HISTORY

this is a “new” folk song, by utah phillips. it originally appeared on his “starlight on the rails: a songbook” in 1995.

“We live in a system that uses up all kinds of things. It uses up air, it uses up water, it uses up trees and minerals. Our politicians have a lot to say about that, especially if they want to get votes. They never talk about how this system uses up people, how it will take somebody and milk them for their sweat, for their energy, and for their skill, and as soon as they can’t deliver any more, just chuck them out on the back side of town.” -utah phillips, about this song

LYRICS

Your bulldozers rolling through my part of town
The iron ball swings and knocks it all down,
You knocked down my flophouse and you knocked down my bars
And black-topped it over to park all your cars.

Chorus:
And where will I go, and where can I stay?
You knocked down the skid row and hauled it away,
I’ll flag a fast rattler and ride it on down, boys,
They’re running the bums out of town.

Old Maxie the tailor is closing his doors,
There ain’t nothing left in the secondhand stores,
You knocked down my hock shop and the big Harbor Lights
And the old Chinese cafe that was open all night.

You ran out the hookers who worked on the street
And built a big club where the playboys can meet.
My bookie joint closed when your cops made a raid,
But you built a new hall for the stock market trade.

These little storekeepers they don’t have a chance
With the big uptown bankers a-calling the dance,
With their suit-and-tie restaurants that’s all owned by Greeks
And the counterfeit hippies and their plastic boutiques.

Now I’m finding out there’s just one kind of war,
It’s the one going on ‘tween the rich and the poor.
Don’t know a lot about what you’d call class
But the upper and middle can all kiss my ass.

CHORDS/MELODY

see the utah phillips songbook for chords and melody, and more commentary on the song!

AUDIO

utah phillips


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HISTORY:

According to Wikipedia, this song is by Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) and was written after he went to Washington, D.C. at the request of Alan Lomax, to record a number of songs for the Library of Congress. After they had finished, they decided to go out with their wives to celebrate, but were thrown out of numerous establishments for being an interracial party.

LYRICS:

Me and my wife went all over town
And everywhere we went people turned us down
Lord, in a bourgeois town
It’s a bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Well, me and my wife we were standing upstairs
We heard the white man say’n I don’t want no niggers up there
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Home of the brave, land of the free
I don’t wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Sure gonna spread the news

Well, them white folks in Washington they know how
To call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow
Lord, it’s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Sure gonna spread the news

I tell all the colored folks to listen to me
Don’t try to find you no home in Washington, DC
‘Cause it’s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

found here

MELODY/CHORDS/TABLATURE:

(G7) – (C7) – (G) – (D7)
found here

AUDIO:

This song was recorded by Leadbelly, Odetta, Ry Cooder, Pete Seeger, billy bragg, taj mahal, and some new artists like milky wimpshake.

VIDEO:

leadbelly / 2

odetta

tommy orr (UK)

drunken sailors band (poland)

vlado kreslin and hans theessink (slovenia)

lil’ ian (new zealand)

jacques mees and friends (netherlands)


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HISTORY:
While almost all internet sources are in agreement with Pete Seeger that this song is by a judge in the 1870s, I don’t believe it.
John A. and Alan Lomax, in their 1947 book Folk Song USA, have this to say about it:
“Yet, in spite of their disillusionment, prospectors kept following the new strikes across the West: south of Leadville and Cripple Creek, west to the new silver mines in the Southern California desert, east again into Nevada, south to Tombstone, Arizona. They grew stooped and grizzled, and many a man of them died alone in the desert where the coyotes picked their bones…

These were exactly the sentiments of the unknown miner who composed ‘The Old Settlers’ Song’, the best ballad we know of from the Northwest. He put it to an old Irish air, ‘Rosin the Beau,’ which has been parodied by folk ballad-makers almost as frequently as ‘Yankee Doodle’.”
(pp. 215-216)
Someone else with a copy of this amazing book backs me up on this mudcat forum.
LYRICS:
I’ve wandered all over this country,
Prospecting and digging for gold,
I’ve tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled,
And I nearly froze in the cold.
And I nearly froze in the cold,
And I nearly froze in the cold,
I’ve tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled,
And I nearly froze in the cold.

