"Sandy Boys"

CD on Fellside Recordings FECD225
August 2009
    Reviews
1. Sandy Boys
     - listen
2. Goodnight-Loving Trail
     - listen
3. Resurrection Day
     - listen
4. Sheep, Sheep Don't You Know
   The Road

5. East Virginia Blues
     - listen
6. Molly Cottontail &
   Jemmy Taylor-0
7. The Cruel Lowland Maid
8. Fine Times At Our House
9. Old Paint
     - listen
10. The Jealous Brothers
     - listen
11. Rake & Rambling Boy
12. Black Is The Color
13. Walkin' Down The Road
14. Young Hunting
15. Train On The Island

Musicians
Credits
 
1. Sandy Boys
Sara — banjo & lead vocal; Kieron — guitar & chorus; Ben — fiddle.
Ben Paley often joins Kieron and me on bookings and it's from Ben that I learned this great fiddle tune from Virginia. I recently discovered it has a 19th Century minstrel tune. Ben came across some rather eccentric words to the tune and I said I would play around with them, this is the result. The Sandy Boys were the fellows who had worked in the logging camps of Virginia through the winter and who lived and farmed along the Sandy River in the summer months. The song is really strange ... Apparently the story goes that one of the Sandy Boys fell in love with the daughter of a logging baron and was too shy to court her himself so he got one of his friends to do it for him dressed up as a bugaboo (a bugaboo is a black dialect word for a ghost). I can't imagine the poor girl's reaction when wooed by a bugaboo, she probably ran a mile! Guess who lost out on that idea!
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2.Goodnight-Loving Trail (Phillips)
Sara - lead vocal; Kieron - vocal; Ben - fiddle; Mike - mouth harp.
Bruce 'Utah1 Duncan Phillips (IS May 1935 - 23 May 2008) was a labor organizer, folk singer, storyteller, poet and the "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest". He described the struggles of labor unions and the power of direct action, self-identifying as an anarchist. He often promoted the Industrial Workers of the World in his music, actions, and words. A fan of T.Texas Tyler, Phillips adopted the stage name Utah Phillips. A song about cattle drives, cowboys and the 'Head of the Chuckwagon', the Cook. The Goodnight-Loving Trail is an actual cattle trail running from Texas to Colorado. It was named for the two cattle barons who founded the trail in the 19th Century, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. The cook on a cattle drive is referred to as 'the old woman', a man who has been on cattle drives for many years, has done all other jobs and has been retired to the job of cook. The cook is revered for his knowledge and wisdom, and the other men look up to him for advice and counsel, hence his situation as 'the old woman'. He is also the doctor, with his herbs and liniments. The cook spends a good deal of time alone, because he has to keep different hours from the rest of the crew, so he can often pass lonely hours playing the harmonica - the French harp. Utah Phillips has such understanding and compassion about the fate of living and active life as a cattle driver, and anticipating his old age - a very universal and poignant problem in society today. Grateful thanks to Ewan MacGregor and Robin Morton at Temple Studios for assistance with this track.
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3. Resurrection Day (Newberry)
Sara - lead vocal; Kieron - vocal; Ben - fiddle.
I got this amazing song from the fellow who wrote it, Joe Newberry of Chapel Hill, North Carolina who is a great singer and banjo player.
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4. Sheep, Sheep Don't You Know The Road
Sara — lead vocal; Kieron — vocal; Ben, Betty & Linda — choruses.
I learned this from the late Helen Schneyer from Washington, D.C. It is originally a song from the Georgia Sea Islands and the singing of Bessie Jones. Bessie was the main mover and shaker of the Georgia Sea Islands Singers. Their music, culture and language still strongly reflect their African roots. It is one of my favourites of the call and response songs from the black tradition.
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5. East Virginia Blues
Sara & Kieron - vocals
From the singing of Cas Wallins of Sodom Laurel, NC. The origins of this song can be traced back to 17th Century England although no one has determined the exact origins as it is made up of floating verses found in so many songs. One of the first recordings of it was by Buell Kazee in 1927. Among the early Southern Mountain recordings of it was Clarence Ashley's Dark Holler Blues, circa 1928, which was sung with 5-string banjo. The melody and accompaniment were modal — neither in a major nor a minor key. Ashley later sang virtually the same tune and a similar text to the accompaniment of guitar and bluesy mouth-harp on East Virginia Blues. About this time, the Carter Family recorded the song entirely in the major and in two-part harmony. Later in the 1930s, the song developed into the very popular Greenback Dollar, The Answer to Greenback Dollar, etc. There is a slight connection of East Virginia (the 'O Molly dear'- 'Drowsy Sleeper') with Child 214 The Braes 0'Varrow or The Dowie Dens O' Yarrow.
