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Survey of Traditional Music, Vol. 3: Songs of Melancholy and Sorrow

by Field Recorders' Collective

Where the wild, wild flowers grow, cool clear waters flow, There's the place I've always loved the best. When at last I lay me down, final peace and rest I've found, Take me home to my home and there I'll rest. (2) When as a little child, hopes and dreams running wild “Someday I'll live just like a queen upon a throne.” Little did a poor girl know, how hard the way to go, So I wandered, yes, I wandered far from home. (2) Freedom was in the air, you could feel it everywhere Don't be blinded, it's God's gift, can't you see? Never lay your armor down ‘til peace and rest you've found, Going home, going home to be free. (2)
“Oh, Mister Bartender, has Father been here? He hasn't been home through the day. ‘Tis something unusual, and Mother's in fear Some accident keeps him away." “Oh, no, little pleader, oh yes, he's been here Some officers took him away. Run home to your mother, and quick let her know What’s keeping your father away." “It was not my father that done the bad deed But the whiskey that maddened his brain. Oh, let him go home to dear Mother, I plead, I’m sure he won’t touch it again." "No, no, little pleader, your father can't go Some officers took him away. Run home to your mother and quick let her know What’s keeping your father away." Then away to the prison, so sadly he crept In the darkness so lone and so deep. It creaks its great hinges twice, three times or more, As prison bars often do creak. "It was not my father that done the bad deed But the whiskey that maddened his brain. Oh, let him go home to dear Mother, I plead, I’m sure he won’t touch it again." "No, no, little pleader, your father can’t go He committed a crime and must pay. Go home to your mother, and quick let her know What's keeping your father away." Then away through the darkness, to home, sad as death This message so sadly he bore, "Dear Mother, I’ll shun it as long as I have breath I’ll touch it or taste it no more."
“Hug me closer, closer, Mother, Put your arms around me tight, For I'm cold and tired, Mother, Oh, how strange I feel tonight.” “Something hurts me here, dear Mother, Like a stone upon my breast, And I wonder, wonder, Mother Why it is I cannot rest.” “Just before the lamps were lighted, Just before the children came, While the room was very quiet, I heard someone call my name.” “But I could not see the Savior Though I strained my eyes to see. And I wondered if He saw me, Would He speak to such as me?” “All at once the window opened, One so bright upon me smiled, And I knew it must be Jesus When He said, 'Come here, my child'.” “Come up here, my little Bessie, Come up here and live with Me, Where the children never suffer, Suffer through eternity.” “Then I thought of all you've told me Of that bright and happy land. I was going when you called me, When you came and kissed my hand.” “Hug me closer, closer, Mother, Put your arms around me tight. Oh, how much I love you, Mother, And how strong I feel tonight.” And the mother hugged her closer To her own dear burdened breast, On the heart so near its breaking Lay the heart so near its rest. At the solemn hour of midnight In the darkness calm and deep, Lying on her mother's bosom, Little Bessie fell asleep.
As I sat in a lonesome grove, Sat over my head a little dove For his lost mate began to coo. He made me think of my mate, too. Poor little dove, you’re not alone. I, too, like you, constrained to moan. I once like you did have a mate, But now, like you, left desolate. Consumption seized my love so dear And lingered on for one long year, When Death come at the break of day, And loving Mary went away. Death, grim Death, did not stop there. I had a babe, to me most dear. Death, like a vulture, came again And took from me my little Jane. I’ll labor on ’til that bright day, When I shall leave this form of clay And soar on high to that blessed place Where I’ll meet Mary and my Jane. I’ll soar on high to that blessed shore, Where we will meet to part no more.
I am a man of constant sorrow, And many troubles I've gone through, But the thing that bows my heart in sorrow I will shortly tell to you. I have some friends who have proved faithful But one to me's been most unkind. I'll bow my head like an humble Christian And leave my troubles all behind. I will bow my head like an humble Christian To California I'll go on. When I am traveling through the mountains I'll cast a wishful look behind. Yes, when I'm traveling over the Rockies I'll cast a longing look behind. I will pray for the friends who have been faithful And forgive the one who's been unkind. So fare you well my loving comrade The days I’ve spent with you've been good. I'll think of you oft by the campfires While I am traveling my lonely road. When I am traveling down the mountain, I'll think of you whom I've left behind, For though some friends have proved unfaithful, To me you ever have been kind. (repeat verse 3)
While passing through this garden A voice I hear. Was the voice of one suffering That loved me so dear. (2) While passing through this garden I asked Him His name. He answered, “I am Jesus, From heaven I came.” (2) They found Him low kneeling Upon that cold ground. The pains of His suffering That no one has found. (2) They whipped Him, they beat Him, They thorn-crowned His head. His raiment of purple Showed the blood-stain of red. (2) They whipped Him, they beat Him, They speared Him in His side. And out of those spear holes Ran water and blood. (2)
