Song of the Month

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Join us each month in song!
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CDSS designated 2016 our Year of Song. We chose it for two reasons: to honor the start of Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles’ prolific folk song collecting in southern Appalachia (1916-1918), and to look at how song serves CDSS's mission. This examination also begins a cycle of focusing on one or two genres at a time, as we identify community needs and allow for better use of our resources.

Our Song of the Month feature has been so well received that we decided to make it a permanent part of the website. You'll find an archive of these songs below as well as new ones being posted in the months to come.

CDSS’s song traditions are based primarily in the English and Anglo-American traditions — folk songs, ballads, sea shanties, rounds, songs with choruses. We also include spirituals, work songs, country harmony, African call and response, shape note and gospel, contemporary a cappella, and new arrangements of traditional songs. Our special emphasis is on community singing.

Lorraine Hammond, CDSS Board member and Song Task Group Chair, spearheaded our Year of Song efforts and oversaw 2016’s song selections. Judy Cook took on that role in 2017 and continues to contribute each month, with help from Lorraine. Our thanks to them both, as well as to Lynn Nichols for shepherding them to our website.

Happy singing!


Castle and mountains in Scotland

Annachie Gordon

Submitted by Cindy Mangsen

Child Ballad #239 exists in fragments, telling the story of Annachie and his love Jeannie, forced by her father to marry another man for his status and wealth. Jeannie tells her parents that if she marries the lord, she'll refuse to share his bed and will die for her true love.

Sure enough, she dies on the very day of the wedding, which is also the day Annachie returns from his seafaring. He dies, of course, of grief. It's a tear-jerker of a story, but when put to this beautiful melody (thank you, Nic Jones), becomes incredibly moving. Emily Friedman introduced me to this song, many years ago in Chicago.

Listen to Cindy sing "Annachie Gordon:"

"Annachie Gordon" sheet musicClick here to download a PDF of the sheet music.

Lyrics

Buchan is bonnie and there lives my love
My heart it lies on him, it will not remove
It will not remove for all that I have done
Oh never will I forget my love Annachie
For Annachie Gordon is bonnie and he's braw
He'd entice any woman that ever him saw
He'd entice any woman and so he has done me
Never will I forget my love Annachie

Down came her father, standing on the floor
Sayin' Jeannie's trying the tricks of a whore
You care nothing for a man who cares so very much for thee
You must marry with Lord Salton and forget young Annachie
For Annachie Gordon is only but a man
Although he may be pretty, ah but where are all his lands?
Salton's lands are broad and his towers they stand high
You must marry with Lord Salton and forget young Annachie

With Annachie Gordon I would beg for my bread
Before I'd marry Salton with gold to my head
With gold to my head and my gown swings to the knee
And I'll die if I don't get my love Annachie
And you that are my parents, though to church you may me bring
Ah but unto Lord Salton I will never bear a son
Oh a son or a daughter and I'll never bow my knee
And I'll die if I don't get my love Annachie

When Jeannie was married and from church she was brought home
And she and her maidens so merry should have been
When she and her maidens so merry should have been
She's gone to her chamber and she's crying all alone.

Come to bed now Jeannie, my honey and my sweet
For to style you my mistress it would not be meet.
Oh it's mistress or Jeannie, it's all the same to me
And it's in your bed Lord Salton I never shall be
Up spoke her father and he's spoken with renown
All you that are her maidens, won't you loosen off her gown
But she fell down in a swoon so low down by their knee
Saying, look on, for I'm dying for my love Annachie

The day that Jeannie married was the day that Jeannie died
That's the day young Annachie came rolling from the tide
And down came her maidens and wringing of their hands
Saying woe to you, Annachie, for staying from the sand
So long from the land and so long upon the flood
Oh they've married your Jeannie and now she's dead

You that are her maidens, won't you take me by the hand
Won't you lead me to the chamber where my love lies in
And he's kissed her cold lips til his heart turned to stone
And he's died in the chamber where his true love lay in

Cindy Mangsen writes: I am a singer, songwriter, guitar/concertina player who loves being part of the long chain!

Alex and friends playing music

Stand Steady

Alex Sturbaum

This song was written in support of our friends working in health care and other essential fields during the COVID-19 pandemic, who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and healthy while being denied everything from basic protective equipment to hazard pay. We wanted to send support to our friends on the front lines, express outrage and frustration that they have been put in such an impossible situation, and hope for the day that we can welcome them back safely.

This song is also a call to action for those of us who are still financially secure - please check out the fundraiser mentioned at the end of the video, with clickable links available through the video on YouTube and Facebook.

