Hard Times


Jon again gives credit to Daniel at the FSC saying, “I Learnt from Daniel Jacks on FSC. He didn’t sing the last verse (Tis a sigh that is murmered, etc) and I’ve never warmed to it.” My instant reaction was that this sounded American and to confirm that here’s a Wiki page that tells you just about all you’ll need to know about it. It looks like there have been some intriguing versions of this down the years, but I must say I rather like this, last verse and all.



26 Responses to “Hard Times”

  1. muzza says:

    I can see the “Sally Army” using this to “inspire” poor folk…not for me though.

  2. Joe Offer says:

    This was an 1859 composition by Stephen Collins Foster. I sang it several times when I visited the UK a few years ago, and I was surprised at how many people in the UK were familiar with this American song. I have known many Stephen Foster songs since childhood, but I didn’t learn this one until the 1990s.

    There’s a Mudcat thread on the song here:

    -Joe Offer-

  3. Shelley says:

    I love this song – a great one for joining in, but nice to hear the bare bones of it here. The Young ‘Un’s do a particularly good rendition.

  4. SRD says:

    I like this song as a song, despite the meaning not being to my taste, so would include the last verse anyway. Good though this is I still love to hear Norma Waterson sing it.

  5. Phil says:

    Don’t understand the negative reactions to the lyrics – as far as I can see all the song does is ask the hard times to come again no more, which seems pretty reasonable to me.

    In response to Joe, I know this song crossed the Atlantic in the 70s if not before – I’ve got a vivid memory of hearing an unaccompanied version of it some time in the mid-70s, possibly by the Albion Band, possibly on John Peel. (I can be less precise if you want.)

  6. Peter Walsh says:

    Jon continues to come up with excellent songs! Amongst those who have recorded this song, there is another ‘John’:

    “It’s a sigh that has wafted accross the troubled waves, it’s a wail that is heard upon the shore, it’s a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave…”

    Thus begins the final verse of Johnny Cash’s version (from the Unearthed CD; no connection to his ‘Hard Times Comin’ song on the John R. Cash album).

  7. Jan says:

    I often sing this when I want a song everyone will know and join in with, bit I have to say I do find the final verse just that bit too sickly and leave it out.

  8. fat prophet says:

    I am tempted to sing this at the Crystal Folk Club on Friday – sang If you want to see the general last week and it was very well received.

  9. Nick Passmore says:

    Think that Albion Band version was later than the’70s, Phil. Here’s what I found when I googled it, having not found it listed as a Peel session in “In Session Tonight”:

    Ashley Hutchings, Simon Care, Phil Beer, Julie Matthews, Trevor Foster, and –
    Ashley Hutchings, Simon Care, Phil Beer, Keith Hitchcliffe

    Ball, Anchor And Chain, Yellow Dress, Horeshoe Hornpipe/Chasing The Jack, The Party’s Ove, Adam And Eve, Nameless Kind Of Hell, Fossie Shufffle,Go North,Chapel Keithjack/House In The Country, Up The Crooked Spire, Set Their Mouths To Twisting, Hanging Tree, Fireman’s Song

    Although touring extensively these versions of the band never recorded in the studio. Julie Matthews had joined the band adding female lead vocals and her songwriting talents and the group was gradually moving towards an acoustic line up particularly when Keith Hitchcliffe (briefly) joined. This is a part live, part recorded for radio session (I think) set based on much on the Albion Band 89/90 sets with other material from the new members. This recording marked the end of the Phil Beer/Simon Care electric line-up and the next three albums were largely acoustic. Saw this line-up a lot, they even played at a friends 40th birthday party, used a do a terrific version of the Stephen Foster song – Hard Times Come Again No More- please release a version on one of your live albums!! I grabbed this cover image from another site- I’m sure mine is green – is it a collectors item!?

    (The latter is someone else’s comment, not mine, incidentally….)

