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D. Cowan, A. Cargill, S. Brown - The Songs :

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CD128 -

D. Cowan, A. Cargill, S. Brown - The Songs

The Carol of the Cherry Tree

The Farmer Feeds Us All

The Dear Companion
Bachelor's Lament, The

Barbara Allen

Carol of the Cherry Tree

Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies

Dark-Skinned Davy

Dear Companion

Death of Young Robert, The

Dying Daughter, The

Farmer Feeds Us All, The

I Wish I Was Single Again

Keep Your Garden Clean

Lord Lovel

Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender

Lover's Proof

My Brother Edward

My Kentucky Home

My Wedding Day

Omie Wise

Rosebud Blooms But Once, The

Sweet William and Lady Margaret

Unbroken Token, The

Waggoner's Lad, The

Songs and Ballads of



My grandma, Hattie Mae Tyler Cargill, was the last of the Tyler ballad singing
family from Kentucky. The Tylers were very private people and kept their music
in the family. They had their own way of tuning all the instruments and their
own ways of playing them, and they only allowed family members to know those techniques.

When I was very young, my grandma used to sing to me and make me repeat the words
and melodies back to her many times until I had them perfect. I guess I was the
one who was chosen to preserve her tradition. I learned to accompany her on a
small homemade fretless instrument that I now know was a primitive dulcimer. In
this way, my ear was trained in the various scales that she sang in. She played
a specially tuned parlor guitar in a strange style with the thumb playing the
bass notes and with the index finger being thrust downward all the way to full
extension, and she was very accurate with the noting, as I remember.

One of the things that made the Tyler music unique in the area was that the ballads
were accompanied by a large number of family members playing the music, using
the special tunings, of course. The instruments played were parlor guitar, 5-string
guitar, mandolin, violins, lap dulcimers, zither, and a specially tuned autoharp.
For dance type music, the banjo was played in the Tyler drop-thumb style, which
has been recorded by me for the archives of the Library of Congress.

My grandmother had married into the Cargill family who played string band music
and when they were present there would sometimes be a string bass, which added
a lot. But even without the bass there would be ten or more musicians playing
in the house and the effect was just fabulous. I was just a youngster, but when
they took out the instruments for a gathering, it was my very favorite thing.
I learned to play all the instruments as I was growing up, in the special tunings
and techniques.

The melodies of the most basic songs were in four scales: major, minor, mountain
major and mountain minor. In the more complex songs there would be one scale used
for ascending melodies and another scale used when the melody descended. This
gives a very unusual and strangely beautiful effect. An example of this would
be "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair." Those songs were the
hardest to sing and were reserved for the best singers who could hold their pitch
the truest.

Many songs were sung as duets. Some were sung with obvious male and female parts
and others were done with one singer singing the song all the way through and
the accompanying singer adding harmony where necessary or effective. It seemed
that the women were the strongest singers and usually they were the lead singers
with a male or a female harmony part below them. Occasionally a harmony part was
put on top of the lead, but that was not as common. Many times two or more singers
would sing in unison.

The people in the family were mostly subsistence farmers who were poor by today's
standards but normal by the standards of the time and conditions. Some worked
as miners or laborers. Music was their entertainment. None were professionals.
They loved their homes and their traditions. They were very polite and willing
to share anything they had. They were not educated. Most could not read or write.
But some could sing the words to 100 songs perfectly. They never looked down on
anyone. No one was ever considered unwelcome or unworthy. And I don't ever remember
seeing any rudeness of any sort. These people appreciated each other and would
help anyone in need.

My grandmother had an unusual role in the community. She sang the songs of death.
There were no hospices or really no ways to ease the suffering of a dying person.
There would be someone in the area who sang the songs of death to help the person
to die. I was never allowed in the room when she sang those songs. I remember
waiting on the porch and listening to those eerie sounds and I remember that sometimes
when they were over, the person was dead. It was considered a high service and
she was sought out by the dying persons family to try to help them along.

It seemed that there were songs for everything at that time. There were songs
for sewing, milking, rocking the cradle, lullabyes, courting, dancing, getting
the mules ready for a day's work, and songs for the children to play their dancing
games to. Of course there were many songs to warn young people of the dangers
of errant behavior. There were many primitive gospel songs.

