Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair


h1 October 1st, 2011

Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair – 3103 in the Roud Folk Song Index is a traditional song that is widely believed to have originated in Scotland. Some versions are addressed to females and others to males. Nina Simone made it popular in the mid 20th century and her version was used in the 1993 Bridget Fonda film “Point of No Return.”

Lyrics:
[Em] Black is the color of my [D] true love’s [Em] hair
Her lips are like some [Am] rosy [D] fair
[Em] The purest [D] eyes and the [Em] neatest hands
I love the ground whereon [D] she stands

I go to the Clyde for to mourn and weep
But satisfied I never can sleep
I’ll write to you in a few short lines
I’ll suffer death ten thousand times

I know my love and well she knows
I love the grass whereon she goes
If she on earth no more I see
My life will quickly fade away

A winter’s past and the leaves are green
The time has past that we have seen
But still I hope the time will come
When you and I will be as one

Black is the color of my true love’s hair
Her lips are like some rosy fair
The purest eyes and the neatest hands
I love the ground whereon she stands

Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie


h1 September 1st, 2011

“Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” is said to be the most famous cowboy song. It was derived from a sea lament called “The Sailor’s Grave” or “The Ocean Burial” which began with the line: “O bury me not in the deep deep sea.”

A number of popular performers have recorded versions of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” including Moe Bandy, Johnny Cash, Burl Ives, Tex Ritter and Roy Rogers. Some even turn the meaning around by saying “Bury Me Out On The Lone Prairie”

Lyrics:
(Capo on the 4th fret)
[C] “O bury me not on the lone prairie.”
These words came [Dm] low and [G7] [C] mournfully
[C] From the pallid lips of the youth who lay
On his dying [Dm] bed at the [G7] close of [C] day.

He had wasted and pined ’til o’er his brow
Death’s shades were slowly gathering now
He thought of home and loved ones nigh,
As the cowboys gathered to see him die.

“O bury me not on the lone prairie
Where coyotes howl and the wind blows free
In a narrow grave just six by three—
O bury me not on the lone prairie”

“It matters not, I’ve been told,
Where the body lies when the heart grows cold
Yet grant, o grant, this wish to me
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“I’ve always wished to be laid when I died
In a little churchyard on the green hillside
By my father’s grave, there let me be,
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“I wish to lie where a mother’s prayer
And a sister’s tear will mingle there.
Where friends can come and weep o’er me.
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“For there’s another whose tears will shed.
For the one who lies in a prairie bed.
It breaks me heart to think of her now,
She has curled these locks, she has kissed this brow.”

“O bury me not…” And his voice failed there.
But they took no heed to his dying prayer.
In a narrow grave, just six by three
They buried him there on the lone prairie.

And the cowboys now as they roam the plain,
For they marked the spot where his bones were lain,
Fling a handful o’ roses o’er his grave
With a prayer to God his soul to save.

The Coast of Peru


h1 August 1st, 2011

One of my favorite folk albums is “Thar She Blows” with A. L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl on vocals, Peggy Seeger on banjo/guitar and John Cole on harmonica. I recorded this song in Lloyd’s vocal style, adding mandolin, banjo and guitar.

Here are some notes from A. L. Lloyd:

“The English whaling ship Emilia was the first to inaugurate the Pacific sperm whale fishery in 1788, rounding Cape Horn to fish in the waters of the South Sea islands and the coasts of Chile and Peru. By the 1840s, the days of the South Seamen were numbered, but they left behind a fine memorial in their songs, of which The Coast of Peru is perhaps the most impressive. Tumbez, mentioned in the last verse, is in the far north of Peru, on the Gulf of Guayaquil, near the equator. Its girls are remembered in several whaling songs.

