elmergantry

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

Category: Folk Music

‘A Life that I was living In some Cracked Rear View’: Songs of Experience

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Dylan Thomas ‘Fern Hill’

‘Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.’
George Orwell

“And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
William Blake

As the title suggests, this post is a sequel to the one I wrote recently on ‘Songs of Innocence.’ So here are ten songs which deal with one way or another with the often bitter and disillusioning experiences which accompany the passage of time and the path to maturity. For all of us, life generally grows in complexity as we age and the balance of light and shade in it tends to lean more towards the latter. It may be, however, that these sufferings which we all have to go through ultimately lead to some kind of maturity…

The first part of the title of today’s post comes from this song:

1. John Hiatt, ‘Learning How To Love You’:

2. Phil Ochs, ‘Rehearsals for Retirement’:

3. Smog, ‘Cold Blooded Old Times’

4. Jim White, ‘Chase the Dark Away’;

5. Rowland S. Howard, ‘Ave Maria’

6. Iris De Ment, ‘No Time to Cry”

7. Steve Earle, ‘Goodbye’

8. Bob Dylan, ‘Things Have Changed’:

9. Mary Gauthier, ‘I Drink’

10. Paul Clayton, ‘All The Good Times Are O’er’
Sample here – http://www.folkways.si.edu/paul-clayton/dulcimer-songs-and-solos/american-folk/music/album/smithsonian

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‘Songs of Innocence’

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the Sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

Dylan Thomas ‘Fern Hill’

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.
Patrick Kavanagh ‘Advent”

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

William Blake, ‘The Lamb’

As the title suggests, this post includes a selection of ten songs which reflect an ‘innocent’ perspective on life. Generally speaking, they tend deal with childhood experiences or with the early teenage years. Of course, there will be a sequel:

1. Phil Ochs, ‘Boy in Ohio’ :

2. Neil Young, ‘Sugar Mountain’:

3. Lucy Kaplansky, ‘Manhattan Moon”:

4. Ricky Nelson, ‘Waitin In School’:

5. Chuck Berry, ‘School Days’:

6. Sam Cooke, “Wonderful World’:

7. Smog, ‘Teenage Spaceship’:

8. Guy Clark, ‘Texas 1947’:

9. The Go-Betweens, ‘Cattle and Cane’:

10. Mary Gauthier, ‘Sugar Cane”:

‘No Time to Cry’: A Selection of Songs For Father’s Day

A Kite for Michael and Christopher

All through that Sunday afternoon
A kite flew above Sunday,
a tightened drumhead, an armful of blow chaff.

I’d seen it grey and slippy in the making,
I’d tapped it when it dried out white and stiff,
I’d tied the bows of the newspaper
along its six-foot tail.

But now it was far up like a small black lark
and now it dragged as if the bellied string
were a wet rope hauled upon
to life a shoal.

My friend says that the human soul
is about the weight of a snipe
yet the soul at anchor there,
the string that sags and ascends,
weigh like a furrow assumed into the heavens.

Before the kite plunges down into the wood
and this line goes useless
take in your two hands, boys, and feel
the strumming, rooted, long-tailed pull of grief.
You were born fit for it.
Stand here in front of me
and take the strain.

Seamus Heaney

Reading Thom’s Hickeys fine post on Father’s Day at The Immortal Jukebox gave me the idea for this selection of songs. The idea of using a Heaney poem to introduce it also came from that piece.
As Thom points out there, the relationship between a child and its parents is one of the most significant in our lives. In consequence it is, perhaps, unsurprising that many of these songs are of a very high quality, indeed. By the way, my favourite is the last one…
Although the majority of the ten songs I have chosen here look at the relationship from the child’s perspective, the first three look at it from the other direction.

1. Jackie Leven, ‘Single Father’:

2. Sean Keane, ‘Kilkelly Ireland”:

3. Loudon Wainwright, ‘The Day That We Die’:

4. Merle Haggard, ‘I Still Can’t Say Goodbye”:

5. Paul Westerberg, ‘My Dad”:

6. Rosanne Cash, ‘Black Cadillac’:

7. Lucy Kaplansky, ‘Today’s The Day”:

8. Jimmie Rodgers, ‘Daddy and Home”:

9. Rodney Crowell, ‘The Rock of My Soul”:

10. Guy Clark, ‘Randall Knife”:

Trucking, driving, Rambling and Rollin’ Songs – Part 2

Another ten songs on this theme. Realised the previous one had not included any Chuck Berry, so will start with:
!. Chuck Berry, ‘Maybelline’:


2. Dave and Phil Alvin, ‘Trucking Little Woman'”


3. J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, ‘Truckstop Amphetamines (thanks to Paul Kerr of Blabber ‘n’ Smoke for putting me on to this fine artist]’:


4. Rory Gallagher, ‘Livin’ Like a Trucker”;


5. Jimmy Witherspoon, ‘No Rollin’ Blues”:


6. Rodney Crowell, ‘Many a Long and Lonesome Highway”;


7. Gordon Lightfoot, ‘Restless’:


8. Merle Haggard, ‘Ramblin Fever’:


9. Jimmie Rogers ‘Somewhere Down Below the Dixon Line’:


10. Woody Guthrie, ‘Ramblin’ Blues’;

 

Another Place, Another Time

Great picture of Dave Van Ronk and Paul Clayton – not sure where it was taken:

https://i1.wp.com/blogs.lib.unc.edu/sfc/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/20239_pf0058_01_0038.jpg

Voices Part III: ‘The Death of Queen Jane”

To conclude my discussion of the way in which rock, folk and country music deal with the topic of the deaths of close relatives/friends, have included a few more songs here which deal with the topic. Most of these come from the latter two genres, which, it seems to me, are far more comfortable with discussing death than are rock and pop music with their emphasis on youth.