The most beautiful songs were the ballads. These somehow had been transported
over genereations because quite often they refer to a period of time that these
people had no personal knowledge of. These songs were their only treasures and
were cherished as such. There were some songs that were a little on the bawdy
side and were only sung when we children were either asleep or outside playing.
Because I was chosen by my grandmother to carry these songs on, she did teach
some of them to me with the warning not to share them with the other kids. But
I did anyway, in secret child-only locations, and I still remember the boys grinning
and the girls giggling when I sang those to them.

Such a different world that was. No electricity. No roads. No stores. No news
besides word of mouth transfers, but everybody knew everybody and everything about
them. These were happy people. Honest. Innocent. Accepting life as it came to
them. Relishing the pleasures of companionship, music, and the wealth of beauty
that surrounded them in nature. The simplicity of a primitive lifestyle reflected
in the purity of their thoughts, kindness to one another, and the beauty of their
music. I've gone back to try to find these enclaves. They are gone. The culture
of these people has vanished with the encroachment of civilization. As my generation
passes away, there will never again be contact with that world. At least the unadorned
loveliness of their music can be preserved in recordings and hopefully in continuing

Acie Cargill


ACIE CARGILL plays stringed instruments in the old traditional styles,
tunings, and scales he learned as a boy. Because he is a bachelor with no children
to pass these traditions to, he is now recording his family's songs and tunes
for posterity.

DEBRA COWAN loves to sing. Anyone who hears her is convinced of that immediately.
With her own blend of traditional and contemporary song, Debra engages her audiences
and invites them to sing along. She also shares the history of her traditional
material, which is an integral part of the songs she sings. Her fresh interpretation
and carefully selected material make music come alive for audiences of all ages.

SUSAN BROWN performs many styles of music and is proficient on a variety
of instruments as well as vocals. She presents music dating from the medieval
time period to the present, including original tunes. Often seen in costume, she
is known for historic and thematic programs adaptable for any age group and filled
with opportunities for audience participation. When she was 19, Susan travelled
the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, fell in love with the traditional music,
and collected songs and tunes from folks she met along the way. When Acie invited
her to be a part of this project, she was excited by the chance to learn new variations
of the music she already adored.

KRISTINA OLSEN is a classically trained gui-tarist and has performed publicly
for many years. For this recording, she learned the old-time Tyler tunings and
ornamentations, and plays the tunes with adept arpeggios and accurate fingering.

ELLEN and JOHN WRIGHT are instructors at Northwestern University and also
play old-time music on guitar and drop-thumb banjo. John is the author of the
Ralph Stanley biography Traveling the Highway Home, and Ellen has presented papers
on bluegrass and country



(Susan Brown: vocal, fretted dulcimer)

Oh, Joseph was an old man

And Mary was so pure,

Oh, Joseph was an old man

And Mary was so pure,

Oh, Joseph was an old man

And Mary was so pure.

Oh, yes, she was a virgin,

Of that he was sure.

(all verses are sung similarly)

One day they went a-walkin'

Near the Sea of Gallilee

And found a tree a-brimmin'

With red cherries so sweet.

Mary spoke to Joseph

In a voice soft and mild,

Please gather up some cherries,

For I am with child.

Oh, Joseph became angered

By her lost virginity.

Let the father of the baby

Gather cherries for thee.

Then up spoke baby Jesus

From in his mother's womb.

He told the cherry tree to bend down,

Bow low to the ground.

The cherry tree did bend down

So low to the ground;

As Mary gathered cherries

Joseph made not a sound.

Then Joseph knelt before her

On both his hands and knees.

Oh, Mary, please forgive me,

For I have slighted thee.

Then Jesus spoke to Joseph,

You have no debt to pay;

Just respect the Virgin Mary.

My birth is Christmas Day.


(Acie: vocal; Kristina: guitar)

Oh, the farmer feeds us all;

Yes, he grows our corn so tall.

Thank you, sir. Yes, the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the cobbler makes our boots

So that we don't go barefoot.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the merchant sells us things

And he wraps them up with string.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the doctor makes us well;

When we're hurt he helps us heal.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the tailor mends our clothes

And can make an overcoat.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the miller grinds our grain,

Makes our flour, rye or plain.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the cows will give us milk

So that we can drink our fill.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

Oh, the sheriff makes things right;

Keeps the peace in every fight.

