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A woman plays a fiddle sitting on porch steps.
Carrie B. Grover on her porch steps, poised to play the fiddle. Eloise Hubbard Linscott Collection, AFC 1942/002

Paul Brady, Carrie Grover, Bob Dylan, and “Arthur McBride”

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A few years ago, I wrote an article in Folklife Center News about popular recordings inspired by AFC collection items. One of the ones I chose was Paul Brady’s version of an Irish ballad he called “Arthur McBride and the Sergeant” (see the lyrics at this link). In the article I revealed that Brady had based his version on the singing of Mrs. Carrie Grover, of Gorham, Maine, and that AFC has the only known recording of Mrs. Grover singing the song. Given recent developments, I think it’s time to expand my research and comments on “Arthur McBride,” [1] and to present Mrs. Grover’s recording to our readers.

My specific inspiration for revisiting “Arthur McBride” came from the Grammy-winning musician and recording artist Rosanne Cash. I recently co-curated a photo exhibit with Rosanne, which is currently being shown in Carnegie Hall in New York, as part of Rosanne’s curated Perspectives series. In preparing this previous blog post about the exhibit and Rosanne’s involvement with AFC, I did some research on her musical background. One delightful discovery was a blog post she wrote for the New York Times, talking about the influence of traditional ballads on her own songs. You can read her full post here, but for now let me point out a couple of paragraphs in which she wrote about her love of Brady’s recording of “Arthur McBride”:

The first thing my husband, John Leventhal, ever gave me, shortly after we met, was a cassette mix tape he had put together of some of his current favorite songs. On that tape was Paul Brady’s eight-verse version of “Arthur McBride,” a gorgeous, lilting Irish folk song with roots in the 17th century. In the ballad, young Arthur and his pal are walking serenely down the road when three military recruiters try to persuade them to join the British Army. Arthur and his friend refuse, somewhat disrespectfully, and the soldiers threaten them with swords. (…) Arthur and his buddy pull out their shillelaghs and bash the recruiters’ heads in.

I must have listened to “Arthur McBride” a thousand times. It made me want to marry John Leventhal. I did marry him. A couple of years after that, we went together to Aberdeen, Scotland, to tape “Transatlantic Sessions,” a music show that puts American and Scottish and Irish musicians together to see what they will come up with. I sat on the floor in the corner of a little room at an inn where we were taping, a few feet from Paul Brady, with no one else in the room but him and the camera operators, and listened to him sing “Arthur McBride.” It remains one of the greatest live performances I’ve ever seen, and a moment I’ll never forget.

Rosanne Cash onstage in the Coolidge Auditorium. Photo by Biljana Regan.
Rosanne Cash onstage in the Coolidge Auditorium on December 5, 2013…in the same building where Alan Lomax recorded Carrie Grover singing “Arthur McBride” in 1941. Photo by Biljana Regan. Used by permission.

Paul Brady’s “Arthur McBride” has had a similar effect on thousands of other people since it was recorded as a solo voice and guitar track on the 1976 album Andy Irvine and Paul Brady [2]. Partly due to his virtuosity on the guitar (which he re-tuned to open G), and partly due to his clear, piercing vocal delivery, Brady’s performances are regarded as definitive; in the words of the Irish Times, “there is no finer recording of ‘Arthur McBride.’” You can hear that recording at this link.

As you might have guessed by now, I’m another devotee of Brady and of his version of “Arthur McBride.” Granted, I didn’t marry anyone because of it, but it’s one of a few brilliant recordings of traditional folk music that nurtured my interest in ballads and folksongs, and ultimately helped me become a folklorist. In the 1980s I took my love of ballads to WKCR FM in New York, where I wore out my copies of albums by Paul Brady, Planxty, The Johnstons, and related groups on the air. In the 1990s my interest in ballads and folksongs took me to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. I studied with Kenny Goldstein, a folklorist who helped bring Paul Brady to the United States on his first tour, to play the Philadelphia Folk Festival. My first teaching experience was as a Teaching Assistant to Brady’s former roommate and bandmate, Mick Moloney.

For all these reasons, once I came to work at the American Folklife Center, I was thrilled to find out a little more about the history of the song. I was especially excited to find out about the field recording of Mrs. Grover. That inspired me to put Paul Brady and Carrie Grover in that 2011 article, and, ultimately, to write this one as well.

