Evergreen

(C)opyright © 2007 Frank Blair All Rights Reserved.

I always have a horrible time naming things. This project was no different. I had a working title, which seemed fine at the time, but as the project neared completion I started thinking more about what I was trying to say. I went through many, many names before settling on the one that stuck : Evergreen.

Besides the obvious references to the Pacific Northwest, where I currently reside and which is mostly green most of the time, there are others that just fit. Those things that are constantly in demand because they are constantly needed are referred to as "evergreen." There is a hint of the insistance of life through the dormancy of winter, most easily seen by the evergreens that keep vigil over the sleeping woodlands. These tracks are my evergreens - I've known most of them for years and years and yet I continually refer to them. Many of these songs are the first places I go when I pick up a guitar or when I'm asked to play something impromptu.

They are my constant, reliable, ever-living friends.

- frankblair

Track List
1. Jamie Raeburn
2. To Welcome Paddy Home
3. Isabeau s'y Promene
4. Mrs. O'Sullivan's / Fountain of Smart
5. Little Musgrave
6. Malcolm's Waltz
7. Ireland Follows You
8. The Dreadful End of the Marianna for Sorcery
9. Sally Gardens
10. The Lakes of Pontchartrain
11. O'Shaughnessy's Lament
12. Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms / O'Carolan's Draught

1. Jamie Raeburn

This is one of my favorite songs and when asked to perform something Jamie Raeburn is one of my first choices. Jamie Raeburn is a broad Scots ballad that I learned from the late Tony Cuffe. According to tradition, Jamie Raeburn was a baker living in Glasgow around 1820 who was wrongly convicted of petty theft and sentenced to transportation to Australia. The song doesn't indicate what his crime was. Roy Gullane of the Tannahill Weavers has suggested that he might have in fact been a Scottish pervert -- a man who prefers women to whiskey. The National Library of Scotland has a printed broadside of the song from about 1843.


Oh my name is Jamie Raeburn
From Glasgow toon I came
My place of habitation
I'm forced to leave in shame
My place o' habitation
I noo maun gang awa'
Far frae the bonnie hills and dales
Of Caledonia

It was at the end o' mornin'
Before the break o' day
We were wakened by the turnkey
Who unto us did say
Arise ye hapless convicts
Arise ye ane and a'
This is the day ye are tae stray
Frae Caledonia

So we all arose, put on oor clothes
Aer hearts were filled wi' grief
The friends that stood aboot the coach
Could grant us no relief
The parents, wives, and sweethearts
Their hearts were broke in twa'
Tae see us leave the hills and dales
Of Caledonia

So fareweel my aged father
Ye are the best of men
Likewise my ain sweetheart
For it's Katherine is her name
We ne'er will walk by the Clyde's clear stream
Nor by the Broomielaw
For I maun leave the hills and dales
Of Caledonia

Oh my name is Jamie Raeburn
From Glasgow toon I came...

2. To Welcome Paddy Home

A friend reminded me of this song while I was thinking in terms of pieces to record. I first learned it from the singing of Cathal McConnell of Boys of the Lough sometime in the late 1980s. It's an emmigration tune with a few overtones of the political situation in Ireland, but pretty mild on both counts. I enjoy the tune and it's not as depressing as my normal faire.


I am a true born Irish man
I'll never deny what I am
I was born in the fair Tipperary town
Three thousand miles away

Refrain
Hooray my boys hooray
No more do I wish for to roam
For the sun it will shine at the harvest time
To welcome Paddy home

The girls they are young and frisky
They'll take you all by the hand
Saying, "Jimmy mo chri won't you come with me
To welcome Paddy home"

Then came a foreign nation
And scattered all over the land
Every horse and cow, goat pig and sow
Fell into stranger's hands

The Scotsman can boast of the thistle
The English can boast of the rose
Paddy can boast of the Emerald Isle
Where all the fair shamrocks grow

3. Isabeaux S'y Promene

I learned this tune in the late 80s as an air. Then one day after a gig in Texas I was noodling around with the tune on bouzouki when one of the stage hands came up and told me, in a French accent, that it had words. He sang a few of them and I asked him to write them down for me, but we never got around to that. Years later I found the words and worked them up with the tune. Not too long ago, I started noodling around with a more interesting bridge tune and arranged the whole piece again.

