Songs We Sing

SONGS OF WORK, LOVE, AND DEATH

These are some of the songs that we sing on a regular basis. It is just a sample and the songs are listed in no particular order. They are about work and/or love and/or death, depending on your perspective.  Some cover the entire range.

Leave Her Johnny (trad.) This is an end-of-the-voyage song that gives a suspect kind of sentimentality to what we figure was really a rush to get ashore and paid off as soon as possible.

Haul Away Joe (trad.) A shanty. Our version comes from Liam Clancy and Louie Killen.

Evangeline (Robbie Robertson) Another river song. St. Paul used to be quite the haven for gangsters. Not the gambler in this song who probably lived a bit further down the Mississippi.

Rain And Snow (trad.) A traditional Appalachian song that was picked up by the bluegrass players over the years. Our version was inspired not by the Grateful Dead, but by the Be Good Tanyas from British Columbia.

Country Life (trad.) This traditional English song has a rousing chorus and great energy. We learned it from The Watersons and then “eddie-fied it.” Although it is English, we have enough balls to sing it at Irish events.

Angel From Montgomery (John Prine) Most people know this one. Maybe from hearing Bonnie Raitt sing it. We’ve been doing it a long time. An arrangement credit to the lovely Barb Rose.

Sympathy for the Devil  Yes. The Rolling Stones’ festival of insouciant attitude. But done as never before; just wait for the matched beer bottles on the break.

The Dark End Of The Street (Dan Penn & Chips Moman) A song of a love that might not supposed to be. We love the melody and the harmony opportunities.

Cape Cod Girls (trad.) This chantey is notable because the verses do not refer to drinking, bending, rolling, women or the robust pursuit of pleasure ashore in any way. It is a sea song that we like the sound of and that we learned really quickly. It pretty much came out good the first time we sang it.

Hard On the Beach Oar (trad.) This name was attached to the song “Shawneetown” by English singer Johnny Collins from whom we learned it. The song was assembled by folk musicologist Dillon Bustin from various scraps of lyrics. The melody is his creation. We worked out our version on a john boat ride up the River from St. Paul.

All I Have To Do Is Dream (Boudleaux Bryant) This is a great song for harmonizing. Just like the Everly Brothers.

You Ain’t Going Nowhere (Bob Dylan) This song has a great chorus and verses with very little meaning. There are a lot of different versions that Dylan himself has recorded. This is a song that falls into that “we all knew it and liked it so we sang it” category. We often use it for our sound check to see if anyone is listening.

I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You (Hugo Paretti, Luigi Creatore & George David Weiss) Elvis made this one famous in the movie “Blue Hawaii”. No one could really say that we are big fans of his, but this sure is one pretty song.

Aragon Mill/Factory Song (Si Kahn) (Bruce Springsteen) We put these two songs together for fairly obvious reasons. For the hard times.

Canaan’s Land (trad.) This is one of those Appalachian songs that probably spans traditions on both sides of the Atlantic. Our version is inspired by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver; virtuoso bluegrass/gospel players.

Stand By Me (Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller) A classic most famously sung by Ben E. King who is sometimes given a partial writing credit. We sang this for a while before the current version blossomed during a quiet afternoon performance at a local coffee shop. It was originally a gospel song.

Long Black Veil (Danny Dill, Marijohn Wilkins) A great song for singing. It’s been done by a lot of people; Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones (?) and the Chieftains among them.

Dig My Grave (trad.) A song with roots that are difficult to trace and which have grown into a number of different versions. Our version comes from a recording on the McGarrigle sisters’ song collection, “The McGarrigle Hour”.

Waltzing Matilda (Banjo Patterson) This is the only Banjo Patterson song we do. This song has quite a history involving a lot of different lyrics and debate about where they came from. It dates back to the late 1800’s. It can be sung lots of different ways.

Paradise (John Prine) Also known as Muhlenberg County, this is another song that most people who were listening to music in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s know. Sometimes they don’t know the title, but they know the song. This was one of the first songs we learned and was part of the four song set we sang at our first ever public performance. Wyoming sang lead at first, then Cherokee, then Curtice and now Baker.

Rivers of Babylon (Brent Dowe, F. McHaughton) This was on “The Harder They Come” soundtrack that it seems was in everybody’s album collection. But, Jimmy Cliff didn’t write it. This was written and performed first by a group called “The Melodians”. Another river song. Psalm 137 in case you want to know.

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) You’ve heard this song. It is performed a lot. A real lot. But, it is performed a lot for the real good reason that it is a marvelous song. Truly. We only hope that we do it justice. Our version is simple and heartfelt.

Forever Young (Bob Dylan) We couldn’t figure this one out for several years. Whatever the inspiration was, though, it has turned into one of our favorites. We do this for all occasions

Bully In the Alley (trad.) This song is said to be of Caribbean origin. There is a lively debate as to the exact meaning of “bully” in the context of this song. We generally take the view that it refers to an alcoholically impaired state of being.

Roll The Old Chariots (trad.) A shanty that provides almost a limitless opportunity to sing about the things guys think about. This was the second song we learned together.

Boney Was a Warrior (trad.) The history of the Napoleonic era is summarized in nine simple verses. Jean Francois is mentioned too.

Paddy Works On the Railway (trad.) Of the many different versions of this song about working on the American railway in the 1800’s, we do a version that touches on eight years in the 1860’s. This was one of those songs that we picked up very quickly. We sang this on KTCA’s Alamanac program.

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor? (trad.) One of the most well known of traditional shanties. Stan Hugill tells us this is a very old chantey, based on an Irish dance tune, which was typically sung in quick time. We hope our version of this classic helps answer one of the most persistent questions still bedeviling the traditional music play list.