The History of Paul Brady’s Arthur McBride

So how did Paul Brady encounter Carrie Grover? As far as we know, he’s never heard the recording of her singing “Arthur McBride.” Instead, he learned her version from a musical transcription of her singing that was published in a book. This occurred here in the U.S., in 1973.

Cover of the 1968 album The Johnstons, released on the Transatlantic label in the UK. The cover photo shows (l-r) Adrienne Johnston, Paul Brady, Mick Moloney, and Lucy Johnston.

A lot led up to Brady’s discovery of Carrie Grover. Brady hails from Strabane in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He had a musical childhood, learning piano and guitar early in life. In high school he was a rock and pop musician, but while he was at university in Dublin in the 1960s, Irish folk music exploded in popularity, with the birth of a new style of band. Often called “ballad groups,” such bands were modeled on the success of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who themselves were influenced by several years in U.S. among American folk revival groups. The ballad group movement included such famous acts as The Clancys and The Dubliners, as well as The Sands Family (in Northern Ireland), and The Irish Rovers (in Canada). Such groups typically featured several singers, a guitar, and a banjo.

In 1967, Paul Brady (who played guitar) and his housemate Mick Moloney (who played mandolin and banjo) jumped on that bandwagon by joining a ballad group called The Johnstons. The group played traditional Irish songs and tunes, but also played songs by Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and other contemporary songwriters, in fresh modern arrangements. In fact, they are known for having released two full-length LPs on the same day in 1969, one of traditional songs and one of pop songs.  They were very popular, recording seven LPs and touring worldwide. Because both their ballad group sound and their pop sound were very well adapted to American tastes, they came to the U.S. often, and in fact were here in the U.S. when the band eventually broke up.

After the end of The Johnstons, Brady went up to New England, as he recounted in the notes to his album Nobody Knows:

LP cover of the Andy Irvine and Paul Brady album, originally on the Mulligan label in Ireland.

I was in Rhode Island in 1973 staying with a singer-songwriter friend, Patrick Sky. The Johnstons, the group I’d been with since ’67, had ground to a halt and I was flat broke. I decided to try and put together a solo set of songs and get some gigs.

Folksinger and folklorist Lisa Null was Patrick Sky’s business partner in the Innisfree record label, which was to become Green Linnet Records. Null had given Sky a copy of Carrie Grover’s self-published book, A Heritage of Songs, and Brady discovered it at Sky’s house. He was fascinated to find “Arthur McBride,” a song he already knew about from Ireland and England, where other versions were well known in the folk revival. But Carrie Grover’s version of the song was fresh and new, and had several verses nobody else sang.  Brady responded by crafting a unique guitar arrangement and adding it to his set.

When he returned to Ireland, Brady joined the band Planxty, which already performed a version of the song (hear it here), so Brady’s version of “Arthur McBride” replaced Andy Irvine’s in the band’s set. (I’d love to have been a fly on the wall at THAT rehearsal!)

Good as I been
Cover of Bob Dylan’s 1992 album Good as I Been to You, released on Columbia Records.

“I first performed [“Arthur McBride”] with the band Planxty at the Carlton Cinema in Dublin,” Brady recalled in his liner notes. “It kind of captured the imagination of the public at the time and became one of my most popular songs.” Brady played the song with Planxty for a little over a year. When the band broke up in December 1975, Brady and Irvine remained together as a duo, and Brady continued to perform the song. In August 1976, the duo recorded their only album, and Brady’s “Arthur McBride” was finally committed to vinyl. He continued to perform it as part of his regular concert repertoire until 1978, and a live recording from that year can be heard here.  (Note how the audience bursts into applause when Brady begins the familiar guitar riff.)

The Andy Irvine and Paul Brady album is considered a classic of Irish music. Of all its songs, “Arthur McBride” is probably the one that’s had the greatest impact outside the Irish folk scene. One reason for this is that a high-profile fan recorded his own cover of Brady’s “Arthur McBride”: Bob Dylan, who had long been an admirer of Brady’s, played the song solo, on his album Good as I Been to You (1992). This cover of the song brought it to a much wider audience, and cemented Paul Brady’s reputation among Dylan’s fans as a master of traditional ballads.