As it turns out the song is a very popular traditional song in Quebec and has continental French roots. The story is of a young woman on a ship who hears a young sailor singing. She asks him to teach her the song and as she's learning it and dancing to it she loses her gold ring over the side of the boat and begins to cry. The sailor jumps in to save the ring and drowns.

This actually isn't that surprising as it was unusual for sailors to be much for swimming in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Isabeau s'y promène, le long de son jardin
Elle fit une rencontre de trente matelots
De trente matelots, sur le bord de l'île
De trente matelots, sur le bord de l'eau
Sur le bord du ruisseau

Le plus jeune des trente, il se mit à chanter
La chanson que tu chantes, je voudrais la savoir
Je voudrais la savoir, sur le bord de l'île
Je voudrais la savoir, sur le bord de l'eau
Sur le bord du ruisseau

Embarque dans ma barque, je te la chanterai
Quand elle fut dans la barque, elle se mit à pleurer
Elle se mit à pleurer, sur le bord de l'île
Elle se mit à pleurer, sur le bord de l'eau
Sur le bord du ruisseau

Qu'avez-vous donc la belle, qu'av-vous à tant pleurer
Je pleure mon anneau d'or, dans l'eau il est tombé
Dans l'eau il est tombé, sur le bord de l'île
Dans l'eau il est tombé, sur le bord de l'eau
Sur le bord du ruisseau

Ne pleurez point la belle, je vous le plongerai
De la première plonge, il n'a rien ramené
Il n,a rien ramené, sur le bord de l'île
Il n'a rien ramené, sur le boird de l'eau
Sur le bord du ruisseau

De la seconde plonge, l'anneau-z-a voltigé
De la troisième plonge, le galant s'est noyé
Le galant s'est noyé, sur le bord de l'île
Le galant s'est noyé, sur le bord de l'eau
Sur le bord du ruisseau

4. Mrs. O'Sullivan's / Fountain of Smart

Mrs. O'Sullivan's is a jig that I learned years ago from Arty McGlynn and have always liked. It's got a certain "sing-songy" quality to it that I love and it tends to be one of my unconscious choices for practice, warmup, "need something to play and can't think of anything right now" tunes. It's also one of about ten tunes that I flatpick in standard tuning on the guitar. As is "Fountain of Smart". I wrote Fountain of Smart in 2002 at the North Texas Irish Festival in the hotel lobby while we were waiting on the shuttle to get us over to Fair Park. The title comes an old signature line that I used to use on email : "We have plenty youth. What we really need is a fountain of smart."

5. Little Musgrave

Sometimes called "Matty Groves", this is a classic ballad form. I know four versions of this song: early (Scottish, published in the 1650s), middle 1 (English, published in the 1740s), middle 2 (English or American, published in the 1790s), and late (definitely American, collected in the early 1900s). There are actually many more versions than that with every English speaking colony having versions that have survived. The first published reference for it is a quote in a play called "The Knight of the Burning Pestle" by the Jacobean playwrights John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont, in 1607. The song may originate from as much as a century earlier and probably from the Scottish borders region where Musgrave was a name of some note, giving their name to the towns of Great Musgrave and Little Musgrave. A complete version of the song was published in 1658 and it is that version that these lyrics are based on. The names of the central characters change through the centuries and locales, but the main story arc remains essentially the same. The tune here is a melody line attached to the tune by Andy Irvine and Christy Moore from a tune learned from Nic Jones.


