What Child is this?

What Child is This - Christmas Carol

I don't recall hearing the Christmas song What Child Is This? until I was nearly grown. Because of that, I had it in my mind that the song was of modern origin for years. 

After Pap and Paul recorded the song, I learned the song is actually very old and hails from England. The tune of the song is the same as the tune to the folk song Greensleeves which dates as far back as the 1600s. The words to What Child Is This? were penned by William Chatterton Dix in the 1800s. To read the full story of how the tune and the words came together to make the song we know today jump over and visit this blog

The Christmas song has a haunting reverent quality about it, I believe Pap and Paul's harmony, along with Pap's high tenor voice make the song even more haunting-see if you don't agree. Click on the link below that says What Child is This. You may have to hit the back button to get back to this page after listening to the song.

What Child is This

Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cd is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard, including the song What Child Is This?. You can go here-Pap and Paul's Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.

Tipper

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Silent Night

Silent Night traditional Christmas Music

 

Silent Night is said to be the most recorded of all Christmas songs and it may very well be the most popular as well. When I hear Silent Night I'm always taken back to the church plays I was in as a kid. The church lights turned down low; Angels with glittery wings; Shepherds and Wise Men wearing house robes with towels tied on their heads as turbans; and hay strewen throughout the aisles where the little kids couldn't keep from playing in the manger.

When the girls were in high school their school chorus performed the song in German one year and I thought it was so pretty. Over the years I've read several versions of how the song came to be, all of the stories were heart warming and inspiring. To read an article that tries to wade through the legends to get at the real story go here

I'm partial to Paul and Pap's version of Silent Night. Take a listen and see if you enjoy it too. Click on the link below that says Silent Night. You may have to hit the back button to get back to this page after listening to the song.

Silent Night

Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cd is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard, including the song Silent Night. You can go here-Pap and Paul's Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.

I'm giving a copy of the cd away today as part of my Thankful November series. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. *Giveaway ends Wednesday November 30. 

Tipper

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On a Cold Winter's Night that was so Deep

Oh beautiful star of bethlehem

The Christmas song The First Noel was never one of my favorites until Pap and Paul put it on their Songs of Christmas cd. Paul's vocals are truly outstanding-between his voice, the music, and Pap's tenor the song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

After becoming enamored with the song, I began to wonder about it's origin. I assumed it was from the early 1900s, but I was wrong.

  • The First Noel is one of the oldest Christmas songs around, as old as 400 years
  • There are some folks who think the song originated in France others think England
  • Noel-is a loud shout expressing the joy surrounding Christ's birth
  • It's considered a folk song
  • The original version had many grammatical errors showing that an uneducated person wrote the song (which makes it mean even more to me)
  • The writer was obviously excited about Christmas even though during that time period Bibles were not accessible to every day folks and even if they had been most people couldn't read 
  • For many years after the song was written the clergy frowned on songs such as The First Noel making it a true song of the people
  • In 1833 The First Noel was finally published by William Sandys and soon afterward The Church Of England began using the song as a hymn

Amazing how the song survived just by word of mouth; sung around the fire passed on to each generation. Knowing The First Noel was written by someone with not much education but a strong desire to express their joy of Christmas makes the song seem truly from the heart.

Listen to Paul and Pap's version and see if you enjoy it too. Click on the link below that says The First Noel. You may have to hit the back button to get back to this page after listening to the song

The First Noel

Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cd is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard. You can go here-Pap and Paul's Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.

I'm giving a copy of the cd away today as part of my Thankful November series. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. *Giveaway ends Wednesday November 23. 

Tipper

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Fairer than the Sweetest Flowers

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in April of 2014.

The pressley girls undone in sorrow

It's been a long time since Chatter and Chitter first learned Ola Belle Reed's song Undone In Sorrow and sung it in the historic Cataloochee Baptist Church. After they learned the song, they continued to sing it-and the song is still part of their repertoire today.

