I’ve played ‘Born In The Country’ – Judy Roderick’s rewrite of Richard (Rabbit) Brown’s ‘James Alley Blues’ – for at least four decades. Usually for other singers, though in recent years I’ve been doing a more personalized solo version which might turn up here eventually. Today it struck me that it would be nice to do the pre-Roderick version.
This is much closer to the version Brown recorded in 1927, though I’ve almost certainly misremembered the melody and made no attempt to duplicate the guitar part. I guess I should dig out the Victor recording, but I quite like it like this.
I was actually noodling around with an arrangement for Castles and Kings, which I’ve started to think of as a sort of Shropshire train blues, when I suddenly found myself thinking of the Tommy Johnson classic ‘Big Road Blues’, which hasn’t crossed my mind in decades.
Trying out some new studio gear, I had an unexpectedly folkie moment. A song collected in Norfolk from Harry Cox by E.J. Moeran in 1927.
If I remember correctly, I first heard it sung by Martin Carthy, who I think sang it unaccompanied. I’ve used a more or less spontaneous acoustic guitar accompaniment here, though. I need to get used to it, but that’s probably going to be basis for the final version. Ironically, the guitar is somewhat Carthy-esque.
I read somewhere that Peter Bellamy used to threaten to sing it with two verses only, regarding the third verse as an anti-climax. As it were… It works for me, either way, but I included the third verse here and will probably continue to, if I ever sing it live.
BARLEY AND THE RYE.
From the singing of Harry Cox (according to the Digital Tradition)
It’s of an old country farmer he lived in the West Country
And he had the prettiest little wife that ever I did see
And a young man went a-courting her when the old man wasn’t nigh
Oft times they would tumble amongst the barley and the rye
When the old man woke in the morning he found himself alone
He looked out of the window and saw his wife in the corn
And the young man lay beside her, it caused the old man to cry
He cried, “Wife , I wonder at you for the spoiling of my rye.”
She cried, “Husband “she cried, “Husband, it’s like I never done before
For if you have got one friend I have another one in store
He’s a friend love will not deceive you if you will him employ
He’s got money enough to pay you for our barley and our rye