WILL YE GANG TO THE HIELANDS
a while since we had a good old Child ballad in this space,
so here’s a
pretty one to learn. Like
this old, there are many variants out there, especially of
the lyrics on this
one. You can
hear this version performed
by The Corries at
or at the link below. I have
Americanized some of the dialect, but
not all. Capo
at the second fret and
play in C as indicated and you will be in tune with the
to Cehlena Solus of Wylde Meade for
digging this one up.
DID YOU TRY TO
ABSCOND WITH A BEAUTIFUL BLONDE?
SHE CHURNED THE BUTTER IN DAD’S OLD BOOTThis one was always a standard to do for kids – young or old. I learned it from Pete Seeger’s record, How to Play the Five String Banjo, published around 1961. I wonder how many kids today would know what a churn was, or a dasher. Or butter, for that matter. You can hear how Pete did the song with audience participation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TIYfCTAqP8, or at the link below.
THE ANGELS SING A LULLABY
Bedford returns to Second Saturday January 11 (see Page 1). Ben can bring
history and literature alive with his songwriting, and this
song from his excellent CD, Lincoln’s Man, is a
fine example. The
last verse, with its interwoven references to Jack London’s
works, is a songwriting tour de force. I’ve transposed it
to a lower key for easier singing. You can access a video of
Ben Bedford singing this at the link below.
song was first performed as part of a play by Brendan Behan,
who is credited with composing it. Learning that came
as a surprise to me, because when I first heard it performed
by Ian and Sylvia in the early 60’s it sure sounded like an
old folk song. It
is based on Behan’s personal experience at Mountjoy Prison,
where he was confined at one time. You can hear this
song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRL7pEMMIbU, or
at the link below.
HOW CAN A YOUNG MAN STAY AT HOME
is a great jamming tune, and the verses can go on
of the dozens of verses to “Shady Grove” will fit, among
can hear a nice rendition of this song by the Dublin
group We Banjo 3 at
or at the link below.
Down The River Uncle Joe [video] Down The River Uncle Joe [lyrics and chords]
BEND DOWN THE TALLEST TREE
not Christmas yet, but not too early to start learning a carol
or two. This song
has the rare distinction of being both a Child ballad https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_Ballads and
a Christmas carol. It
dates back to at least the 15th century, where it
is known to have been sung at the Feast of Corpus Christi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_Christi_(feast). This is the version I
learned from a 1961 Joan Baez record (Yes, a vinyl record. I still have it). The chords are
slightly different from some other versions, but I love her
treatment of it, which you can hear at the link below.
ALL THE LADS HAVE GOT THE SACK
Valley in South Wales has been synonymous with coal mining
since the mid-nineteenth century, and the fortunes of the
region and its people have always paralleled those of the
coal industry. Pete
Seeger’s song “The Bells of Rhymney” based on the poem by
Welsh poet Idris Davies mentions “the black bells of
Rhondda” – black from the coal dust. This song was
written by Frank Hennessey during a miners’ strike. The reference to
“Roben’s axe” refers to Alfred Robens, who was Chairman of
the National Coal Board from 1961 to 1971. You can hear this
song performed by The New Barleycorn
at the link below.
all the Welsh names in the last verse don’t roll easily off
your tongue, it would probably not violate the folk process
to substitute Anglicized Welsh names like Morgan, Davis,
Farewell to the Rhondda [video] Farewell to the Rhondda [lyrics and chords]
ONE CHORD WOODY
presents a real dilemma between authenticity and art. As you can see
Woody performed it playing a D major chord throughout the
song. And the
purity and earnestness of the song certainly comes out when
it is done that way. But
to my musical taste, the melody cries out for a minor chord
at the beginning, and the dramatic change to the relative
major in the second line, as in this fine rendition from
1965 by Tracy Newman
take your pick. That’s
why they call it folk music.
I have notated the chords the way Tracy plays it. You can play it as
she does in the A minor chord shape and capo anywhere from
open up to V or so to fit your vocal range.
‘TIS NATURE’S NEED; ‘TIS GOD’S DECREE
leaders of the Abolitionist movement set up anti-slavery
singing circles and wrote special songs for them, generally
set to the tune of old hymns. The best of them was this
“Abolitionists Hymn” set to the familiar “Old Hundredth.”,
which was published in the Genevan Psalter in 1551. John Pierpont
wrote the lyrics as a poem in 1842. If you have ever
accompanied a hymn singalong, you will know that many hymn
tunes change chords just about every beat. This one is no
exception, so don’t take it too fast. I have simplified
the chords somewhat from the nice rendition by Stephen
Griffith that can be found at the link below.
YER ILL-SPUN YARN
This old Scottish song has an
interesting prescription for the young man whose girl is
in a family way: Enlist
and see the world. If
you don’t care for the dialect, it is perfectly
appropriate to sing the conventional English words. Most are easy to
figure out. “Owsen
wis tae rin” means
“Oxen was to run”. A
bairn is, or course, a baby.
