Mary Ann

Archie Fisher sings a traditional (possibly English) parting song made famous by Bob Dylan on his album “Dylan.”

According to the “Mainly Norfolk” site:

Perry Friedman sang two verses of the parting song Mary Ann in 1960 on his Topic EP Vive La Canadienne. The album notes commented:

“This unusual sailor’s song comes from the collection of Dr. Marius Barbeau, the dean of Canadian folklorists. He heard it in 1920 in the town of Tadoussao in the province of Quebec. The singer, Edouard Hovington, who was then ninety, had been for many years an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the famous fur-trading company which played such an important part in Canada’s early history. He said he had learned it from an Irish sailor some seventy years earlier, which would carry it back at least to 1850.

Mary Ann is obviously descended from the old English song, “The True Lover’s Farewell,” which is also the ancestor of “The Turtle Dove “and Burns’ “My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose,” but this is one of the most unusual of the many variants. The nautical references give it a salty flavour quite appropriate to the Tadoussao region which abounds in tiny fishing villages. However it did not originate in Canada, for almost the same words are given in a book of Victorian Street Ballads edited by W. Henderson and published in London in 1937. Even the lobster and the blue fish, which seem typically Canadian, are found in the English version. The only difference is in the final stanza: instead of longing for a flask of gin, the Victorian ballad concludes:

The pride of all our kitchen rare
That in our kitchen garden grows
Was pumpkins, but none could compare
In angel form to my Mary Ann.”

Mary Ann

Oh fare you well my own true love,
Oh fare you well my dear;
The ship is waiting and the wind is high,
And I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann,
Yes, I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann.

Ten thousand miles away from you,
Ten thousand miles or more,
But the earth will freeze and the sea will burn
If I never no more return to you, Mary Ann,
If I never no more return to you, Mary Ann.

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John Barleycorn Must Die

I know I’ll catch some flack for not using the Traffic version of this song, but how can I resist an opportunity to have Steve Winwood on SOTI?  This is, obviously, a much older song than either of those performers, depicting the process of making the very potent barely beer. It’s also a great tune which can be heard in versions the American ballad The Blackest Crow.

John Barleycorn Must Die

There were three men came out of the West,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn must die.
They’ve ploughed, they’ve sewn, they’ve harrowed him in,
Threw clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn was dead.

They’ve let him lie for a very long time,
‘Till the rains from heaven did fall,
And little Sir John sprung up his head,
And so amazed them all.
They’ve let him stand ’till midsummer’s day,
‘Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard,
And so become a man.

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A Week Before Easter

This English folksong has a lovely melody for such a sad song. My first encounter was through harmonized version by Robbie O’Connell.  Here it is in an version by the group Tanna.

Now a week before Easter the morn bright and clear,
The sun it shone brightly and keen blew the air.
I went up in the forest to gather fine flowers,
But the forest won’t yield me no roses.

The roses are red the leaves they are green,
The bushes and briars are pleasant to be seen,
Where the small birds are singing and changing their notes
Down among the wild beasts in the forest.

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