C’était tout dessus un grand samedi après midi Quand mon j’ai parti pour..... J’arrivais 'tite fille au bord de la maison T' avais un autre à ton coté comment je vas faire? Quand mon j’arrivais auprès de ma maison Elle avait un autre à son coté comment je vas faire? Observe donc les...... Mon je vas aller mourir avec des regrets. It was on a Saturday afternoon When I left for.... I arrived, little girl, by the side of the house. You had another by your side, what am I gonna do? When I got near to my house She had another by her side, what am I gonna do? Let’s see....
Delgadina se paseaba de la sabada [sala a a la] cocina, Con vestido transparente y su cuerpo ilumina. Levántate Delgadina, pon te vestida de seda, Porque vamos para misa a la ciudad de Morelia. Cuando salieron de misa, su papá le platicaba, Delgadina, hija mia, yo te quiero para dama. No la quiero [lo quiere] Dios del cielo, ni la virgen soberana, Eso piensa, para Dios, y perdición de mi alma. Júntense los once criados, encierren le a Delgadina, Remachen bien los candados, por no escap[e] [v]os ladina. Papacito de mi vida, un favor te [estoy] pidiendo, Que me des un vaso de agua, que de sed me estoy muriendo. Júntense los once criados, Delgadina hallan muerta, Con sus ojitos cerrados y su boquita abierta. La cama de Delgadina, de ángeles se rodeaba, La cama de[l] rei su padre, de demonios [se] apretaba. ______ Delgadina was strolling from the [living room, hall] to the kitchen, With a transparent dress, and it illuminates her body. Get up, Delgadina, put on a silken dress, Because we're going to mass to the city of Morelia. When they left the mass, her papa was talking to her, “Delgadina, my daughter, I want you for [as] a lady.” “I don't want her, God in heaven [God in heaven doesn't want it], nor the sovereign Virgin, Think of that, for [the love of] God, and the ruin of my soul.” Let the eleven servants be gathered, let them lock up Delgadina, Let them rivet well the locks, so no sneaky word might escape [so she might hear no outside word.] “Papa of my life, I'm asking you a favor, That you give me a glass of water, since I'm dying of thirst.” Let the eleven servants be gathered, they find Delgadina dead, With her little eyes closed and her mouth open. Delgadina's bed was surrounded by angels, The bed of the king, her father, was squeezed by demons.
Chorus: Oh Death, no Death Won’t you spare me over for another year? What is that that I can’t see? Icy hands got a hold on me. “I am Death, command your soul Leave your body and leave it cold.” “I am Death, and I wish you well, And I hold them keys to Heaven and Hell.” “Gonna take the skin right offen your frame The earth and worms both have their claim.” Death, oh death, consider my age, Please don’t take me in this stage.
Young men, young men, come learn of me A sad and mournful history, And may you not forgetful be Of the story I relate to thee. For murder I am now arraigned And in a dungeon bound in chain, And when I’m yet compelled to stay Until the twenty-ninth day of May. And then I'll leave my dungeon home And be consigned to a cold dark tomb And there I must forgotten lie Then come, young men, and see me die. Come see me meet a youthful grave To trouble then no more to slave. My friends, I do not care to die Or meet my Maker in the sky. My sins are great I do admit My Savior’s power is greater yet. Then on His mercy I rely For pardon when I come to die. Oh, welcome, Death, how sweet the sound When I no longer shall be around And twenty-eight days yet left to mourn Bound in my gloomy dungeon home. And then my soul must fly away To darkest night or brightest day. And there I must forever be Through fearful, vast eternity. Come stand around me young and old, And see me welcome Death so bold. My youthful heart it is so brave, I do not fear to meet the grave. Young men, young men be warned of me And always shun bad company. And now I must bid you all adieu. Remember my advice, it is so true.
Fathers got a home, sweet home (3) Lord, I want to join the angels' beautiful home. Chorus: Beautiful home, sweet home (3) Lord, I want to join the angels' beautiful home. Mothers ... Brothers ...
’Mid sorrow, ’mid sadness I am destined to roam, Forlorn and forsaken I wander alone. For all the works of nature are hidden from my view. The pleasures of life I must ever bid adieu. I can hear the merry laughs while gathered in the throng, When friends greet friends as they hurry along In groups on their way for some pleasure to find. Oh, God, what affliction it is to be blind. I can hear the babbling brook as it rolls on its way, Reflecting its waters on bright summer days. Its sweet and low murmurs are pleasant to me. Its bright and sparkling waters I never more can see. I can feel the gentle breeze as it sweeps o’er the field, Bringing in sweet fragrance the flowers do yield. Their sweet and fragrant odors are pleasing to me. Their bright and gay colors I never more can see.
In a dear old village churchyard I can see a mossy mound. That is where my mother's sleeping, In that cold and silent ground. Gently weeps that weeping willow, Sweet little birds to sing at dawn. I have no one left to love me, Since my mother's dead and gone. I was young but I remember well The night my mother died. There I saw her spirit fading When she called me to her side. Saying, "Darling I must leave you Angel voices guide you on. Pray that we may meet in heaven, Where your mother's dead and gone." Oft I wander to the churchyard, Flowers to plant with tender care. On the grave of my dear mother Darkness finds me weeping there. Well, looking at the stars above me, Waiting for the early dawn, There by Mother I'll be buried And no more be left alone.


