Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Folk Songs, AO year 2021-22

Folk songs are here!  


The Jam on Jerry's Rocks


This is a logging song.  The quickest way to move logs cut down in the backwoods of North America was to get them to a river and float them down to areas that had roads. But sometimes the logs would jam up and the jam would have to be broken up.  This was hard and dangerous work, like the rest of logging.  Watch the old movie Seven Brides for SEven Brothers for a lighter take

Lyrics are from this version (there are numerous versions ):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F71HYY1EsrU&list=PL2IR3x_bkyR4dpYOGqNSis0tEZDT789j3&index=22

 

Come all you brave young shanty boys,

And have ye all draw near and hear my lamentation

It’s more than I can bear.

Concerning six young shanty boys so manly and so brave

Went down the Jam at Jerry’s Rock and met with a watery grave.

 

'Twas on one Sunday morning as you may plainly hear

The logs were piled up mountains high
We could not keep them clear
The boss did say “turn out me boys with hearts all free from fear.

We’ll break the Jam on Jerry’s Rock and Freegan’s town we’ll steer.”

 

Some of the boys were willing boys, some stunned that way with fright

To work upon a Sunday, they did not think twas right

When six of our Canadian boys, they volunteered to go
To break the Jam on Jerry's Rocks
With the foreman, young Monroe.

 

They had not rolled off many’s a log when the boss of them did say:
“I'll have you all be on your guard, this jam will soon give way”
He scarce had the time to say these words
When the jam did break and go,
And carried away those six bold youths,
And the foreman, young Monroe.

 

When the rest of the young shanty boys

These tidings sad did hear;
The search for their dead comrades, to the river they did steer.

To search for their dead comrades to the river they did go

All mangled, bruised and bleeding was

the foreman, young Monroe.

 

Now they buried him quite decently,
On the 5th of May,
And all his brave comrades, o’er his dead form they did pray.
And engraved upon the hemlock tree that by his grave did grow
the name and date of drowning fate
Of the foreman, young Monroe.

 

So come all you brave young shanty boys and come along with me.

I’ll take you to the riverside to see that hemlock tree

To read the fate of he who was the bravest man to go

To break the Jam on Jerry’s Rock, our foreman, young Monroe.

Purchase at Amazon

According to Contemplator.org, "Gerry's Rocks (Gerrish) are above The Forks, Maine and the events of the tune are related on a rock and tree on the Kennebec River. "Sagmor Town" is a corruption of Saginaw, which is probably a corruption of "Saguenay," a river and site of an Indian settlement."

 However, other folk song collections say the location of Gerry's rocks has never been determined. 

Some variations of Monroe or Monro pulling out the key log that breaks up the jam and dying in that successful effort. Some talk about his mangled body on the beach, and at least one, gulp, refers to his mangled head on the shore. 


According to one site I read, drowning was the leading cause of death among lumberjacks in the 19th and early 20th century, when logs were transported by floating them downriver.


The Wellerman

Lyrics taken from this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_8tAyecj2g

This is my favourite song and I've been waiting a year to share it on this play list. If you or your kids know tiktok or know somebody who has tiktok or know somebody who knows somebody who knows... you get the picture- you already have heard this. For me, it has never gotten old. 

Yes, my friends, TikTok, of all social media, made sea chanties cool again in 2020 and 2021.  AO did a rotation of sea chanties several years ago.  Who knew how cutting edge we were?

 

There once was a ship that put to sea

The name of the ship was the Billy of Tea

The winds blew up, her bow dipped down

O blow, my bully boys, blow (Huh!)

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

 

She'd not been two weeks from shore

When down on her, a right whale bore

The captain called all hands and swore

He'd take that whale in tow (Huh!)

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

 

Before the boat had hit the water

The whale's tail came up and caught her

All hands to the side, harpooned and fought her

When she dived down low (Huh!)

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

 

No line was cut, no whale was freed

The Captain's mind was not of greed

But he belonged to the whaleman's creed

She took that ship in tow (Huh!)

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

 

For forty days, or even more

The line went slack, then tight once more

All boats were lost, there were only four

But still that whale did go (Huh!)

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

 

As far as I've heard, the fight's still on

The line's not cut and the whale's not gone

The Wellerman makes his regular call

To encourage the Captain, crew, and all (Huh!)

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

 

Soon may the Wellerman come

To bring us sugar and tea and rum

One day, when the tonguin' is done

We'll take our leave and go

Buy at Amazon

Things you might want to know: 

New Zealand folksong about whaling, which has been illegal in nearly all countries for several decades. But it was once the source for all kinds of necessary products, making umbrellas (the bones), soaps, lubricants, lamp oil, candles, and more.

The Billy o' Tea is likely a fictional ship (the name is literally a tin can repurposed to boil water for tea) and this song has the elements of a great myth or legend- like the Flying Dutchmanor a number of ghost ships of spooky stories and unsolved mysteries, imagine the ship and crew sailing the seas forever ,in and out of the mists, never ending the hunt, dragged by the whale forever, waiting for a visit from the ship that will bring them things they need that they can't produce from the camp on shore where they'll cut up and render the blubber. 

The Wellerman- The Weller company was real, and the Weller Man delivered the supplies and checked up on the ships out from port. More here.

Nathan Evans popularized this on TikTok and has a recording contract now. He also has the most beautifully thick Scots accent and I hope it never changes.

A right whale is one of three species of large baleen whales. The baleen was used for things we'd make with plastic today.  Plastic is a mess but it probably saved the whales, along with petroleum and natural gas and other things that replaced the light sources that relied on whale oil. The only species with more bulk is a blue whale, and sailing ships were not that big.

Tonguing is stripping the blubber from the whale. It's a nasty, messy, smelly, hard job. 

 

There is a Time for Us to Wander

 

There is a time for love and laughter
The days will pass like summer storms
The winter winds will follow after
But there is love and love is warm

There is a time for us to wander
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new, the world is free

There is a time when leaves are falling
The woods are grey, the paths are old
The snow will come when geese are calling
You need a fire against the cold

There is a time for us to wander
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new, the world is free

So do you roamin’ in the springtime?
And you find your love in the summer sun
The frost will come and bring the harvest
And you can sleep when day is done

Time is like a river flowin'
With no regrets as it moves on
Around each bend the shinin’ mornin’
And all our friends we thought were gone

There is a time for us to wander
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new, the world is free
The path is new, the world is free

Listen or purchase at Amazon 

The Darlings sang it on the Andy Griffeth episode or two.  The Darlings were a fictional hillbilly family played by the more sophisticated Dillards. You can read about the Dillards here.  This is not public domain, so don't perform it for money.=)


Land of the Silver Birch

Land of the Silver Birch is a popular Canadia campsong.  It very probably originated at a Canadian boy or girl scout camp in the 20s.  It is not one of the older folk songs, and it is not of First Nations song. I'd change wigwam to camp tent or cabin if it were my family singing it.  The tune is fun, catchy, and the littlest kidlets are going to be adorable singing the boom diddy boom booms.

Lyrics are for this version:
https://youtu.be/wi14Rrf2d5I

 

Land of the silver birch

Home of the beaver

Where still the mighty moose

Wanders at will

Blue lake and rocky shore

I will return once more

 

Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom

Boom de de boom boom, boom.

 

Down in the forest, deep in the lowlands

My heart cries out for thee, hills of the north

Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more

 

Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom

Boom de de boom boom, boom

 

High on a rocky ledge, I ’ll build my wigwam,

Close to the water’s edge, silent and still

Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more

 

Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom

Boom de de boom boom, boom

 

Land of the silver birch home of the beaver

Where still the mighty moose, wanders at will

Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more

 

Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom

Boom de de boom boom, boom.

Purchase here.

 

Haul on the Bowline

 

 

Haul on the bowline, our bully ship's a-rollin'

Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!

 

Haul on the bowline, Kitty is my darlin'

Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!

 

Haul on the bowline, Kitty lives in Liverpool,

Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!

 

Haul on the bowline, the old man is a-growlin,

Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!

 

Haul on the bowline, so early in the mornin'

Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!

 

Purchase at Amazon

Another Sea Chanty. Possibly one of the oldest out there. A bowline is both a special knot, and something related to moving the ship on a line. You can read more about that here.

 

Revolutionary Tea

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dL2REyRmlM

 

 

There was a rich lady lived over the sea

And she was an island queen.

Her daughter lived off in a new country

With an ocean of water between.

With an ocean of water between.

 

Now old lady’s pockets were full of gold,

But never contented was she;

So, she ordered her daughter to pay her a tax

Of three-pence a pound on her tea.

Of three-pence a pound on her tea

 

“Oh, mother, dear mother,” the daughter replied,

“I’ll not do the thing that you ask.

For I’m willing to pay a fair price on the tea,

But never a three-penny tax.”

But never a three-penny tax

 

“Oh You shall,” cried the mother and reddened with rage,

“For you’re my own daughter, you see,

And it’s only proper for a daughter to pay

Her mother a tax on her tea.”

Her mother a tax on her tea.”

 

So she ordered her servants to be called up

To wrap up a package of tea.

And eager for three pence a pound, she put in

Enough for a large family.

Enough for a large family

 

She ordered her servants to bring the tax home,

Declaring her child must obey,

Or, old as she was and woman half grown,

She’d half whip her life away.

She’d half whip her life away.

 

So, tea was conveyed to the daughter’s own door,

All down by the ocean’s side,

But the bouncing girl poured out every pound

In the dark and boiling tide.

In the dark and boiling tide.

 

And the daughter cried out to the island queen,

“Oh, mother, dear mother,” cried she,

“The tea you may have when ’tis steepened enough,

But never a tax from me.”

But never a tax from me.”

 

An American revelution song, feel free to substitute something else.  

Purchase at Amazon here.

 

Farewell to Nova Scotia

 

Farewell to Nova Scotia
And your sea bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
When I am far away on the
Briney oceans tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh
Or a wish for me

The sun is setting in the west
The birds are singing from every tree
All nature seems inclinded to rest
But still there will be
No rest for me

I grieve to leave my native land
I grieve to leave my comrades all
And my aged parents
Whom I love so dear
And the bonny bonny lassie
That I adore

Farewell to Nova Scotia
And your sea bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
When I am far away on the
Briney oceans tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh
Or a wish for me

 

The drums do beat the wars do alarm
The captain calls, I must obey
Farewell, farewell to Nova Scotia's charms
For it's early in the monring
And I'm far far away


 

Farewell to Nova Scotia

For more Nova Scotia folk songs, you want to know more about Carrie Grover


Farewell to Nova Scotia

And your sea bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
When I am far away on the
Briney oceans tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh
Or a wish for me

I have 3 brothers they are at rest
Their arms are folded on their chest
But a briney sailor just like me
Must be tossed and driven
In the deep blue sea

Farewell to Nova Scotia
And your sea bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
When I am far away on the
Briney oceans tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh
Or a wish for me

 

Purchase at Amazon

 

Ballad of New Scotland

 

Let's away to new Scotland, where Plenty sits queen

O'er as happy a country as ever was seen

She blesses her subjects both little and great

With each a good house and a pretty estate.

Derry down, down

Down, derry down.

 

There's wood and there's water, there's wild fowl and tame

In the forest good ven'son, good fish in the stream

Good grass for our cattle, good land for our plough

Good wheat to be reaped, and good barley to mow.

Derry down, down

Down, derry down.

