Dear To Our Island

(p) © 2001 Timberhead Music

PO Box 840

Camden ME 04843

 

Gordon Bok with Carol Rohl, Cindy Kallet, Anne Dodson, Will Brown, the Quasimodal Chorus, the January Men, and the Small World Orchestra

 

 

For Mary and Tony, who know where it comes from.

 

 

Recorded, engineered and mastered by Bruce Boege, Limin Music, Northport, Maine

Mixed by Bruce Boege, Gordon Bok, and Anne Dodson

Produced by Gordon Bok and Anne Dodson

Cover photograph by Gordon Bok

Other photographs by Gordon Bok and Carol Rohl

Programming by Carol Rohl

 

January Men & Then Some to date:

Gordon Bok, Tony Bok, Will Brown, David Dodson, Ken Gross, Jamie Huntsberger, Cindy Kallet, Carol Rohl, Forrest Sherman

 

The Quasimodals to date:

Marie Weferling, Holly Torsey, Matt Szostak, Susan Shaw, Carol Rohl, Bob Richardson, John Pincince, Carney McCrae, Cindy Kallet, Jamie Huntsberger, Mary Ann Hensel, Ken Gross, Anne Dodson, Will Brown, Mimi Bornstein-Doble, Tony Bok, Mary Bok, Gordon Bok

 

Small World Orchestra:

Gordon Bok – 'cellamba; Carol Rohl – harp; Will Brown – laud; Claire de Boer – flute; Tom Judge & Susan Groce – fiddles

 

With:

Will Brown – laud & vocals

Anne Dodson – vocals

Cindy Kallet – vocals

Carol Rohl – harp & vocals

 

You may notice a difference in room-presence between some of the songs.  That's because some were done in Bruce's studio in Bayside and a few are from the 'Church tapes' – recorded in the winter of 1999 in the John Street Methodist Church in Camden.

 

 

Sail O Believer

Traditional

 

Years back someone gave this to me written out by hand.  Recently I heard it was from the Quimby family of the Georgia Sea Islands.  Dick Swain found a lovely looking version in an Applewood Books 1995 reprint of Slave Songs of the United States (originally published in 1867), so it has been around for a good while.  I've never heard it sung.

 

Gordon – 12 string guitar;

Will, Cindy, Carol & Anne - vocals

 

            Sail, o believer, sail over yonder

            Sail, o brother sail, sail over yonder

 

Oh brother bear a hand

Come brother bear a hand

 

Come view the promised land

Come view the promised land

 

Oh Mary, Mary weep

Bow low Martha

 

Oh, my Lord's coming now

And my Lord locks the door

 

Now my Lord's locked the door

Carries the keys away

 

 

 

Sandwood Down to Kyle

© 1970 David Goulder, Robbins Music

 

Sandwood is in the far Northwest of Scotland.  Kyle is the Kyle of Lochalsh.  Dave has walked, climbed, scrambled, built and repaired dry stone walls over most of it and has certainly earned the right to his opinion.

 

Gordon – viol

 

On Monday morn as I went out, the wild birds for to see

I met a man along the road and asked for charity     (2x)

 

Come home with me and take your fill and comfort you shall find

And tell me why you walk the road that leaves the hills behind     (2x)

 

Oh time has spent the summer, sir, and soon the leaves will fall

And I hear the change within the wind that plays around your walls    (2x)

 

For the bird must flee the winter, sir, she cannot stay behind

To build her nest upon the snow, nor can I look for mine     (2x)

 

But if I could have a hundred homes and dwell in each a while

I'd build them all along the coast from Sandwood down to Kyle   (2x)

 

 

 

Driveway Reel & Thanxty Al Stanley

© Tom Judge/Gordon Bok

 

Tom Judge was trying to get out of my long, greasy driveway one mud season in and old Gray Ghost of a pickup truck.  He made it, but as he gained the tarred road this tune delivered itself on him complete and unannounced.  At the time he called it "Drive Away the Driveway Reality Reel." The second tune is one I made in thanks to another old musical friend, Alan Stanley of Prince Edward Island for taking the time to teach me "Carolan's Concerto."  (I recorded this one as a jig with Cindy Kallet on Neighbors a few years ago, if you're thinking you've heard it before…)

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

 

 

Bachelor's Song

Traditional

 

I can't remember where I ran across this, but I have a note that says it was sung by John Nicholson, Jordan Mountain, near Sussex, NB, transcribed by Kenneth Peacock, October 1979.