I was reminded of that first recording last week when someone commented on the Cataloochee-Cora Lee Mease post. The commenter said her grandmother was raised in Cataloochee AND her grandmother's family tree connected to the Mease family. So who knows maybe my Cora Lee Mease story could have really happened. 

Since that day spent in Cataloochee the girls have grown into young women-they've also grown significantly in their musical endeavors. Back then-Chitter hadn't picked up the fiddle yet; Chatter was very unsure of her guitar playing; and they hadn't quite mastered their two part harmony. 

Here's a more recent video of the song-I think the addition of Chitter's fiddle brings the song up a notch. 

These days I'm enjoying the girls singing a more polished grown up version of Undone In Sorrow, but I'll always love that first video of them in the church. It was truly a magical experience: a lovely day spent with good friends; the beauty of the mountains; the sweet spirit of the historic church; and the magic of two young girls from Appalachia singing a song of love and longing.

Tipper

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My World Ended Today and a Giveaway

Lamp Lighting Time

Paul and Pap produced their Lamp Lighting Time cd way back in 2009. Sort of hard for me to believe it's been that long ago. The older I get the quicker time flies by and the speed at which it goes reminds me of the lines from one of Pap's songs:

The days pass so swiftly, and the years have come and gone
From since I first remember 'til now don't seem that long......

We took the photo for the cd art. I can't remember if I snapped the picture or if Paul did. I do remember we set one of Granny's oil lamps on the edge of the kitchen table and let Pap light it with a match. Even if I didn't know how the photo was taken, I'd know it was Pap's hand just from looking at it. I don't have his hands I have Granny's long narrow fingers. I think Paul and Steve have Granny's too. Uncle Henry's hands are just like Pap's though-funny how we notice things like that.

Paul has been looking back through old recordings of our music during the months since we lost Pap. He's found some real jewels as well as some things that will make you smile. Paul told me the other day he'd watched a whole bunch of Chatter and Chitter when we first started filming them. He said "We think Chitter can be ornery now you should have seen the stubborn faces she was making back then with her crotcheted hat pulled down almost over her eyes!" We both got a good laugh reminiscing over those days of trying to tie the girls down long enough for them to sing a song before they ran outside to play. 

Paul's added a couple of the finds to our Blind Pig and The Acorn Youtube Channel. The one I'm going to share with you today is an old recording of a song that ended up on the Lamp Lighting Time cd - Hank Thompson's Today (My World Ended Today). Paul said they actually learned the song from The Louvin Brothers.

The video was recorded about 16 years ago on VHS, not the best audio or video quality, but not a bad rendition if I do say so myself. I hope you enjoyed the old video and if you'd like a chance to win a Lamp Lighting Time cd leave a comment on this post. Giveaway ends Wednesday November 9. 

The winner from the Blind Pig Music Giveaway is Candy Davis who said:

"I sure enjoyed listening to these this morning. I liked them all, but Old Gray Cat was my favorite. I loved the minor key melody. Your daughters are both so talented. I hope to hear them in person someday! You are blessed to have grown up surrounded by beautiful music, especially when it's your family. Keep the tradition going!"

Be on the lookout for more Thankful November giveaways!

Tipper

p.s. Remember Guitar Man? For those of you who don't he is my oldest nephew. He shows up in most of our oldest music videos. He's making a movie! Actually he and a group of friends are trying their best to make a movie-go here for all the details. 

p.s.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • Saturday November 12, 2016 @ 7:15 p.m.- Brasstown Community Center Brasstown, NC (the girls will be clogging at 6:15 with the Kudzu Kickers if you want to come early!)
  • Saturday November 19, 2016 @ 1:30 p.m. - Marble Elementary Fall Festival Marble, NC

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Knoxville Girl

Knoxville girl - the tradition of music in appalachia

When I hear someone talking about the many murder ballads of Appalachia, Knoxville Girl is always the one that comes to my mind. I can't really remember who I heard sing the song first. It might have been The Louvin Brothers or it might have been Pap.

