The Kind Land

(p)(c) 1999 Timberhead Music  THD CD11

 

The Church Tapes

        Most of the musicmaking in my life has been in nice places: in friends' houses, on decks, in forecastles, meadows, and woods.  Recording, however, usually seem to happen in not-so-kindly places.  I enjoyed recording in Folk Legacy's big barn room; Sandy Paton would set up two mikes and any number of musicians so that everyone could hear each other and sang (between cars, cardinals, wind etc) until the right things happened.

            Remembering this, after many recording adventures in many places, in 1998 I negotiated with the local United Methodist Church to do a series of recordings in their sanctuary.

            It was glorious, letting my voice loose in a big, warm, buttery-echoed room and lovely to have almost no mixing or editing to do in the studio thereafter.  It was a joy to work with my friend Bruce Boege and the kind folks of that church.

            So here it is, complete with traffic, breathing and pops; all a part of singing in that lovely room.

 

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

Recorded at United Methodist Church, Camden ME

Procduced by Anne Dodson and Gordon Bok

            Mixed by Bruce Boege, Gordon Bok, and Anne Dodson

Cover photographs by Kip Brundage, Belfast, ME

Graphic Design by Tim Seymour, Tim Seymour Designs, Camden, ME

 

Nick Apollonio built the 12-string guitar, nylon 6-string guitars and the small 5-string viol da gamba

 

Ron Pinkham built the nylon 6-string guitar used on "Vidala la Comparasita"

 

Triplett built the 34-string Celtic Harp

 

The January Men & Then Some:

            Gordon Bok, Tony Bok, Will Brown, David Dodson, Ken Gross, Jamie Huntsberger, Cindy Kallet, Carol Rohl, Forrest Sherman, joined by Lois Lyman on "The Kind Land"

 

Carol Rohl – harp and vocals

Lois Lyman - vocals

 

 

Faraway Tom

        © 1987 Dave Goulder, Robbins Music

 

        Dave says "when I was living in Wester Ross (Scotland), Tom was an illusive character, a tramp, who did off work here and there.  You'd never get a good look at him; he'd flit between buildings at dawn and dusk.  A lot of us identify with people like that, perhaps even envy them, but ultimately it must have been a bleak life."

            Gordon adds "Dave will be glad to know I finally got the tune right."

 

Gordon- 12-string guitar

 

            When the calendar brings in the cuckoo

            And the summer comes following on

            Then the thin mists of day see him running away

            And they know him as Faraway Tom.

 

            The earth is his bed and his pillow

            And his sheets are the clothes he has on

            He sleeps all afternoon then he's hunting the moon

            Till it rises for Faraway Tom.

 

            He sees the fox leaving his follow

            And he knows where the badger has gone

            He watches the fawn in the sheltering thorn

            But they don't see Faraway Tom.

 

            He knows nothing of letters and learning

            And of manners and such he has none

            But he numbers the seasons on fingers and toes

            As they pass over Faraway Tom.

 

            But what of the winters to follow;

            Will age and cold winds bring him down?

            For where can he lie when the snow fills the sky

            And the years tell on Faraway Tom?

 

 

Bright Fine Gold

        Traditional

 

        Because of the New Zealand gold rush in the 1860s, the Tuapecka River in Otago Province became the richest place in New Zealand.  The results were the same as other hold rushes; mostly misery and poverty.  I think that Phyl Lobl from Victoria, Australia, taught it to me when she came to Maine many years ago.

 

Gordon- small viol

 

            Spend it in the winter or die in the cold

            One apecka, Tuapecka, bright fine gold.

 

                        Bright fine gold, bright fine gold.

                        One apecka, Tuapecka, bright fine gold.

 

            Some are sons of fortune, and my man came to see

            But the riches in the river are not for such as he.

 

            Two little children lying in bed

            Both of them hungry, Lord, they can't raise up their heads.

 

            I'm weary of Otago, weary of the snow

            Let my man strike it rich and then we'll go.

 

 

 

                        The Stable Lad

                                    © 1975 melody: Phil Garland

                                                 words:  Peter Cape

                                   

 

            Learned from a tape a friend sent from New Zealand with Graham Wilson singing.

