17 Feb

The Apprentice Boy

Near Linster [Leinster] I was born, not of a high degree,
My parents they adored me, they had no child but me;
I roved around for pleasure where’er my fancy lay,
Until I was bound apprentice, then all joys passed away.

My master and my mistress they did not use me well,
I formed a resolution not long with them to dwell;
So, unknown to friends and kindred, I slyly stole away,
And steered my course to Dublin, to me a woeful day.

I had not been in Dublin a day but only three
When an estated lady proposed to hire me;
She offered great inducement her waiting man to be,
If I would go with her to London, which proved my destiny.

Her offer I accepted, my fortune being low,
In hopes of grand promotion if along with her I’d go;
And as we sailed over-bound for that British shore,
It is little I thought I ne’er would see my native country more.

When we arrived in London to view that fine city,
My evil-minded mistress grew very fond of me;
She offered me ten thousand pounds to be paid down in hand,
If I’d agree to marry her it would be at my command.

“Oh, mistress, honored mistress, you must excuse me now,
For I am already promised upon a solemn vow;
Yes, I am already promised, and solemn vow I’ve made,
To wed with none but Jennie, your handsome waiting maid.”

In wrath and indignation my evil mistress said,
“Just see how I am slighted all for a servant maid;
Since you disdain my person and the offer that I make,
It’s of you I will have revenge though my life lay as a stake.”

“Oh, mistress, to offend thee I would be very loath,
But I can do nothing that’s contrary to my oath;
Contrary to my oath, madam, but supposing my vows were clear,
I would not part with my jewel for ten thousand pounds a year.”

One evening in the garden, a-taking in the air,
My mistress followed after me, plucking the flowers there;
Her gold repeating watch she took at the passing of me by,
And conveyed it to my pocket, for which I now must die.

I then was apprehended, to New Gate I was sent,
Where I was left in bondage, my sorrows to lament;
Where I was left in bondage until my trial day,
My mistress thought it was no harm to swear my life away.

And now I am on the gallows and I must suffer here,
Because I would not break the vows I made unto my dear;
Though far from home and kindred, I bid the world adieu,
My charming, lovely, Jennie, I die for love of you.
___________________________

Of the 47 songs documented by collector Robert Winslow Gordon from Minnesotan singers in 1924, this was the only one that was sung by both Michael Dean and Reuben Phillips. The above transcribed version is Dean’s (based on Gordon’s recording and Dean’s text published in his Flying Cloud songster). The song, dating to the late 1700s, was once popular throughout the US and Canada.

The ballad originated in England as “The Sheffield Apprentice” but in Dean’s version the place names have been changed to relocate the story to Ireland with the “evil-minded mistress” dwelling in London (other versions have her in Holland). Dean’s parents were from County Mayo and the vast majority of his repertoire was Irish or Irish-American. In contrast, Phillips’ repertoire was more closely tied to England and Scotland and in his version we find Sheffield and Holland.

St. Paul singer and bouzouki player Buddy Ferrari took the “Minnesota Folksong Challenge” and created his own version of “The Apprentice Boy” which he performs in the video posted above. You can access the archival recordings of both Dean and Phillips as well as Buddy’s video and videos of others who have taken the “Challenge” at www.minnesotafolksongcollection.com

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!

02 Jun

Lovel (revisited)


RWP_A008 Lovel

As Lovel was a-walking a-walking one morning
He espied two peddlers two peddlers a-coming
He boldly stepped up to them and called them his honey
Saying “Stand and deliver boys for all I want’s your money.”
Lol te de a de um, Lol te de a dum.

“O we are two peddlers two peddlers are we sir
And you are Mr. Lovel we take you to be sir
O we are two peddlers that have lately come from Dublin
And all that we have in our box is our beddin’ and our clothing.” Lol te de…

As Lovel was walking up Kinsberry mountain
He espied two rich misers their guineas they were counting
First he cocked his blunderbuss and then he drew his rapier
Saying “Stand and deliver boys for I’m a money taker.” Lol te de…

“O Lovel, O Lovel my poor heart’s a-breaking
For little did I think my love you ever would been taken
And if I had’ve known that the enemy was a-coming
I’d have fought like a hero although I’m but a woman.” Lol te de…

“O Polly, O Polly my poor heart’s a-breaking
If it had not been for you my love I never would been taken
For while I was a-sleeping not thinking of the matter
You discharged my pistols and loaded them with water.” Lol te de…

As Lovel was walking all up the gallows ladder
He called to the sheriff for his Irish cap and feather
Saying “I have robbed money but never killed any
I think it hard that I must die just for grabbing money.” Lol te de…

__________________________________
We return this month to this wonderfully obscure and fun-to-sing variant of “Whiskey in the Jar” recorded in 1924 from Akeley, Minnesota singer Reuben W. Phillips (see N.S. Sep. 2014).  The Lost Forty recently arranged Phillips’ version of Lovel and the video above shows us performing it at the beautiful Stone Saloon building in St. Paul.

I am thrilled to announce that the original field recording of Phillips singing Lovel, along with many others, is now online on the new Minnesota Folksong Collection site! Visitors to www.minnesotafolksongcollection.org can access (for free) over 40 field recordings of Minnesota singers recorded in 1924. Many of the songs featured in Northwoods Songs over the past four years appear in the collection. The site is currently relatively bare-bones but over the next few months I will be adding features to help encourage visitors to learn songs from the collection and to learn more about the Minnesota-based source singers. The site does feature sheet music transcriptions of the song melodies (a labor-intensive feature for me to create but, hopefully, something that helps users decipher the very low fi recordings).

When folklorist Robert W. Gordon recorded Minnesotans Reuben W. Phillips and Michael C. Dean, he typically only captured one or two verses of each song—rationing out the valuable space on his wax cylinders. Luckily, both Phillips and Dean supplied Gordon with complete written texts for most of the songs they sang. I have combined their texts with the field recordings on the Minnesota Folksong Collection site just as I have done above and in previous Northwoods Songs.

Phillips’ handwritten manuscript of song texts is full of many nonstandard spellings of words which I have altered to more standard spellings above and on the website to help users access the texts more easily. I have also opted to shift some of the transcriptions into keys I feel are more suitable for sight reading.

I would love to hear some feedback from Northwoods Songs readers regarding the functionality of the new site! Please check it out at www.minnesotafolksongcollection.org and drop me a line to let me know what you think.

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.