For one who got wealthy by mining,
I saw many hundreds get poor,
I made up my mind to go digging,
For something a little more sure,
For something a little more sure,
For something a little more sure.
I made up my mind to go digging,
For something a little more sure.

I rolled up my grub in my blanket,
I left all my tools on the ground,
I started one morning to shank it,
For the country they call Puget Sound,
For the country they call Puget Sound,
For the country they call Puget Sound.
I started one morning to shank it,
For the country they call Puget Sound.

No longer a slave of ambition,
I laugh at the world and its shams,
And I think of my happy condition,
Surrounded by Acres of Clams,
Surrounded by Acres of Clams,
Surrounded by Acres of Clams.
And I think of my happy condition,
Surrounded by Acres of Clams.

 

(source: bluegrass messengers)
Here is an Esperanto translation!
AUDIO:
the tarriers (great!)
Matthew Sabatella
Ecpe
Peggo and Paul
MELODY / ACRES OF CLAMS CHORDS AND TABLATURE:


The melody is “ROSIN THE BEAU” (not Rosin the Bow, you cheeky people)

Rosin the Beau is also called Old Rosin the Beau, Kilcash, or Caoine Cill Cháis according to this.

 

OLD SETTLER’S SONG CHORDS:
guitaretab lists the chords as C, F, C, G7, C; but this version, from traditionalmusic, seems more accurate to me. it goes like this:

C 
I've  	traveled all over this country,
	                                  Am 
Prospecting and digging for  	gold.
	C 
I've  	tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled,
F  	C  	G7  	C 
And,  	I have been  	frequently  	sold.

Pennywhistle notation and mountain dulcimer notation for this song!
& fakebook has bass, banjo, mandolin, guitar, and vocal melody!

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BIOGRAPHY:

Hazel Dickens grew up in the coal-mining country of West Virginia, and the harsh conditions in which her family lived and worked deeply affected her and her art. In the 1960s, Dickens teamed up with another singer, Alice Gerrard, and together they brought a strong feminist viewpoint to traditional music. In the 1970s, Dickens pursued a solo career, where she acted as an advocate for the plight of coal miners. Her distinctive sound brings together the socially conscious songwriting abilities of Woody Guthrie, the singing skills of Kitty Wells, and the unadorned style of Baptist hymns she learned from her father.
(from the National Endowment for the Arts)

IN HER OWN WORDS:

interview with Don Ball of the NEA

“NEA: Who are some of the significant influences in your artistic career?

MS. DICKENS: Almost anybody like that that sang good songs and good harmony. I like some of the older and earlier women singers like Julia Maynard, Molly O’Day, Lily Mae Ledford of the Coon Creek Girls, Kitty Wells. The Carter Family, absolutely. They’ve been a tremendous influence – I always try to include one of their songs in my sets. And a lot of the brother duets. The Stanley Brothers, Blue Sky Boys, Louvin Brothers. I love Ira Louvin. Bill Monroe of course, he was a hero in our family.

And a lot of the old string bands. Uncle Dave Macon – he was a hero in our family – and Cousin Emmy. My father loved Cousin Emmy and Uncle Dave. He played old banjo and I think he tried to emulate what he heard from those two. He would sing songs to us kids like “Arkansas Traveler” to try to get a rise out of us.

NEA: Did he teach you guitar or did you learn that on your own?

MS. DICKENS: No, I had to learn pretty much everything on my own because people were off doing their own things. Nobody ever really sat down and showed me the way to do it. Maybe that’s why I never got any better on the guitar. And I don’t like to practice. I get bored practicing. When I sing and rehearse, though, I like to go at it seriously. I get a big kick out of sitting around singing with somebody, if it’s good songs and it’s good harmony. And it doesn’t make any difference if it’s old time, bluegrass, or country-western. I just like singing. I really like singing the old-time stuff and the stuff that I grew up with and heard on the radio and heard from my neighbors. I like trying to write some in that style to keep it alive. That’s a thread that’s run through my music, trying to keep it alive. It’s really important to me.

NEA: Why do you think that this music is so valuable to the community and the general public?

MS. DICKENS: It’s a touch of the past. It’s part of our heritage. We don’t have a lot in this in this country like that to be proud of. Even though stuff was collected years and years ago, I think a lot of people are just becoming aware of how valuable and precious this music is. I’m getting a lot more attention than I used to and I’ve been at this for 40 years.”