Thank you, sir, but the farmer feeds us all.

(repeat first verse)


(Debra: vocal, guitar)

I once did have a dear companion;

Indeed, I thought his love my own.

But then a black-eyed woman betrayed me,

And he cares for me no more.

Late last night, while you were a-sleeping,

I was laying here alone.

I was awake and softly weeping,

Listening to the wind a-blowin.

So many nights I've laid here thinking

How your love was lost to me.

We swore we'd always be together;

Now I know that'll never be.

When I see our baby smiling,

Then I see your handsome face.

But when I hear our baby crying,

Then I think of my disgrace.

You can go and you'll never see me;

It no longer troubles me.

In your heart you love another

And in my grave I'd rather be.

A Note from Folk-Legacy

When Acie Cargill offered us the chance to produce this remarkable recording of
his family's music, we were delighted. Here were examples of ballads and songs
from the repertoire of his traditional music-making family from Kentucky, primarily
as they were very deliberately passed to him by his grandmother, Hattie Mae Tyler
Cargill. I say "remarkable" because this family, unlike many others
in the region, chose to accompany their ballads with a variety of traditional
instruments and often to sing them with other than the "single voice"
style that is the more common approach to ballad singing there. Often, Acie's
family used vocal harmonies. They sometimes sang with more than one voice in unison,
and they even exchanged parts, as in the several examples here of dialogue songs.
The Tylers seem to have discovered their own way of presenting these songs for
each other's pleasure, and used it creatively.

Some of the numbers presented here are unique examples of songs previously gathered
in Kentucky ("The Dear Companion," "Come All Ye Fair and Tender
Ladies," "The Waggoner's Lad"). Also, there are versions of seven
classic ballads, as defined for us by Professor Francis James Child in his great
compilation of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Quite aside from these,
though, we find several songs that do not appear to have been previously reported.

I asked Acie if he thought his grandmother might have made up a few of these,
as she was clearly a highly creative person with a strong traditional base upon
which to build. He agreed that this was quite possible, and could explain the
presence of songs such as "The Death of Young Robert," which I, at least,
have not seen in other collections.

The TyIer/Cargill family musical tradition was obviously a vital, thriving one,
capable of being modified in a creative way. As Acie points out, when the Tylers
and the Cargills got together, the addition of the string bass was a new element
in the instrumental mix, and, as he says, it "added a lot."

The desire to document the music of his family led Acie to teach the songs offered
here to Debra Cowan and Susan Brown and to invite them to record with him. Of
course, they were honored to do so. Kristina Olsen was encouraged to learn the
Tyier family tunings and scales on her guitar, and other tunes were taught to
the Wrights, including the one they play behind Acie's recitation of his grandmother's
poetic description of a return visit to her Kentucky home.. We are sure that you
will enjoy the music presented here, and will be inclined to learn many of the
songs. In that way, Acie hopes his family's music will be enjoyed for many more

The traditional folksongs and ballads of one Kentucky family as they were taught
by Hattie Mac Tyler Cargill to her grandson, Acie Cargill. Anxious to preserve
the richness of his family's traditions, Acie has invited two fine singers of
his choice, Debra Cowan and Susan Brown, to present the songs with him, accompanied
by Kristina Olsen on guitar, and by Acie on mandolin, fiddle, viola, and mountain
dulcimer. Here are some unusual versions of ancient songs known elsewhere in the
Appalachians, along with a few that appear to be unique to this particular family's

Titles include:

Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies

The Carol of the Cherry Tree

The Lover's Proof

Dark-Skinned Davey

I Wish I Was Single Again

The Farmer Feeds Us All

Keep Your Garden Clean

My Brother Edward

Lord Lovel

Omie Wise

The Bachelors Lament

The Dear Companion

Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender

The Death of Young Robert

The Unbroken Token

Barbara Alien

The Rose Bud Blooms But Once

My Wedding Day

Sweet William and Lady Margaret

The Dying Daughter

The Waggoner's Lad

My Kentucky Home


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