud 14, Child 243.  Most Southern singers with sizable repertories know some version of this grand old ballad.  Folk Legacy 125 contains several complimentary versions and Doug Wallins' treatment on MT 323 is also excellent.  However, the number of worthy recordings is far too extensive to list here; I will merely plug Sarah Gunning's version on Rdr 0051.  Nimrod's text omits the usual middle section where the lady preens by the banks of the sea, yet it extends its denouement greatly, through parallel repetition and the inclusion of the often absent 'hills of hell' verses.  Nimrod very much liked to perform his songs in this drawn out manner, in the vein of a campfire 'scary tale'.  He told me that he used to entertain his fellow miners in this fashion during their lunch breaks, huddled together along the coal car tracks.  As such, it represents a rather different idiom of performance than Sarah Gunning's drier approach which she acquired from listening to her mother sing about the house.  Leonard Roberts' Up Cutshin and Down Greasy contains an interesting composite that crosses the 'hills of hell' quatrains with portions of Shut up in the Mines of Coal Creek.

"Well met, well met, my old true love,
Well met, well met," said she.
"So who are you married to, my little love
Come and tell me if you can?"
"I'm married to a house carpenter
And I think he's a nice young man."

"If you will forsake that house carpenter;
Come and go along with me,
I'll take you where the grass grows green
On the banks of yon deep blue sea."

She picked up her tender little babe
Kisses she gave it three
"Just stay right here, my tender little babe
And keep your papa company."

They sailed on about one week
Sure that it was not three
'Til she began to weep and to mourn
And she mourned most pitifully.

"What are you weeping for, my love?
Are you weeping for your store?
Are you weeping for that house carpenter
Whose face you'll see no more?"

"Neither weeping for that house carpenter
Neither weeping for my store.
I am weeping for my tender little babe
Whose face I'll see no more."

They sailed on about two weeks
Sure that it were not three
'Til she began to weep and to mourn
And she mourned most piteously.

"What hills, what hills is that, little love
That look so bright and low?"
"That is the hills of heaven, little love
Where you and I can't go."

They sailed on about two weeks
Sure that it was not three
'Til she began to weep and to mourn
And she mourned most piteously.

"What hills, what hills is that, little love
That look so bright and low?"
"That is the hills of heaven, little love
Where you and I can't go."

They sailed on about two weeks
Sure that it were not three
'Til she began to weep and to mourn
And she mourned most piteously.

"What hills, what hills is that, little love
That look so dark and low?"
"That is the hills of hell, little love
Where you and I must go."

They sailed on about three weeks
Sure that it were not four
They sprung a leak in the bottom of their ship
And she sunk for to rise no more.

Brief credits:

Recorded by Guthrie T Meade, John Harrod and Mark Wilson (1969-2005)

Produced by Mark Wilson

Fuller acknowledgments can be found on Volumes 3 and 4

Mark Wilson - 12.1.07

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

Article MT199

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