DISCOGRAPHY:

folkways discography

LYRICS:

“they’ll never keep us down”

united we stand, divided we fall
for every dime they give us, a battle must be fought
so working people, use your power: the key to liberty
don’t support the rich man’s style of luxury

there ain’t no way they can ever keep us down
there ain’t no way they can ever keep us down
we won’t be bought, we won’t be sold
to be treated right, well, that’s our goal
there ain’t no way they can ever keep us down

we’ve been shot, we’ve been jailed, Lord, it’s a sin
women and children stood right by the men
we’ve got a union contract that keeps the worker free
they’ll never shoot that union out of me

they’ll never shoot that union out of me
they’ll never shoot that union out of me
got a contract in our hand signed by the blood of honest men
they’ll never shoot that union out of me

the power wheel is rolling, rolling right along
the government is keeping it going, going strong
so working people get your help from your own kind
your welfare on the rich man’s mind

your welfare on the rich man’s mind
your welfare on the rich man’s mind
they want the power in their hands just to keep out of the worker’s hands
your welfare on the rich man’s mind

they’ll never, never, never keep us down
they’ll never, never, never keep us down
they cheat, rob, and kill, but we’ll stop that big wheel
they’ll never, never, never keep us down!


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HISTORY/INFO


“This song was collected in the Asheville area of North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia around 1930 by Dorothy Scarborough. She included it in her book ‘A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains, American Folk Songs of British Ancestry.’ This is an excerpt from her text:

‘Mrs. Stikeleather also sang it (Pretty Saro) into my dictaphone and contributed it to this collection. She told me that while the date ‘eighteen forty-nine’ is used in some of the versions of the song, ‘seventeen forty-nine’ is more probably correct, as that year witnessed considerable immigration to North Carolina from Ireland, and Scotland, and this old English song was no doubt adapted to its new setting at that time.’ Scarborough later says that the use of the phrase ‘free-holder’ indicates the song is of British origin.”
(-ibiblio.org)



“This piece, as Randolph (IV, 224) points out, seems made up of fragments from several songs. It is widespread in the South and Midwest. For references, see Randolph and Brown (III, 285). The L.C. checklist (pp. 11; 166; 324-325) reports text from Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Indiana.”
(-The Alabama folk lyric
By Ray Broadus Browne


“When a person hears this song for the first time, he usually thinks, if he notices it at all, ‘What a commonplace tune, and what trite words.’ ‘Pretty Saro’ is just that, there’s no denying. All the same, the scoffer will soon find himself humming that commonplace tune and he will also discover that those trite words will not leave his mind and heart. It is one of the simplest, loveliest songs ever sung. We especially like to sing this one on the porch, along the edges of dark, with all the high and low voices filling in the harmonies.”
Folk songs of the southern Appalachians as sung by Jean Ritchie By Jean Ritchie, Alan Lomax

“Lomax (North Carolina booklet, Raleigh, NC, July, 1911, 11, pp. 39-40) has a fairly complete text of ‘Pretty Sarah.’ Campbell and Sharp (English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, 1917, pp. 239-241) reports several variants from Georgia and North Carolina. See also Cox (Folk Songs of the South, 1925, pp. 419, 433,) Bascom Lamar Lunsford (Asheville Times, Asheville, NC, October 30, 1927) and Scarborough (A Songcatcher in Southern Mountains, 1937, pp. 327-328). There is a phonograph record called “Saro,” but it is only a dance-tune, with a few shouted lines of praise of a mountain girl named Saro, and has little in common with the old song.”
Ozark folksongs By Vance Randolph and the State Historical Society of Missouri

some sources credit lomax with the first recordings of this track.

it has been said that pretty saro is related to several british/irish folk songs, including “in eighteen forty-nine” or “1849” and “at the foot of yonder mountain”
Ozark Folksongs lists a version of 1849 with lyrics and melody almost identical to Pretty Saro.

it is said that it is also related to an irish song bunclody, although most modern versions seem completely unrelated to me.