The song has a long history and may have originated as far back as the 1600s. Over the years it has morphed this way and that changing the name of the town to fit the place and time period to fit its new abode. 

I was going to share details about the song's history, but I found someone had already written it better than I could. Go here to read the history of Knoxville Girl and then come back to hear Pap and Paul sing it.  

 

Definetely not a song for the faint of heart. But as I told you a few weeks ago, the sheer number of murder ballads and the longevity of them, show I'm not alone in my love of the songs.

I'm not sure if I like the songs because of a feeling of "there but for the grace of God go I", morbid fascination with death, or the satisfaction of knowing the troubles I have in my life seem minor compared to the story told in the song. Maybe it's because while I'm listening I can vicariously live out a range of emotions-fear, outrage, despair, and then when the song is over I get to go back to the sunshine.

I've had several folks tell me their mother sang Knoxville Girl to them when they were just a child. Seems like a strange song for a lullaby, but I'd guess the song had been sung to the mother when she was a child and she was just passing along the tradition of the song-never giving a thought to the subject matter it contained. 

A boy I grew up with would always ask for Knoxville Girl to be played if a group of folks were sitting around jamming. If he got the group to do the song he'd sit and cry like a baby. He said he loved the song because his grandparents sung it to him when he was little. 

Tipper

p.s. Remember Guitar Man? For those of you who don't he is my oldest nephew. He shows up in most of our oldest music videos. He's making a movie! Actually he and a group of friends are trying their best to make a movie-go here for all the details. 

p.s.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • Saturday November 12, 2016 @ TBA - Brasstown Community Center Brasstown, NC
  • Saturday November 19, 2016 @ 1:30 p.m. - Marble Elementary Fall Festival Marble, NC

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In the Pines

In the pines traditional murder ballad from appalachia

The Pressley Girls first learned the song In the Pines back in 2013. They've been doing the song ever since. Chatter and Chitter do the song in the same arrangement as The Louvin Brothers did-including imitating the mournful sound of the wind. 

The song is sometimes called Where did You Sleep last Night and is considered to be a murder ballad. In a 1994 the New York Times published an article about the song titled POP MUSIC; A Simple Song That Lives Beyond Time written by Eric Weisbard

Weisbard wrote the article primarily to point out the oddity of Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana fame, recording the song as well as to highlight the longevity of the song itself. Here's an interesting excerpt from the article:

"Researching the song for a 1970 dissertation, Judith McCulloh found 160 different versions, a finding that raises the question: Why does a song like "In the Pines" endure and permutate so insistently? The answer may be that its essence is not a specific story or even a musical style but the kind of intensely dark emotion that, as is the case with much in American music, survives longer in popular memory than does treacly sentiment.

The song probably has its origins in the Southern Appalachians, where it is still passed on as part of an oral tradition. The mystery writer Sharyn McCrumb says a college friend from Georgia taught her a verse that she used as a chapter heading in her 1992 novel, "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter." As she demonstrated in a telephone conversation, she can also sing a very different "Mitchell County, N.C." version that includes a reference to the local Clenchfield railroad line.

Dolly Parton, who performs a version on her recent album "Heartsongs" says: "The song has been handed down through many generations of my family. I don't ever remember not hearing it and not singing it. Any time there were more than three or four songs to be sung, 'In the Pines' was one of them. It's easy to play, easy to sing, great harmonies and very emotional. The perfect song for simple people."

In the 1981 book "Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong," the music historian Norm Cohen notes that "In the Pines" has three frequent elements, not all of which always appear. There is the chorus "in the pines," a stanza about "the longest train I ever saw" and another verse in which someone is decapitated by a Train.

