Tuesday, December 30, 2008

folk songs

Yesterday evening, and again this afternoon, I've picked up my guitar and strummed along as I sang simple folk songs; the songs most of us seldom think about because we grew tired of them when we were still children.

I learned to chord a guitar with a book of chord diagrams and familiar folk songs. Now, this was at a time when folk was trendy: Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary; the Kingston Trio.

Folk songs almost sing themselves, they're so undemanding. Most of them have only two or three chords, which makes it nice for people like me who are klutzes with a guitar. And if you forget the words to a verse, you can make up some new ones.

So tonight I sat here running from one to another, hardly even thinking about it, not planning ahead what I'd sing. I started with "Greenback Dollar"; not the one the old Kingston Trio did, but the lovelorn ballad that came straight out of the hills and hollers of the south:

"I don't want yore greenback dollar,
I don't want yore silver change.
All I want is yore love darlin',
Say you'll take me back agin."

(You have to say "yore" for you're, and "agin" for again, to get the full effect.)

Then on to "Who's gonna shoe my pretty little feet", which is hilarious when sung by me, the woman with the biggest, ugliest feet in two states.

Next, "On top of old Smoky". Hey, I know we lampooned it as kids, but it isn't such a bad song, and it has some valuable life-lessons in it:

"Yore grave will decay you and turn you to dust...
Ain't a man in a hundred that a woman can trust."

Without a pause, I went right into a rollicking version of "She'll be a-comin' 'round the mountain when she comes." Now there's a toe-tapper if I ever heard one.

You can't have a hootenanny without "Down in the Valley".

"If you don't love me, love whom you please;
Throw your arms 'round me, give my heart ease."

Next? "Freight Train".

"Don't know where I'm headed for,
Makes no difference any more.
Got no future, got no home,
Can't do nothin' now but roam."

Then it was time for some real fun: Skip To My Lou! Hey, be honest. Have you tried singing that since you were in fourth grade? I dare you to try to sing it and keep a straight face.

"Lost my partner, what'll I do?"
"I'll get another one, prettier than you!"

I did a couple of choruses of "Rye Whiskey", and almost felt inebriated by the time I was done with that.

And as a grand finale, I sang "Go Tell Aunt Rhoadie", which has some lines that crack me up.

"Go tell Aunt Rhoadie, go tell Aunt Rhoadie. Go tell Aunt Rhoadie her old grey goose is dead." "Died in the mill pond, died in the millpond. Died in the millpond, a-standin' on it's head." "Only had one feather a-stickin' in its head."

Poor ole goose.

1 comment:

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

We play alot of folk songs on our dulcimers too. Go tell Aunt Rhode is a fav of mine. I've got to play more...don't do it often enough. 'On Ya'-ma