Carrie Grover’s “Arthur McBride”

Carrie Grover and her husband, Almon R. Grover, in 1943. Eloise Hubbard Linscott Collection AFC 1943/002

Carrie Grover was born Carrie Spinney in 1879 in Black River, Nova Scotia. She moved to Bethel, Maine at the age of twelve. Grover had English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh forebears, and both her parents sang traditional ballads and lyric songs. Her father had been a sailor, and recounted stories of hearing slaves singing work songs in southern ports before the Civil War. He also sang traditional ballads, including “Arthur McBride.” Her mother, too, was a singer, and they sang traditional songs both separately and together.

In later life, Mrs. Grover recalled an incident from her childhood that had a longstanding impact on her: she overheard her father remark to her mother that, after they were gone, no one would sing the old family songs anymore. This encouraged Carrie to learn as many songs as she could, and also to write out the words of her songs in a book so she could pass them on to others. She understood the importance of preserving the tunes with the words, however, and regretted that she couldn’t write music in order to preserve them—although she could both read music and play the fiddle.

Alan Lomax on the air as Your Ballad Man, Mutual radio network, 1948. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

In December 1940, after hearing one of Alan Lomax’s nationally distributed folk music radio shows on WGAN in Portland, Maine, Grover wrote him a letter at the Library of Congress introducing herself and telling him about her family’s songs. They began a chain of correspondence that lasted at least until Lomax left the Library, and became quite friendly; at her insistence, Lomax (who was 26 years old) addressed her as “Aunt Carrie.”

In April 1941, she took a trip to Virginia and Washington, D.C. to visit her niece, and continued to New Jersey to visit her son. During this trip, she was recorded by Lomax in the Library’s recording lab and by Sidney Robertson (later Sidney Robertson Cowell) at her niece’s home as well as her son’s home, contributing 88 songs and fiddle tunes to the Archive of Folk Song. (She was later recorded and photographed by Eloise Hubbard Linscott, and those materials, too, came to the Library, as part of the Eloise Hubbard Linscott Collection.)

Carrie Grover sang her version of “Arthur McBride” for Alan Lomax in April 1941, in the same building in which I’m now writing this blog. She sang the song unaccompanied, with a regular, rhythmic delivery, which is very different from Brady’s more free-flowing interpretation. This recording makes for a fascinating comparison with Brady’s classic arrangement.

As you’ll hear, Grover and Lomax appear to have begun talking about the song before the recording started, while the engineer was setting up the disc, and they chatted for a while before she sang it. They continued to talk about it after she sang it, discussing her father and her paternal grandmother, who she speculated might have known the song. I’ll mention more about these family connections later; for now, let’s hear the song:

Grover was already keeping a book of her song lyrics at the time she first wrote to Alan Lomax. Her decision to publish the book, with tunes for every song, came soon after her visit to the Library of Congress, and partly as a result of the inspiration she found here. Just a couple of months later, on June 27, 1941, she wrote a letter to Lomax saying she sometimes felt her visit must have been a dream. Lomax replied:

Your visit to Washington was definitely not a dream. It resulted in about ten of the most valuable records that the archive possesses, and I want to tell you now I can not tell you how much I appreciate the contribution you have made, and how important it is for us that you continue your work, in recalling the old songs.

Grover took Lomax’s advice to heart. On October 27 she wrote him another letter, in which she brought up the idea of publishing her book. She had recently heard a trained art singer singing folk songs, and it inspired her to write:

Is there any way that I could have my book of songs published, and have the tunes with the songs, as they are, rather than the way some high toned ballad singer thinks they ought to be? I am asking you because I think you would know if anyone does. […] I have no great dreams of fame and fortune—don’t think it. But I honestly think that the people who could collect as many songs as I have, all of them sung by relatives and friends right in my own home, are few and far between. I honestly think that such a book should be worth something and pay for itself at least, and I would have the songs, and tunes, to leave behind me.

Lomax was willing to help, but in later letters Grover became reticent, and for several stated reasons (including ill health and an unwillingness to entrust her manuscripts to the mail) delayed sending Lomax a sample of her notes about songs. Lomax promised to pitch the idea to his publisher, but we can’t be sure if he followed through. In 1942, he left the Library of Congress without having secured a book deal for her. It was one of many plans and projects Lomax was unable to complete as he moved to his World War II service in the Office of War Information and then the U.S. Army.

Luckily, Grover did not give up on the idea of publishing her book. More than ten years later, during the early 1950s, she worked with staff at her old school, Gould Academy, to transcribe many of her songs. The resulting book, A Heritage of Songs, was reportedly completed in 1953, although copies of the first edition were printed with no date. It was reprinted in 1973. Copies of both editions are extremely rare, so it was a great stroke of luck that Paul Brady ever saw the book at all. The book is now online at this link, as part of the Carrie Grover project, which collects all of Grover’s known songs along with podcasts and other writings about her by Julie Mainstone. The lyrics and music to Arthur McBride as Carrie wrote them down are at this link.