 

All my sacred thoughts I will unfold to all young men are here

Young women they are good company to make the boys appear

Young women they are good company but I will wed with none

And if all young men were of my mind, the girls would walk alone

 

Oh if I were to marry a pretty girl, how happy I would be

And if I were to marry a grey old one, the boys would laugh at me

And if I were to marry a great big one she'd surely knock me down

And small women they are peevish… drink round, my boys, drink round

 

            Drink round, my boys, drink round – until it comes to me

            For the longer that we drink and chat the merrier we'll be

 

Oh here's to the faggot-maker, he sits at home at ease

And he goes to work at six o'clock, knocks off whenever he please

And he takes his faggot and binds it and throws it on the ground

And he takes his twine and twines it; drink round my boys, drink round

 

I owe no debts,  I pay no rent, I have none to repine

I have no cradle for to rock, no babies for to mind

My parents dear they need not dear, for they are laid low down

And I mean to lead a single life; drink round, my boys, drink round

 

Oh, the girls they all do wink at me at every town and fair

But I never pay any mind to them as though they were not there*

I mean to lead a single life wherever I may roam

And there's none in life may kiss my wife when I am not at home

 

*this line obscured in original text

 

 

Connemara Cradle Song

Traditional – Irish from Sister Richard, Boyle County Roscommon 1993

 

When my wife Carol crossed the Atlantic in a small sailing yacht, she stayed at a B & B in Boyle, County Roscommon.  When she brought Tom Judge, Susan Groce and me back there, Bridie Gallagher (the proprietor) remembered her.  Bridie called her friend Sister Richard (a music teacher across the street), in hopes to borrow a harp.

 

Alas, the harp was on loan, but Sister Richard came over to join us.  We made some music anyway, and Sister gave us this lovely song.

 

I have arranged the verses to sing it myself, but we print it here the way she wrote it out for me.

 

Gordon – vocal & laud;

Cindy, Carol & Anne - vocals

 

On wings of the wind, o'er the deep rolling sea

Angels are coming to watch over thee

Angels are coming to watch over thee

So list' to the winds coming over the sea

 

            Hear the wind blow, love, hear the wind blow

            Lean your head over, hear the wind blow

 

Oh, winds of the night, may your fury be crossed

May no one that's dear to our island be lost

Blow the wind gently, calm be the foam

Shine the light brightly to guide us back home

 

The currachs are sailing way out on the blue

Laden with herring of silvery hue

Silver the herring and silver the seas

And soon they'll be silver for my love and me

 

Now I'm Easy

Eric Bogle © 1980 Banksiaman Press/Larrikin Records

 

Eric Bogle is said to have said (sounds like the Internet, eh?) that he got talking with a cocky in a bar one night, who sketched out this working-life's story over the course of a few hours.  And what a beautiful job Eric did of sketching it for us.  A cocky (or cockie) is usually a poor, small farmer.

 

Gordon – Spanish guitar

 

It's nearly sixty years I've been a Cocky

Of drought and fire and flood I've lived through plenty

This country's dust and mud have seen my tears and blood

But it's nearly over now, and I'm easy

 

I married a fine girl when I was twenty

She died in giving birth when she was thirty

No flying doctor then, just a gentle old black gin

But it's nearly over now, and now I'm easy

 

She left me with two sons and a daughter

And a bone-dry farm whose soil cried out for water

So my care was rough and ready, but they grew up fine and steady

It's nearly over now, and now I'm easy

 

My daughter married young and went her own way

My sons lie buried by the Burma Railway

So on this land I've made my own, I've carried on alone

But it's nearly over now, and now I'm easy

 

City folk these days despise the Cocky

They say with subsidies and all we've had it easy

But there's no drought or dying stock on a sewered suburban lot

But it's nearly over now, and now I'm easy

 

 

 

Moran's Return

Traditional - Irish

 

Our friend Mary Lincoln called us in off the street to her pottery in Ardmore, County Waterford, to hear a recording of Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn playing this old Irish tune.  It comes from the Patrick Weston Joyce Collection (written down in 1844). I sketched it down, and two nights later Carol and Tom and Susan and I played it for Mary and her husband Dick in the pub nearby.

 

Small World Orchestra

Sufferin'

© 1985 Bill Gallaher  SOCAN

 

Mary Garvey of Vancouver, Washington introduce to the music of this amazing Canadian songwriter.  Bill says this was one of the first songs he wrote; and while he always knows whereof he writes, luckily this song did not become autobiographical.