Listen to Alex Sturbaum and friends sing "Stand Steady:"

Lyrics

It's peel off your scrubs, stumble in through the door
Step into the shower and scrub yourself raw
It's in at eleven, it's back out at four
For there's work to be done for the living
Ye who toil on the border between life and death
You're fighting for those who are fighting for breath
It's a battle that takes until little is left
And it's fearful and seldom forgiving

Stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming

Behind gloves, behind masks, there's a courage that dwells
When you head off to work in a world gone to hell
Do the job you were trained for, and do it as well
As you can with the tools you've been given
Politicians and ministers promise to serve
And to give us relief that we need and deserve
If any among them had half of your nerve
They'd have done more and done it unbidden

Stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming 

So hold on to hope through exhaustion and fear
And we'll go safe to ground till you give the all clear
And when this is all over we still will be here
In the bright shining light of the morning
When the bars are back open, we'll buy you a round
Lift our voices in song, raise the roof with the sound
And we'll join hands and dance till our feet shake the ground
To welcome the heroes returning

So stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming
Stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming
I know there's a better world coming

Alex Sturbaum is a songwriter and contra dance musician living in Seattle, WA. They perform with the bands Countercurrent, The Waxwings, and Gallimaufry, and produce the Vashon Sessions. Their second solo album, Loomings, comes out this month.

"Brave Lads of Gallawater" sheet music

Braw Lads of Galla-Water

introduced by Andrew Calhoun

This lyric to "Galla-water" is taken from David Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scots Songs (1769), p. 312. Herd was an excellent collector who did not manipulate/correct the source material, but he did not publish the song melodies.

The song was next published as #125 in Volume 2 of The Scots Musical Museum, with the lyric poorly adjusted. The SMM’s musical editor, Stephen Clarke, only printed the A part of the melody, a move typical of this indolent character through whom so much of the Scots song tradition, including the bulk of the songs of Robert Burns, has unfortunately been filtered. Clarke was in fact a church organist from Durham, England.

The full tune I sing here, "Braw Lads of Galla-water," was published by James Oswald in book 8 of The Caledonian Companion in 1756. Burns wrote a new version of the song using the same first line for the publisher George Thomson, but it does not match the quality and mystery of the old words. The shifting perspective in the lyric is well supported by the contrasting musical parts.

A poacher creeps through the woods

The Lincolnshire Poacher

introduced by David Jones

"The Lincolnshire Poacher" has been referred to as the unofficial county anthem of Lincolnshire. It is said that the song was a favorite of King George IV and dates back to the American Revolution (1776).

The tune has been used as a quick march by several British regiments, including the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, who are known as the “Poachers.” It was also used by some New York Regiments during the American Civil War. 


On a personal note: This was a song we sang at school. I first sang it when I was 10 years old, so I have known it for 75 years. It was a great relief to sing this song after “Who is Sylvia,” “Nymphs and Shepherds,” and other arty-type songs which were commonly sung in school singing classes. You may remember Jean Redpath talking about songs sung at British schools. She was very funny.

Another factor in its favor is that it has a good tune and is easy to sing.

A cowboy sitting on his horse

The Hills of Mexico

introduced by Sara Grey

The tune and text is a variation of “Buffalo Skinners” from Woody Guthrie but Woody’s version is more likely derived from this version. This is one of my favorite songs – so plaintive such a common theme.

I heard this version from Roscoe Holcomb; it’s ironic the way songs can move in opposite directions. We doubt Roscoe ever travelled west – someone probably had migrated back to the Southeast and he heard it there.

Three angelic women in sailing shipsI Saw Three Ships by Walter Crane, courtesy of The Victorian Internet

I Saw Three Ships

introduced by Dave Para

Like John Roberts & Tony Barrand, Dave Para loves this "Crawn" version of the widespread carol “I Saw Three Ships.” It was collected in 1895 from a Humber estuary boatman on the east coast of England, and ultimately published by Baring-Gould in his Garland of Country Songs in the same year.

It finally makes sense out of the puzzle of why three ships appear in the Christmas narrative at all. Legend has it that the skulls ("crawns" = "craniums" = "crowns"?) of the "Kings" or "Wise Men" were taken and lodged in the cathedral at Cologne.

Dave thinks of this more as a pilgrim carol than a Christmas song, so here it is in March.

The trooper discovers the tailor in the cupboard

The Trooper and the Tailor

introduced by Mark Gilston

I performed my first public concert at the Yellow Door Coffeehouse in Montreal in 1971. When I was putting together my set list, I noticed that two of the songs contained lyrics about ears which had been isolated from their owners’ heads. “The Cat Came Back” had the line, “Next day all they found was Freddy’s own right ear.” “Perrine” had the the line, “The mice they chewed and chewed and only left an ear.” I was also familiar with the song, “Jackknife” from the Unholy Modal Rounders, which begins, “I was cleaning my jackknife when you did appear. I had a fight with you; I cut off your ear.”