Arthur McBride 001
The beginning of the transcription of “Arthur McBride” from Grover’s book A Heritage of Songs. Note that it was printed opposite “The Jolly Soldier.” Paul Brady also sings “The Jolly Soldier” on Andy Irvine and Paul Brady, in a version that seems to be derived from Carrie Grover’s.

I’ll have more to say about Carrie Grover and “Arthur McBride” in another blog post. Here, I’ll wrap up by pointing out how crucial the rapport between Lomax and Grover, and her experience at the Library of Congress, were to the preservation of her songs. Before coming to the Library, she had been visited by nearby collectors, but was worried that some of her songs might gain her a reputation locally for being “rough and unladylike.” She wanted a private session with collector for the far-away Library of Congress, whom she already felt she knew from his appearances on the radio. The idea was comforting to her, and she thought of Alan Lomax from the first as a surrogate son or nephew:

If I can go to see you, and can see you all alone, I will take my book with me, and I think from the tone of your letter that I can talk to you and sing to you as freely as I could to my own big boy. I am glad if my gift for tunes is to be of use to someone.

I can’t help wishing Mrs. Grover had lived to see her songs sung by Paul Brady and Bob Dylan, and praised by Rosanne Cash in the New York Times. It would be nice if she knew how very useful her gift for tunes has been.


Read part two of this article here: “Arthur McBride, Carrie Grover, Paul Brady, and Rosanne Cash: More About a Classic Song” (Folklife Today, December 24, 2015).


[1] Mrs. Grover, and generations of singers before her, called the song simply “Arthur McBride.” On Brady’s recordings, it sometimes goes by the shorter name and sometimes by “Arthur McBride and the Sergeant.”

[2] Technically, the album cover says “Andy Irvine Paul Brady.”  The Library of Congress’s valiant catalogers dealt with this by making the title Andy Irvine, Paul Brady.  Like many others, I choose to add the implied word “and.”


Comments (40)

  1. Good stuff, Steve! Nice to learn that there’s a Maine connection for “Arthur McBride.”

  2. Very enjoyable article.

    I clicked on the link for the Planxty version, and got “This video is not available.”

    • Gerry, the Planxty version has worked for me, both when I posted and just now. It may have to do with your YouTube settings, your browser settings, or the country you live in, since rights are managed differently in different countries. Sorry about that!

  3. Fascinating! I’ve had a copy of this book for 30 years or so, and it’s wonderful to hear her voice.

  4. I’m curious as to why you felt the need to mention Bob Dylan, his inclusion in this article seems rather gratuitous. I mean, including him in the headline and a photo of the album just because he covered it once? It seems pretty minimizing of Grover and Brady, as if he somehow legitimizes them. Not everything has to be about Bob Dylan, but you fanboys bring him up all the time anyway.

    • Thanks for your comment about Bob Dylan, Joe. Carrie Grover’s desire was that her songs should continue to be sung, not that she be remembered for them. Dylan has played an important role in making that happen for this song. Good as I Been to You reached #18 on the UK chart, ensuring more people heard Mrs. Grover’s song than ever before. Subjectively we may feel what we like about individual performers and performances, but objectively speaking his role was significant simply because of this. MY goal in writing this article was to point out Mrs. Grover’s role, but that was not her concern. So I may have done a little to advance her reputation, but Dylan did much more to advance her own goals.

      This is an important point. Folklorists are often misunderstood when we bring up pop connections, as if we feel a pop cover validates folk music. Generally, we don’t. We have invested our lives in listening to and researching people like Mrs. Grover. But we appreciate pop artists who bring attention to folk music that it otherwise would not have received. The English folksinger Martin Carthy once said to me, “the only way to harm a folksong is to not sing it.” Pop artists are no better than traditional singers. Sometimes they’re bad, but sometimes they’re fantastic. More importantly, though, they sing the songs, and they’re significant for bringing more people to the music. Thanks for allowing me to clarify!

  5. Thanks for this fantastic piece of work. As a Mainer I have to agree with Paul Wells above… it’s great to see the Maine connection to this one of my favorite songs.