Rollin’ Down to Old Maui (trad.) A rousing story describing the joys of a respite in Hawaii from the rigors of the north Pacific whaling grounds. Our version is mostly from Stan Rogers.

Black Muddy River (Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter) A beautiful tune and harmonies that enticed all of us right away. And, a song that is great to sing when we are sitting on the River. The Persuasions treatment influenced our version.

I Bid You Goodnightt (trad.) Another song with Caribbean origins. This has been done by a number of contemporary groups (the Grateful Dead) but the most recorded original version was by Joseph Spence singing with the Pindar family.

Parting Glass (trad.) An end of the night song that may be heard at the end of a session in an Irish pub. We owe our version to Cullen, McPhail & Callery performing as the Voice Squad. The Scots also claim this.

A Health To The Company (trad.) The only song we sing in unison, although sometimes we sneak a few harmonies in. We learned this version from The Chieftains.

A Rovin’ (trad.)  A well-known tale of a sailor ashore looking for sexual gratification. Said to be one of the oldest known chanteys. Is there a connection there?

A Sailor’s Prayer (Tom Lewis) This contemporary song has a classic feel and timeless subject matter. Cherokee brought this to the group after a trip to Seattle.

All For Me Grog (trad.) Another song of sailors ashore and the relative merits of trading in your clothes for something to drink. Baker taught this one to us. This one includes synchronized audience participation.

Deep Blue Sea (trad.) This is a traditional song that Cherokee brought to the group after it was sung at The Dubliner shanty session one night. We do not do this in the style of Pete Seeger; we take it much slower and more mournfully. Willie was drowned after all.

South Australia (trad.) A shanty. We once had the pleasure of singing this with Louis Killen, one of world’s best singers of traditional song. He has recorded many collections devoted to sea music.

The Mermaid (trad.)  This is a catchy, but unforgivably silly song.

Fire Marengo (trad.) A shanty that was almost certainly sung on ships at port in the southern U.S. And is likely of African-American origin. Although Marengo was the site of one of Napoleon’s many famous battles, that does not appear to be what the title refers to. In fact, no one seems to know for sure what it means.

Fire (Bruce Springsteen) Although the Pointer Sisters had a pop hit with this song, it was written by The Boss. We have seen a video of him performing this song with an accordion accompaniment.

Fire Down Below (trad.) The third song in our “fire” medley, this is another chantey with roots in the Caribbean. We learned it from renowned sea song scholar Bob Walser; coincidentally also a resident of the Twin Cities. One of the lines refers to the Midway Plaisances in San Francisco which is said to have been one of the first entertainment venues to feature hoochee coochee dancers. This song refers to them as “hula” dancers. Baker and Wabasha do a brief but moving interpretive dance on this one.

Bold Reilly-O (trad.) Our version of this song is sung at a slow tempo. Less as a work song than a heartfelt song of farewell. It is our prettiest sea song.

Down In The Valley To Pray  A familiar spiritual. There are a number of different versions of this one. Ours was inspired by Doc Watson.

I’m A Rowdy Soul (trad.) The title pretty much nails the sentiment in this song. The version we sing worked its way from Dillon Bustin to Sandy Paton to Michael Shewmaker and Bob Walser who are part of the singing community here in the Twin Cities. It kicks ass we think.

The Dodger (trad?) A folk song that tells us to be cautious about the motivations of many people in our world. We learned this from the singing of Twin Cities legends, Spider John Koerner, Dave Ray and Tony Glover.

Down In the Boondocks (Joe South) This is one of our early songs. In fact, it was the first song we sang in the first set of the first public performance we did as The Eddies. The West Side of St. Paul where we all lived at one time is the boondocks to some people.

Take Me To The River (Al Green, Mabon Hodges) An Al Green chestnut. Many people heard the Talking Heads do this in the late ‘70’s. We fiddled around with this one a lot before we got it where we liked it. It’s one we had to sing as we watched the river running through downtown St. Paul.

Barrett’s Privateers (Stan Rogers)  Stan Rogers really nailed this rousing ballad of greedy dreams and promises of wealth being brought down in the violent pursuit of them.

Blow the Man Down (trad.) This is one sea song that most people have heard. There are many versions that are sung. Most can be categorized as either stories about “sailor on shore gets drunk and gets in trouble with the law” or poetic musings that disguise references to women with descriptions of ships. Our version falls into the second category.

Whiskey Johnny (trad.) A shanty with many verses about the allure and destructive power of drink. Stan Hugill thought this was one of the older shanties to be passed down to the present. Kids love this one.

Away Rio (trad.) A shanty with verses appropriate for a farewell. The Rio, by the way, almost certainly refers to the Rio Grande of Brazil which was a major stop for ships in the cross Atlantic trade.

Dark As A Dungeon (Merle Travis)  A great mining/work song that we understand was written by Merle Travis in the span of twenty minutes while sitting in a cab in Los Angeles.

Good Night Irene (Huddy Ledbetter)  Everybody knows this one., at least the chorus. The line about jumping in the river to drown is always close to home as we sit on the dock by the River to sing our cares away.

Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster) Another American classic set in the difficult world of the pioneers. This is the only song that we try to perform with a piano if at all possible.

No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley)  A Bob Marley classic that, despite the obviously intense personal lyric, is just too sweet not to sing on a regular basis.

Little Darling (Julie Miller)  Buddy and Julie Miller sure know how to sing a mean duet. They write good songs too. This one is from their 2001 eponymous album.

Martin Said (trad.) This song is known as “Who’s The Fool Now” by some. A song with lyrics some may think nonsensical and bawdy. It is said that this song came about at a time when there were those in England who believed reconciliation between the protestant Church of England and the Catholic Church was in the works. The nonsense lyrics of this song were the 16th century equivalent of “when monkeys fly out of my butt” referring to the actual chance the churches would reconcile.