You can hear this song performed by The Corries
at the link below.
IT AIN’T NO
THAT I’VE EVER BEEN HURT IN MY LIFE
Brothers were an American country music duo composed of
brothers Ira Lonnie Loudermilk (1924–1965) and Charlie Elzer
Loudermilk (1927–2011), better known as Ira and Charlie
Louvin. They helped popularize close harmony, and could be
considered direct forerunners of duos like The everly
Brothers.. The brothers are cousins to John D. Loudermilk, a
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member. You can hear a
lovely rendition of this sing by Jim and Jesse at the link
When I Stop Dreaming [video] When I Stop Dreaming [lyrics and chords]
STILL AN ODE TO JOY
March 9 Second Saturday artist Steve Fisher
has graciously given us permission to publish this lovely
and wistful song from his new 2-CD release, Growin’ Roses. Old-time
Kerrverts will remember him winning New Folk in 1990, and
his presence around the late-night campfires (and he’s
there still). You
can hear this song on Steve’s new CD, or at the link below.
he carried the idea for this song and his memories of Mr.
Zeidman around for many years before he finally wrote it. The newspaper
article that you can find here: open_the_article
tells the story
better than I could. He
uses a very original chord progression in the song, but just
about all the chords are quite accessible. For the A9 chord in line
2, just fret the third and fourth strings both at the second
fret, and that will work fine in this song. This song is on
Pierce’s new CD, Father’s Son,
just released in January of this year, or you can listen to
it by using the link below to view Pierce and David Webb
performance of the song. To
play along with the recording, capo at the first fret and
refer to the lyrics and chord sheet linked below.
Mr. Zeidman [video] Mr. Zeidman [lyrics & chords]
TO MAKE THE WOUNDED WHOLE
no balm in Gilead? Is
there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my
fine old African-American spiritual uses these words from
Jeremiah 8:22 to also allude to faith in the healing and
redemptive power of Jesus.
You can hear a lovely rendition of the song on the
Audio Archive at the link below. I have transcribed
it in the same key as the recording.
Balm in Gilead [audio] Balm in Gilead [lyrics & chords]
THERE IS NO JUDGE MORE FAIR THAN TIMEBenny Hughes tells the story that the first time Jack Hardy played at Tom Yeager’s Songbird Sanctuary, I called him up and said, “Benny, you’ve got to go hear this guy – he’s the real deal.” Jack Hardy was indeed the real deal, and when we lost Jack in 2011, we lost not only a brilliant songwriter, but a major exponent of the folk music movement. This is one of Jack’s many “Celtic” tunes, and a personal favorite. You can hear this tune and play along with it at the link below.
AND I HEARD THE ANSWER
song became well known around Houston when Bill graciously
allowed Across The Water to perform and record it. Bill and Kate are
returning to Second Saturday October 13, and Hobos
will no doubt be requested, and much of the audience will
sing along. Here
are the chords and lyrics in case you want to practice up
for Second Saturday. You
can hear Bill and Kate perform this song at the link below.
have transcribed the song in G. If you want to
play along on the video, capo at the first fret.
Hobos in the Roundhouse [video] Hobos in the Roundhouse [lyrics and chords]
LOCK MY HEART IN
A BOX OF GOLDEN
THE BIG FOOL SAID TO PUSH ON
I heard this song before I knew it was by Pete Seeger, It could be taken as “political.” Or not. I took it as a pretty cool piece of music, and a good cautionary tale, and still do. You can hear Pete perform this song at the link below.
WRAP ME UP IN ME OILSKINS AND JUMPER
WE TOOK CARE OF THE BOYS
The Folk Alliance International invited Joe Crookston, our February 10 Second Saturday artist (see Page 1) to be the Artist in Residence at the 2016
Conference in Kansas City MO. Joe collaborated with the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, digging into their archives of letters,
photographs, field recordings and objects from WWI. After reading hundreds of letters, Joe chose to tell the story of Florence Hemphill, a woman.
A nurse of Scottish ancestry from Wilson County Kansas. A worker less honored in the history books. Florence was a courageous medical presence
in France during some of the most intense fighting. This song is on Joe’s newest CD, Joe Crookston 2017, or you can hear it at the link below.
THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE TOWN
HE’LL GO NO MORE A-ROVIN’
NOTHING MATTERS WHEN YOU’RE FREE
NEITHER WIND NOR RAIN CARE FOR BRAVERY
TEN GUNINEAS IN GOLD I WILL SLIP IN YOUR FIST
We could consider this a 19th century anti-war song. It was first collected around 1840 in Limerick by Patrick Weston Joyce. Many traditional songs tell of aggressive recruitment tactics and paying the king’s gold or getting young men drunk to get them to enlist. I haven’t previously seen one where the would-be “recruits” take matters into their own hands quite as forcefully as Arthur McBride and his cousin. You can hear a charming rendition of this song by an unidentified group at the link below.