22 Oct

Lather and Shave

It was down in the city not far from this spot,
Where a barber he set up a snug little shop,
He was silent and sad, but his smile was so sweet,
That he pulled everybody right in from the street.

One horrid bad custom he thought he would stop,
That no one for credit should come to his shop,
So he got him a razor full of notches and rust,
To shave the poor mortals who came there for trust.

Some time after that, Pat was passing that way,
His beard had been growing for many a day,
He looked at the barber and set down his hod,
“Will you trust me a shave for the true love of God?”

“Walk in,” says the barber, “Sit down in that chair,
And I’ll soon mow your beard off right down to a hair.”
The lather he splattered on Paddy’s big chin,
And with his “trust” razor to shave did begin.

“Ach murder!” says Paddy, “Now what are you doin?
Leave off with your tricks or my jaws you will ruin,
By the powers, you will pull every tooth in my jaw,
By jeepers, I’d rather be shaved with a saw.”

“Keep still,” says the barber, “don’t make such a din.
Quit working your jaw or I’ll cut your big chin.”
“It’s not cut, but it’s saw with that razor you’ve got,
For it wouldn’t cut butter unless it was hot.”

“Let up now,” says Paddy, “Don’t shave anymore,”
And the Irishman bolted right straight for the door,
“You can lather and shave all your friends ‘til you’re sick,
But by jeepers, I’d rather be shaved with a brick.”

Not many days later as Pat passed that door,
A jackass he set up a terrible roar,
“Now look at the barber! You may know he’s a knave,
He’s giving some devil a ‘love of God’ shave.”

We have a song this month in honor of everyone whose “pandemic beard” needs a trim! “Lather and Shave” (aka “The Irish Barber” or “The Love of God Shave”) seems to have originated in the early 19th century as a broadside ballad in England. From there it travelled to Ireland and North America where it was sung on the stage and by traditional singers in many regions including the Upper Midwest.

The above text is my own blend of two Midwestern versions: one from Bernadine Christensen of Harlan, Iowa collected by Earl J. Stout and another from Charles C. Talbot of Forbes, North Dakota collected by Franz Rickaby and printed in the collection “Folk Songs Out of Wisconsin.” My melody and chorus come from a third source: Angus “The Ridge” MacDonald of Antigonish County, Nova Scotia as recorded by MacEdward Leach (click to listen online).

13 Jul

The Deep Deep Sea


“Oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea,” these words came faint and mournfully,
From the pallid lips of a youth who lay on his cabin couch from day to day,
He had wasted and pined till o’er his brow the death shade slowly passed, and now,
When the land of his fond loved home was nigh they had gathered around to see him die.

For in fancy we listened to well-known words, the free wild winds and the songs of the birds,
“I had thought of home, of cot and bower, and of scenery I loved in childhood’s hour,
I had ever hoped to be laid when I died in the church-yard there on the green hill-side,
By the home of my father my grave should be. Oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”

“Let my death slumbers be where a father’s prayer and a sister’s tears will be blended there,
Oh, it will be sweet ere the heart-throb is o’er to know where its fountains will gush no more,
Let those it so fondly has yearned for to come and plant wild flowers of spring on my tomb,
Let me lie where my loved ones will weep o’er me, oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”

And there is another that tears shall shed for him that lies in the cold ocean bed,
“In hours that it pains me to think of now she hath twined these locks and kissed the brow,
In the hair she wreathed will the sea-serpent hiss, the brow she pressed will the cold wave kiss,
For the sake of that bright one who waits for me, oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”

“She hath been in my dreams…” His voice failed there, they gave no heed to his dying prayer,
They lowered him slow o’er the vessel’s side and above him closed the dark blue tide,
Where to dip her wing the sea fowl rests, where the blue waves dance with their foaming crest,
Where the billows bound and the winds sport free, oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.

____________
I had had a string of inquiries lately about this song which Randy Gosa and I recorded on our Falling of the Pine album so it seemed like a good time to cover it in this column. The above version is closely based on one collected from Sarah Neilson of Hoople, North Dakota in the early 1920s by Franz Rickaby. Hoople is about 60 miles northwest of Grand Forks and about as far away as one can get from the deep, deep sea!

The song began as a poem called “The Ocean Buried” first published in 1839 and written by American Universalist preacher Edwin Hubbell Chapin on the east coast. It was later set to music by George N. Allen and distributed widely as a song sheet in the eastern US. The song entered oral tradition in New England and Atlantic Canada and eventually became the model for another widespread folk song “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” Interestingly, Neilson (born in Canada) did not sing Allen’s (rather bland in my opinion) melody but rather a variant of the beautiful tune associated with “The Parting Glass.”

27 Dec

What a Time on the Way (Revisited)

Now that the harvest days are through,
To old D-kotey we will bid you adieu,
Back to the jack pines we will go,
To haul these saw logs in the snow.  

Fol-da-lee-dle-o, fol-da-lee-dle-ay,
Hi-fol-da-lo, what a time on the way.

Now you might say that we felt big,
We were in a silver mounted rig,                          
For Akeley town we hoisted our sails,        
They all thought we were the Prince of Wales.

Neddy he’s a splendid cook,
Always stops beside some brook,
Scrambled eggs three times a day,
Lotsa bread and a big cuppa tay.

We jogged along til we came through,
There we met with the rest of the crew,
Handsome boys both young and stout,
The pick of the town there is no doubt.

Into the buggy we jerked our boots,
You can bet our teamster fed long oats,
As to the camp we drove along,
We all joined up in a sing song.

We stayed all winter ‘til we got through,
And started home with the same old crew.
Now we’re home, we got our pay,
We think of the time that we had on the way.

——–

“What a Time on the Way” was one of only two songs Gordon recorded from Israel Lawrence Phillips (1883-1967) who lived near Akeley, Minnesota. Israel was the son of Reuben Phillips who was also recorded by Gordon.

Israel was the first of his farming family to come to Minnesota from Iowa around 1910. He settled south of Akeley near Chamberlain. The Red River Lumber Company, whose sawmill was in Akeley, was quite active at the time so it is likely that Israel worked for them in some capacity. The mention of heading back to haul “saw logs in the snow” after working on the harvest in “old D-kotey” matches the common practice of balancing seasonal harvest work in the Dakotas with a winter job in the pineries of northern Minnesota. Lumberjack Ed Springstead of Bemidji told Franz Rickaby in 1923 that “Harvesting in Dakota was about as common a practice for the lumber jacks… …as lumbering in the winter for the farmer boys.”

Like most songs in the collection, Gordon only recorded two verses of Phillips’ version. Unlike most other songs Gordon collected, he unfortunately did not obtain a manuscript version to flesh out the full text. I featured Gordon’s two verse fragment (verses one and three above) in the October 2013 Northwoods Songs. To create the longer version above, I adapted some verses from similar songs collected in Ontario by Edith Fowke.

Special thanks to everyone that has supported The Lost Forty Project this year!  Please consider taking the Minnesota Folksong Challenge and learning a song yourself!