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Archive: August 2020 (3 Posts)

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Yuba Dam Once More!

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In a previous post, I took a look at the song “Yuba Dam,” in which a man gets in trouble with his wife and the law by answering questions honestly with the words “Yuba Dam,” only to be repeatedly misheard as saying “you be damned.” In this post, I’ll look into the deeper history of …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Yuba Dam, 2020!

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Folklorists Barre Toelken and Gary Ward Stanton recorded the comic song “Yuba Dam” on August 25, 1979, among the songs and reminiscences of Kevin Shannon, a singer and storyteller with a large repertoire of songs and a deep knowledge of the history of the Irish American community in and around Butte, Montana. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, "Yuba Dam" has a new relevance. It's a tale of escalating misfortunes which leave the narrator alone, broke, and beaten up. Needless to say, I think we can all relate; it’s been a trying year. In that case, you might ask, why make it worse with a tale of woe? Well, that’s the great thing. Despite the misfortunes heaped on the shoulders of the narrator, “Yuba Dam” is a funny story. In fact, it’s just one variant of a joke that had been told in prose and verse for over 100 years when the song was recorded. In this post, we take a closer look at “Yuba Dam.”

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Homegrown Plus: The Murphy Beds

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) I’m very happy to continue the series with The Murphy Beds, which is the duo of Eamon O’Leary and Jefferson Hamer. The Murphy Beds present traditional and original folk songs with close …