"The longest train" section probably began as a separate song, which merged with "In the Pines"; references in some renditions to "Joe Brown's coal mine" and "the Georgia line" may date its origins to Joseph Emerson Brown, a former Georgia governor, who operated coal mines in the 1870's. The earliest printed version was four lines and a melody compiled by Cecil Sharp in Kentucky in 1917. Another variant, mentioning the train accident, was recorded in 1925 by a folk collector onto cylinder, a precursor of the phonograph. The next year, commercial hillbilly recordings of "In the Pines" and "The Longest Train" began appearing.

How did Kurt Cobain discover "In the Pines"? Long before Nirvana's rise, he and Mark Lanegan, leader of the Seattle rock group Screaming Trees, formed a friendship around a mutual love of Leadbelly. Mr. Lanegan owned a copy of the original Musicraft 78 rpm of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" that Leadbelly recorded in 1944. "My father gave me the record when I was a kid," Mr. Lanegan says. "He was a schoolteacher, and he found in the attic of an old school a box of blues records." Mr. Lanegan and Mr. Cobain recorded an EP of Leadbelly tunes, but only "Where Did You Sleep" was released on Mr. Lanegan's 1990 album, "The Winding Sheet," with Mr. Cobain playing guitar.

Although Leadbelly is credited with authorship of "Where Did You Sleep" on "The Winding Sheet" and Nirvana's "Unplugged in New York," his own discovery of the song was almost as secondhand as that of the Seattle musicians. Alan Lomax, the folk music archivist and promoter, reported to Ms. McCulloh that Leadbelly learned parts of the song from someone who had taken it from the 1917 Sharp version and other parts from the 1925 cylinder recording.

For all its complicated history, the meaning of "In the Pines" may be even more blurry, a vast continuum of different varieties of misery and suffering. "This unique, moody, blues-style song from the Southern mountain country is like a bottomless treasure box of folk-song elements," wrote James Leisy in his 1966 book "The Folk Song Abecedary." "The deeper you dig, the more you find."

The basic elements of the song remain similar from version to version, but the context can be altered with a few words. It may be a husband, a wife or even a parent whose head is "found in the driver's wheel" and whose "body has never been found." Men, women and sometimes confused adolescents flee into the sordid pines, which serve as a metaphor for everything from sex to loneliness and death. The "longest" train can kill or give one's love the means to run away or leave an itinerant worker stranded far from his home.

In the bluegrass and country versions popularized by Mr. Monroe, the song's eerie qualities are rooted in the genre's "high lonesome" sound, with fiddles and yodeling harmonies used to evoke the cold wind blowing. Lyrics about beheading drop out, but the enigmatic train is almost as frightening, suggesting an eternal passage: "I asked my captain for the time of day/ He said he throwed his watch away."

In other versions, the focus is clearly, as the novelist Ms. McCrumb notes, on a confrontation: "There's a woman doing something not socially acceptable, and she's been caught at it." In one case, a husband demands: "Don't lie to me; where did you sleep last night?" In their traditional interpretation, the Kossoy Sisters begin: "Little girl, little girl, where'd you stay last night? Not even your mother knows." Despite all the variations of "In the Pines," these questions are almost never asked of a man. The woman may also be asked, "Where did you get that dress, and those shoes that are so fine?" and the answer is "from a man in the mines, who sleeps in the pines."

I found the article fascinating because even though I've heard the song my entire life, I've rarely heard the verses that talk about asking the Captain for the time of day and I've never heard the line about the head and the driver's wheel. McCulloh can add one more version to the 160 that her research turned up-The Pressley Girls version.

Lots of folks have a problem with changing the pronouns in a song to better fit their own gender. Chatter and Chitter see things differently. They say they need to feel like the song is about them for it to be part of their creative outlet so they always change the pronouns. In the case of the song In the Pines they're singing about a boy instead of a girl. 

I hope you enjoyed the video! To hear Leadbelly's version of the song Where did You Sleep Last Night go here.

