[Revised notes and added to this blog on 15th May 2016 after Ian Semple kindly included this recording on his Radio Penwith show. That’s the only Cornish connection, though I expect I’ll continue to sing it now I live down here. NB this replaces the demo I posted on my song site in July 2014. It’s still a demo, but it’s nearer the way I now hear it in my head. Whether it’ll ever get as far as a commercial recording is a different issue.]
Not one of my songs, of course. This demo is an interpretation of a song I learned many years ago from Michael Cooney by way of banjo player (well, multi-instrumentalist) Merrion Wood. Oddly enough, Bert Jansch also recorded a slightly similar ‘Weeping Willow Blues’ using a 12-string. I’ve never heard Michael Cooney’s recording, but I seem to remember that he also played it on 12-string when I heard him play it live. Just to be awkward, I play it slide, so it’s probably not that close to either version.
I think Michael did tell me at the time (I guess it was in the early 70s) where his version comes from – I heard him sing it at the old Shrewsbury Folk Club. (A post on Mudcat suggests that it came from Leadbelly: it does somehwhat resemble Roberta.) However, he kindly responded to a recent email as follows:
I first heard the song sung by Guy Carawan; I believe he sang it in a minor key. I added a verse or two from other blues songs and worked out that arrangement. I play it in D with the E string tuned down to D, AND I used to (back then) tune the whole guitar down so when I played it in “D” it was really in C# or even C.
Michael recorded the same song on an LP called ‘Singer of Old Songs’, and it turns out that it’s on the CD of the same name he’s released on his own label. I plan to acquire a copy sooner rather than later: apart from being curious to see how far my version has changed from his, I always enjoyed his sets back in the 70s and I look forward to hearing some of those songs again.
The ‘Sometimes I think you’re too sweet to die…’ verse is close to one associated with Rabbit Brown’s ‘James Alley Blues’, widely known through Judy Roderick’s rewrite ‘Born in the Country’.
Small Blue-Green World