It fell upon on a holy day as manies in the year
Musgrave to the church did go to see fine ladies there

And some were dressed in velvet red and some in velvet pale
Then in came Lord Barnard's wife, the fairest amoung them all

And she cast an eye on the little musgrave as bright as the summer sun
Said Musgrave unto himself this lady's heart I've won

I have loved you fair lady full long and manies the day
And I have loved you little Musgrave and never a word did say

I have a bower in Bucklesfordbury, it's my heart's delight
And I'll take you back there with me if you lie in my arms tonight

Standing by was a little footpage from the lady's coach he ran
Although I am a lady's page, I am Lord Barnard's man

And me Lord Barnard will hear of thus whether I lose a limb
And everywhere the bridge was broken, he laid him down to swim

Me Lord Barnard, me Lord Barnard you are a man of life
But Musgrave is at Bucklesfordbury asleep with your wedded wife

If this be true, me little footpage this thing that you tell me
All the gold in Bucklesfordbury I gladly will give to thee

But if this be a lie, me little footpage this thing that you tell me
From the highest tree in Bucklesfordbury hang-ed you will be

Go saddle for me the black he said, go saddle for me the grey
Sound ye not your horns he said lest our coming you'd betray

But there was a man in Lord Barnard's train who loved little Musgrave
He blew his horn both loud and shrill, away Musgrave away

I think I hear the morning cock, I think I hear the jay
I think I hear Lord Barnard's men, I wish I was away

Lie still, lie still me little Musgrave and hold me from the cold
It's nothing but a shepherd lad a-bringing his flock to fold

Is not your hawk upon it's perch, your steed eats oats and hay
And you a woman in your arms, why would you go away?

So they turned around and they kissed twice and then they fell asleep
When they awoke Lord Barnard's men were standing at their feet

How do you like me feather bed, how do you like me sheets?
How do you like me fair lady that lies in your arms asleep?

It's well I like your bed he said, great it gives me pain
I'd gladly give a hundred pound to be on yonder plain

Rise up, rise up Little Musgrave rise up and then put on
It'll not be said in this country I slayed a naked man

So slowly, slowly he got up slowly he put on
Slowly went down the stairs thinking he'd be slain

There are two swords by my side, dear they cost my purse
You can take the best of them and I will take the worst

And the first stroke Little Musgrave struck, it hurt Lord Barnard sore
But the next stroke Lord Barnard struck, Little Musgrave ne'er struck more

And then up spoke the lady fair from the bed whereon she lay
Although you're dead Little Musgrave, still for you I'll pray

How do you like his cheeks he said? How do you like his chin?
And how do you like his dead body now there's no life within?

It's well I like those cheeks she cried, and well I love that chin
It's more I want his dead body than all your kith and kin

He's taken out his long long sword to strike the mortal blow
Through and through the lady's heart the cold steel it did go

A grave a grave Lord Barnard cried to put these lovers in
Put me lady in the upper hand, she came from better kin

For I've just killed the finest knight that's ever rode a steed
And I've just killed the finest woman that e're did a woman's deed

It fell upon on a holy day as manies in the year
Musgrave to the church did go to see fine ladies there

6. Malcolm's Waltz

This is a waltz that I orginally wrote on bouzouki in 2000 in memory of a friend who had passed way that summer. We recorded it with Gabriel's Gate on Departures later that year. After we came out to Oregon I was performing mostly solo and thought that the bouzouki alone was too thin to really give the piece the depth of sound that it needed so I arranged it for guitar. The new arrangement changes the character a bit so I decided to record it again. Originally it was more melancholy but this time around, possibly influenced by arrangement choices 6 years out from the actual inspiration, it's more hopeful and a bit happier of a piece. Sean helps me out here with a second guitar.


