by Jeff Warner
My association with the old songs goes back a long way. My father had me up on stage with him, singing “The Old Chisholm Trail,” when I was eight. I got taken along (of necessity) as a boy on some of their later song collecting trips to the mountains and seacoast of North Carolina and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I'm glad I got to meet rural people for whom traditional song was their main - sometimes only - music.
Some of the songs on this album are from those people I met, and got to know better through the recordings they made for my parents. All the others are out of oral tradition, although a couple of them were composed by known authors and then absorbed into the folk. I'm happy to pass them on.
Jeff Warner: vocals, banjo, English concertinas, guitar, bones, spoons, jew's-harp
Barbara Benn: vocals, tambourine
Jonny Dyer: piano
Keith Kendrick: anglo concertina
Keith Murphy: piano
Carolyne Robson: vocals
Dave Surrette: mandolin
Pete Sutherland: fiddle
Vicki Swan: nyckelharpa; flute
Barbara Benn: vocals # 5, 13, 18; tambourine 13
Jonny Dyer: piano # 10
Keith Kendrick: Anglo concertina # 1, 4, 7, 8, 15
Keith Murphy: piano # 13
Caroline Robson: vocals # 3, 10
Dave Surrette: mandolin # 18
Pete Sutherland: fiddle # 1, 11, 12, 16
Vicki Swan: nyckelharpa # 10, 17; flute 6
All songs are traditional, arranged by Jeff Warner, except where noted.
Singers from the Warner collection can be heard on two recordings my brother Gerret and I produced in 2000, Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still, and Nothing Seems Better to Me, Warner Collection volumes I and II, Appleseed CDs 1035 and 1036.
1. Ho Boys Ho 2:53 KK, PS
Collected by Anne and Frank Warner from Lena Bourne Fish (1873-1945), Jaffrey, NH, 1941. In 1850, the minstrel song “De Camptown Races,” composed by Stephen Foster, was an immediate success and the tune spread quickly. In 1849, a New Hampshire touring company, The Hutchinson Family, wrote “Ho! For California” in honor of a group of emigrants leaving for California. Aboard sailing ships, the Foster tune and the Hutchinson chorus combined with oral tradition verses to become a shanty - and “Ho Boys Ho.”
2. Long Time Traveling 3:10
Molly Tenenbaum, Seattle, Washington old-time banjo player, matched this banjo tuning (fDGCD, tuned down to F#) to Frank Proffitt's song. It's on her album Instead of a Pony. Frank said his father Wiley may have learned it from singers at a black church near where he lived in northwestern North Carolina. “He used to go there occasionally and listen on the outside as he was fascinated by their singing.” The hymn is well known in both black and white churches.
The Warners met Frank Proffitt (1913-1965) of Watauga County, NC, in 1938, and corresponded with him throughout his life. He taught my parents scores of songs including “Tom Dooley.”
3. By the Hush 4:33 CR, VS
Edith Fowke collected this song, also known as “Paddy's Lamentation,” in 1957, from O. J. Abbott (1872-1962) who was born in Enfield, England, and came across to work in Ontario lumber camps. It has been found in print as a broadside ballad called “Pat in America,” but it appears that Abbott's version might be the only one collected in oral tradition.
The realization that Irish immigrants were essentially drafted off the ships into the Union Army during the Civil War provides the distressing backdrop for this song. General Meagher led the renowned Irish-American Sixty-Ninth Brigade from New York.
4. Juberju 3:04 KK
This is another song from the northern lumber camps. It was collected by the Warners from John Galusha (1859-1950), a logger from Minerva, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains. John said a woodsman could make $4 a day in the late 1800s being in charge of a “jam boat,” rather than a dollar a day working from the shore. The boat would go out into the middle of a log jam to clear the key logs. Joe Thomas wanted the extra money but apparently didn't have the extra experience. “Juberju” seems to descend from “The Bigler's Crew,” a song about a schooner on the Great Lakes and its slow trip from Milwaukee to Buffalo. The song made its way through various US regions - and becomes “The Dogger Bank,” about fishing in northeast England.
5. Sunny Side of Life 2:47 BB
“Sunny Side” was written by Earl Bolick (1919-1998) who performed with his brother Bill (1917-2008) as the Blue Sky Boys. The “Boys” came from Hickory, NC, and recorded this song in their first recording session in Charlotte, NC, in 1936. They had a number of early country music hits before and after WW II, and retired in 1951.
6. Bold Harpooner 3:23 VS
Stuart Frank, Curator at the New Bedford (Massachusetts) Whaling Museum, found this song in the papers of George Piper who sailed in the whaler Europa out of Martha's Vineyard in 1868. An almost identical chorus is quoted in Moby Dick, chapter 40:
“So be cheery my lads! Let your hearts never fail
While the bold harpooner is striking the whale!”
