She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain


h1 November 1st, 2013

Widely believed to be a children’s song, “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” has some interesting roots. It was derived from a spiritual, “When the Chariot Comes” about the second coming of Jesus Christ and the subsequent Rapture. In this version “she” refers to union organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, who traveled the southern United States to promote the formation of labor unions in the Appalachian coal mining camps.

The song was also popular with railroad work gangs in the Midwestern United States in the 1890s.

This variation with the answers “Yum Yum, Hi Babe, Whoa Back, Yee Ha” was one my wife Camilla learned as a child in her Beaufort, South Carolina elementary school.

Lyrics:

[G] She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
When she comes Yee Ha
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
When she [D] comes Yee Ha
[G] She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
She’ll be [C] comin’ round the mountain
She’ll be [D] comin’ round the mountain
[G] When she comes Yee Ha

She’ll be driving six white horses
When she comes Whoa Back
When she comes Whoa Back
She’ll be driving six white horses
When she comes
When she comes
She’ll be driving six white horses
She’ll be driving six white horses
She’ll be driving six white horses
When she comes Whoa Back, Yee Ha

Oh, we’ll all go to meet her
When she comes Hi Babe
Oh, we’ll all go to meet her
When she comes Hi Babe
Oh, we’ll all go to meet her
Yes, we’ll all go to meet her
Yes, we’ll all go to meet her
When she comes Hi Babe, Whoa Back, Yee Ha

We’ll be eating chicken and dumplings
When she comes Yum Yum
We’ll be eating chicken and dumplings
When she comes Yum Yum
We’ll be eating chicken and dumplings
We’ll be eating chicken and dumplings
We’ll be eating chicken and dumplings
When she comes Yum Yum, Hi Babe, Whoa Back, Yee Ha

She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
When she comes Yee Ha
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
When she comes Yee Ha
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
When she comes Yee Ha, Yum Yum, Hi Babe, Whoa Back, Yee Ha

Swannanoa Tunnel


h1 October 1st, 2013

This is a Western North Carolina folksong about an 1800 foot railroad tunnel constructed in the late Nineteenth Century with the help of convict labor. HERE is an interesting historical discussion about it.
Lyrics:

Riff in A

I’m going back to the Swannanoa Tunnel
That’s my home, baby, that’s my home

Asheville Junction, Swannanoa Tunnel
All caved in, baby, all caved in

Last December I remember
The wind blowed cold, baby, the wind blowed cold

When you hear my watchdog howling
Somebody around, baby, somebody around

When you hear that hoot owl squalling
Somebody dying, baby, somebody dying

Ain’t no hammer in this mountain
Out rings mine, baby, out rings mine

This old hammer it killed John Henry
It didn’t kill me, baby, couldn’t kill me

Riley Gardner, he killed my partner
He couldn’t kill me, baby, he couldn’t kill me

This old hammer it rings like silver
It shines like gold, baby, it shines like gold

Take this hammer, throw it in the river
It rings right on, baby, it shines right on

Some of these days I’ll see that woman
Well that’s no dream, baby, that’s no dream

Jimmy Brown


h1 September 1st, 2013

I first heard this tune in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Eric Weissberg and Roger Sprung would stand around the fountain and play banjo while we all played guitars.
Lyrics:
[C] I sell the morning papers sir my name is [G] Jimmy Brown
Everybody knows that I’m the newsboy of this [C] town
You can hear me yellin’ Morning Star up and down [G] the street
Got no hat upon my head no shoes upon my [C] feet

Never mind sir how I look don’t look at me and frown
Sell the morning papers sir my name is Jimmy Brown
I’m awful cold and hungry sir my clothes is mighty thin
Wander bout from place to place my daily bread to win

My father died a drunkard sir I’ve heard my mama say
I am helpin’ mama sir as I journey on my way
My mama always tells me sir I’ve nothing in the world to lose
I’ll get a place in heaven sir to sell the Gospel News

I sell the morning papers sir my name is Jimmy Brown
Everybody knows that I’m the newsboy of this town
You can hear me yellin’ Morning Star up and down the street
Got a hat upon my head no shoes upon my feet

My father died a drunkard sir I’ve heard my mama say
I am helpin’ mama sir, as I journey on my way
My mama always tells me sir I’ve nothing in the world to lose
I’ll get a place in heaven sir to sell the Gospel News

