The Saucy Sailor

The Canadian “roots” trio The Wailin’ Jennys have included this English folksong on their latest recording 40 Days. According to notes collected on Mainly Norfolk , the song was recording Cecil Sharp’s collection Folksongs of Somerset having learned it off a Mr. Thomas Henry of Ilminster. It’s also found George Butterworth’s addition to the 1907 edition of the Journal of the Folk Song Society, which is where the band Steeleye Span learned it, and their version is likely the source for the Jennys’ interpretation.

The Saucy Sailor

Come my own one, come my fair one
Come now unto me
Could you fancy a poor sailor lad
Who has just come from sea?

You are ragged love, you are dirty love
And your clothes smell much of tar
So be gone you saucy sailor lad
So be gone, you Jack Tar
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Tam Lin

This is one of the Child Ballads (#39), originating in the Scottish Borders. It’s definitely one of the “big” songs.

The story revolves around the rescue of Tam Lin by his true love from the Queen of the Fairies. While this ballad is specific to Scotland, the motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is found throughout Europe in folktales.  – Wikipedia

Here’s a great contemporary version from Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer.

Tam Lin

Janet sits in her lonely room
Sewing a silken seam
And looking out on Carterhaugh
Among the roses green

And Janet sits in her lonely bower
Sewing a silken thread
And longed to be in Carterhaugh
Among the roses red

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Caledonia (MacLean)

Dougie MacLean‘s Caledonia is one of the most celebrated songs of the modern “Celtic” folk era, but it wasn’t Dougie’s singing that made it famous. A single verse and the chorus were used in a TV advertisement for Tennent’s Lager sung by Frankie Miller, who later rerecorded the song and released it as a single. It seems, however, that Dougie MacLean has now firmly reclaimed the song as his own, and he can been seen performing it all over the world.

Dougie wrote the song on a beach in France, feeling homesick for Scotland.  He told the Daily Record:

I was in my early 20s and had been busking around with some Irish guys. I was genuinely homesick. I’d always lived in Perthshire. I played it to the guys when I got back to the youth hostel where we were staying and that was the final straw – we all went home the next day. It took about 10 minutes but sometimes that’s how songs happen. I’m still amazed at how much it has become part of common culture. There’s not a pub singer, busker or pipe band that doesn’t play it.

Caledonia

Music & Lyrics by Dougie MacLean. Published by Limetree Arts and Music

I don’t know if you can see the changes that have come over me
In these last few days I’ve been afraid that I might drift away
So I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs that make me think about where I came from
And that’s the reason why I seem so far away today

Chorus
Ah but let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

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