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6a. Molly Cottontail (or Graveyard Rabbit)
Sara - vocal; Ben - fiddle.
From a collection called Negro Folk Rhymes compiled by Thomas Washington in 1922.Thomas Washington was a fine singer and also the first published African-American folklorist. Amongst the Khoikhoi people of South Africa they saw the hare in the moon and believed that she sent rabbits to the earth to remind us that, like the rabbits we die and rise again. The rabbit was a common theme in African folklore and this is probably why the hero of the Uncle Remus stories was Brer Rabbit, a constant trickster. The same could be said of Bugs Bunny. Molly Cottontail shares the same quality in this song, dashing through the graveyard playing havoc with the ghosts ('hants' is another word for ghosts). This is maybe why it is good luck to carry a rabbit's foot, particularly one from a graveyard. Learned from a great friend and musician, Andrew Calhoun.
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6b. Jemmy Taylor-O
Sara lead vocal; Kieron — guitar & chorus.
The song is a 'play party' song from the Ritchie family of Viper, Kentucky. The derivation of tunes for play parties was probably Scottish in origin, perhaps Gaelic mouth music. When the tunes crossed the pond they survived but the Gaelic didn't and they took on a dance form. These play parties were created, mostly in the second half of the 1800s, by young people as a social activity but, because of religion, they were not allowed to use instruments or to call them dances, but parties seemed acceptable. These play party songs incorporated a lot of the square dance calls and many took on the form of a musical 'spin-the-bottle' or kissing rhyme Jemmy Tay/or-0 has a number of layers to it appearing on the surface as just a humorous song but it was used as the music and calls for dancing and in a further layer contained satirical references to Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States. He had been a successful general in the Mexican war but when elected president he was the most parodied.
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7.The Cruel Lowland Maid
Sara - lead vocal; Kieron - guitar; Ben - fiddle.
Also known as The Lovely Lowland Maid, this is a song that does not seem to be widely known. It seems to be a variant of a 19th Century British broadside, printed in Ryle where it showed the author as G. Brown. I learned it from the singer Hanford Hayes of Staceyville, Maine; from whom it was collected by Helen Harkness Flanders of Vermont. When Mrs Flanders went to his home to record his songs he jumped out of bed fully clothed in a rumpled suit complete with shoes. When she asked him why he was all dressed up and in bed he replied "Well I was up all night beatin' the rats away".
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8. Fine Times At Our House
Sara - banjo; Kieron - guitar; Ben - fiddle.
Most people know the tune from Edden Hammons but this version comes from the playing of Matt Brown from the States, a fine young fiddler.
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9. Old Paint
Sara — vocal & banjo.
This wonderful version of Old Paint or Leavin' Cheyenne was collected by Alan Lomax from jess Morris of Barlbet, Texas in 1942. Jess learned it from a black cowboy called Charlie Willis, who was a great Texas fiddler. His grandfather had learned the cowboy trade working as a slave on cattle drives and his version was passed on to me by Tom Gibney of Princeton, New Jersey.
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10.The Jealous Brothers
Sara - vocal.
This is similar to Clerk Saunders (Child Ballad no 69) collected by Cecil Sharp in 1904. Howie Mitchell from Virginia learned this ballad from Dr. Asher Treat, who collected it in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1939 and from whom I learned the song. Other versions have been published under a number of titles: Sharp has it as In Seaport Town, for example, and Brown published it under the title of The Bramble Briar (The date upon which it was obtained by Brown from Frank Proffitt is in error, however. Frank gave it to Brown in 1936, rather than in 1924.). It is also know as Bruton Town in England.