I Heard The Voice Of Jesus


h1 August 1st, 2013

This hymn was written by Horatius Bonar of Edinburgh Scotland around 1866. He put these lyrics to an existing folk tune “Dives and Lazarus.” Although the song has been around for over a century, I had never heard it before attending a little blue church on the corner near our house. Someone in the congregation had requested it and the melody was so sweet I had to record it.
Lyrics:
[Gm] I heard the voice of [Bb] Jesus [F] say, [Gm] “Come unto Me and [F] rest;
[Gm] Lay down, thou weary [Bb] one, lay [F] down Thy head upon My [Gm] breast.”
[Bb] I came to Jesus [F] as I was, [Bb] weary and worn and [F] sad;
[Gm] I found in Him a [Bb] resting [F] place, and [Gm] He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk, till traveling days are done.

I’ve Been Working On The Railroad


h1 July 1st, 2013

In the 1800′s working on the railroad was a good job for many folks who had immigrated to the United States from other countries. The workers were hard driven! Evidently the “Dinah Won’t You Blow Your Horn” part of this tune was taken from a song of an earlier period. In any case it makes for a rousing chorus that’s repeated three times!
Lyrics:
[D] I’ve been working on the railroad [G] all the live long [D] day
I’ve been working on the railroad just to [Em] pass the time [A] away
Can’t you hear the whistle [D] blowing [G] rise up early in the [D] morn’
[G] Can’t you hear the captain [D] calling Dinah [A] blow your [D] horn

[D] Dinah won’t you blow [G] Dinah won’t you blow [A] Dinah won’t you blow [D] your horn
[D] Dinah won’t you blow [G] Dinah won’t you blow [A] Dinah won’t you blow [D] your horn
[D] Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, Someone’s in the kitchen [A] I know
[D] Someone’s in the kitchen with [G] Dinah, [D] strumming on the [A] old [D] banjo

And singing [D] fe fi fiddlie i O fe fi fiddlie i [G] OOO [D] fe fi fiddlie [A] iO strumming on the old [D] banjo

Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow your horn
Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow your horn
Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, Someone’s in the kitchen I know
Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strumming on the old banjo

And singing fe fi fiddlie i O fe fi fiddlie i OOO fe fi fiddlie iO strumming on the old banjo

Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow your horn
Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow Dinah won’t you blow your horn
Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, Someone’s in the kitchen I know
Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strumming on the old banjo

And singing fe fi fiddlie i O fe fi fiddlie i OOO fe fi fiddlie iO strumming on the old banjo

We Are Crossing The Jordan River


h1 June 1st, 2013

This is a song that helped catapult Joan Baez to become the “Queen of Folk Music.” Bob Gibson had invited her to sing with him at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. Her performance was so riveting that two record labels, Columbia and Vanguard tried to sign her to a recording contract. Joan chose Vanguard thinking she would have more artistic license at a smaller label.

Three years later Joan introduced her audiences to a then-unknown Bob Dylan.

Lyrics:
[D] We are crossing that [D7] Jordan River
[G] I want my [D] crown, [G] I want my [D] crown
[G] We are crossing that Jordan River
[A7] I want my crown, my golden crown
[D] Jordan River deep and [D7] wide
[G] Got my home on the [Gm] other side
[D] We are crossing [B7] that Jordan [E] River [A]
[D] I want my crown

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
I want to sit down, I want to sit down
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
I want to sit down, on my golden throne
Jordan River chilly and cold
Chills the body, not the soul
We are crossing that Jordan River
I want my crown

Now when I get to Heaven
I’m going to sit down, I’m going to sit down
Now when I get to Heaven
I’m going to sit down, on my golden throne
Jordan River deep and wide
I Got my home on the other side
We are crossing that Jordan River
I want my crown

Jordan River chilly and cold
Chills the body, not the soul
We are crossing that Jordan River
I want my crown

Early One Morning


h1 May 1st, 2013

“Early One Morning”, also known as “The Lovesick Maiden” is an English folk song that dates back to 1787. It was cataloged by Roud #12682. I learned this song in glee club at the Latin School of Chicago in the late 1950s. It has such a lovely melody that I decided not to add harmony.
Lyrics:
[E] Early one morning,
[A] Just as the sun was [B] rising,
[E] I heard a young maid sing,
[A] In the [B] valley down [E] below.