 

Bill says, "Back in '72, Jaye* said to me 'Why don't you write a song?' I asked, 'What kind of song?' And without skipping a beat she said 'A cowboy song.' Not knowing much of anything about cowboys, I eventually settled on the idea of 'Sufferin'' when I recalled the old gent whose groceries I used to carry home when I was a kid of 7 or 8 years old.  He was well into his eighties and would regale me with tales of his life.  I remember him saying he'd been a cowboy, a prospector, a railroad worker, among other things, and the addendum would always be, 'People today have it real easy.  Now, when I was a young man…'"

*Bill's wife

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

 

When I was young and in my prime

I had a woman and her future by my side

But the four winds blow and the grass don't grow

'Round the feet of a man with travelin' in his hide

            So I threw off all the shackles and the chains

            Said goodbye to what's her name

            And I suffered through the cold September rain      

            Heading back to freedom once again

 

Well, I tried my luck on a fiery buck

In back of ramblin' two-room ranchin' shack

There ain't nothing worse than a buckskin horse

With a mind of his own and a saddle on his back

            For riding he just didn't seem to care

            So he left me there in the dusty air

            And I suffered through the insults and the pain

            Of landing on my backside once again

 

Well, I broke my back laying down the track

For the railroad that was making its way out West

But I had no feel for the cold hard steel

And a job that gave no time for a man to rest

            So I said goodbye and headed North for gold

            Staked my claim on a salted* vein

            And I suffered through the hunger and the cold

            All I found was a young man growing old

 

I drank my fill of the barroom swill

Danced 'til the sun was a jewel in the morning sky

I used my fist for a goodnight kiss

On the face of a man with evil in his eye

            Then I stumbled through the morning feeling ill         

            Till I fell with a thud in the rain and the mud

            And I suffered through a day or two in jail

            Then I headed back to the freedom of the trail

 

Well, the years have flown but the times I've known

Were better than a poke in the eye with a rusty nail

If a man will try and a man don't lie to himself

Then his life can be a hell of a tale

            To change my life I wouldn't give a dime

            And when I go the books will show

            That I suffered from my birth right through my prime

            Now I'm heading back to freedom, one last time

 

*someone had spread a little "good news" around

           

 

 

Hatu Khara Ols'n

(The Hard Black Rope)

Traditional

 

This is a song from the Khalmyk (Buryat Mongol) people who came to live in Philadelphia and New Jersey beginning in the 1950s.  I learned it from my friends Sara Stepkin Goripow and Nadja Stepkin Budschalow during the winters that I worked in Philadelphia and sang with them and played in their dance-orchestra.

 

They told me it was "a very young song song (less than 200 years old, probably) and very Russian."  It came from a time when they were hauling boats up rivers – by hand.  Nadja said, "You could call it our 'Volga Boat Song.'" Many of the words are lost to present day Khalmyk, but (loosely) it goes:  "I pull the hard, black rope (and I sing) Mother/ Father/ my People/ my Country: I do not forget you."  I have the 3rd verse in Nadja's writing : "While this river runs, while you work here, don't forget your people."

 

Ordinarily I would never harmonize a Khalmyk song, but wherever the Stepkin sisters sang this one, they sang it in harmony… so I have it a Russian flavor here for the Quasimodals, and have tried to teach them the Khalmyk sounds that are not so easy to remember from all those years ago. 

 

The Quasimodal Chorus

 

Hatuya khara olsigen

Hakurun badje tatulav

Hakurun badje tatulav

 

Hakurun badje tatushen

Harm stele edje minye sanugdna

Harm stele edje minye sanugdna

 

Idjelinye irgede kudlagen

Izhe lan biche martite

Izhe lan biche martite

 

Idjelinye irgede kudlushen

Inyegem ondzin nandan sanugdna

Inyegem ondzin nandan sanugdna

 

 

 

Poor Angus

Poem © Shel Silverstein

Music © Gordon Bok

 

Shel was an astounding poet (and singer too, I am told) whose works would enrich any library, any life.  I wish I had met him.

 

Gordon - viol

 

Oh what do you do, poor Angus

When hunger makes you cry

I fix myself an omelet, sir

Of fluffy clouds and sky

 

Oh what do you do, poor Angus

When the winds blow down the hills

I sew myself a warm cloak, sir

Of hope and daffodils

 

And who will you love, poor Angus

When Catherine's gone from the moor

Ah then, sir, then's the only time

I think I'm really poor

 

 

 

Jock O'Hazeldean

Traditional - Scots

 

I must have learned this in the 1960s, when I started hanging out with other folksingers.  I hear it in a lowland Scots dialect, and sometimes sing it that way – I heard it sung a number of different ways here in the States.

 

Gordon - laud

 

"Why weep ye by the tide, lady

Why weep ye by the tide?

I'll wed ye to my youngest son

And ye shall be his bride

            And ye shall be his bride, lady

            So comely to be seen"

            But aye she's let the tears downfall

            For Jock O'Hazeldean

 

"Now let this willful grief be done

And dry your cheek so pale

Young Frank is chief of Errington

And Lord of Langleydale

            His step is first in peaceful hall

            His sword in battle keen"

            But aye she's let the tears downfall

            For Jock O'Hazeldean

 

"A gown o' gold ye shall not lack

Nor braid to bind your hair

Nor mettled hound nor managed hawk

Nor palfrey fresh and fair

            And ye the foremost of them all

            Shall ride, our forest queen" 

            But aye she's let the tears downfall

            For Jock O'Haeldean

 

The kirk* was decked at morning tide

The tapers glimmered fair

The priest and bridegroom wait the bride

And dame knight are there

            They've sought her both by tower and hall

            The lady was not seen

            She's o'er the border and awa †

            With Jock O'Hazeldean

 

*church

† away

 

 

 

Los Viejitos

Traditional – Tarascan Indian

 

One of the legacies my folks left was an off collection of folk music from all over the world.  My brother and I though nothing of learning songs in other languages when we were kids; it was all around us and our relatives did it (mostly because they had lived there).  I believe this one came from an early Folkways LP of Trascan Indian music and was played on a "guitarra bajita", which I've never seen but loved the sound it made.  I couldn't imagine how a 2-legged type could make this rhythm work, until someone who had seen the dance told me it was usually performed by old men with cane who were supposed to be somewhat less than sober.  I've played it since I was a teenager and have never tired of it, nor ever been satisfied that I had it right.

 

Gordon - laud

 

 

Long Life to the Moon

Irish Poem/  music by Gordon Bok

 

A short, anonymous poem that Kate Barnes sent me.  (Plenty of room for short songs in the world.)

 

Gordon & Carol – vocals

 

Ogh, long life to the moon for a

      fine noble creature

Who serves us for lamplight each night

      in the dark

While the sun only shines in the day,

      which by nature

Needs no light at all as yez all may

      remark

 

 

 

Small Island

Traditional

 

Another song I got about 40 years ago from a young shipmate, Harold Williams, from South Caicos.  I had asked him how folks in the British Virgin Islands felt having their country owned by people so far away who never even saw it, and he said "Oh, we got a song about that." And sang this.

 

I can't find that I ever wrote it down, even in the logs I kept.

 

Gordon – Spanish guitar

 

            Small Island, go back where you come from

            Small Island, go back where you come from

            O when you come by the one and the two and the three

            You taking our food and you leaving us hungry

            Small Island, go back where you come from

 

Number one: no rice in this land

Number two: no rice in this land

Now when you come by the one and the two the three

You taking our food and you mash down the jungle

Small Island, go back where you come from

 

Winston Churchill going 'cross through this English Channel

Winston Churchill going 'cross through this English Channel

Now when you got no guns and got no revolver*

Bottle and stick kicking hell in Gibralter

Small Island, go back where you come from

 

*refers to a speech Churchill made during WWII

 

 

 

Oh, I Am Calling

Words © 1998 Megaera Vittum Fitch

Music & Arrangement © 1999 Gordon Bok

 

Meg lives in Vermont on the family farm; her house is the barn they used to store extra hay in.  She has been writing since the teacher in her school encouraged her in the third grade.  She is a member of VIBES!, a poetry and performing group working out of Vermont.

 

These are two of the many poems Meg has swapped with me over the years, part of an ongoing conversation.  I took them on tour with me one fall, and during a 3-day layover in New Hampshire, wrote the music to them.

 

Our chorus has no director; when we need one we coerce one from the ranks.  My thanks to Mimi Bornstein-Doble for guiding this particular song through all the work it took to get it there.

 

The Quasimodal Chorus

 

I.

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

My calling cross the waters

Cross the mighty waters

Downfolding clouds enfold me

Enclosing fears behold me

 

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

O, Nester cross the waters

Cross the mighty waters

Bring down your wings about me

To shield from them who'd rout me

 

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

O Mother, cross the waters

Cross the mighty waters

Storm between me and my fears

They prickle the hills with spears

 

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

O Flame-heart cross the waters

Cross the mighty waters

Circle me with fire now

Enfold me in your pyre now

 

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

O Child come cross the waters

Dance me down the silver shore

And lead me from the River's roar

 

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

O Singer, cross the waters

Cross the mighty waters

Ring me round with sacred song

And pull me from the darkened throng

 

Oh, I am calling, I am calling

O I will cross the waters

Cross the mighty waters

Lay my feet on the flaming foam

And ride my song through darkness home

 

II.

Chickadee of the clutching toe

Nutchatch of the creaking voice

Blackbird of the twirling song

Redtail of the longing fall

Birds all of marsh and meadow

 

I hear you, you

Am I yours – now? yours?

 

Ancient tree on the mountain brow

Windy curled, tough and small

Dead elm in the singing swamp

Summer home of bug and bird

Nut bearers, seed trailers

 

I hear you, you

Am I yours – now? yours?

 

Leaf meal, snake trail

Crow call, fox squall

Toad song, ant throng

Tree quiet, peeper riot

Duck nesting, beaver tasting

 

I hear you, you

Am I yours – now? yours?

 

Sudden cliff and long lake

Hard thin dirt, shaling stone

Glacial waste on the northern land

Spill of meadow, stream tumble

Stone walls of lost borders

 

I hear you, you

Am I yours – now? yours?

 

Running through the cold dew

Hunting cows in the misty swamp

Leaning on their warm sides

Trailing spring, green sour sweet

To summer stubble, dry and sharp

 

My ears loved, skin loved

Eyes loved, thick skinned feet

Loved their way over

Farm lands, up thawed brook

Through air of song and silence

 

Do you hear me, me?

Are you mine – now? mine?

 

Garden dust and roses bloom

Grape green to misty blue

Every berry of wood and pasture

Split sweet on lip and tongue

 

Do you hear me, me?

Are you mine – now? mine?

 

Coming here, homing here

Standing here on loved ground

The ground curves, rocks and sings

I rock and sing my home to heart

My heart to home to hope

To long, long, long hope

To wing and root and stone and stream

And sky and wind and star

 

And small, bright eye in naked wood

Laughing, laughing, laughing

 

Do you hear me, me?

Are you mine – now? mine?

 

 

 

A Phiuthrag's a Phiuthar-

Sister O Sister

Traditional – Scots (Hebrides)

 

I heard this song perhaps thirty years ago.  The closest test to my version seems to be in Peter Kennedy's Folksongs of Britain and Ireland.

 

Despite kind efforts by Margaret Bennett of Edinburgh and Holly Torsey of Whitefield, Maine, I haven't located my original source, so I rely on my memory and may the Gods of Gaelic be kind on me.

 

I was told it was sung by one who had been stolen by the fairies.  "Little sister, my love, my sister, can't you pity my grief tonight?  My bothy now is low and narrow, without thatch nor rope holding the thatch, and the rain of the hills down through it like a running stream."

 

If you've ever had a loved one in the grip of depression or addiction or grief, you've heard this song.

 

Gordon - viol

 

 

 

Bless Ye Fair Maids

Words: © 1984 J.B. Goodenough

Music: © 1990 Gordon Bok

 

Judy sent this to me many years ago, as we were trading poems.  It worked on me until I found this tune and harmony for it.  I used to play the bass part on the 'cellamba and sing the upper part, but it took the January Men to give it the freedom it wanted.  Cindy added the harmony on the last chorus.

 

The January Men

 

The candle's at the window and the sun is in the West

And the baby's in the cradle and the bird is on the nest

The young man's gone a-courting but the old man's home to stay

And in the fire's failing light we heard the old man say

 

            Bless ye the setting of the sun, the candle set at foot and head

            And bless ye fair maids, every one, that never came to warm my bed

 

Farewell whatever salty seas I never sailed upon

Farewell whatever roads that go where I have never gone

Farewell a hundred fallow fields that never did I plow

Farewell a hundred distant hills that I shall not climb now

 

Farewell to every tree whose fruit I never gathered up

Farewell to every jug in town that never filled my cup

Farewell the rivers fair and far that never I have crossed

And farewell the gold I never found and the silver I have lost

 

 

Against the Moon

© 1997 Steven Sellors, Grand Bay NB, Canada

 

From a Master of the Irreverent comes another heartwarmer and a great song to sing in life's many changes, to remind us why we hung on so long in the first place.  This one, he told me, had little bits and pieces of his friends in it.  For another lovely version, Anne Dodson (Esteemed Producer) has also recorded this song on Against the Moon on Beech Hill Music.

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

 

I hear the thunder, its tender noise

I'm standing under the moving skies

 

            I will not be bothered by this world when it's gone

            I will not be bothered by this world when it's gone

 

The rain is falling on fields of stone

A hunger's calling to beasts of bone

 

The birds are waking in time to flee

The winter taking their greening tree

 

The sea is rushing away too soon

The tide is pushing against the moon

 

The day is turning and looking back

At sunset burning the sky to black

 

This season's dimming is nature's will

The world is brimming with beauty still

 

I love the thunder