Tipper

p.s. Remember Guitar Man? For those of you who don't he is my oldest nephew. He shows up in most of our oldest music videos. He's making a movie! Actually he and a group of friends are trying their best to make a movie-go here for all the details. 

p.s.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • Thursday October 27, 2016 @ 1:00 p.m. Wofford College Spartanburg, SC
  • Saturday November 12, 2016 @ TBA - Brasstown Community Center Brasstown, NC

  • Saturday November 19, 2016 @ 1:30 p.m. - Marble Elementary Fall Festival Marble, NC

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Gathering Flowers from the Hillside

Pap and Paul keeping the music alive

We talked about Appalachian Murder Ballads last Sunday, more specifically the ballad of Tom Dooley. Today I have a different ballad to share with you-Gathering Flowers from the Hillside, which is attributed to A.P. Carter of the famed Carter Family. 

Although A.P. did write songs, many of the ones listed under his name are traditional songs he grew up hearing or collected from other folks. I was unable to pinpoint whether he wrote Gathering Flowers from the Hillside or was simply familiar with the song. Actually I couldn't find out anything about the song-no history or stories connected to the murder described in the song. The Carter Family recorded it in the late 1930s. 

Most murder ballads hint at the unfaithfulness of the deceased, however the only complaint about the sweet girl in this song is that she kept him waiting. Maybe she kept him waiting because she'd changed her mind about their relationship or maybe she never even thought they had a relationship and he was just a crazy stalker. Of course nothing she did or didn't do deserved the ending of her life. 

Pap and Paul learned the song from Reno and Smiley and recorded it back in 2009 on their Lamp Lighting Time cd. 

Gathering Flowers from the Hillside - A.P. Carter

I’ve been gathering flowers from the hillside
To wreath around your brow
But you’ve kept me a-waitin’ so long, dear
That the flowers have all withered now

I know that you've seen trouble
But never hang down your head
Your love for me is like the flowers
Your love for me is dead

I’ve been gathering flowers from the hillside
To wreath around your brow
But you’ve kept me a-waitin’ so long, dear
That the flowers have all withered now

Closed eyes cannot see these roses
Folded hands cannot hold them, I know
And your lips that are still they cannot kiss me
They are gone from me forever more

It was on one bright June morning
The roses were in bloom
I took the sweet life of my darling
And that will be my doom.

I’ve been gathering flowers from the hillside
To wreath around your brow
But you’ve kept me a-waitin’ so long, dear
The flowers have all withered now

To hear the song click on the link below-and then click your back button to come back to this page. Or if you'd rather listen to it on the player at the right it's number 10. 

Gathering Flowers from the Hillside

 I hope you enjoyed the song-sort of peppy for a murder ballad. If you have any history about it, please leave a comment and share it with me. 

Tipper

p.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • Saturday October 22, 2016 @ 2:00p.m. Cherokee County Fair Murphy, NC
  • Thursday October 27, 2016 @ 1:00 p.m. Wofford College Spartanburg, SC

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Appalachian Murder Ballads

Murder ballads in appalachia

Tom Dooley is a song I've heard all my life, I even used to be able to play it on the piano. It's one of those sad down right mean songs about a horrible act-that still seems to draw me in for some reason.

Appalachia abounds with lonesome sadistic songs about killing-almost always a girl. Some of the songs insinuate the girl broke a sacred trust. Most of the songs end with the killer getting what he deserves. I've often wondered why I like such songs. This genre of music is called murder ballads.

Many murder ballads came across the big pond with folks who were coming to the new world to make a better life. The sheer number of the songs and the longevity of them show I'm not alone in my strange attraction.

I'm not sure if I like the songs because of a feeling of "there but for the grace of God go I", morbid fascination with death, or the satisfaction of knowing the troubles I have in my life seem minor compared to the story told in the song. Maybe it's because while I'm listening I can vicariously live out a range of emotions-fear, outrage, despair, and then when the song is over I get to go back to the sunshine.

While researching the story behind Tom Dooley  I found some interesting information.