            Somehow this sings like a film… I see an old fellow singing the first verse, then I see his younger brawny, enthusiastic (and naοve) self with his leather apron and sooty smudges on his face telling about the girl, whanging away on the anvil.  (He's an apprentice wainwright and farrier.) And then his older sild again, "There's a graveyard…" and in ballad form, it never tell us how – or when p she died, and it's up to us to make the tale complete.  Good, good, song.

            Since I never saw these lyrics in print until after this recording was made, I sing Coven Co. instead of Cobb & Co.  Neatsfoot Compound is an oil we still use here in Maine to soften, clean and protect leather.

 

Gordon – nylon 6-string guitar

           

            When Cobb & Co. ran coaches from the Buller to the Grey

            I went for a livery-stable lad in a halt up Westport way,

            And I gave my heart to a red-haired girl, and left it where she lay

            By the winding Westland highway from the Buller to the Grey.

 

            There's Neatsfoot on my fingers, and lamp-black on my face,

            And I've saddle-soaped the harness and hung each piece in place,

            But my heart's not in the stable, it's in Charleston far away,

            Where Cobb & Co. goes rolling by from the Buller to the Grey.

 

            There's a red-haired girl in Charleston, and she's dancing in the bar,

            But I know she's not like other girls who dance where miners are,

            And I can't forget her eyes, and everything they seemed to say

            The day I rode with Cobb & Co. from the Buller to the Grey.

 

            There's a schooner down from Murchison, I can hear it in the gorge,

            So I'll have to pump the bellows now and redden up the forge,

            And I'll strike that iron so very hard she'll hear it far away

            In the roaring European that the road runs by from Grey.

 

            Some day I'll be teamster with the ribbons in my fist,

            And I'll drive that Cobb & Co. Express through rain and snow and mist,

            Drive a four-in-hand to Charleston, and no matter what they say,

            I'll take my girl up on the box and marry her in Grey.

 

            There's a graveyard down in Charleston where the moss trails from the trees,

            And the Westland wind comes moaning in from off the Tassman Seas,

            And it's there they laid my red-haired girl, in a pit of yellow clay

            As Cobb & Co. went rolling by from the Buller to the Grey.

 

 

 

 

        The Last Battle

        © 1988 Bill Gallaher, Victoria, BC

 

        Louis Riel le the Metis in both the Red River Rebellion of 1870 and the Northwest Rebellion in 1885.  When his followers were defeated by the government at Batoche on May 12, 1885, he was sentenced to death and hanged in Regina jail.  He was a good poet and a songmaker.  The Gabrial in the song is Gabrial Dumont.

            Bill Gallaher made this poignant piece a few years ago; you can hear his beautifully crafted songs on various tapes and CDs by the contacting him at # 4-175 Pembroke St, Victoria, BC, Canada V8R 1J7, 604-382-7531.  It was Mary Garvey (of the Columbia River) who told me about Bill.  He performs quite often with the astonishing Jake Galbraith, Maureen Campbell and Mike Jones.

 

Gordon – 12 string guitar

Carol- vocal

 

 

            An east wing blew in the storms of time

            Where the Metis lived on the winding river

            For on a steel rail the settlers came

            To the South Saskatchewan, and the land they claimed.

           

            Then three Metis and Gabrial

            Rode like the wind to wild Montana

            And on the Sweetgrass, in a church of stone

            They found their savior, and they took him home.

 

                        Saying "Come Riel, we'll make a stand

                        Here at Botoche, beside the river

                    Ah, never mind their Gatling guns

                        If we lose this time, we've lost forever!"        

 

            Oh, and the bullets flew and the cannons roared

            And the Metis' blood flowed like a river

            Into the coulees where they ran to hide

            It washed their dreams away, and their spirit died.

 

            Then a silence stole across the land

            The drums of war were hushed forever

            But in the starlight on the barren plains

            The cry of Gabrial flies on the wind.

 

 

           

            Vidala La Comparsita

                                    traditional South American

 

            The only time I heard this was on a recording that I can no longer find.  It was played by a traditional sounding group with the melody played on a quena.