Will begin with The Bothy Band’s fine live version of ‘The Death of Queen Jane’:

Next up is Joe Heaney’s ‘Song of the Drowned’ or ‘Curachaí na Trá Báine:

This can be heard here at
http://www.joeheaney.org/default.asp?contentID=781

Will follow this with two songs by Paul Clayton, who had a special talent for covering melancholic songs:

The first is ‘The Seaman’s Grave’:

A sample can be heard here at http://www.pandora.com/paul-clayton/bay-state-ballads

and the second is ‘The Dying Stockman”;

A sample can be found here at http://www.pandora.com/paul-clayton/folk-ballads-of-english-speaking-world/dying-stockman.

Will finish up with two country songs. The first one is Roseanne Cash’s superb ‘Black Cadillac’

The second is ‘Peace in the Valley” from Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s excellent cd of covers of classic country songs, recorded as a tribute to his father:

A sample can be heard here at http://www.pandora.com/jimmie-dale-gilmore/come-on-back/peace-in-valley

7 Drunken Nights Gave Me The Blues

Had a strange experience yesterday – was listening to a Sonny Boy Williamson compilation cd I bought recently and heard a song which sounded remarkably familiar. It was one of those instances where you spend some time trying to remember exactly where you had heard that song (or one very similar to it) before – and then it hit me. The song I was thinking of was The Dubliners ‘Seven Drunken Nights’.

But to retrace our steps. Here is the Sonny Boy Williamson song, ‘Wake Up Baby’:

and here is The Dubliners:

The Dubliners’ song itself is based on an earlier Irish language song called ‘Peigín agus Peadar’, which they learned from the great Irish singer, Joe Heaney. Heaney’s version of it can be heard here:

http://www.joeheaney.org/default.asp?contentID=991

The song probably made the journey from Connemara to the USA with the Irish emigrants who travelled there. How it ended up in Sonny Boy Williamson’s repertoire I can only guess, although Leadbelly’s version of ‘Stewball’ was also based on an Irish original:

Here is a great version of that original, ‘The Plains of Kildare’ by Andy Irvine and Paul Brady:

Another Time and Place

A beautiful song and performance by the late great Dave Van Ronk:

a more fitting tribute to this great artist than the travesty that is ‘Inside Llewyn Davis‘ – its seems the Coen brothers can only look at other generations through their own tawdry lenses…

 

 

 

Who gwine to bring you chickens, honey,?

Returning to this song, it seems clear that it is derived (or is, perhaps, a parody) of a long line of songs in this vein which goes back far into the past. An example would be songs such as ‘Who’s gonna shoe your pretty little feet’ which was recorded by Woody Guthrie among others. His version is below:

 

 

Here is the Everly’s Brothers version (as a belated tribute to the late great Don Everly who died in January):

 

 

Clayton himself (who incidentally would have been 83 on Monday) had also recorded a number of songs in this vein. Perhaps the best of them is his classic version of the Child ballad, ‘Lass of Roch Royal” from his album, ‘Folk Ballads of the English Speaking World’, with its lines:

 

“Oh who will lace my shoes so small?

And who will glove my hand

And who will lace my middle so jimp [slender]

With my new-made linen band?

 

“Who will comb my yellow hair?

With my new silver comb

And who will father my young son

Till Lord Gregory comes home?

Don’t Think Twice Revisited – Again

Have been looking further into the origins of Paul Clayton’s ‘Who’s gonna buy your Ribbons’ and have come up with a few new ‘leads’, as it were.

Especially after the contributions here from Jaan Kolk on ‘Gotta Travel On’, I have come to the conclusion that Clayton’s original songs were usually based on a range of sources -in effect, having a patchwork quality, which, ironically enough, is similar to the way in which Bob Dylan writes songs today…

Bearing this in mind, it seems that the formulation ‘sit and sigh’ was a pretty common one in folksongs – in a quick search, I found it used in “Lady Margaret” –
‘My hounds will eat o’ the bread of wheat
and ye of the bread o’bran
And then yo’will sit and sigh
That e’er ye loved a man’

It is also used in the song, the ‘Faerie’s Love Song’:
‘Why should I sit and sigh?
Pullin’ bracken, pullin’ bracken
Why should I sit and sigh,
On a hillside weary?’

The lines about the ‘long lonesome road’ and being forced to ‘travel on’ in Clayton’s song may also owe something to this song, ‘The Lonesome Road’, which was recorded by Gene Austin in 1927. In an ironic twist, Bob Dylan was to use part of the lytic of that song in his ‘Sugar Baby’.

Here is Gene Austin’s version of the song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5AM8xtl-uU

and this is Bing Crosby’s, recorded in 1938:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB3CRO9WL10

Clayton also recorded his own version of ‘Lonesome Road’ on his classic album of dulcimer songs and solos. He claimed to have learned this version – which he suggested was the original that was followed by the other more commercial versions – from ‘Negro sources in Bedford County, Virginia”.

This version can be heard here: