The Simones - Silver Dagger. This song can be dated back as far as 1855, when the first verse was printed in The Social Harp. It contains many of the classic themes of traditional folk music: unrequited love, interfering parents, and the threat of violence. It has been collected in the US, Canada, and Scotland. Here, the Simones give it a decidedly jazzy spin.
Peter Fischman & Deb O'Hanlon - Lord Franklin. The noted explorer Lord Franklin's expedition seeking the Northwest Passage ended with his death on June 11, 1847. A number of expeditions were sent to search for him; but it was not until 12 years later when Lady Jane Franklin finally learned Franklin's fate when an expedition she chartered found his diary. Her poignant story still captivates us today.
Judy Predmore - The Nightingale. This Irish ballad illustrates the kind of personal tragedy that resulted from the British navy's practice of forcing civilians into service. In this case, the poor "pressed" sailor has found himself on one of the empire's warships, named The Nightingale.
Merle Roesler - Seven Gypsies. This ballad (Child #200) dates back to the mid-1700s. It is a testament to the power of the story that a multitude of versions survived throughout Britain, Scotland, and America. Tradition has connected the song with Lady Jean Hamilton, wife of the sixth Earl of Cassilis (Kennedy clan) of Ayrshire, Scotland. She allegedly eloped with one Johnny Faa, who had disguised himself as a gypsy.
Total Strangers - Lass of Peaty's Mill. This stately traditional Scottish air first appeared in print in the early 17th century.
Nancy Mulrey - Siúil a Rúin. Another lament for a lost love, this time for a soldier gone off to war. The chorus here is Gaelic, but often in other more Americanized versions (such as Shool Aroon, Buttermilk Hill, or Johnny's Gone for a Soldier), it is mangled imitation Gaelic.
Two for the Show - Banks of the Ohio. An American folk standard from the early 1900s, this song, like Silver Dagger, deals with unrequited love and violence. In this case, though, the violence is no longer simply a threat. Lest you think these old songs irrelevant, consider how many women lose their lives each year at the hands of ex boyfriends or spouses.
Neal MacMillan - 1845. This is a variant of a song called "The Wood-Hauler", "The Backwoodsman", or "The Cordwood Cutter". Neal learned it from Carrie Grover's Maine collection.
The Short Sisters - Carrie Bell. This song is from the Georgia Sea Islands. In 1960, Alan Lomax recorded it as performed by a group of singers on St. Simons Island led by John Davis. The Short Sisters later heard it, fell in love with it, and created this arrangement.
Mike Holmes - Shady Grove. This traditional American tune does have words, although Mike doesn't sing them here. As in many such songs, there is no particular plot. A typical chorus runs, "Shady Grove my little love, Shady Grove I know, Shady Grove my little love, I'm bound for Shady Grove." Mike notes that, while some versions seem to point to a place (a shady grove), all the verses in his (sung) version refer to unrequited love for a prostitute named Shady Grove: "Sometimes I have a nickel, sometimes I have a dime, sometimes I have a dollar I can make little Shady Grove mine."
Suzanne Mrozak - Go From My Window. Dating back to a 1611 text found in the Fletcher and Beaumont play "The Knight of the Burning Pestle", this is one of the oldest songs on the CD. Imagine a woman sitting in her upstairs bedroom, her sailor husband in a drunken stupor on the bed (his ship having failed to leave port that day), while her "step-husband" (the one who steps in while her husband steps out) waits below.
Paul Beck - Wife of Usher's Well. This ballad (Child #79) can be traced back to 1802. Paul compiled this particular version from several written texts and put his own tune to it. The story, of a mother burdened with grief at the death of her young children, is another timeless tale.
Kate Seeger & Dean Spencer - Duncan and Brady. This song, collected by Paul Clayton, is American through and through. Policeman Brady walks into Duncan's bar and attempts to arrest him. Duncan, unwilling to have his businesses ruined, shoots Brady. In this version, Brady's death seems an occasion for celebration rather than grief, at least among the gamblers and women who frequent Duncan's part of town. Brady is clearly derived from Old King Brady, New York City Detective, hero of a popular dime novel series, c.1900, written by Francis Worcester Doughty.
Karen Korn - Blessed Quietness. Karen learned this hymn from the singing of Lucy Simpson on Sharon Mountain Harmony (on the Folk Legacy label). It dates from the early 1900s, and Lucy found it in a hymnal called "The Golden Trumpet," published by the Christian Witness Co. of Chicago. Mrs. Manie Payne Ferguson is credited with the words and William S. Kirkpatrick the music.
Cate Levin - Serving Girl's Holiday. Cate learned this song from Hazelgreen (a group of FSSGB members who performed in the Boston area in the 1970s and 80s), who in turn learned it from the singing of Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span. The words are a translation of a medieval poem and the tune is "Orientes Partibus," which dates from the 12th century or so.
Midweek Singers - Amazing Grace. The words to this song are from John Newton (1725-1807), the melody traditional (found in Virginia Harmony). Newton was the captain of a slave ship who experienced a religious conversion during a violent storm en route to America in 1748. He continued in the slave trade for a time after his conversion; however, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely. Eventually he gave up seafaring and became a minister in England. Composed probably between 1760 and 1770, "Amazing Grace" was likely one of the hymns written for a weekly service.
For more information, contact FSSGB by phone (617-623-1806) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).