 

Gordon – nylon 6-string guitar

           

 

 

                        River Drive

                                    © 1994 David Calder

 

            The woods ballads from NY state to New Brunswick are some of the finest in our language, documenting the whole range of that industry.  Dave Calder, with his father, joined the drive on the Kennebec River in 1966 and worked it through its last year when environmental concerns closed that particular, unique and highly skilled part of the industry, or at least traded it for methods of equally questionable environmental value. 

            This ballad is unique because it speaks clearly and eloquently about the death of a way of living that affected most of the people along that whole river.  In the lyrics following I've put verse # 2 where Dave sings it.  I usually lay it in second to last.

 

Gordon – nylon 6-string guitar

 

            I'd like to tell you the story boys, about taking down the drive'

            My foreman's name is Buster, boys, and he also does reside

            Near the banks of this river, boys, in Skowhegan, Maine

            But when the rear gets in this year we'll never drive again.

 

            We've been driving this old river, boys, for two centuries and a half'     

            Just to get that wood down to the mill, it almost makes me laugh

            Some educated fools from God knows where, well they figured it should end

            So that outfit down to Augusta says we can never drive again.

 

            Now this mighty Kennebec she's something to be seen

            From her Headwaters and Moosehead down to Merrymeeting and the Sea

            With islands, back channels, white water and dead

            Great eddies and great remedies for a river driver's head.

 

            We hang the booms in springtime, we sluice in summertime

            They're rafting wood across the lakes, five thousand cord to a time

            And when the fall is coming on, it's time to take the rear

            Better head up to that cutoff and get old McLollen's butt in gear.

 

            There's Buster and Gerry Bigelow, them Sanipass boys and me

            George Waters and my father rave about days that used to be

            The Messer boys are hung over, they're praying for a head wind

            So we can hitch her up at noontime, and they can start right in again.

 

            From Indian Pond down to the Forks it's white water most of the way

            Riding them leaky bateaux, I don't think it's worth the pay

            From the Forks down through Carratunk we're over the Wyman Dam

            By the first week in September we're headed for the Solon Dam.

 

            From Solon down through Libby Country and down into North Anson

            That oxbow it don't slow us up and we're down into Madison

            We take those three dams, we're always on the run

            She's a flying rear through Norridgewock and down to Skowhegan.

 

            We send Dennis up to the Green Front and head for Shawmut Shores

            There's two weeks of hard picking, but then there'll only be two or three more

            And now it is November, God Damn, it's getting cold

            Best be careful where you step; there's no place to take hold.

 

            Finally we do get her in, we're all feeling good

            We'll have us a little gathering to forget the God damn wood

            With some liquor and some smoking, some bullshitting all around

            But everyone of us knows this is the last time we'll take her down – oh

            Everybody knows this is the last time we'll take her down. 

 

 

                        The Kind Land  (Serinam)

                                    © 1998 Gordon Bok

 

                        This song came to me in the waters off my home over a few hard days and nights in August, 1998.  Mostly it came at night, and once the same tune was came in an unfamiliar language – not too uncommon in my creative drifts.  Serinam is the only word I kept, because I lover the sound, because it seemed to be a person's name and place name at the same time, and I felt the need to honor the gift in kind.

            The human history of this land appears to be one of displacement rather than inclusion; the new has tended to drive out the old rather than living with and learning from the old.

            The Kind Land mourns the passing of generations of people who had to know this land with an intimacy that most present and future occupiers will never know.

            I write this a year later in the same cove where most of this song came to me, in the good waters, in the kind land, and the same old moon, I'd be willing to bet, will be lifting in a few hours.           

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

Sung by The January Men and Then Some  

 

                    O the moon is riding high Serinam, Serinam

                        O the moon is riding high, Serinam

                        She won't look you in the eye, she won't look you in the eye

                        She don't want to see you cry, in the kind land.

 

                        Now it's hard to go ashore in the land, in the land

                        O it's hard to go ashore in the land

                        All the people on the shore, all the people on the shore

                        They don't see us anymore, in the kind land.

 

                        Now the people from the town in the land, in the land

                        All the people from the town in the land

                        They don't mean to take you down, they don't mean to take you down

                        They're still looking for the ground in the kind land.

 

                        They don't know the life we keep in the land, in the land

                        They don't know the life we keep in the land

                        They neither fish nor sow nor reap, neither fish nor sow nor reap

                        And for them the land is cheap, in the kind land.

