The Tannahill Weavers – The Yew Tree

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Paisley, Scotland’s Tannahill Weavers, here with an independence-minded, history-filled choon written from a curious rhetorical stance: a series of questions and assumptions as spoken to and asked of a thousand-year old yew tree. After all the tales of war, hunger, and strife the tree is suggested to have witnessed, the singer finally says to the tree…

And I thought as I stood and laid hands on your wood
That it might be a kindness to fell you
One kiss o’ the axe and you’re freed frae th’ likes
O’ the sad bloody tales that men tell you
But a wee bird flew out from your branches
And sang out as never before
And the words o’ the song were a thousand years long
And to learn them’s a long thousand more.

Old Blind Dogs – The Lancashire Lads

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Just try not to sing along.

For the Lancashire lads have gone abroad
Whatever shall we do?
They’re leaving many’s a pretty fair maid
To cry “What shall I do?!”

Ashley MacIsaac – Hills of Glenorchy

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Another wild-ass rock bagpipe song from Cape Breton Island’s Ashley MacIsaac, this from his 1995 release Hi™ How Are You Today?. His performances are a treat.

Dougie MacLean – Mr. & Mrs. MacLean of Snaigow

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A sweet, gentle instrumental from Dunblane, Scotland’s Dougie MacLean: perfect for this sunrise:

Silly Wizard – If I Was A Blackbird

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A traditional tune, full of the poetic use of avian imagery to transcend the distance between his love and he. It is –as lovers often are– both melancholy and full of hope.

Oh, if I was a blackbird, could whistle and sing
I’d follow the vessel my true love sails in
And in the top rigging, I would there build my nest
And I’d flutter my wings o’er her lily-white breast

The Saw Doctors – The Joyce Country Ceili Band

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Co. Galway’s The Saw Doctors –natives of Tuam– deliver a rollicking party song that lives up to their name. Danceable, singable, ear-warming.

Thomas and Mary out on the floor
Well they never lost it, that’s for sure
In his sparking shoes and his daz-white shirt
She’s got a brand new perm
And a pleated skirt

And we’re the Joyce Country Ceili Band
Playing away and we’re doing grand
We’re singing a song won’t you give us a hand
‘Cos we’re the Joyce Country Ceili Band

Four Men and a Dog – Waltzing’s For Dreamers

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A sweet song of Richard Thompson’s, performed by Belfast, Ireland’s Four Men and a Dog. Kevin Doherty and Gerry O’Connor’s picking throughout is understated, exemplary. Brian McGrath’s mandolin gives the tune a certain gleam. The sentiment…few do a blue song like Richard Thompson. Speaking of which…

Oh play me a blue song and fade down the light
I’m sad as a proud man can be sad tonight
Just let me dream on, oh just let me sway
While the sweet violins and the saxophones play
And Miss, you don’t know me, but can’t we pretend
That we care for each other, till the band reach the end

One step for aching, and two steps for breaking
Waltzing’s for dreamers and losers in love
One step for sighing and two steps for crying
Waltzing’s for dreamers and losers in love

The Waterboys @ The Neptune Theater; Seattle WA 10/11/13

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Self-referential I know, but I promised in an earlier post to update here if ever any footage from the October Waterboys show turned up on YouTube. So far two have surfaced, neither of a performance that had stuck in my head but which are indicative of something, I guess.

Strange Boat – Alas, the amateur videographer keeps his/her hand over the condenser microphone for much of the song, though s/he reveals it at a suitable time in the late-song jam.

We Will Not Be Lovers – Different videographer. This time the mic stays ‘open’ the whole time.

Battlefield Band – MacPherson’s Lament

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Our pal Tom Kennedy from The Music Place 101.5FM in music-crazy Roanoke, VA follows-up this post with a neat link relating to the lyrics of this tune:

The story of the song is largely true.

James MacPherson was an outlaw in the North East of Scotland, one of the travelling people and the leader of a band of robbers. He was said to have been generous to and popular with the poor people, but he was the enemy of Lord Duff, the Laird of Braco.

MacPherson was caught in Keith and hanged at the Cross of Banff on 16 November 1700, 300 years ago. The story tells that no-one would arrest him because he was such a fine swordsman, but as he came into Keith through a narrow street a woman sitting at a window overlooking the street threw down a thick heavy blanket which entangled him so he could not draw his sword. The court jury was packed with the dependants of Lord Duff, the Laird of Grant, who found him guilty, but a friend of MacPherson rode to the higher court in Aberdeen for a pardon. The Laird saw the rider coming with the pardon, so ordered the town clock to be put forward so they could legally hang MacPherson before it arrived.

Discover more, including the author & famous editor of this tune at the Scots Language Centre.

A trio of return-trip songs

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As before, a trio of singable songs from the unalterably three hour return trip from Portland:

Steve Earle – Guitar Town

A song I find myself singing on the road even when it’s not on the radio:

Hey pretty baby don’t you know it ain’t my fault
Love to hear the steel belts hummin’ on the asphalt
Wake up in the middle of the night in a truck stop
Stumble in the restaurant wonderin’ why I don’t stop…

The Tannahill Weavers – Capernaum

One of those tunes that gives a bass singer leave to growl like a shovelhead Harley.

If a’ the tears that thou hast gat
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
If a’ the tears that thou hast gat
Were shed intae the sea
Where would ye find an Ararat
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
Where would ye find an Ararat
Frae that fell flood tae flee?

Johnny Cash – Ghost Riders In The Sky

Another natural choice. Not only did Johnny & I live in the same vocal range, but my dad used to sing these songs to me riding up Rt. 5 to our place in Charles City Co.. For a kid who was already reading ghost stories, the following passage was the black bleeding edge of fear to me:

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry