There’s a really nice description in the Anne Briggs Collection CD booklet that suggests, “It’s one of those pieces whose verses seem to have floated in from half-a- dozen other songs.” There are certainly many songs with similar texts as you’ll see in this Mudcat thread, where this song’s English or Irish origins are also open to debate. Anyway, I mention Anne Briggs as she is Jon’s source and she in turn credits a BBC archive recording of Irish traveler Mary Doran, which probably came to her via A.L.Lloyd. Oddly enough this muddy provenance is echoed in the rock world, as a track called Black Mountain Side appeared on the first Led Zeppelin album. It’s an acoustic interlude amongst the heavy rockin’ that almost led to a law suit. Anne seemingly had introduced Bert Jansch to the song and he duly arranged a guitar accompaniment in his own fluid finger style, which appeared on his 1966 Jack Orion album. Al Stewart, attended many a Jansch’s gig around this time and learned a version of the song, but mistook the guitar tuning for DADGAD, rather than Bert’s Drop D. He in turn claims to have taught Page, employed as producer of Stewart’s debut album, this version, which certainly chimes with the tuning that Jimmie used on Zep 1. For his part Jimmie Page claims inspiration directly from hearing Anne Briggs and any copyright infringement was further muddied by the ‘Trad. Arr.’ status anyway. I hope you don’t think I’m getting too far off-piste here, but having read lots of Mudcat debate, I found it amusing to bring this particular confusion up to date. And I nearly forgot, Jon offered this… “I once sung this for an Open University docu-drama wearing C18th costume and standing in the middle of a small river. Strange but true. Not on Youtube (fortunately).” Now that I’d like to see!
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