  • His real name was Tom Dula. The y sound was added in the way other Appalachian words have y's added like extry for extra.
  • Dooley was a confederate solider who survived the war-although 2 of his brothers did not.
  • Dooley was a fiddle player.
  • The motive for the killing of little Laurie Foster resulted from a bizarre love triangle which included 2 of Laurie Foster's cousins.
  • Both Dooley and Ann Foster Melton (one of the cousins) were charged with the murder of Laurie Foster.
  • Right before Dooley was hung he gave his lawyer a written statement, which stated he was the only person responsible for the death of Laurie Foster.
  • The Kingston Trio released a version of Tom Dooley in 1958.
  • The trio won the first Grammy ever awarded to a country/western act.
  • Popularity of the song led to guitars outselling pianos in 1963-for the first time ever.
  • There are some folks who believe Dooley was never hung-that at the last minute a vagrant, whose face was hid beneath a hood, was hung instead. 

As with most murder ballads there are several versions of the song Tom Dooley . The version that was made popular by the Kingston Trio was credited to Frank Proffitt who was a NC farmer as well as a musician. A couple of song collectors visited Proffitt in 1938 ensuring the song would be spread to a greater audience than the one in the mountains of NC. 

For more information on the history of Tom Dooley check out The Daily Yonder-The Murder that sold 10,000 guitars.

For this weeks Pickin' and Grinnin' Tom Dooley.

I hope you enjoyed Pap and Paul's version of the song. As you can see from the age of my nephews, the video was filmed way back in 2008 when I first started the Blind Pig and The Acorn.

I'll share a few other murder ballads with you in the next few picking and grinning sessions. As I said at the beginning of this post, the songs are not for the faint of heart and I'm unable to articulate why I like them so much, but I do. 

Tipper

p.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls 

October 15, 2016 @ 4:00 p.m.- Stecoah Valley Center Harvest Festival Stecoah (Robbinsville), NC 

October 22, 2016 @ TBA Cherokee County Fair Murphy, NC

October 27, 2016 @ 1:00 p.m. Wofford College Spartanburg, SC

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Day 2 of the JCCFS Fall Festival

The kudzu kickers

At 2:00 p.m. today The Pressley Girls will be performing at the John C. Campbell Folk School's Fall Festival on the Festival Barn Stage. Yesterday was a great day for a festival the weather was perfect and as usual the artists, crafters, and performers out did themselves-we had a great time and I do believe everyone else that was there did too! I enjoyed seeing more than a few Blind Pig Readers and I so appreciate them taking the time out of their day to spend a few minutes talking with the girls and me along with a few other nice things they did for us. 

The girls will be doing In The Garden during their set today. The video below was filmed at the Folk School during a concert back in June. They've been doing the song for a good while now. In the beginning Paul and I played along with them, but over time we realized just the one guitar and their two-part harmony was all it needed. 

My favorite part of the song is at the end of the third verse that they sing together. I love Chitter's high sweet voice on the word calling. If Pap could hear me say that he'd say "Yes but Chatter's voice below it helps-it takes both voices to make it sound like that. That's what harmony is." And he would have been right, but mostly he would have been trying to encourage both girls equally. Pap was an encouraging person. Whether he ran across an old friend who was down on his luck or a kid he'd never met before that was trying to throw just the right curve across home-plate he had an encouraging word to share with them. 

For those of you who can't attend, I hope you enjoyed a peek into today's fall festival and for those of you who do come, I hope you have time to say hello to us. 

Tipper

p.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls 

TODAY-October 2, 2016 @ 2:00 p.m. - Fall Festival JCCFS Brasstown, NC

October 15, 2016 @ 4:00 p.m.- Stecoah Valley Center Harvest Festival Stecoah (Robbinsville), NC 

October 22, 2016 @ TBA Cherokee County Fair Murphy, NC

October 27, 2016 @ 1:00 p.m. Wofford College Spartanburg, SC