The Long Grey Line

by Debra Cowan

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1.
05:42
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
2.
(free) 03:07
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
3.
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?
4.
04:02
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."
5.
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."
6.
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
7.
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
8.
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
9.
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
10.
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
11.
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”
12.
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
13.
(free) 01:09
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”

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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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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