' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Month: May, 2013

Ten Favourite Paul Clayton Tracks

For some time now, have been thinking of putting together a list of my ten favourite Paul Clayton tracks. One of the problems of doing so, however, is that for some of these – like his great version of ‘Jesse James’ on Wanted for Murder and his important early version of ‘Tom Dula’ on Bloody Ballads are not available as audio clips anywhere on the net – that I can find at least.

So this is a provisional list and, hopefully, some record company out there will take the obvious step and release the two albums mentioned above on a cheap re-issue.

Will start with two songs that Clayton taight to the young Bob Dylan.

1. Ornie Wise

Clayton’s version of this great ‘murder ballad’ is available as a download here:

http://archive.org/details/PaulClayton-01-05 (it is track four)

2. Pay Day at Coal Creek

A sample can be heard here at http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/window/media/page/0,,4764222-14833481,00.html

3. Gotta’ Travel On

A sample of Clayton’s own version of his greatest song can be heard here at http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/window/media/page/0,,4764222-14833485,00.html

4. The Twa Sisters

Magisterial version of a great song.

5. Shady Grove

Ditto – sample can be heard here:

http://www.7digital.com/artist/paul-clayton/release/dulcimer-songs-and-solos – (it is track 6)

6. Lass of Roch Royal

Shows Clayton’s masterly way with a melancholy song:

Sample can be heard here: http://www.folkways.si.edu/paul-clayton/folk-ballads-of-the-english-speaking-world/american-folk-celtic/music/album/smithsonian – (it is track 108)

7. The Seaman’s Grave

Sample of this track can be found here:


8. Polly Von

Sample can be heard here: ww.7digital.com/artist/various-artists/release/1-folk-album-ever (it is track 25)

9. Old Stormalong – from his great album of sea shanties

10. Go Down You Blood Red Roses – from the same album

This, of course, is only a sample from an extraordinarily rich, if brief, recording career.

To my mind, Clayton’s achievements first, as a collector of songs, second, as a singer and third, as a songwriter, mean that he deserves to be viewed as a kind of American Martin Cathy, rather than as a tragically doomed Dylan sidekick..

Paul Clayton, Murder Ballads & the ‘Old Weird America’

One of the frustrations of being an admirer of Paul Clayton’s music is the fact that a number of his Riverside albums are not available on CD.

I find it particularly irritating that his album Bloody Ballads: Classic British and American Murder Ballads, which includes an important early version of ‘Tom Dula’¬† or Tom Dooley has not been re-released and given the kind of scholarly treatment it deserves.

So, if anyone out there has an MP3 version of the album, I would be very interested in getting a copy.

The same goes for his first two exceedingly rare albums РWhaling Songs and Ballads (1954) Рnot to be confused with his later classic album of sea shanties, Whaling and Sailing Songs from the days of Moby Dick РWaters of Tyne (1956) and Timber-r-r: Lumberjack Folk Songs & Ballads  (1958).

The usual reservations apply, of course, – they would be intended purely for personal use and scholarly purposes etc. etc.

Travellin’ Blues

Lets have some Jimmie Rogers…always good for the soul.

Play them blues, boy:

Here’s the great Lefty Frizell’s cover version, which is almost as good as the original:

Just to round it off, here is Merle Haggard’s version from one of the greatest tribute album ever made:

Eric Andersen’s Thirsty Boots

Have been listening quite a lot recently to Bob Dylan’s fine version of this song, which can be heard in full here:


Would add here, however, that my favourite version of the song remains that by Eric Andersen himself included on the complilation cd ‘So Much on My Mind’ :

A sample of that version can be heard here:

Would also add that I am am a big fan of Andersen’s later work (from about the time of ‘Ghosts on the Road’ onwards). His voice especially has taken on an added grit with age which gives a new edge to his work.

To my mind at least, his last two live albums (‘Blue rain’ & ‘The Cologne Concert’) are among the best work he has ever done – and both feature musicians whose alertness and responsiveness put Bob’s current band to shame…

Striking really as ‘Blue Rain’ features a virtually unknown young Norwegian Blues band.

Here is their superb version of ‘Runaway’ where Andersen does a great Lou Reed impression:

One of the great enjoyments of listening to Blue Rain is hearing how Andersen feeds off the freshness and effervescence of the band. For them, it must have been like a Grimsby player getting a game with United..

By the same token, one of the reasons why the ‘Cologne Concert’ is such a fine record is because it sounds so little like ‘Blue Rain.’ Here is a taster:

Will finish up with Rick Danko’s great version of what is probably Andersen’s best song, ‘Blue River’ (the original features a great background vocal by Joni Mitchell):