 

                        And it's sad to see it so in the land, in the land

                        Oh it's sad to see it so in the land

                        But there's one thing it’s good to know, there's one thing it's good to know

                        As we come so will we go in the kind land.

 

                        O the moon is riding high Serinam, Serinam

                        O the moon is riding high, Serinam

                        She won't look you in the eye, she won't look you in the eye

                        She don't want to make you cry, in the kind land.

 

 

 

                        Ledge-End of the Fiddler

                                    © 1988 Nick Apollonio, Soulstice Music

                                   

 

            Nick says "I wrote this down as it came to me out of a memory, from when I was quite young, of someone telling me about the origin of the Fiddler's Ledge name… it's a granite obelisk at the entrance to the Fox Islands Thorofare.  Don't know how old it is, but the story goes that a local fiddler who was popular in the community was sailing home under the influence one night and pile up on the ledge before there was a marker there.  According to the teller (who probably liked to scare kids with ghost stories) one can still hear him fiddling there on foggy nights.  The tune comes from a lumberjack song The Jam on Gerry's Rocks.  The Drunkard mentioned in the song is another ledge to the West of the Fiddler.  A pinky is a doubled-ended type of sailing vessel with an odd stern extension, usually schooner rig, that developed on this coast in the late 1700s."

            Gordon says "I heard a similar story a foreign vessel that piled up on that particular patch of knobs, but since it has now become a song we'll call this history."

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar (built by Nick Apollonio)

           

            Come hear my tale, you mariners who sail Penobscot Bay

            You know the granite monument that's visible by day

            At the entrance of the thorofare that feeds North Haven town

            It marks the ledge where long ago a young fiddling Tom was drowned.

 

            Now Tom was a friend to one and all and a fiddler second to none

            And a sailor too, but most of all he loved his jug of rum

            And when the fire was in his bow and the musd was in his eye

            Folks would flock from field and farm to hear the fiddler's fingers fly.

           

            Now the fiddler and Jim Brown set out on the thirty-first of May    

            To play the dance at Rockland thirteen miles across the bay

            With the wind southeast on the sunlit sea their pinky skipped along

            Their hearts were full as the rising moon and the air was full of song.

 

            Well they jigged and reeled till the midnight hour and the dance was winding                       down

            Outside they heard the southwest wind singing a different sound

            But the boys were full and they must get home so they up and hoisted sail

            Two drunks alone on the bay at night in a rising southwest gale.

 

            Well the reach was fast to the mid-bay bell and the fog was closing 'round

            Two miles more on the starboard side they heard the Drunkard sound

            So the half tide ledge off Stand In Point was all that barred their way

            From the homeward run through the thorofare in the dark before the day.

 

            Well the bow stuck hard and it tossed them out on the seaweed covered stone

            There they stood in the pounding spray, half drenched and all alone

            They yelled for help from the near-by point, they sang and cried and swore

            And the fiddler bowed one final reel for he knew he'd sail no more.

 

            All they found in the morning light was the empty case and bow

            And late that year they built their friends a monument in stone

            But still they say on moonlit nights in the early part of June

            You can hear in the fog the sound of the fiddler playing his lonesome tune.

           

           

           

                        Chall Eilibh

                                    Tune: Traditional Barra

                                    Arr:  Gordon Bok

                                   

This is listed in M. Kennedy-Fraser's book Songs of the Hebrides Vol. I as "a coastwise song; words by Agnes Mure Mackenzie, Stornaway, Lewis."  The air is from the island of Barra.  Kennedy-Fraser arranged it for piano; I hear it more sparsely, with less rhythm.  Here are Mackenzie's words:

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

           

            Where are the ships that have sailed the seas

            Out to the setting of suns long past?

            Broken and gone, for the tumbling seas

            Have covered them over from first to last.

 

            Noroway snekr out of the north

            Galleys of Venice, tall ships of Spain

            With strong men singing have all set forth

            And the sea lies bare to the drifting rain.

 

            Chall eilibh hor eile

            Chall oro…

 

 

                             Jim Clancy

                                    Traditional Maine

                                   

            I found this song in that fine old book, The Minstrelsy of Maine, but Fannie Hardy Eckstorm and Mary Winslow Smythe. They explain that song was collected in 1925 from Horace E. Priest of Sangerville, who learned it 45 years before in the woods on the Penobscot. Many lumberman came into Bangor help build the dam and Water Works in 1875-6.  His stamps, or caulks, were his hobnailed boots.  The saddest part of this story was that he came out of the woods to take a "civilized" job for awhile.  He ended up building the Water Works without pay, having lost his most important possessions, his logging boots.

 

           

            To Bangor City last year I came; to the town I took a fancy

            I enlisted a job in the Water Works, 'long of my friend Jim Clancy

 

            Jim, he didn't stay but a day or two while I stuck on like a daisy

            Bad luck to me soul, had I gone with Jim my poor heart would-a been easy.

 

            One Saturday night I got my stamps – for Brewer town I started

            I sent a man and he asked me to drink – says I, "You're very kind hearted."

 

            I took a drink of the lay-down punch – which laid me out completely

            Sometimes I get a little mite drunk, but that night I got beastly.

 

            When I awoke me stamps was gone, in another hotel I was setting

            My bag and baggage was my only chum, and my bedroom door was a-grating.

 

            I loudly for the Boss did call, my stomach bein' in want of a diet

            When a man with a star did to me appear, sayin' "Damn your eyes, keep quiet!"

 

            I was taken to court that very afternoon and charged for Creating a Riot

            They said I knocked a policeman down while trying to keep being quiet.

 

            I told the story to the Judge – to the best of my recollection

            He fined me 50 cents and costs… of six months in the House of Correction.

 

            My stamps was gone so I had to go too, a makin' brick for the stack, boys;

            And all on account of the lay-down-punch and the meetin' of the hoboes.

 

            And now young men when you do go out, if you have got any money

            Keep away from the lay-down-punch, and the hoboes for their cunning.

 

 

                             Jones

                                    © Blake Alphonso Higgs

                                   

            Doug Day of Swan's Island, Maine, tells me that Jones is included on a 78 that his parents brought back from their honeymoon in Nassau, Bahamas, where they listened to Blind Blake every night.  In the original recording a dog (named "Music") that accompanied the singer at his gigs at the Royal Victorian Hotel is apparently evident on the record.  I can't remember where I learned this song.

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

 

           

            Boys, I had a friend by the name of Jones,

               and his eyes they sure was round

            I took old Jones for my personal pal,

              don't you see what Jones has done?

            Now Jones he hung around me like a hungry hound,

              took my woman and he left this town

            And now I wonder, if anybody in here can tell me

              if they've seen old Jones.

 

              Jones, oh Jones, oh you know you can't last long

              Jones, oh Jones, you better bring my woman back home

 

            I'm going to powder up my pistol,

              going to buy me Gatling gun

            I'm going to meet you, Jones,

              you know there ain't no use to run

            When I get through with you

              everybody going to moan: "Jones, oh Jones."

 

              Jones, oh Jones –(chorus)

 

            I'm going to keep you to myself,

              I'm going to kill you dead and bury you

            Going to dig you up for fun

              I'm going to stand and let the buzzards pick the meat off your bones

            When I get through with you

              everybody going to moan: "Jones, oh Jones." 

 

              Jones, oh Jones – (chorus)

             

            That Jones, he always told me

              that he was my personal pal

            But then that son of bum he come

              and stole away me gal

            Oh yes I'm up and down the town,

              just looking for that bum

            I'm going to meet you, Jones,

              I'm going to give the buzzards fun

            everybody going to moan: "Jones, oh Jones." 

 

              Jones, oh Jones – (chorus)

             

            I even take you to my place –

              I give you room to stay

            But now you son of bum

              you took my gal and gone away

            I'm going to powder up my pistol,

              going to buy me Gatling gun

            I'm going to meet you, Jones,

              you know there it ain't no use to run

            I got the Army Sergeant with me,

              got the undertaker too

            I got the student doctors

              offering me money for you

            I'm going to keep you to myself

              I'm going to kill you dead and bury you

            Going to dig you up for fun

            I'm going to stand

              and let the buzzards pick the meat off your bones

            I'm going to take my wedding butcher knife

              and cut you through and through

            I'm going to chop you into pieces

              just big enough for stew

            And when I get through with you,

              everybody going to moan:  "Jones, oh Jones." 