7. Plains of Baltimore 2:39 KK
Another song in the Warner collection from Adirondack Mountain logger John Galusha. I've not found it elsewhere. A charming fantasy of life in the new land, “Baltimore” might have come from a British broadside ballad.
8. Lumberman's Alphabet 3:42 KK
Galusha also sang this song, which may be the most widely known of all lumberjack songs. My text comes from several traditional sources, including Galusha. The tune I got from Mary Malloy and Stuart Frank, scholar-musicians who learned it out west. I tracked down the tune when I was in Vancouver in '04, in the Philip J. Thomas Collection. Thomas traced it back to 19th century Machias, Maine.
9. Old Moke Picking on the Banjo (He Back, She Back) 2:50
A capstan shanty from the 1800s, probably of black origin. It's related to the Irish-American song “Paddy Works on the Railway” and the tune is a variant of the Irish “Shule Agra.” The first verse and chorus of this version was collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset, UK, in 1916, from John (“Yankee Jack”) Short (1839-1933), an English sailor who sailed aboard American deep sea sailing ships in the mid-19th century. No musical instruments were used aboard ships when shanties were sung to help hard physical labor. But I couldn't resist adding the banjo from the title.
10. Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still 3:41 JD, CR, VS
The Warners got this song from Eleazar Tillett (1875-1968) in 1951. The Tilletts, a fishing family, lived in Wanchese, NC, on the Outer Banks. The song was composed in circa 1864, words by J.E. Carpenter, music by W.T. Wrighton, and went into oral tradition. It was published by Joanna Colcord in her 1924 book Roll and Go. She says that it is a “composed song of the last century.”
11. Been All Around This Whole Round World 3:59 PS
This is a black “roustabout” or river worker song from Mary Wheeler's 1944 book Steamboatin' Days. Wheeler was interested in preserving the songs she remembered hearing in her childhood days in Paducah, Kentucky, on the Ohio River. She indicates that many of the river songs she collected were used to help with hard physical labor, as shanties were aboard the 19th century sailing ships. Perhaps “Been All Around” was as well. Jerry Epstein and Jeff Davis's recording made me want to learn it.
12. Come Love Come 2:54 PS
Another song collected by the Warners from Eleazar Tillett in NC. Eleazar sang a fragment of the song, with the first verse and chorus of “Nancy Till” (published in 1851, also known as “Down By the Cane Break”) and the second verse from Dan Emmett's “The Boat Man's Dance,” 1843. I used the rest of Dan Emmett's text to fill out the song.
13. I Done Done 3:16 BB, KM
From the singing of Reverend Nathaniel and Sister Fleeta Mitchell on a recording released by Global Village entitled Georgia Folk: A Sampler of Traditional Sounds. The field recording of the Mitchells was made by the Georgia Folklife Program in the 1980s. “I Done Done” was first recorded by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the 19-teens.
14. One Day I Will 3:29 BB
From the singing of Estil C. Ball (1913-1978) and his wife Orna of Grassy Creek, NC. Alan Lomax, who recorded them from the 1930s through the 1950s, says that the Balls came from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Galax (Virginia) fiddler's convention in the 1930s and became “regular starring performers there.” In his youth, EC was known as a ballad singer, and even had a string band at one time. In his later life, however, he was known primarily for his spirituals.
15. Away Idaho 3:05 KK
My father Frank Warner collected this song in 1952, from Deac Martin, a Missouri singer whose people had come from eastern Virginia. The song was published in 1864, with Frank French listed as its author. Vance Randolph has a version of the song collected in Arkansas in 1942, (Ozark Folksongs, Vol. 3), called “In the Hills of Arkansaw.” We'll perhaps never know whether the eastern version was a parody of the earlier western song - or if it was the other way 'round.
16. Wild Hog in the Woods 2:48 PS
I learned this from the Rounder album Fuzzy Mountain String Band in 1971. The Fuzzies got it from traditional singer Taylor Kimble of southwest Virginia. It's an American version of the ancient British ballad “Sir Lionel.”
17. Young but Daily Growing 3:24 VS
Also known as “The Trees They Do Grow High,” this is another song Lena Bourne Fish gave the Warners in 1940. Some see its origins with a young laird of Craigton, Scotland, who died in 1634, three years after his marriage to a woman several years his senior. Others say it is an even older song. It's not in the Francis James Child collection of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. But it probably should be.
18. Give Me Just A Little More Time 2:56 BB, DS
Written as “Lord, Give Me Just A Little More Time” by Albert E. Brumley (1905-1977), it is one of more than one hundred religious songs he wrote, many of which went into oral tradition. I learned this from Estil C. and Orna Ball, Grassy Creek, NC, who gave it to Alan Lomax in 1959.