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11. Rake & Rambling Boy
Sara — vocal & banjo.
I learned this song from my friends Ellen Christenson and Irene Saletan (The Kossoy Sisters) and they learned it from Stu Jamison. Stu was born in China and grew up in Tennessee. He was a great banjo player and collector of Appalachian songs. The song is English-Irish, part of the Newry Highwayman -Jolly Blade — Rambling Boy ~ Wild and Wicked Youth — Irish Robber cluster. This song cluster appeared in American printings of broadsides in the mid-19th Century; it may not have arrived with immigrants, but was learned from broadsides. The song is quite commonly collected in England under the title Newry Town, Newlyn Town, Adieu, Adieu or The Flash Lad. It's a typical 'Goodnight Ballad' (i.e. a pre-gallows confessional broadside). Brian Peters, a great English ballad singer, sings a fine version from Walter Pardon.
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12. Black Is The Color
Sara — lead vocal; Kieron — vocal & guitar.
I love the way this lovely Scottish 'parlour ballad' made its way across the pond, moved into and out of a black tradition and back into the white one, which strongly influenced the way Deli Norton of Sodom Laurel, North Carolina sang it. It is her version I sing here.
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13-Walkin' Down The Road (Kahn)
Sara - lead vocal; Kieron - guitar & vocals; Betty & Linda - choruses.
Si Kahn is one of America's foremost writers of songs with a social conscience. He has always strived to bring about positive change through his songs. This song is in the form of a call and response field holler and was written by Si in the 1960s. Although it was written specifically about prisoners in a penitentiary it is also about the hard road that black people have been following towards freedom.
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14.Young Hunting
Sara - vocal & banjo; Kieron - guitar & refrain; Ben - fiddle.
Child Ballad no 68. This dark ballad supposedly has Scandinavian roots, but most of the Scottish versions of Young Hunting from the North East open with a prince faced with a dilemma - he has a mistress in England and a wife in Scotland and he reveals to his mistress that he has a wife, at which point she flies into a jealous rage and kills him with her penknife. In all the Scottish versions a witness to the murder is a bird who is the informant to the dead prince's father, but in several American versions the bird is not present. The mistress places the body in a sack, weights it with earth and sinks it in the Clyde river. When the king appears on the scene with the bird he declares that 'corpse lights' be used. Floating candles on the river to determine the place where the body lies and the king sends 'duckers' (the scuba divers of the day) to bring the body up and before burial the king declares that both women will be burned at the stake and whichever woman dies will be the murderess. Much of the detail is lost in the American version from the singing of Sheila Kay Adams of Mars Hill, North Carolina. Nevertheless it remains one of the darkest, most sinister of all the American ballads and has a wonderful, haunting, hard-driving modal tune to match the menacing tone of the story.
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15.Train On The Island (Wade Ward/Trad.)
Sara - lead vocal & banjo; Kieron - guitar & chorus; Ben - fiddle.
This song came from a very common fiddle tune called June Apple which had a refrain that went "I wish I was a June apple hanging on a tree, Every time my love would pass she'd take a bite of me" Two great musicians, Field and Wade Ward, popularised this fiddle tune by adding a great set of words and calling it Train On The Island. They were wonderful together and Wade Ward was an inspiration to so many banjo players to this day.
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Musicians
Sara Grey vocals, banjo
Kieron Means guitar, vocals
Ben Paley fiddle, chorus vocals
Mike Whellans mouth harp
Betty McDonald chorus vocals
Linda Adams chorus vocals
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Credits

Produced by Paul Adams
Recorded by Paul Adams and Richard Adams
Art work by Mary Blood
Photographs:
Front - from the collection of Henry D. Fitzpatrick Jr, Prestonburg, Kentucky. 1901 Big Sandy Packet 'HM Stafford' and push-boat passing Whitehouse, Johnson County, Kentucky, USA 1904. Used by permission.
Sara by a photographer at the Goderich Festival, Canada;
Kieron by Eve Matthews;
Ben by Tom Paley.

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