CHORUS:
[B] Oh, don’t [E] deceive me,
[B] Oh, never [E] leave me,
How could you [A] use
A [B] poor maiden [E] so?

Remember the vows,
You made to your Mary,
Remember the bow’r,
Where you vowed to be true,

Chorus

Oh Gay is the garland,
And fresh are the roses,
I’ve culled from the garden,
To place upon thy brow.

Chorus

Thus sang the poor maiden,
Her sorrows bewailing,
Thus sang the poor maid,
In the valley down below.

Chorus

Early one morning,
Just as the sun was rising,
I heard a young maid sing,
In the valley down below.

Chorus

Swing Low Sweet Chariot


h1 April 1st, 2013

This was written by Wallis Willis, circa 1860 in Native American Territory, which is now Hugo Oklahoma. The Red River inspired the song because it reminded Willis of the Jordan River where the prophet Elijah was taken up to Heaven.
Lyrics:
[G] Swing low [Em] sweet chariot
[G] coming for to carry me [D] home
[Am] Swing low o o o [C] o o o
[G] coming for to [D] carry me [G] home

Swing low sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home
Swing low o o o o o o
coming for to carry me home

Well I looked over yonder and what did I see
coming for to carry me home
A band of angels coming after me
coming for to carry me home

Swing low sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home
Swing low o o o o o o
coming for to carry me home

Well if you get there before I do
coming for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I’m a-commin’ too
coming for to carry me home

Swing low sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home
Swing low o o o o o o
coming for to carry me home

Well the happiest day I can say
coming for to carry me home
When Jesus washed all my sins away
coming for to carry me home

Swing low sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home
Swing low o o o o o o
coming for to carry me home

Swing low sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home
Swing low o o o o o o
coming for to carry me home

The Moonshiner


h1 March 1st, 2013

Inspired by Buell Kazee’s 1958 Folkways recording, I did my best to emulate his phrasing and 5-string banjo style. The photo is of a real moonshiner, Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton who was quite popular in the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina. He got busted and chose to take his own life in 2009 rather than spend his last 18 months in Federal prison. He had cancer and was sure he would die there.
Lyrics:
G# Modal tuning
I’ve been a moonshiner for seven long years
I spent all my money on whiskey and beer

Working and pretty women don’t trouble my mind
If whiskey don’t kill me I’ll live a long time

I’ll go up some holler I’ll set up my still
I’ll make you one gallon for a two dollar bill

Banks of Newfoundland


h1 February 1st, 2013

Written in 1820 by Chief Justice Francis Forbes, “Banks of Newfoundland” is one of the first published songs about this northeast region of Canada. It was once used as a dance tune and later as a march by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. I heard it sung by Ewan McColl and A.L. Lloyd on their 1960 L.P. “Blow Boys Blow.”

An explanation of the fourth verse: To “reef” a sail is to furl and lash it to the yard or the long beam that supports the sail. The crew did this while standing on a single line which they would “mount” and sometimes “pass” another shipmate in the process.

Lyrics:
[Em] Me bully boys of Liverpool
I’d have you to [D] beware,
[Em] When you sail on them packet ships,
no dungaree [D] jumpers [Em] wear;
[G] But have a big monkey [C] jacket
[G] all ready to your [D] hand,
[Em] For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the [D] Banks of [Em] Newfoundland.

[G] We’ll scrape her and we’ll [C] scrub her
[G] with holy stone and [D] sand,
[Em] For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the [D] Banks of [Em] Newfoundland.

We had Jack Lynch from Ballynahinch,
Mike Murphy and some more,
I tell you lad, they suffered like mad
on the way to Baltimore;
They pawned their gear in Liverpool
and sailed as they did stand,
But there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

Now the mate he stood on the fo’c’sle head
and loudly he did roar,
Now rattle her in ye lucky lads,
you’re bound for America’s shore;
Come wipe the blood off that dead man’s face
and haul or you’ll be canned,
For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

So now it’s reef and reef, me boys
With the Canvas frozen hard
And it’s mount and pass every mother’s son
on a ninety foot topsail yard
never mind about boots and oilskins
but sail just as you stand
For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

So now we’re off the Hook, me boys,
the land is white as snow,
And soon we’ll see the pay table
and we’ll spend the night below;
And on the docks, come down in flocks,
them pretty girls will stand,
It’s snugger with me than on the sea,
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.