By no means all the old time whaling was done in northern waters. In the 1820s, for example, more than a hundred British ships, mostly out of Hull or London, where fishing in the sperm whale grounds round the Horn off the coast of Chile and Peru and taking the long, long run across the Pacific by way of Galapagos Island and the Marquesas, to Timor. The trip would last three years. The Coast of Peru is the most important ballad of the South-Seamen. Possibly it describes the chase of a southern right whale, not a sperm. Sperms were usually harpooned by running the boat close to the whale. Right whales, who tend to fight with their tail, were more often harpooned with the “long dart” from perhaps ten yards away. Mention of the mate in the “main chains” dates the song before the 1840s.”

Lyrics:

[Dm] Come all you young [C] sailor-men who rounded [Dm] Cape Horn,
Come all you bold whalers who follow the sperm,
Our captain has told us and we hope he says true,
[Dm] There’s plenty of [C] sperm whale on the [Dm] coast of Peru.

It was was early one morning just as the sun rose,
The man on the for-mast sung out: “There she blows!”
“Where away?” says the captain, “and where does she lay?”
“Three points to the east, sir, not a mile away.”

Then it’s lower your boats me boys and after him travel
Steer clear of his flukes or he’ll flip you to the devil
And lay on them oars boys and let your boats fly
But one thing we dread of, keep clear of his eye!”

Well the waist-boat got down, and we made a good start.
“Lay on said the harpooneer for I’m hell for a long dart.”
Well the harpoon it struck and the whale sped away
But whatever he done, me boys, he gave us fair play.

Well we got him turned over and laid alongside
And we over with our blubber hooks to rob him of his hide
We commenced thrusting in boys and then trying out
And the mate in the main chains how loud he did shout

Now we’re bound for old Tumbez in our manly power
Where a man buys a pleasure house for a barrel of flour
We’ll spend all our money on them pretty girls ashore
And when it’s all gone me lads go whaling for more

Come all you young sailor-men who rounded Cape Horn,
Come all you bold whalers who follow the sperm,
Our captain has told us and we hope he says true,
There’s plenty of sperm whale on the coast of Peru.

Paul & Silas


h1 July 1st, 2011

A classic Gospel song, in the picking style I learned from Earl Scruggs.
Lyrics:

[A] Paul and Silas bound in jail
All night long
[D] Paul and Silas bound in jail
All night [A] long
[A] Paul and Silas bound in jail
All night [A] long
Cryin’ He shall [E] deliver [A] me

Jailer come and lock the gate
All night long X3
Cryin’ He shall deliver me

That old jail did reel and rock
All night long X3
Cryin’ He shall deliver me

Paul and Silas prayed to God
All night long X3
Cryin’ He shall deliver me

Paul and Silas bound in jail
All night long X3
Cryin’ He shall deliver me

Leave Her Johnny Leave Her


h1 June 1st, 2011

Liam Clancy sang this in concert. He’d introduce it: “Here’s a song you haven’t heard before but you’ll learn it in a few minutes and when you go home tonight, you’ll have a new song in your repertoire.” He’d get a good laugh on that! “It’s an old sea chantey. There was always a kind of sadness at the end of a voyage, in spite of all the fights and hardship, the sailors were a bit sorry to leave and they’d sing this song.”

The Space Shuttle Endeavour has landed for the last time, I would imagine the astronauts felt the same way as sailors leaving their ship.

The picture is from a video Camilla McGuinn shot at a concert where I performed this with John Sebastian.

Lyrics:

[D] I thought I heard the old man say,
[A] “Leave her, Johnny, [D] leave her,
[G] It’s a long, hard [D] pull to your [A] next [D] payday
[D] And it’s time for us to [A] leave [D] her”.
-Chorus-
[A] Leave her, Johnny, [D] leave her!
[G] Oh, leave her, Johnny, [D] leave her,
Oh the [G] voyage is [D] done and the [A] winds don’t [D] blow,
And it’s time for us to [A] leave [D] her!

Oh, the skipper was bad, but the mate was worse.
Leave her, Johnny, leave her
He’d blow you down with a spike and a curse,
And it’s time for us to leave her.
-Chorus-
Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,
And it’s time for us to leave her!

Oh pull you lubbers or you’ll get no pay
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
Oh pull you lubbers and then belay
And it’s time for us to leave her!
-Chorus-
Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,
And it’s time for us to leave her!

And now it’s time to say goodbye
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
Them pilings they is a-drawing nigh
And it’s time for us to leave her!
-Chorus- X 2

To Welcome Poor Paddy Home


h1 May 1st, 2011

This is a traditional Irish song I learned from the Makem & Spain Brothers. It’s on their latest CD “Up The Stairs.” I appreciate that they’re keeping the old songs alive!
Lyrics:
[C] I am a true born Irishman
I’ll never [G] deny what [C] I am
I was born in a sweet [Am] Tipperary town
[C] Three thousand [G] miles [C] away

-Chorus-

[C] So hurray me [G] boys [C] hurray

No more do I wish for to [F] roam
[C]
For the sun it will shine in the [Am] harvest time
[C]
For to welcome [G] poor Paddy [C] home

Now the girls thay are gay and frisky

They’ll take you by the hand

Saying Jimmy McGuinn would you please come in

To welcome poor Paddy home

-Chorus-

Well in came the foreign nation

And scattered all over the land

The horse and the cow and the goat, sheep and sow

Fell into the stranger’s hand

-Chorus-

Now Scotland can boast of the thistle

And England can boast of the rose

But Paddy can boast of the old Emerald Isle

Where the dear little shamrock grows.

-Chorus-

The Squirrel


h1 April 1st, 2011

A sweet little folk song to celebrate Spring in the Northern Hemisphere!
Lyrics:
[D] Squirrel He’s a funny little thing, carries a bushy [A7] tail
[D] He steals away the farmer’s corn, and he hides it on the rail
And he hides it on the [A7] rail

A partridge she’s a pretty little thing, she carries a speckled breast
She steals away the farmer’s corn, she carries it to her nest
And she carries it to her nest

The Possum he’s a cunning little thing, he travels after dark
He ain’t afraid of any old thing till he hears old Rattler bark
Till he hears old Rattler bark

A raccoon’s tail is ringed all around, possum’s tail is bare
A rabbit ain’t got no tail at all, just a little wee bunch of hair
Just a little wee bunch of hair

Polly Vaughn


h1 March 1st, 2011

Polly Vaughn is an old Irish folk song about a hunter who mistakenly shoots his true love thinking her to be a swan. Click HERE for more details.
Lyrics:
I will tell of a hunter whose life was undone,
By the cruel hand of evil at the setting of the sun,
His arrow was loosed and it flew through the dark,
And his true love was slain as the shaft found its mark;

She’d her apron wrapped about her,
And he took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;

He ran up beside her and found that it was she,
He turned away his face for he could not bear to see,
He lifted her up and he found she was dead,
A fountain of tears for his true love he shed;

She’d her apron wrapped about her,
And he took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;

He carried her off to his home by the sea,
Crying’ “Father, oh Father, I’ve murdered poor Polly!
I’ve killed my fair love in the flower of her life,
I’d always intended that she be my wife;”

“But she’d her apron wrapped about her
And I took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;”

He roamed near the place where his true love was slain,
And wept bitter tears, but his cries were all in vain,
As he looked on the lake, a swan glided by,
And the sun slowly set in the grey of the sky;

“But she’d her apron wrapped about her
And I took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;”

“She’d her apron wrapped about her
And I took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn.”

Henry Martin


h1 February 1st, 2011

I remember seeing Joan Baez sing “Henry Martin” at Club 47 in Cambridge MA in 1960. She looked and sounded just like she does in this clip: CLICK HERE
This ballad is sometimes confused with Andrew Barton, because they are similar both in story and sometimes in tune. According to Sharp Henry Martin is probably the older ballad and was recomposed during the reign of James I. However, some scholars feel it is the other way around. Whichever is the case, Henry Martin dates to at least the 1700s.

In the many versions the hero is variously Henry Martin (Martyn), Robin Hood, Sir Andrew Barton, Andrew Bodee, Andrew Bartin, Henry Burin and Roberton. Sharp feels Henry Martin is probably a corruption of the name Andrew Barton.

The ballad is based on a family that lived during the reign of Henry VIII. A Scottish officer, Sir Andrew Barton, was attacked by the Portuguese. Letters of marque were then issued to two of his sons. The brothers, not finding sufficient Portuguese ships, began harassing English merchants. King Henry VIII commissioned the Earl of Surrey to end their piracy. He was given two vessels which he put under the command of his sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard. They attacked Barton’s ships, The Lion and the Union, and captured them. They returned triumphant on August 2, 1511.

Child Ballad #250

Click Here for another strong performance of “Henry Martin” by actor Chris Leidenfrost-Wilson

Lyrics:
There were three brothers in merry Scotland,
In merry Scotland there were three,
And they did cast lots which of them should go,
should go, should go,
And turn robber all on the salt sea.

The lot it fell first upon Henry Martin,
The youngest of all three;
That he should turn robber all on the salt sea,
Salt sea, salt sea.
For to maintain his two brothers and he.

He had not been sailing but a long winter’s night
And a part of a short winter’s day,
Before he espied a stout lofty ship,
lofty ship, lofty ship,
Come abibing down on him straight way.

Hullo! Hullo! cried Henry Martin,
What makes you sail so nigh?
I’m a rich merchant bound for fair London town,
London Town, London Town
Will you please for to let me pass by?

Oh no! Oh no! cried Henry Martin,
That thing it never could be,
For I am turned robber all on the salt sea
Salt sea, salt sea.
For to maintain my brothers and me.

Come lower your topsail and brail up your mizz’n
And bring your ship under my lee,
Or I will give you a full flowing ball,
flowing ball, flowing ball,
And your dear bodies drown in the salt sea.

Oh no! we won’t lower our lofty topsail,
Nor bow ourselves under your lee,
And you shan’t take from us our rich merchant goods,
merchant goods, merchant goods
Nor point our bold guns to the sea.

With broadside and broadside and at it they went
For fully two hours or three,
Till Henry Martin gave to her the deathshot,
the deathshot, the deathshot,
And straight to the bottom went she.

Bad news, bad news, to old England came,
Bad news to fair London Town,
There’s been a rich vessel and she’s cast away,
cast away, cast away,
And all of the merry men drown’d.

Barbara Allen


h1 January 1st, 2011

I remember seeing Joan Baez sing this at Club 47 in Cambridge MA in 1960. She looked and sounded just like she does in this clip: CLICK HERE

Source of the following: Mudcat Cafe
Samuel Pepys in his “Diary” under the date of January 2nd 1665, speaks of the singing of “Barbara Allen.” The English and Scottish both claim the original ballad in different versions, and both versions were brought over to the US by the earliest settlers. Since then there have been countless variations (some 98 are found in Virginia alone). The version used here is the English one. The tune is traditional.

Child Ballad #84

Lyrics:
[D] In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a [G] fair maid [A] dwellin’
[G] Made every youth cry [Bm] Well-a-day,
[A] Her name was Barb’ra [D] Allen.

All in the merry month of May,
When green buds they were swellin’
Young Willie Grove on his death-bed lay,
For love of Barb’ra Allen.

He sent his man unto her then
To the town where she was dwellin’
You must come to my master, dear,
If your name be be Barb’ra Allen.

So slowly, slowly she came up,
And slowly she came nigh him,
And all she said when there she came:
“Young man, I think you’re dying!”

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was drawing nigh him.
Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
Be kind to Bar’bra Allen

As she was walking o’er the fields,
She heard the death bell knellin’,
And ev’ry stroke did seem to say,
Unworthy Barb’ra Allen.

When he was dead and laid in grave,
Her heart was struck with sorrow.
“Oh mother, mother, make my bed
For I shall die tomorrow.”

And on her deathbed she lay,
She begged to be buried by him,
And sore repented of the day
That she did e’er deny him.

“Farewell,” she said, “ye virgins all,
And shun the fault I fell in,
Henceforth take warning by the fall
Of cruel Barb’ra Allen.”