LYRICS



version one – as sung by Iris DeMent

When I first come to this country in Eighteen and Forty-nine
I saw many fair lovers but I never saw mine
I viewed it all around me, saw I was quite alone
and me a poor stranger and a long way from home

Well, my true love she won’t have me and it’s this I understand
For she wants some free holder and I have no land
I couldn’t maintain her on silver and gold
but all of the other fine things that my love’s house could hold

Fair the well to ol’ mother, fair the well to my father too
I’m going for to ramble this wide world all through
And when I get weary, I’ll sit down and cry
and think of my Saro, pretty Saro, my bride

Well, I wished I was a turtle dove
Had wings and could fly
Far away to my lover’s lodgings
Tonight I’d drawn the line
And there in her lilywhite arms I’d lay there all night
and watch through them little wind’ers
for the dawning of day

version two – from the Rise up Singing songbook

Down in some lone valley, in some lonesome place
Where the wild birds do whistle and their notes do increase
Farewell pretty Saro, I’ll bid you adieu
And I’ll dream of pretty Saro where ever I go

My love, she won’t have me, so I understand
She wants a freeholder and I have no land
I can no maintain her with silver and gold
Nor buy all the fine things that a big house can hold

If I were a merchant and could write a fine hand
I’d write my love a letter so she’d understand
But I’ll wander by the river where the waters o’erflow
And I’ll dream of pretty Saro where ever I go

version three – from Ozark folksongs By Vance Randolph and the State Historical Society of Missouri as sung by Mrs Linnie Bullard, Pineville MO, July 7 1926

Way down in Lowless Valley, in some lonesome place
Where the small birds doth whistle, their notes do increase
Whilst thinkin’ on Pretty Saro, her ways so complete
I want no better pass-time than her to be with

But my love, she doth slight me, because I am pore (sic)
She says I am not worthy to enter her door
But this she’ll repent of when all is in vain
For love is a torment an’ a heart-breakin’ thing

My love she won’t have me, an’ I understand
She wants some free-holder, but I got no land
But I could maintain her on silver and gold
An’ many a fine thing my love’s house should hold

I wish I was a lark and had wings and could fly
Away to my love’s house this night I’d draw nigh
An’ in some little window all day I would cry
An’ all night in her white arms I’d lay down and die


version four, same text, from Dr. George E. Hastings, Fayetteville Arkansas, Jan 6 1942. He had it from Miss Eloise Guilliams, who learned it from her grandmother in Fayetteville.


Way down in Lone Valley in some secret place
Where the small birds do whistle, their notes to increase
I think of Pretty Molly whose waist is so neat
And have no better pasttime than with her to meet


version five – from Folk Songs from the Southern Highlands By Mellinger Edward Henry, obtained from Mrs. William Franklin, Crossnore, Avery County, July 14, 1930


I came to this country in eighteen forty-nine
And I saw many fair lovers, but I never saw mine
And I looked all around me, and I were alone
And me a poor stranger and a long ways from home

Farewell, my old father; likewise mother too
I’m going to ramble this country all through
And when I get tired I’ll set down and rest
and I’ll think of pretty Saro and one I love best

Pretty Saro, pretty Saro, I love you, I know
I love you, pretty Saro, wherever I go
No tongue can express it or a poet can tell
How truly I love you – I love you so well

I wish I was a poet – could write a fine hand
I’d write my love a letter that she might understand
I’ll send it by the waters and the isle overflow
And think of pretty Saro wherever I go

I wish I was a little dove, had wings and could fly
Unto my loved darling this night I’d draw nigh
And in her lily-white arm I would lay
And watch some little window for the dawning of day.


MELODY/CHORDS/TABLATURE


My favorite easy way to play the chords is the way they are listed in Rise up Singing:
D Em D A

(as in,

      D                   Em       D               A
down in some lonesome valley in some lonesome place)

8notes lists the chord structure as (key of G) CFCGCFC/CFCGCG/C-GCFC/CFCGCFC which sounds really, really wonderful; a bit more “full” and with lots of room to play around.
What they mean is:

C             F         C     G   C        F     C
down in some lonesome valley in some lonesome place

(each C would get two beats)

(youtube’s rise up singing project lists the key of G chords as, G Am C D)


AUDIO:


i prefer iris dement’s version, but this song has been recorded by jean ritchie, doc watson, pete seeger, judy collins,  munly, shirley collins and davy graham, doug and jack wallin, john doyle, cass wallin, andreas scholl, shortstack, and literally countless others.

click links to listen for free!


VIDEO:


iris dement

luna

flora and fauna

shirley collins and davy graham


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