Jon reminisces, “I got this from an Appalachian source recording on vinyl in Cecil Sharp House. I spent a couple of quite magical days in the listening room aged 21 or so, in the days before internet music.” Aaaah! The joys of the black stuff. There are several variations on this theme and at least one alternate title of Fair And Tender Maidens, where the message seems to be the unfaithfulness of men in general, from the perspective of an obviously wronged young lady. A cautionary tale then. It’s famously been adapted and recorded by Dolly Parton amongst others and this Mudat links to her version, simply called Little Sparrow.  I picked up elsewhere an American collection of songs called Folk- Songs Of The South, which has a couple of variants pointing to this being from the USA. The text, however, at the top of this link also draws similarities to O Waly Waly (Child ballad #92), which would link us back to Water Is Wide on 13th of September. In all cases it seems to be infidelity at the root, which manifests itself in various ways in folk song and is a common enough theme down the ages, but I’m quite taken with the bird eavesdropping on the perfidious lover. Parton’s version also brings out the fragility of the bird, whilst Jon’s victim is more straightforwardly succumbing to melancholic depond.

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26 Responses to “Sparrow”

  1. SRD says:

    Another of the songs I know from the Peter, Paul & Mary album ‘Moving’. They use a different tune though. It can be found on youtube:

  2. Shelley says:

    A new one to me – wonderful! Another one for the “to learn” list I think.

  3. Hilary says:

    How moving this song is.

  4. Katie says:

    Thanks for this one. I know the Fair and Tender ladies version, which I first heard performed by the Rankins with a lovely soaring vocal, but of course Jon’s rendition is just as good!

  5. Reinhard says:

    Peter Bellamy sang Fair and Tender Ladies on his EFDSS LP, Second Wind.
    And Maggie Holland sang a wonderful version on the English Country Blues Band’s LP Home and Deranged.

  6. N J Gardner says:

    Kate reckons she heard this sung by A L Lloyd – I would question her but that would inevitably mean I will be proved wrong…. will be there at Tewkesbury may see you, may not.

  7. Mark says:

    There’s a version of this on Devon Sproule’s excellent album Keep Your Silver Shined. Pretty different to this, but lovely too.

  8. Keith Slater says:

    Check out a raw version in the film “Winter’s Bone” – well worth seeing and not just for this song.

  9. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Being a fella (old fella)…..these blooming folk songs are beginning to give me a complex. All my gender seem to do is to treat these poor, unfortunate, gals in such despicable ways…….
    Mind you…Lady Mary in Downton Abbey is restoring the status quo a tad……….but who could resist her………..she can trample all over my beating heart if she so wishes.

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Go on then! Just for you, Muzza!

    I’m watching Spooks on the other side. Harry’s more my cup of tea!

  11. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Blimey Janey……thanks for the Downton link have made an old man happy…..
    I know my place……I think I’ll let Matthew have her!
    Incidently the site is full of other “Bodice -ripping” stuff…so that’s what you get up to ‘oop’ north………back to AFSAD..sparrows today..Ravens tomorrow

  12. Reinhard says:

    Muzza, if you need a lady for restoring the status quo, let Lady Maisery Weave and Spin you.

  13. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Thank you for the link Reinhard…….they certainly get their own back with the Farmer’s song……………..
    as for the “diddlin'”….Julie Fowlis has been getting away with not -learning- the -words for ages…but she calls it Gaelic……how would we know!

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thanks, Reinhard. I have one tardily-as-yet-unlistened-to Kerfuffle album with Hannah James from Lady Maisery because I am a supporter of very upcoming duo Jamie Roberts (also ex-Kerfuffle) and Katriona Gilmore, who I’ve mentioned on here before. So I welcome the pointer and the information on ‘diddling.’ I could maybe manage that, as I am still like the aunt of Shirley Collins who knew about 2 verses of many songs!

    @ Muzza: Bodice-ripping is a bit over-rated if you live at Wuthering Heights on account of the cold, but we Yorkshire wimmin are made of stern stuff! Contrary to popular misconception however, there is little liberty in the liberty bodice. I see Lady Mary is still being laced up though. I would have thought she would have literally loosened her stays as part of the Women’s Emancipation Movement! But we can see how mixed up she is about all that in the series!

  15. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    JANE….thank you for the link………….”the Victorian dress reform Movement, which aimed to free women from body-compressing corsetry and excessive layers of tedious, unhealthy underclothing”……
    I joined the movement around the age 14 as I fully endorsed their admirable aims!

  16. Jonathan says:

    There are also other american folk songs, like Dink’s Song (most famously done by Bob Dyaln) and the Weepingh Willow.

  17. Jonathan says:

    which are similar, I meant to say.

  18. Diana says:

    Another sad song about wishful thinking.

  19. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Popular tune……….I Link it with Burl Ives ‘I’m just a poor wayfarin’ traveller’

  20. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Poor old Diana……….all doom and gloom songs………….hey..the one for 28th should cheer you up…good old sing-a-long.

  21. Diana says:

    You are right there Muzza – a jolly Aussie song – can join in as know all the words.

  22. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    I see Janey is back to her TV career playing ‘Angela’ in ‘The Job Lot’ ITV2 Wed 10pm.
    I hope I get away with this comment as she doesn’t follow AFSAD these days…
    (or does she?)

  23. Linda says:

    Hope Jon won’t mind me posting this comment but went to see Sam Sweeney’s Made in the Great War at Bury Met last night…..I think Sam and all involved with the project should be extremely proud of the show…..Absolutely Brilliant……

  24. Jane Ramsden says:

    Young (and somewhat juvenile!) Muzza: How very dare ye?!!!

  25. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Wey Hey….good to know that you are still out there….even if I have to be controversial to lure you out…………I knew you couldn’t resist…how we miss the old HA,HA,HA,HA HE,HE HE

  26. Jane Ramsden says:

    Controversial? Oh, that’ll be yer in-yer-end-o again… ha,ha,ha,ha,he,he,he

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