7. Ireland Follows You

Back in the mid-nineties I spent some time hanging out at Harling's Upstairs, a bar in Kansas City that harbored the Brothers Delahunt -- Colm and Eddie. Both native Irish, Colm was one of the bartenders and, at some point I believe, general manager, of the place. Eddie was a Celtic music presence in Kansas City. He played several regular gigs around town every week and had a commanding solo performance that ranged widely over both traditional and contemporary material. Many of the musicians in town would come down to wherever Eddie happened to be and enjoy a beer and some good company. Eddie was very generous with the microphone as well and would often ask you to come up and toss off a couple songs or sit in with him for a while.

Eddie mentioned once that he wanted to put together a project that featured modern songs of emmigration -- something that took a look at it from the post-fifties perspective. He wanted to use a quote from Joyce that called the Atlantic a "bitter bowl of tears" to write a song around. I took that notion and started to run with it. I took several months to pull it together into a form that I liked, but "Ireland Follows You" was the outcome.


It's a smoky bar in Brooklyn, the craic is pretty good
There's a piper here from Limerick, or maybe he's from Cork
I think his name is Riordan, most of them don't care
He flies through melodies of home, taking their hearts there
Some of them stare in their beers while others of them sing
Ancient songs of lamentation, The Butterfly on the wing
Although their hearts reside in Ireland, their minds are firmly here
Friday nights they wrap their dreams and cares around a couple beers

Refrain
Mary take me by the hand and we will go together
To the old pub at the corner for a wee pint or maybe two
We won't see Miss Malone, nor Sean or Katy Cochrane
But we can still sing and dance a few to pass the time away
I know I can't go home, but I've found my home
For Ireland follows you

It's a sunny day in August as I ride the lift to nine
My hardhat in my hand and my life upon the line
To put in ten upon the beam, another working day
And earn that green salvation, my meager day's cash pay.
My name's not Mick or Paddy, my proper name is John
The foreman doesn't care, just as long as the work gets done
I'm just another brogue behind a weary smile
I might be here for fifteen years or just a little while.

Refrain

It's a gift to be simple or so I have been told
I've plied this simple trade of mine since I was ten years old
Weaving of the cane and straw baskets and wicker chairs
My fathers worked the same small shop for near two hundred years
But I had to leave my past behind it was only making sense
Sometimes the chains of slaves aren't iron, they're made of pounds and pence
But I wonder as I'm weaving or sipping at my tea
If the chains of lonliness aren't worse than those of poverty.

Refrain

Sunday morning, six am and the sun is peeking through
A window that's been open since a quarter after two
Setting words upon the page, just trying to make sense
And in this bitter bowl of tears find seeds of happiness
The calling and the collar, I wear each day with pride
For I know it's not the clothes I wear, but it's what I wear inside
Still they look to me for guidance, sometimes I wonder why
Like them I dream of Donegal and wake to gently cry

Final Refrain
So Mary take me by the hand and lead me to the corner
I can see the Wicklow mountains just over these New York lights
Isn't that Miss Malone? And Sean and Katy Cochrane
Skipping down a dusty road on a cold November's night
I know I can't go home, but I've found my home
For Ireland follows you

8. The Dreadful End of Marianna for Sorcery

Karine Polwart is a great, Scottish singer-songwriter and one of a handful that write very well and convincingly in broad Scots. This is one of her songs that I came to know from her work as a member of the Scottish band Malinky. Based on a short story, it's a tale of betrayal, petty revenge, and group-think unfortunately too common in human interaction. In this case with fatal consequences but in many others just as brutal and unresolved.

 


Marianna of the Howe was
A young lassie wi' golden hair
Fair and honest, true and bonnie
Lover of one John Sinclair
Marianna met the factor
At the dawning at the fold and he said
Lie wi' me now Marianna
And ye will not want for gold

Well I thank ye for your offer
But I fear it cannae be
For I maun lie wi' John Sinclair for
He's the only one for me
So the factor sair affronted
Whispered evil of her name
Every sorrow and misfortune
T'was Marianna for tae blame

Soon there came a deputation
Marianna for tae see
For to slight her reputation
"The De'il has lain his hands on thee.
Ye've blighted corn and soured cream and
Danced with Faeries on the hill
Ye who are of Devil born and
Ye who bow to no man's will."