 

No landlords are there the poor tenants to tease

No lawyers to bully, nor stewards to seize

But each honest fellow's a landlord, and dares

To spend on himself the whole fruit of his cares.

Derry down, down

Down, derry down.

 

They've no duties on candles, no taxes on malt

Nor do they, as we do, pay sauce for their salt

But all is as free as in those times of old

When poets assure us the age was of gold.

Derry down, down

Down, derry down.

purchase at Amazon

 

Day-O, The Banana Boat Song

 This is a traditional Jamaican folk song popularized for us by Harry Belafonte.  Born in America, grew up in Jamaica, he brought a number of the traditional songs of the area to the airwaves and made us familiar with them.


I don't know who needs to hear this, but there is nothing racist about singing traditional folk songs like this one (Brown Girl in the Ring), unless you are doing it to mock, wearing blackface, or deliberately mangling the beautiful accent. If you can't do it right, just sing without attempting the Jamaican lilt. 


Day-o, day-ay-ay-o

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o

Daylight come and me wan' go home

 

Work all night on a drink a rum

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Stack banana 'til the mornin' come

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Come, mister tally man, tally me banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Come, mister tally man, tally me banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Day, me say day-ay-ay-o

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

A beautiful bunch of ripe banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Hide the deadly black tarantula

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Day, me say day-ay-ay-o

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Come, mister tally man, tally me banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Come, mister tally man, tally me banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

 

Purchase at Amazon

If you're interested in a serious read about bananas and their economic history, try Bananas: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World.  Or the harder to find Honduras, the Making of a Banana Republic.

 

This is a bonus song- use it if you prefer to make a substitution for any of the songs above. It comes from St. Simon's Island, Georgia (the U.S.), and was heard sung at night funerals as boatsman rowed across the water. Picture that scene.  It's both beautiful and eerie.  You can read a bit more about it here (number 28, lay this body down).

I first heard of it in that book, originally published in 1867 as Slave Songs of the United States, and it took me a couple years to find musical versions online to share.


I Know Moonlight, I Know Starlight

 

I know moonlight,

I know starlight,

I lay this body down.

 

I walk in the moonlight,

I walk in the starlight,

I lay this body down.

 

I know the morning

And the evening star

I lay this body down.

 

Oh, graveyard,

Oh, graveyard,

I lay this body down.

 

I walk in the graveyard,

I lay in my grave,

I lay this body down.

 

I lay in my grave,

I feel my grave's side,

I lay this body down.

 

I go to the judgment,

In the evening of the day,

When I lay this body down.

 

Then my soul and your soul

Will meet on that day,

When I lay this body down.

 

I know moonlight,

I know starlight,

I lay this body down.




  Huge thank-yous to Sarah Clements for transcribing lyrics for me, and to Katie Blount, Emma Beals, and Liz Ringger Talbot for helping with finding links at Amazon, and to my grandchildren who are so often my folksong guinea pigs that one of them now rolls her eyes as soon as I start singing and says sotto voice, "Okay, who got her started this time?"  She lisps, so it's actually really cute.

My Youtube Playlist:
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2IR3x_bkyR4dpYOGqNSis0tEZDT789j3

Postscript- that is not a typo or a spelling error.  The original and still preferred (by me) spelling is sea chanty or chantey, with a c. 
1856, also shantychantey "song with a boisterous chorus, sung by sailors while heaving or hoisting anything heavy;" probably an alteration of French chanter "to sing," from Latin cantare "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing"). Perhaps the immediate source is French chantez, imperative of chanter. The purpose was to enable them to pull or heave together in time with the song.

https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=chanty

Since 1820, shanty has meant a rough cabin or shack, and specifically a lumberjack's temporary camp housing.  See The Jam on Jerry's Rock above. 
 In 1867 it started to be used also as a variation of chanty or chantey, but since it also still means a rough cabin or shack, that's seems like it came from a ubiquitous error, not from a sensible application of logic and right thinking. ;-D