  6. Notice should be given of Martyn Carthy’s version of Arthur McBride & the Sergeant on his recording “Prince Heathen” with Dave Swarbrick fiddling. The record came out in 1969; while I don’t have the album in front of me, I can check his notes on it. I would not describe Carthy & Swarb’s version as lilting, not even ‘lovely’ but distinctive yes; once you hear it you will never get that version out of your head.

    Meanwhile a Maine connection is a fascinating thing!

    I would also be interested in any LC recordings of “Ponchatrain” or “Lakes of Ponchatrain” as Brady also did a version of that…lovely too…

    • Johnny, thanks for your comment on Martin Carthy’s version. Carthy’s version was not based on Carrie Grover’s, but on a version in English oral tradition first collected by Sabine Baring-Gould, so it was a little outside the scope of this post. I will be mentioning it in another blog post, which will deal more with other traditional versions of “Arthur McBride,” so stay tuned! The song has also been covered by other English folksingers, including John Kirkpatrick, Tony Rose, and Redd Sullivan (from whom Carthy learned it). Many of these versions go back to A.L. Lloyd, who once said “Arthur McBride” was his favorite song!

  7. Really enjoyed your piece Stephen. I loved Planxty while they lasted. Paul Brady’s voice is often sublime. Surely Dick Gaughan’s monumental interpretation of ” Erin Go Bragh ” deserves a mention in the context of this article! Incidentally on the final day of a holiday in softly beautiful Connemara a couple of years ago I discovered our host was Andy Irvine’s sometime brother in law , which delayed our departure for Galway by a considerable time as we chatted about Andy playing their village hall as a benefit gig!

    • Interesting you should mention “Erin Go Bragh,” Steve. In a future blog post, I will talk about other versions of “Arthur McBride.” AFC has the only other field recording I know of “Arthur McBride” being sung, although the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh has one of a couple of verses being recited. AFC’s field recording is in the James Madison Carpenter collection, and on the same session, possibly from the same singer, Carpenter also recorded “Erin Go Bragh.” So the two songs were sung side-by-side in the bothies of Aberdeenshire in the 1930s!

  8. Thank you, Stephen. Yank that I am, I’m still inclined to respond, as they might across the pond, and with the help of bowdlerization, “flipping Brilliant!” I have loved the Brady/Irvine recording of this song ever since first listening to it in 1983, courtesy of a fellow musician. It is a remarkable performance. And what a thought provoking song; also brilliant unto itself. Now to learn from you what source(s) influenced Brady/Irvine is a real gift. And to be able to listen to Grover perform it is enlightenment.

    Please keep up the fine work, sir.

  9. Lovely article. Carthy and Swarbrick’s version has to be my all time favourite.

  10. here’s some more for you:
    Tiernan McBride’s short film to accompany the Brady version:

    Also, Brady on Ireland’s Late Late Show from earlier this year. He’s talking about The Lakes on Pontchartrain but he talks about teaching Dylan how to play it (in London, in June 1984), and this is probably where he showed him how to play Arthur McBride:

    • Tiernan, thanks for the link. I will be including the film in my next blog post about “Arthur McBride.” Particularly interesting is that the film bowdlerizes the song by leaving out a half-verse in which the soldiers are beaten severely and “left for dead.” In the film they are knocked about a little but still able to walk away. It was an interesting choice by the filmmaker.

  11. Are any of the recordings of Carrie Grover available?

    • Bill, they are not currently available but we would like to change that. We have a lot of material in the queue to go online, so it’s a matter of time. There will be a lot of new folklife material going up at in the coming year!

  12. Thanks for the clarification Stephen, much appreciated! And apologies for jumping to conclusions, guess I’m just a little tired of how much oxygen the Dylan-worship sucks up in the larger culture that could be better spent on other equally important artists like the folks at the center of this article. Keep up the good work, and looking forward to your next post!

  13. To Gerry Myerson and you others not in the USA, “This video is Not Availablle” is what almost ALL folkies and radio folks like me get when we click. ALL Yank information seems to be becoming cut off to 95,4% of Earth’s inhabitants. THIS blog addition is probably going top be cut, too. PS, do you Amercans even realize that you are ONLY 4.6% of humanity???