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Beautifully sung, but I suspect the sorry sentiments are what put some people off. My remembrance of the Sally Bash bands playing on street corners in my area are fond ones. Of course, you never see them anymore, at least not by me. Perhaps the words are a bit too near the bone in the present credit crunch and people don’t like to think about them as per ‘the poor are always with us’ which is, I believe, Matthew 26.11, so Sally Bash quite appropriate.

    Re: t’Albion Band, Talking Elephant have released a couple of retro-live albums of theirs. I have just been given ‘Natural and Wild’ and it is fabulous!

    “A fantastic live album from the Albion Band Circa 1987 and featuring one of the best Albion line ups ever…Featuring Cathy Lesurf, Phil Beer, Ashley Hutchings, Trevor Foster, Eric Hine, John Shepherd & Special Guest Chris Baines & The Wing and a Prayer Brass Section.”

    Vintage II is described thus:

    “Here we have a fantastic never before released collection of rarities from the Albion Band ranging from 1972 to 1980. This release compliments the previous Vintage – On The Road CD released back in 2008. This CD includes such Folk luminairies as Martin Carty, John Kirkpatrick, John Tams, Graham Taylor, Simon Nicol, Shirley Collins, Ashley Hutchings and Julie Covington. Veritably a Who’s Who of Folk Legends.”

    Go on! Add them to Bellowhead in yer Christmas stockings!

  11. viv says:

    Learnt this lovely song in 2000 in three part harmony at a workshop with Chris While, Julie Matthews and Helen Watson in Pirton. Love it!

  12. Diana says:

    The chorus conjures up an image of slaves singing this as they worked on the cotton plantations but the rest of the song does not. Perhaps I am just being fanciful!

  13. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    I do not think you are too far out there Diana, just add in the horrors of the Civil War and it’s affect on families and you begin to appreciate the extreme sadness of this beautiful song.
    I first heard it sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Ralph McTell sings an exquisite version on his 2002 C.D., National Treasure, which he dedicates to the old country blues, but, be warned, have a box of tissues handy !

  14. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Sorry, I will loose marks fo that spelling of effect !

  15. Diana says:

    Yes John your spelling has cetainly been “affected”!

  16. Diana says:

    Just like mine evidently, I have missed an “r” out haven’t I?

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ the pair of ye: You did make me laff with ur spellin’, but I weren’t gonna be the one to point it out! Hahahahaha!

    @ Diana: “Just like mine evidently, I have missed an “r” out haven’t I?” So did John with is ‘fo(r)’ Lol.

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    ‘with is’?!!!! Should read ‘with his’ – HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  19. Diana says:

    Are we the three stooges or what?
    @Jane: Stephen enjoyed the Bellowhead concert very much and to quote his text to me “Ahab not bad. Americana more than folk”.

  20. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: Yes, Americana in a nutshell methinks. I mentioned them on FB and Jon Palmer of the acoustic band said ahab were his favourite in-car listen of the moment, no doubt for that very reason, as he’s so like them. His daughter, who was in the car with him said, ‘Hey Dad, they’re copying you.’ And as he said, ‘Bless.’ Jon said their latest 5-track CD has fanatastic harmonies though.

  21. Diana says:

    Another good song and still have the imagination as previously.

  22. Jan says:

    Since first time round, this has joined Miscellany’s repertoire, and always gets everyone joining in. Must try and get the gang to record it for YouTube next practice!

  23. Jane (Maryland, US) says:

    Wonderful performance. I’m surprised no one, including Wikipedia, mentioned Jennifer Warnes’ version, with beautiful four-part harmonies on the chorus, on her Shot Through the Heart album.

  24. Jane (Maryland) says:

    If anyone would like a double dose of this lovely old song, here is the version I mentioned a year ago.

  25. OldMuzza(NWSurrreyUK) says:

    Well Jane (Maryland)…I skipped through the comments and noted my ‘Lack of interest……how glad I am that I followed your Jennifer Warnes link and heard the song at its very best with wonderful harmonies and poignant photographs.
    People sometimes forget that White folk suffer extreme hardship as well.

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/afolksongaday.com/httpd.www/wp-content/themes/comment-central/comments.php on line 121