The Lady Elgin"The lake steamer Lady Elgin, as she lay at her wharf at Chicago on the day before she was lost. -From a photograph by S. Alschuler."

Lost on the Lady Elgin

introduced by Lee Murdock

This song was composed by Henry C. Work in the wake of one of the worst maritime disasters to occur until that time. The Lady Elgin was a side-wheel steam-powered vessel, 300 feet long with a capacity of 1000 tons. She carried finished goods, mail, general freight and passengers between lake-towns in the United States and Canada. Her master was Captain Jack Wilson, well respected among his peers and considered a first-rate sailor.

Cemetery in Newfoundland, CanadaBright Phoebe

introduced by Kim Wallach

It was autumn, around 16 years ago, a friend died unexpectedly of a heart attack. My marriage with my hopes and dreams was also dying. I was searching through my big collections of songs - Lomax, Warner etc - tracking down songs I wanted to learn. I found "Pinery Boy," and the Warner version of "Lang a-Growing." Then in Folk Songs of the Catskills by Cazden, Haufrecht & Studer, State University of New York Press, Albany c 1982, I found the relatively rare "Bright Phoebe." The raw grief and loss in both melody and lyric matched what I was feeling perfectly, and I set about learning it.

I am a singer and a songwriter. The way I understand the world, my place in it and my feelings about it has always been through music.

Mark WalkerTickle Cove Pond

by Mark Walker
introduced and performed by Anita Best

"Tickle Cove Pond" was written by Mark Walker, a fisherman and songwriter who lived in Tickle Cove, Bonavista Bay in Newfoundland, Canada during the late 19th century. This song is prized locally for the beauty and wit of the lyrics, which turn a mundane event into an act of heroism. In addition, this song has been recorded by a St. John's Traditional Folk group called Connemara, Anita Best and Sandy Morris on a CD entitled Some Songs, and by classical singer Meredith Hall. It was also recorded by the Vermont-based ensemble Nightingale.

A convict in chains en route to AustraliaFor the Company Underground

introduced by Margaret Walters
performed by Margaret Walters, Don Brian, and Robert Boddington

Words: Francis MacNamara, aka Frank the Poet, written approx. 1839

Tune: adapted by Margaret Walters from “Norwich Gaol” from Peter Bellamy's 1977 ballad opera, The Transports

Francis MacNamara was a convict transported to Australia in 1832 on the ship Eliza. An incorrigible rogue, he served more than 17 years punishment. "For the Company Underground" is Frank's letter to J. Crosdale, Esq., who was the superintendent of the Australia Company's Colliery Establishment in Newcastle (north of Sydney), outlining the precise conditions under which he would be prepared to work underground.

Frank Proffitt playing banjoI'm Going Back to North Carolina

Traditional
introduced by Judy Cook
performed by Frank Proffitt

I love this traditional song from the southern Appalachians for its simplicity, accessibility, and poignancy. It’s easy to keep it going by adding either the first or third verse as a chorus between every verse, or by adding any number of “zipper verses” that might suit the situation. We have the song sung by Frank Proffitt on the album Frank Proffitt of Reese, NC (1962), Folk Legacy Album #1. The entire Folk Legacy catalog is now available on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

The Maid of Sweet Gurteen

introduced by Marge Steiner

The song is found in Northern Ireland and in the Canadian Maritimes. 
Roud number: 3025

The singer is Frank Murphy in Derryard, Roslea.

Recorded on 08/21/1978

I like to introduce people to source singers when I'm giving talks and such, and I was taken with Frank Murphy's modal rendition. Please note that, as with many source singers, Frank’s tune varies from verse to verse. We have transcribed the first verse here, but urge people to listen carefully to the entire song.

Starving to Death on a Government Claim

introduced by Bob Bovee

"Starving to Death on a Government Claim," also known as Lane or Greer County Bachelor, is a traditional song from the late 19th century. It's often sung in 6/8 time to the tune of "The Irish Washerwoman," or sometimes in 3/4. I learned it from a 78 rpm record by Ed Crain with considerable changes to the tune, words and tempo. Growing up in Nebraska, I can identify with the life and landscape of this song, the hardships of a difficult existence.

