"Songs of Experience"

These are songs of experience. Most of them are old songs, shaped by various singers and times. They open a door between past and present. Most of the songs tell stories, some with all the details, some with just a glance. I don't sing them because they are old, but because they speak to me, as they must have to the singers who brought them this far. I sing them because they connect me to the long line of human beings who sing, for so many reasons.

The Songs:

1. Wedding Dress (traditional)
Cindy, guitar/vocal

I learned this mysterious little song years ago from an album by Jody Stecher.

2. October Roses (Linda Allen, c1984, BMI)
Cindy, guitar/vocal/concertina -- Anne Hills, harmony vocal

Learned from Faith Petric.

3. The Snow Is On the Ground (traditional)
Cindy, guitar/vocal -- Pete Sutherland, fiddle -- Anne Hills and Priscilla Herdman, harmony vocals

I found this in Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne and Frank Warner Collection. The song dates back to at least the 1850's.

4. The Haunted Hunter (traditional)
Cindy, unaccompanied vocal

I heard this in a jangly, upbeat version on an LP of cowboy songs borrowed from the library. I can't remember the name of the album or the singer. I've seen it since as a poem with slightly different words entitled The Walker of the Snow by Charles Dawson Shanly, who emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the 1850's.

5. She Perished in the Snow (traditional)
Cindy, vocal -- Pete Sutherland, piano

This tear-jerker from the Catskill Mountains was sung by George Edwards to Norman Cazden, and appears in the Abelard Folk Song Book. The distant origin of the song is in the minstrel shows, although Mr. Edwards believed that his mother had composed it to commemorate the blizzard of 1888. I was attracted by the very odd rhythm of the phrases, and counted on Pete Sutherland to make sense of it all.

6. Dessus le Pont de Londres (traditional Quebec)
Cindy, guitar/vocal/concertina/accordion

Learned from the singing of Claude Methe. A young woman disguises herself as a king's page to gain entrance to the prison where her lover is held. She exchanges clothes with him, he escapes, and on the steps of the scaffold, she reveals her identity and congratulates herself on her cleverness. (They don't hang her.)

7. The Cruel Mother (traditional, Child #20)
Cindy, guitar/vocal

One of the classic Child ballads. This melody is from Maine, with verses pulled from various versions.

8. Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still (traditional)
Cindy, guitar/vocal

Another gem from the Anne and Frank Warner collection, a book I love not only for its songs, but for the Warners' reminiscences of the singers.

9. Clerk Saunders (traditional, Child #69)
Cindy, unaccompanied vocal

Another Child ballad, this one learned from the singing of June Tabor.

10. I Hela Naturen/Gus's Waltz (traditional Swedish/Mangsen, c1998 BMI)
Cindy, vocal/concertina -- Steve Gillette, guitar

My father's first language was Swedish, and I learned the song and wrote the tune in his honor. The song was printed as a broadside in 1825, and variants are known throughout Sweden. I heard it from Andrea Hoag on her wonderful album with Bruce Sagan entitled Spelstundarna: Scandinavian Fiddle Music.

11. Shallow Brown (traditional)
Cindy, vocals/concertina/accordion -- Steve Gillette, harmony vocal

Peter Bellamy is credited with having slowed down this West Indian chantey and revealing its lyricism. I learned it from the singing of Jeff Warner and Jeff Davis. The story tells of Shallow Brown, a former slave, who signs on board a whaler to earn money to buy his girlfriend's freedom, not knowing that she's been sold to a new master and will be gone on his return.

12. Selling the Isabel (Larry Kaplan, c1991 BMI)
Cindy, vocal -- Pete Sutherland, piano

Larry Kaplan's grandmother Isabel grew up in Maine, and married a childhood friend. Their story didn't end the way the song goes, but as Larry says, the song is "true enough."

To Order a copy of Songs of Experience please send a check or money order for -$15 for a CD or -$10 for a Cassette plus -$2 for shipping and handling to:

Compass Rose Music * P.O.Box 1501 * Bennington, VT 05201

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