Seven evenings, seven mornings
They spoke of Marianna ill
There they shamed her, whipped her, maimed her
But they never broke her will
"Let her sweetness not deceive you
Evil hides itself right well.
Once within it will never leave you
Marianna you'll burn in hell."

Who are these that stand against me
Who are these that slight my name
Let them tell their lies before God
Let them hang their heads in shame
Then she saw a sight that grieved her
All the hope inside her died
John Sinclair all clad in satin
Standing at the factor's side

I was child and now a woman
But I shall be no man's wife
For my love has me forsaken
And I want no more of life
They've shorn the hair from Marianna
That witches snare of golden thread
Marched her tae the gallow's ha'
Whipped her sair until she bled

In the crowd she spied her lover
And he had his new coat on
Soon the flames danced all around
And the people danced til dawn

Marianna o' the Howe was
A young lassie wi' golden hair
Fair and honest, true and bonnie
Betrayed by the factor and John Sinclair

9. Sally Gardens

I honestly don't remember when I learned this tune but I picked it up a long time ago and worked it out for DADGAD. A few months ago I was reminded of it and brought it back up to speed. It's a beautiful tune: pressing on with just a hint of melancholy. I am helped here by Liam Deyerle, a great guitarist I met in Salem after we moved to Oregon. We were tossing around tunes at Bridie's Irish Faire, an Irish import shop in Salem, and we just hit it off on this tune.


10. The Lakes of Pontchartrain

I learned this song about 25 years ago from listening to Planxty although the stand out version for me was the one recorded by Paul Brady a few years later. The song has been in the Irish repertoire for a long time but its provenance is unclear. Paul Brady has said that he learned it from Christy Moore in the 70s. One story is that it was written by an Irishman who came to fight for the Confederacy in the American Civil War and was turned loose at the end of it with worthless money and a big country to make his way in. Andy Irvine has suggested that the tune was brought back to Ireland by British and Irish soldiers returning from the War of 1812. It's probably a fusion of an American song and an Irish sensibility. Some elements suggest that it may have evolved from "The Lily of the West."

During our time in Gabriel's Gate, GG guitarist Sean Foree and I discovered that we had separate arrangements that worked very well together so we combined them here. I'm in standard tuning and he's in a Hawaiian slack G and we’re capoed appropriately to put the song in B-flat, but they work very nicely together.


It was on a fine March morning
I bade New Orleans adieu
And took the road for Jackson town
My fortune to renew
I cursed our foreign money
No credit could I gain
Which filled my heart with longing for
The lakes of Pontchartrain

I stand on board of a railroad car
Beneath the morning sun
I rode the rails til evening
Then laid me down again
All strangers there no friends to me
Til a dark girl towards me came
And I fell in love with a Creole girl
By the lakes of Pontchartrain

Says I, "My pretty Creole girl
My money it here's no good.
If it weren't for the alligators
I'd sleep out in the wood."
"You're welcome here kind stranger
Our house is very plain
But we've never turned a stranger out
On the banks of Pontchartrain."

She took me into her mammy's house
And treated me right well
The hair upon her shoulders
In jet black ringlets fell
To try to paint her beauty
I'm sure t'would be in vain
So handsome was my Creole girl
On the lakes of Pontchartrain

So I asked her if she'd marry me
She said that ne'er could be
For she had got a lover
And he was far at sea
She swore that she would wait for him
And true she would remain
Til he'd return to his Creole girl
On the lakes of Pontchartrain

So it's fare thee well my bonnie old girl
I never will see ye more
But I'll ne'er forget your kindness
In the cottage by the shore
And at each social gathering
A flowing glass I'll drain
And I'll drink a health to the Creole girl
By the lakes of Pontchartrain

11. O'Shaughnessy's Lament

This song was written by singer-songwriter Aengus Finnan (an Irish native transplanted to Canada) after visiting the grave of a miner and his family near the silver mining town of Cobalt, Ontario. I came across his work on FolkAlley (http://www.folkalley.com), the internet folk streaming music channel and was captivated by this song. He captures the classic lament form and just ripped the heart of me when I heard it the first time.


