The Long Grey Line

by Debra Cowan

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about

Debra Cowan's vocals have already made their mark on the folk
music scene in North America and abroad. Her first solo release The
Long Grey Line demonstrates her sensitivity to, and knowledge of,
the traditions that are the source of her music. While many of the
pieces are traditional, three songs by contemporary writers fit
beautifully into the collection. Supported by stellar musicians
including Geoff Bartley, Lorraine Hammond, and Hanneke Cassel,
Debra gives each song reverent treatment and a timelessness that
folk music enthusiasts love and look for in their music. An outstanding
booklet accompanies this impressive project, giving interesting
background on the songs as well as lyrics.

credits

released January 23, 2001

Produced by Debra Cowan
Recorded and Mixed by Steve Friedman at Melville Park Studio, Boston MA
Mastered by Henk Kooistra at 9 West Mastering

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about

Debra Cowan Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Singer Debra Cowan performs a cappella and with guitar, interpreting a wide range of folk songs. Debra has two acclaimed solo recordings to her credit, and her third, “Fond Desire Farewell” was produced by former Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks. A former California resident, she now resides in Massachusetts and tours all over North America and the United Kingdom. ... more

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Track Name: Edward Boyle
Ye tender hearted maidens
Of a high or a low degree
Likewise you foolish lovers
Come listen unto me
Whilst here I am be-wailing
The youth that I adore
That has now fled from my arms
Bound for Columbia shore

In the time I well remember
It being the month of May
When Flora's flow’ry mantle
Bedeck'd the meadows gay
The fields were decorated
And nature seemed to smile
It was there I parted from my own true love
My charming Edward Boyle

His friends and kind relations
They did him now convey
Unto Belfast town of high renown
Until they reached the quay
With a heart undaunted, he set sail
He left his Shamrock Shore
All joy be with you, Edward Boyle
Will I never see you more

In the county of Fermanagh
In the parish of Roslea
In the hills of Graugh-da-waddy
In the mountains of Tribay
Brought up by honest parents
All free from grief and toil
Ah but now they are sunk in sorrow
For the loss of young Edward Boyle

This country has got lonesome
Since young Edward went away
He was the pride of the college lands
How sweet his flute could play
The young men all both great and small
They swore they'd leave the soil
In hopes once more on Columbia's shore
They would meet with young Edward Boyle

My curse on you, Columbus
'Twas you who found out the way
And likewise to Amerikay
That has stolen my love away
From that time down sure we are bound
In hardship, grief and toil
To lament and mourn for our love's return
Like I for young Edward Boyle

Now to conclude and finish
Young men and maids be true
Let never you part for riches great
As some false lovers do
Was I posessed of the universe
Or St. Patrick's blessed Isle
I would part with it all tomorrow
For one sight of you, Edward Boyle
Track Name: McGinnis Gets a Job
Last winter was a hard one
Mrs. Riley did you hear?
It’s well you should have known it
It’s been for many a day
Your husband wasn’t the only one
Who sat beside the wall
My old man McGinnis
Couldn’t get a job at all

Chorus:
So rise up, Mrs. Riley
Don’t give away to blues
You and I will cut a shine
In bonnet and new shoes
Hear the young ones cry
Neither sigh nor sob
We’ll wait til times get better
And McGinnis gets a job

The politicians promised them
Work on the boulevard
To work with pick and shovel
Load stone on the cart
Six months ago they promised them
This work we’d surely get
I tell you my good woman
They are promisin’ it yet

Bad luck to them Eyetalians
I wish they’d stayed at home
We’ve plenty of our own kind
To eat up all our own
They come like bees in summertime
Swarmin’ here to stay
And contractors they hire them
For forty cents a day

They work upon the railways
They shovel snow and slush
There’s one thing in their favor
Eyetalians never get lush
They bring their money home at night
Take no dinner wine
That’s one thing I wish I could say
For your old man and mine

Now, springtime is a-comin’
And work we’ll surely get
My man’ll get his job again
He makes a handsome clerk
I’ll see him climb the ladder
As nimble as a fox
Yes he’s the one to handle
That old three cornered box
Track Name: The Rose You Wore For Me
When I open my eyes,
I can see you still
With the sunlight so gay
Glinting on the quay
All buttons and bows
And the bloom of the rose
You wore for me
Oh I swore I’d return
As a prince someday
With a ship full of gold
For the world to see
Yes I promised you then,
Though I couldn’t say when
That day would be

Chorus:
And long are the days
Since we lay in the fields so green
And long are the nights
To consider what might have been
And the song of the geese in the wind
Will call your name

Oh the mountains just laugh
When I turn for home
Not a mountain so high
Nor a man so small