    • Doc Wright, thanks for your comment. The links in this article are all to Paul Brady’s official YouTube videos, or to tracks licensed by YouTube from Brady’s recording companies. The ability of folks in any given country to hear them is based on the deal under which YouTube licensed the tracks. If that deal covers only certain countries, it’s the corporate entities involved who made that decision. In some countries, various kinds of content is restricted, but that decision is made by the country in question, not the U.S. In this case, we have comments from the UK, France, and Ireland, and those people didn’t mention not being able to see the videos. Both of the people who can’t see them are in Australia. It seems likely the license covers the U.S. and the E.U. but not Australia. Sorry about that, but it’s not a U.S. government decision!

  14. Thank you for a rich and informative blog entry. You use the resources available to you incredibly well. I also was one of “Kenny’s Boys,” though I never took a course with him, just knew hijm through Mick Moloney and the Commodore Barry Club in Philadelphia, and had the privilege of presenting a post-doctoral colloquium on Albert Lord’s theory of oral tradition as composition-in-performance via formulaic diction — and music — what Joe Russo eventually dubbed, “the aural tradition” — lovely term. There’s also a 2-part interview with Mick Moloney in “The Folk Life” tabloid maga-paper, now online as The Digital Folk Life, from 1977, as I recall, when he was still in process of getting his PhD in folklore at Penn under Kenny. Perhaps it might be of some (historical?) value to you if you ever publish a blog piece on Dr Mick – John.

  15. Would be nice to think that Paul Brady will learn of this blog somehow and (finally) have the opportunity to hear the recording! Let us know if you hear from him….

  16. Thank you for writing this. I really loved this song, and the history. Nora

  17. I first heard “Arthur McBride” in 1975, performed by Erik Frandsen, then a Village folkie living over the Kettle Of Fish on Macdougal Street, It was at a benefit concert for the South Street Seaport.. He told a story about finally getting the lyrics from some kid at a party after he’d been trying to track them down for a long time. Patrick Sky also played that night.

  18. Good article & great to get that connection to Carrie Grover. I first heard Paul Brady sing Arthur McBride at the June Days festival at Eagle Rock in NJ in 1975, where the audience was just stunned by the song. I taped it on my big cassette recorder but later couldn’t understand all the words. I actually found the song in the “Old Irish Folk Music and Songs” collection by P.W. Joyce in a library and then went to extraordinary lengths to get a copy of that book for myself at a publishing warehouse in Riverside NJ.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathy. The P.W. Joyce text you mention is probably the earliest text of the song that was written down, but it does not have all the verses Carrie Grover and Paul Brady sang. It is very close to the version Andy Irvine sang with Planxty, and I assume it was Andy’s source although I never asked him. I’ll be saying more about that text in my next blog post on Arthur McBride, due sometime before Christmas morning. Stay tuned!

  19. Considering Mrs. Grover aimed to “have the tunes with the songs, as they are, rather than the way some high toned ballad singer thinks they ought to be”, it would seem that Brady is doing exactly what she did not want. (Oh, well: It does explain why his version sounds so modern.)

    • Mysha, thanks for your comment. Mrs. Grover’s letter specified that she was referring to a performance by an invited singer at a meeting of the local music club, which in the context of the time, and especially considering the words “high toned,” almost certainly meant a classical, operatic rendition. There’s no telling what she might have thought of Paul Brady’s version, but at least Brady was very familiar with traditional singers and had studied their singing in a way that the music club member almost certainly had not. His singing is far closer to that of a traditional singer in its clear tone, lack of vibrato, and natural Irish accent. (Mrs. Grover, by the way, sings the song with an assumed Irish accent different from her usual speaking accent, which was common at the time among many traditional singers when singing Irish songs, probably influenced by the vaudeville “stage-Irish” tradition.) We know that Mrs. Grover enjoyed Alan Lomax’s radio shows, which often featured guitar-playing folksong interpreters alongside traditional singers, and she doesn’t seem to have minded them as much as the “high toned” singer she described. So there is reason to at least hope that would have enjoyed Paul Brady’s rendition, although we can’t be sure!

  20. Steve, I am Carrie and Almon’s great grandson. My father and I are thrilled that you raising awareness of this music and it’s roots, which you rightly point out, became Carrie’s mission. You may already be aware, but another folk artist is currently working on a book which is written from Carrie’s point of view and weaves in many of the songs which are featured in Heritage of Songs. I’d be glad to share this information with you if you wish to reach out. This person has spent years researching Carrie, and has a treasure of information. Btw you are also probably aware, but there are many other recordings of Carrie in the Library of Congress.