Outside of the Preview volume (FRC800), the 15 volumes of this survey focus on specific themes within North American traditional music. The tracks are entirely drawn from the North American Traditions (NAT) collection, recorded between 1972 and 2008, primarily by myself, Lou Curtiss, John Harrod, Morgan MacQuarrie, Gordon McCann, and Gus Meade. Most of these recordings were made in connection with a series of commercial releases by Rounder Records, although much of the present survey has not been previously released in any form. The 16 FRC releases serve both as a guide to the full NAT Research Archive (which is now publicly accessible; see tinyurl[dot]com/NAT-Research-Archive) and as a vehicle for outlining what we have learned about these songs and their position within historical tradition. To this end, Norm Cohen, myself, and others have prepared extensive notes for each volume (see tinyurl[dot]com/NAT-volume-notes).

Many forms of traditional song embody profound feelings of melancholy that directly reflect the hardships of rural life. Some of these pieces were originally banal compositions from professional songwriters whose emotional contours became utterly transformed by the sensibilities of the great traditional artists heard here.

—Mark Wilson

Extensive album notes are included with this download or may be found at tinyurl[dot]com/V3-NAT-notes.


released August 7, 2023

©2022 Field Recorders’ Collective, Inc. Produced by Mark Wilson and John Schwab. Mastered by John Schwab.
All tracks Ⓟ Mark Wilson, except Track 22 Ⓟ Barbara Kunkle. Graphic design: Jim Garber, PaperClip Design. Photos © Mark Wilson (cover photo: Wilfred Prosper). Detailed credits in the accompanying PDF notes, included with this download. Special thanks to Norm Cohen, Bill Nowlin, and John Harrod.


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