When I Went for to Take My Leave

introduced by Dave Para and Cathy Barton

Ozark song collector Loman Cansler often sang this song he learned from his grandfather James Broyles, originally from Laclede County, Missouri, and he recorded it for Folkways in 1959. A variant of “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” its extended phrasing suggests a Western sound. The Civil War references are vague, but the main story remains all too relevant. “Texian” was a term used by early colonists and leaders in the Texas Revolution, many of whom were influential during the Civil War.

Watch Dave and Cathy sing the song in the video on the right (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mKnh6_xrCw). You can also hear Loman Cansler sing it from his 1959 Folkways album on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/track/41kBY3yNTtZ80GqkOamMVu.

Drive Dull Care Away

introduced by Dick Swain

This wonderful song was introduced to most people by Joe Hickerson on his recording, Drive Dull Care Away, Vol. 1, Folk Legacy Records, FSI-58. It was collected on Prince Edward Island from Charles Gorman by folklorist Edward (Sandy) Ives, and published in his book, Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs from Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI, Institute for Island Studies 1999, pp. 81-82. The book includes a CD with a field recording of Charles Gorman singing the song. In the late 18th and early 19th century  it appeared in broadsides and a number of songsters under the titles "Contentment" or "The Friendly Society." In the notes to his recording, Joe Hickerson says that an untitled version of the song was published in the September 30, 1775 issue of The Pennsylvania Ledger; or the Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania & New Jersey Weekly Advertiser, and included the refrain, "Let us then constant be / For while we're here / My friends so dear / We'll fight for liberty."

Listen to John Roberts and Debra Cowan sing the song in this YouTube video (also embedded above): https://youtu.be/LElqdYyWwu4

Welcome Home My Sailor

introduced by Ian Robb

Score Welcome Home My SailorClick on the image for a downloadable PDFI first heard this “unbroken token” ballad from a young St. John's singer, Ellen Power, then in her teens, at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. Asking around, I discovered that the song had come from singer and accordion player Dorman Ralph, of Little Harbour Deep, White Bay, Newfoundland, who lived in St John's from 1956 until his death in 1999.

I was attracted to the song for two reasons: Firstly, I loved the denouement, when not only do the long parted lovers fall into each other's arms, but “both sat down to sing..." Secondly, I was intrigued by the melody, which is a version of that collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Harriet Verrall, in Monk's Gate, Sussex, and to which he set John Bunyan's poem “To Be a Pilgrim," creating one of the best known English hymns. On the English folk scene, the tune is mostly associated with Mrs Verrall's song “Our Captain Cried All Hands” and with a version of “A Blacksmith Courted Me," but despite the fact that the text of “Welcome Home My Sailor” is known in England, sung and recorded by no less than Lal Waterson and later, Eliza Carthy, the tune used is quite different.

The words here are as I sing it, mostly from Jim Payne and Fergus O'Byrne's version on their CD, How Good is Me Life, with some inevitable minor tinkering.

Sweet William's Ghost

introduced by Lisa Null

The version I sing of "Sweet Williams Ghost" (Child #77) is based on the singing of Mike Kent of Cape Broyle Newfoundland. It was collected as "Lady Margaret" in 1951 by Kenneth Peacock in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, vol 2. I love the way it deals with the continuance of love and commitment after death. William has to be relieved of the promise he made to marry Margaret who follows him over the hills walking and talking, even asking if she can be buried with him. It's an old ballad, appearing in Allan Ramsay's The Tea Table Miscellany (1740) and Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). Bill Shute accompanies this song on a guitar played like a hammered dulcimer. 

Listen to Bill and Lisa sing the song on this YouTube clip (also embedded above): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SlzH1KI7V4

Double Sledder Lad

introduced by Matthew Byrne

Variant of a traditional ballad called "The Lumber Camp Song" found all over northeastern North America. Evidence collected on its background suggests a New Brunswick or Maine origin. This variant was arranged and recorded by Jim Payne & Fergus O'Byrne on their 1995 album Wave Over Wave: Old And New Songs Of Atlantic Canada (SingSong Inc). A very similar variant was collected in 1959 from Martin Deveau of Upper Ferry, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published as Hurling Down The Pine in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 3, pp.750-751, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

The Devil Buck

introduced by Mark Gilston

angrybuck revThis song was "gifted" to me by Ben Mendel from New York City in the late 1970's. He told me he learned it from Bob Beers and that it was originally from Montana. I have been unable to find any other recorded sources or versions, though my understanding is that the huge evil cervine premonition of death is a legend in the northwestern states and in southwestern Canada. It certainly is a wonderfully eerie song, and I always included it in concerts around Halloween.

Listen to Mark sing the tune (also embedded above): https://youtu.be/dN3kdF21LPw

     
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