  21. Great!!

    Please check and make sure I am
    on mailing list. Much appreciated!

  22. This is mana to me, i cant find words to explain the sheer joy this information gives me…thank you soo much for this beautiful history lesson and i will think of Carrie Grover when i next sing this outstanding ballad.cormac connie cullen

  23. I loved reading this story and then hearing Carrie sing the song. I tried to find any other recordings by her and found that I had the reissue of the 78rpm recordings on AAFS 21 tucked away downstairs. So I’ve just been listening to her singing “The Wild Barbaree” and “The Lowlands Of Holland”, both songs I love. I used to sing “High Barbary” at school and “The Lowlands of Holland” has been done beautifully by Steeleye Span on their first album.

    It’s great to hear relatives of hers talking about their pride in her songs and knowledge. I’m particularly fond of the other versions of this great ballad too!

  24. Great to finally hear Carrie’s voice, Paul’s version is very faithful to her singing. Thank you for giving us the history of the song in your blog.
    Not that I have anything against drummers but I love the lines…
    And the little wee drummer we flattened his pouch
    And we made a football of his rowdy dow dow
    Threw it in the tide for to rock and to roll
    And bade it a tedious returning.

  25. Hello – Anson Grover (Carrie’s great grandson) again! Just to let everyone know that there is a recent discovery of additional songs which Carrie had transcribed prior to her passing in 1959. They are referred to as the “Maine Manuscripts”. A folk artist, Julie Mainstone, has very generously spent a lot of time and years to have a website created called “CarrieGroverProject” which shares these songs, as well as everything from Heritage of Songs. I hope that this allows Carrie’s dreams to be fulfilled, in passing these songs down through the generations, now in digital form!

  26. Erin Go Bragh came to mind.
    Brady’s version leaves every second verse musically unresolved which keeps the listeners attention. I’d like to hear Grovers version sung by traditional singers. As great as Pal’s version is, it is informed by contemporary folk. Not a bad thing of course, but Ms Grovers is more evocative of a time.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gabriel! Great points. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the second part of the article where I covered that in some detail:

      How did Brady decide to include one twelve-line verse? That probably came about because of his musical adaptations of Grover’s tune. Grover divided the song into fifteen four-line verses, each of which had the same melody. Musically, each of Grover’s verses ends on the tonic, or first scale degree, which in Western music produces a feeling of completion and resolution. This contributes to the very regular, rhythmic sound of her song.

      Brady decided instead to divide the song mainly into eight-line verses. Line four of each verse ends on the supertonic, or second scale degree, supported by a dominant chord on the guitar. Instead of resolution, this produces a feeling of expectation that something is to follow. Line eight of the verse then resolves to the tonic. This musical schema makes the first half-verse feel incomplete so the second half-verse can provide closure, much like a question and answer. Brady may have borrowed this from other versions of the song, since older published versions work the same way (Joyce’s version ends each half-verse on the fifth scale degree, suggesting again the dominant chord), but it’s also such a common musical strategy he may have applied it spontaneously.

      Find that part here.

      Thanks again!

  27. What a precious collection by this great woman Carrie Grover, and with respect I don’t think Paul Brady had a much bending or twisting of melody to arrive at the finished arrangement…. He’s done a fantastic arrangement of this epic ballade. Connie Cullen

  28. The least you could do is publish the actual lyrics of the two songs side by side in text form.

    • Thanks for your comment, Arthur. There are a number of reasons we didn’t do that. Principally, any artistic decisions made by Brady or by Grover would technically be copyrighted at the time they published their respective versions, so we’d rather link to the texts made available online by their own representatives.

      Also, placing texts “side by side” is a difficult proposition when you can’t be sure how your reader’s device will display the text. If the side-by-side lines are a few pixels too wide, you could have each line of the first text next to the wrong line of the corresponding text. Also, more and more, people are reading blogs like this on mobile devices which only have the width for one column of text, making side-by-side comparisons impossible. Our snazzy new blog format recognizes this by centering all the images–so we can’t do side-by-side comparisons of texts OR images.

      However, the blog does include links to both Brady’s text and Grover’s at their respective websites. By opening them in new browser windows, you can place them side-by-side at whatever font size and column width your system will support. Thanks again!

  29. I have this in our family collection from my grandmother, Sara Cleveland. I believe it must have come to New York State with her mother’s family. I doubt she heard it from Carrie Grover or anyone else post 1960 or so.

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