Is it hours to the shore
Or ten thousand miles more
Beyond recall
‘Twas a fool to believe
All the things they said
Twice a fool just to kiss you
And sail away
But they lied when they told
Of those rivers of gold in America

If a word or a wish could
Transport me now
I would fly to your arms
Like a moth to flame
But I’m chained and I’m bound
To this cold foreign ground
With none to blame
Does my love warm your heart
Through the cold, cold night?
Does it twine ‘round your heart
As the roses grown
Or does love burn away,
Leaving ashes so grey
And cold as stone?
Track Name: Bold Archer
As I walked out one morning in May,
All at the dawning of the day,
I met with two brothers a-making their moan,
I listen'd a while to what they did say.

"We have a brother in prison," said they,
"Oh, in prison lieth he,
If we had ten men just like ourselves
We surely will set the prisoner free.

"Oh, no, oh, no” Bold Dickie says he.
"Oh, no, oh no, that never could be;
For forty men is full little enough
If I for to ride in their companie."

"Ten to pull the horses in,
Ten to guard the city about,
Ten to stand at the prison door,
And ten to let poor Archer out."

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so merrilie ?
They rode till they came to a broad riverside
And there they alighted so manfullie.

They mounted their horses and so swam they,
Who but they so swiminglie!
They swam till they came the the other side
And there they alighted so drippinglie.

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so gallantlie!
They rode till they came to that prison door
And there they alighted so daringlie.

" Archer, poor Archer," Bold Dickie says he,
"Look you not so mournfullie
I've forty men in my companie
I have come to set you free."

"Oh, no, Oh, no," poor Archer he cried,
"Oh, no, oh, no, that never can be,
I’ve forty weight of good Spanish iron
Between me ankle and my knees."
But Dickie broke lock, and Dickie broke key
And Dickie broke everything he could see.
He took the poor Archer under his arm
He carried him out so manfullie.

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so merrilie!
They rode till they came to that broad riverside,
And there they alighted so manfullie.

" Dickie, Bold Dickie," poor Archer he cried
"Give me love to me wife and me children three,
My horse he grows lame, he cannot swim,
Here I am afraid that I must die."

They changed their horses and so swam they,
Who but they so swiminglie!
They swam till they came to the other side,
And there they alighted so shiveringlie.

" Dickie, Bold Dickie," poor Archer he cried
"Look you yonder there and see,
I see the High Sheriff he is a-coming
A hundred men in his companie."

" Dickie, Bold Dickie," High Sheriff says he,
"You are the worst rascal ever I’ve seen;
Go bring me back the iron you stole
And I will set the prisoner free."

"Oh, no, oh, no," Bold Dickie says he,
"Oh, no, oh no, that never could be;
The iron will do to shoe our horses
The blacksmith rides in our companie."

"Dickie, Bold Dickie," High Sheriff says he,
"You are the worst scoundrel ever I’ve seen."
"Thank you for nothing," Bold Dickie replied,
"And you are a fool for following me."
Track Name: Dreadful Ghost
From the singing of Tony Barrand

This Jonah Ballad comes from Canada, collected by Helen Creighton. A jonah is someone who is blamed for any misfortune that might befall a ship in the course of a voyage. Usually this person is sacrificed so that the voyage may proceed. Tony says that the first time Jean Ritchie heard him sing the Dreadful Ghost” she remarked that it must have been written by a woman.

It's of a sailor of whom I write,
Unto the seas he took great delight,
Two maidens fair he did beguile,
And those two maidens he had with child,

Oh, one of them, for public shame,
Unto some handsome grove she came,
And there, at length, to end all strife,
She cut it there, the thread of life.

She hung herself down from a tree,
Where two men a-hunting did her see,
They got a knife and they cut her down,
And on her bosom a note was found,

And this was writ in letters large:
"Don't bury me, I do you charge,
But leave me on the ground here to lie,
So that maids may see me as they pass by.

"Let them take warning by my fate,
And end this folly before it's too late."
And while on land she plagued him so,
Unto the seas at he was forced to go.

One morning on the topmast high,
A little boat he chanced to spy,
A little boat with a large crew of men,
And a female ghost who stood up then.

Down decks, down decks this young man goes,
And he greets the captain in his morning clothes,
He says, "Captain, Captain, stand my defense,
For I see a spirit a-coming hence."

So up on decks this captain goes,
And there he spies the dreadful ghost,
She says, "Captain, Captain, come tell me true,
Does such a man sail among your crew?"

"It was in St. Taliens this young man died,
And it’s in St. Taliens his body lies."
She says, "Captain, Captain, don't tell me so,
For he's sailing down in your ship below.

