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Various Artists - The Continuing Tradition Sampler :

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CD75 -

Various Artists - The Continuing Tradition Sampler

False Knight Upon the Road, The
Lost Jimmy Whelan
Green Island Shore
I'll Hit the Road Again
Black Jack Gypsy
Buffalo Skinners
Butcher Boy, The
Driving Saw-Logs On the Plover
False Knight Upon the Road, The
Five Nights Drunk
Green Island Shore
I'll Hit the Road Again
Lost Jimmy Whelan
Reynardine
Working On the New Railroad

Over the years, we've asked our artists to record more material than we could actually fit onto an LP. We did this for programming flexibility, but we ended up with a great bunch of songs, many of which were in the narrative style of the ballads, that had not been used. So, we decided to give people a chance to hear them and to get acquainted with some of our less-well-known artists at the same time. Joe Hickerson, Ed Trickett, Tony and Irene Saletan, Betty Smith, Gordon Bok, Grant Rogers, and others are included here in performances that are not available elsewhere.





THE CONTINUING TRADITION
Volume 1: Ballads
Simply stated, a ballad is a song that tells a story. One can complicate the definition by describing some of the literary devices that are characteristic of the traditional ballad, such as the use of incremental repetition or the frequent appearance of "commonplace phrases," but one factor is essential to every definition: the ballad tells a story.

In the latter part of the last century, Francis James Child, a professor at Harvard, compiled and published a monumental collection of these traditional narratives en¬titled The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Almost all of his examples were drawn from earlier collections which had been gathered by Bishop Percy, William Motherwell, Sir Walter Scott, and others. Most of these early collectors considered the ballad to be the "aristocrat" of traditional song. Indeed, they paid scant attention to the many lyric songs that also thrived wherever the ballads were found. Generally speaking, these were literary men, historians and antiquarians, not musicians, and they failed to pub¬lish the melodies to which their texts were sung.

In recent years, Bertrand H. Bronson has done much to correct this oversight. He has published an equally monu¬mental work, The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, in which he has printed and analyzed all of the known tunes that have been collected, together with their texts. The four volumes of this collection are indispensable to anyone studying the traditional ballads.
Since many of the ballads are thought to have circulated in oral tradition long before they were "discovered" and put into print, it is almost impossible to determine their age. The 14th and 15th centuries have been called "the ballad centuries," but lack of documentary evidence does not prevent some of us from believing that at least some of them are much older than that. Many of the stories told in the ballads certainly predate those centuries, but we cannot assume that they were circulated in the ballad's stanzaic form.

Late in the 16th century, and continuing through the 19th and even into the early 2 0th century, ballads were printed on "broadsides" for sale to an eager public. While some of the ballads so published were traditional, their great popu¬larity gave rise to a flood of florid verses celebrating contemporary dramatic events — shipwrecks, fires, floods, murders, executions, and the like. These "broadside" ballads may possess less literary merit than the older "classic" ballads, but they were the tabloid newspapers of their day, and the people loved them. The broadside style was so pop¬ular that non-professional songmakers of many occupations, seeking to tell their own stories in song, adopted it. Thus we find ballads that have become traditional which describe events in logging camps, on railroad jobs and cattle drives, in coalmines, textile mills, etc., most of which date from the last century. Some of these songs are tragic, some are satirical, some are proudly boastful, but all are products of the folk creativity that has contributed to a continuing ballad tradition.

It will be obvious that no single record could do more than suggest the scope of our ballad heritage. Professor Child catalogued three hundred and five ballads, together with many variants of a number of them, without including the broadsides or the later occupational narratives. This recording, then, can only offer a very brief survey of some of the types and styles that have been recovered over the years.

We have chosen to present several of the so-called "Child" ballads, together with a few broadsides, a few occupational ballads, and, to demonstrate how some of our songs retain but a trace of what may once have been a more pronounced narrative line, we have included one which would appear to be a lyric song, but which is related to other songs which are definitely narratives. More of that when we come to it.

I once heard Barry Tolkien, a folklorist and a fine singer, tell an audience that "ballads, unlike children, should be heard and not seen." We at Folk-Legacy agree. We want you to learn these songs and sing them, for they will continue to live only as long as they are sung. Now it's up to you.

Sandy Paton December, 1981

THE FALSE KNIGHT UPON THE ROAD
Side 1, Band 1.
Professor Child included this ancient ballad as the third in his compilation of three hundred and five. It is still to be found in oral tradition, and has been collected in England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and in various parts of the United States.

When Lee Haggerty, president of Folk-Legacy, once asked a Canadian traditional singer if he knew a song in which a knight met a child on the road, the singer replied, with great seriousness, "That was no knight; that was the devil!" Indeed, others have suggested that the knight was, if not Satan himself, one of his minions. The boy in the story must rely on his wit in reply to a series of questions, otherwise he may be whisked away to Hell.

The version of the ballad, sung here by Tony and Irene Saletan, comes, quite indirectly, from the singing of Maud Long, whose mother, Jane Gentry, was one of the singers from whom Cecil Sharp gathered songs in North Carolina, in 1916. Sharp was an English folk¬song collector who came to this country when he learned that many songs of English origin were still being sung in our Southern Appalachian mountains.

Comparing this version with the one Maud Long recorded for the Library of Congress in 1947 (published by Bronson), one can see that it has been altered considerably over the years. Two other versions of this ballad may be heard on Folk-Legacy. Joe Hickerson sings one on his FSI-39, and Betty Smith sings one that is much nearer to the Maud Long version on FSA-53.

Tony and Irene Saletan have one recording on Folk-Legacy: FSI-37.

A knight met a child on the road.

"Oh, where are you going?" said the knight upon the road.
"I'm going to my school," said the child as he stood.
He stood and he stood, And it's well because he stood.
"I'm going to my school," said the child as he stood.

"What have you in your hand?" said the knight upon the road.
"I have my bread and cheese, "said the child as he stood.
He stood and he stood,
And it's well because he stood.

"I have my bread and cheese, "said the child as he stood.
"Well, won't you give me some?" said the knight upon the road.
"No, ne'er a bite nor crumb," said the child as he stood.
He stood and he stood.

And it's well because he stood.
"No, ne'er a bite nor crumb," said the child as he stood.
"I wish you were in the sand," said the knight upon the road.
"With a good staff in my hand," said the child as he stood.
He stood and he stood,

And it's well because he stood.
"With a good staff in my hand," said the child as he stood.
"I wish you were in the sea, "said the knight upon the road.
"With a good boat under me," said the child as he stood.
He stood and he stood,

And it's well because he stood.
"With a good boat under me," said the child as he stood.
"I think I hear a bell," said the knight upon the road.
"And it's ringing you to hell," said the child as he stood.
He stood and he stood, And it's well because he stood.
"And it's ringing you to hell," said the child as he stood.

    
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