Oh the sun is setting low, o'er Cobalt and the mines
And I've come here again to touch and read the lines
Of your name here on the stone, no longer flesh and bone
Oh my sweet Rosella May I miss you, dearly.

For when I was just a lad, I signed on with the crew
For a life below the earth, what more was I to do
But as the years went by, you'd wait along the path
Soon I lived to see your smile, and to hear your gentle laugh.

Oh we courted long and dear, while McCarthy was your name
And when you untied your hair, all the flowers were put to shame
So the fellas spruced me up, and for the first time in my life
How I felt like I was someone, when you became my wife

For you took this hard rock man, so poor in grace and charms
Ang gave to me a world, lying in your arms
Soon from the sound of heartbeats, twins the doctor said
But their births this house left empty, and I alone in bed

Oh we pitmen live in fear, of the price that we might pay
To never come back up or see the light of day
But ne'er a one did warn me a life might cave in too
Sacred Heart, that happened when God from me took you

So I'll chip away my days, deep beneath the ground
Pecking at the rocks where silver's to be found
But oh it's all for naught and I'd throw it all away
If I could have you here and hold you one more day

Oh the sun is setting low o'er Cobalt and the mines
And I've come here again to touch and read the lines
Of your name here on the stone, no longer flesh and bone
Oh my sweet Rosella May I miss you... dearly.

12. Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms / O'Carolan's Draught

A lot of people know the first tune in this set as being set to the lyrics of a poem by the same name written by Thomas Moore (Irish poet and author of "The Minstrel Boy") in 1808. The legend is that he wrote the poem for the wife of the Duke of Wellington whose face was scarred by smallpox lesions. While there is some controversy about the truth of that, it's a very pretty poem. The tune itself, however, was printed in 1737 and set to another poem, "My Lodging It Is in the Cold Ground", (Matthew Locke, 1621-1677) and is probably much older than that even. I play it here as an air. The second tune is one of my favorite O'Carolan compositions. It has been said that O'Carolan was heavily influenced by the Italians and that would make a lot of sense judging from this tune -- it sounds very Baroque. It's normally played fairly slowly but I prefer it to clip along a bit. Since O'Carolan didn't leave much in the way of direction as to how his tunes were to be played, we're left to our own devices.




Acknowledgements

 "Fountain of Smart", "Malcolm's Waltz", "Ireland Follows You" are (C)opyright © Frank Blair.

"The Dreadful End of Marianna For Sorcery" is (C)opyright © Karine Polwart

"O'Shaughnessy's Lament" is (C)opyright © Aengus Finnan, Shelter Valley Prod., SOCAN
All other tracks are traditional, arranged Frank Blair.

Recorded during January 2007 at The Magic Closet, Portland, Oregon.
Engineered by Ian Watts
Produced by Frank Blair

All CD art (C)opyright © Shutterstock.com. Used with permission.

Sean Foree plays a second guitar on tracks 4, 6, 8, and 10. He also provides backing vocals on track 10.

Liam Deyerle plays a second guitar on track 9.

I would like to take some time and space to thank everyone who made this project possible: Kathleen, my wife, Ian Watts, the engineer at The Magic Closet, Susan Spencer, owner of Bridie's Irish Faire in Salem who has been exceptionally supportive of the local community including my own efforts and those of many others, Sean Foree and Melissa Vancrum, Liam Deyerle, and the many friends who have supported the idea of the project through the many years that I've been talking about it. (AgentPayne (Ian) wanted to be included here, but as he is supposed to be my evil scientific genius henchman and has yet to supply me with the requested sharks with lasers on their heads, I am disinclined to comply.)

For booking or other enquiries, please send email to fblair@frankblair.com

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