           

 

        The Bressay Lullaby

        The Shetland Folk Book Vol. 1

 

        Noted down by Mrs. E.J. Smith, Sandness, Shetland, from her mother's singing.

            This wasn't exactly the way I learned it, but it's the way it was set down in Norman Buchan's little book "101 Scottish Songs" (© 1962 Wm. Collins and Co., Glasgow and London.)

 

Gordon- small viol

 

            Baloo balilly, baloo balilly, baloo, balilli, baloo ba

 

            Gae awa peerie fairies (3)

            Fae oor bairn noo.

 

            Dan come boannie angels (3)

            Ta wir peerie bairn.

 

            Dey'll sheen ower da cradle (3)

            O wir peerie bairn.

 

 

 

        Mourning Dove

        © 1997 Steven Sellors, Grand Bay, NB, Canada

 

        What do we call this magical man?  The Bard of Grand Bay? Poet of the unenfranchised, speaker for the furry few?  The man that won the heard of Cathryn Ward, eh? And ours, so many times over, with each song he makes.  Our humanity grows a little with every song of his we love.  Steve says it's a song from the adoptee to the birth mother.

 

Gordon- 12-string guitar

 

            I have a house  - I have a home

            I have a place where wildflowers grow

            I have some trees, where squirrels can nest

            And mourning doves can take their rest –

 

            I have a dog – I have a song

            I have to let the mystery roll on

            I am alive – I am in love

            I want to tell the mourning dove –

           

            But when she flew she did not sing

            The cold wind whistled on her wing

 

            O do not grieve, sweet mourning dove

            Your sad old song is a song of love

 

            On the day when I was new

            You held me once – no one held you

            I think of you as a mourning Dove

            That only flew on wings of love

 

           

        Going On

        © 1999 Lois Lyman

 

        Loie says "Going On is the true story of a family surviving the first year after their father died suddenly in early summer.  He was a wonderful, warm man, full of humor.  He had a little retirement berry farm and the family was running it together and loving it.  Just before Easter his daughter told me that she had been dreading going home, because spring was her father's favorite time of year.  But when she walked into the kitchen, it was just covered with flats of little pants and her mother and brothers were all busy poring over them.  "I guess it just goes on," she said. 

 

Gordon- nylon 6-string guitar

Lois and Carol - vocals

 

            In summer there was nothing left to do

            But carry on, the way we knew he wanted us to do

            Run the stand and work the farm, sleep exhausted, up at dawn

            No time to think, and so it just went on.

 

                        It still goes on; it will go on

                        In the sharing of a smile, in the caring for a child

                        Asleep in your arms and dreaming – it still goes on.

 

            In autumn, seemed that everything was gone

            We turned and all we saw were shades of black and grey and brown

            Empty fields on every hand, silent house and shuttered stand;

            Wasn't easy then to think of going on.

 

            But winter was time for plans and dreaming

            Catalogs and endless schemes, that kept us all believing

            We would keep the dream alive and make it grow, not just survive

            Knowing that drove out the cold and kept us warm.

 

            And the joy of springtime sun is warm and steady

            In the greenhouse and the fields next summer's crop is coming ready

            Walking through the door at hoe I can feel that it's begun

            And in everyone of us it still goes on.

 

 

        Lament for Owen Christy/Under the Wind

        Music © 1980 Jim Stewart, SOCAN

            Words © 1997 Gordon Bok, BMI

 

        During the potato famine, many Irish people emigrated to Canada, arriving at the port of Saint John, N.B.  Owen Christy was one of those, but he died in quarantine and was buried on Partridge Island.  The tune is Jim's lament, for Owen and his kind.

            Many of my poems are a response, not to one need or incident, but to a few, and parts get changed or added on as the needs dictate.  Under the Wind is one of those.

 

Gordon- small viol

Carol - harp

 

            Love on us all, now, under the wind,

            The old wind, ever among us.

 

            And love of the dark winds, too:

            Love of the hard, grey wave.

 

            Love of the long oar that takes us through;

            Love of the tree that gave it to us.

 

            And love the day – this bright swift day

            Under the long, old wind –

            Love on us all.