"And if you don't bring him up to me,
A mighty storm that you shall see,
It will cause both you and your gallant men to weep,
It will leave you slumbering in the deep."

Down decks, down decks this captain goes,
And he brings this young man up to his foes,
And when she fixed her grim eye on him,
It caused a trembling in every limb.

"Oh, don't you remember when I was a maid,
You caused my poor trembling heart to bleed;
Now I'm a spirit I’ve come for thou,
You baulked me once but I've got you now."

Down in her boat she forced him,
Down in her boat he was forced for to go,
And as he did, we all did admire,
For the boat went down in a flame of fire

And as it sunk, she rose again,
And aye she sang this mournful strain:
"You sailors all who are left behind,
Never prove false to young womankind."
Track Name: Blackwaterside
One evening fair, I took the air
Down by Blackwaterside
Was gazing all around me
The Irish lad I spied

All through the first part of the night
We lay in sport and play
‘Til this young man arose and gathered his clothes
Saying, "Fare thee well today"

That's not the promise that you made to me
When first you lay on my breast
You could make me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west

Go home, go home to your father's garden
You go home and weep your fill
And think upon your own misfortune
That you've brought with your wanton will

There's not a girl in this whole town
As easily led as I
Sure the fishes will fly and the seas will run dry
Then it’s married you and I

One evening fair I took the air
Track Name: The Long Grey Line
You were born to decent city folk
In a hoose wi’ a country name
And you walked the streets your faither walked
Ta grow up just the same
And ye worked in school and ye kept the rule

And ye cried the tinker doon
‘Cause he’d spend his time on the Long Grey Line
Wouldna be tied to toon
Spend his time on the Long Grey Line
Wouldna be tied to toon

So ye worked hard in a college room
Career was aye in mind
But ye never got doon tae travelling roon
Ye said there’s always time
And ye never gave one moment’s thought
Tae what it means to be free
Or the tinker’s time on the long grey line
And the sights that a tinker sees
Or the tinker’s time on the long grey line
And the sights that a tinker sees

Then ye bought a wee hoose and ye settled doon
A wife and a brace o’ weans
And ye watched the things that ye gathered roon
Begin tae look like chains
Ye began tae doubt but ye stuck it out
Working nine tae five
While the tinker’s fine on the long grey line
Aye keepin’ his dreams alive
The tinker’s fine on the long grey line
Aye keepin’ his dreams alive

Now ye’re looking back on all ye’ve done
Seventy years of age
On summers come and winters gone


When the hoose became a cage
Though the comforts count for something now
Ye pretend ye dinnae care
That ye found nae time for the long grey line
With yer hairt cryin’ oot for mair
That ye found nae time for the long grey line
With yer hairt cryin’ oot for mair

Well, there’s mair to life than they teach in the school
Mair tae see and hear
And mair tae man than o’ patch o’ land
In the finnish o’ his years
But the saddest sight is the fading light
Of a man who’s chance is gone
So I’ll gie some time tae the long grey line
And I’ll ken when I’m bound for home
Gie some time tae the long grey line
And I’ll ken when I’m bound for home
Gie some time tae the long grey line
And I’ll ken when I’m bound for home
Track Name: Bay of Biscay-O
My Willie sailed on board a tender
And where he is I do not know
Seven long years I've been constantly waiting
Since he crossed the Bay of Biscay-O

One night as Mary lay a-sleeping
A knock came to her bedroom door
Saying “Arise arise my dearest Mary
For to earn one glance of your Willie-O”

Mary arose put on her clothing
And to her bedroom door did go
And there she saw her Willie standing
His two pale cheeks as white as snow

O Willie dear where are those blushes
Those blushes I knew long years ago
O Mary dear the cold waves lash them
I am the ghost of your Willie-O

But Mary dear the dawn is breaking
I fear it’s time for me to go
I must leave you cold and broken hearted
For to cross the Bay of Biscay-O

If I had gold and I had money
And all the silver in Mexico
I would grant it all to the King of Erin
For to bring me back my Willie-O
Track Name: Across The Water
Liza met a fisherman forty years ago
At his pier on the coastal island
She came by footbridge across the water
Came to get away from the rush for a couple of hours

They sat on a bench by the shore
Where he'd laid out his nets for mending
Talked about summer, wind and tides
Sound and beauty of the sea that is never ending

She went home alone to her room in the city
Thinking about the man with the ocean in his eyes
He lay awake listened to the night waves breaking
He hadn't heard them all before
There were soft ones that almost said her name

Days of wine and wildflowers
Evenings by a driftwood fire
Lying tight beneath the stars
Walking along the moonlit sand together

Winter was warm in the old wooden house
On a hill above the harbor
Dancing to songs on the radio
Watching the snowflakes fall into the water

Out at the edge of the world there's a powerful rhythm
Ancient song of life land sea and sky
He used to listen sometimes before he found her
Now it's playing for him all the time
She hears the melody and the heartbeat
Music that's been playing since the world was new
Even when the hardest winds are howling
They both hear the same tune
They just want to listen on and on

Liza met a fisherman forty years ago
At his pier on the coastal island
She came by footbridge across the water
Came to get away from the rush for a couple of hours
Track Name: Verdant Braes of Skreen
As I rode out one evening fair
By the verdant braes of Skreen
I put my back to the mossy tree
To view the sun in the west country
And the dew on the forest green

A lad I spied by Owen's side
And a maiden by his knee
And he was dark as the very brown wood
And she all whey and wan to see
All whey and wan was she

"Sit you down on the grass," said he.
"On the dewy grass so green
For the wee birds all have come and gone
Since I my love I have seen,” he said
“Since I my love I have seen"

"Oh I'll not sit on the grass," said she
"Nor a love I’ll be of thine
For I hear you love a Connaught maid
And your heart's no longer mine," she said
"And your heart's no longer mine."

"And I'll not heed what the old man says
For his days are well nigh done
And I'll not heed what the young man says
For he's fair to many the one," she said.
"Yes he's fair to many a one."

"But I will climb a high, high tree
And I'll rob a wild bird's nest
And I'll bring back what find there
To the arms that I love best," she said.
"To the arms that I love best."

As I rode out one evening fair
By the verdant braes of Skreen
I put my back to the mossy tree
To view the sun in the west country
And the dew on the forest green
Track Name: The Bold Princess Royal/The Olde favourite
On the fourteenth of February we sailed from the land
In the Bold Princess Royal bound for New Foundland
We had forty bright sailors for our ship’s company
And boldly from the east’ards to the west’ard bore we

We had not been sailing scarce days two or three
When a man from our top-mast a sail he did see
Come bearing down on us to see who we were
And from under her mizzen red colours she wore

“Great god” cried our captain “what shall we do now?
For there comes a bold pirate to rob us I know”
“Oh no” cried the chief mate “that cannot be so
We will shake out our reef, boys and away we will go”

It was the next morning, at the dawning of day
This lofty, large pirate shot under our lee
Whence came you cried the pirate, we answered him so
“We are out of fair London bound for Callao”

“Then back your main topsails and heave your ship to
For I have a letter I’ll send down to you
If I back my main topsails and heave my ship to
It will be for some pilot-not alongside of you”

He chased us to the east’ard and all that long day
He chased us to west’ard three nights and a day
He fired shots upon us but none did prevail
And the Bold Princess Royal she showed him her tail

“Oh now” cried our captain “that pirates undone!
Go down for your grog boys go down everyone!
Go down for your grog boys and be of good cheer!
For as long as we have got sea room, bonny boys never fear”
Track Name: Darlin' Corey
Wake up, wake up, Darlin' Corey.
What makes you sleep so sound?
Them revenue officers a'comin'
For to tear your still-house down.

Well the first time I saw Darlin' Corey
She had a wineglass in her hand
She’d been drinkin that cold hard liquor
With a low down sorry man

And the next time I saw Darlin’ Corey
She was standin’ on the banks of the sea
She had forty-fours strapped around her body
And a banjo on her knee

And the last time I saw Darlin’ Corey
She was standin' in the still-house door
With her shoes and stockin's in her hand
An' her feet all over the floor.

Go and dig me a hole in the meadow
A hole in the cold, cold ground
Go and dig me a hole in the meadow
Just to lay Darlin’ Corey down
Track Name: Johnny Be Fair
O Johnny be fair and Johnny be good
And he wants me for to wed
And I would have married Johnny
But me father up and said
I hate to tell you daughter,
But your mother never knew
That Johnny he’s a son of mine
And so is kin to you

O, Willie be fair and Willie be good
And he wants me for to wed
And I would have married Willie
But me father up and said
I hate to tell you daughter,
But your mother never knew
That Willie he’s a son of mine
And so is kin to you

Jimmy be fair and Jimmy be good
And he wants me for to wed
And I would have married Jimmy
But me father up and said
I hate to tell you daughter,
But your mother never knew
That Jimmy he’s a son of mine
And so is kin to you

So I went home to me mother
And I hung me head in shame
Of all the lads in the village,
I couldn’t change me name
My mother said “If your father knew,
It’s me he’d surely kill
For your father’s not your father,
So marry whom you will”