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Author Topic: Watson Family Lyrics  (Read 1032 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Watson Family Lyrics
« on: April 28, 2015, 11:19:26 AM »
Hi all,
I thought it might be good to have a thread for lyrics of songs recorded by the Watson Family.  The recordings Doc Watson did with his family, and those he did with Clarence Ashley, Fred Price and Clint Howard are my favorites of the many recordings he made.  From the very first Watson Family album on Folkways comes "The Lone Pilgrim", which Doc played with his father-in-law, Gaither Carlton, accompanying him on fiddle.  The words to this song were evidently composed by Elder John Ellis, and I have loved the song and this rendition of it ever since I first heard it, probably around 50 years ago.  Here is Doc and Gaither's recorded performance:



I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay
And pensively stood by his tomb
When in a low whisper I heard something say,
"How sweetly I sleep here, alone."

The tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar
And gathering storms may arise
But calm is my feeling, at rest is my soul
The tears are all wiped from my eyes

The cause of my Master compelled me from home
No kindred or relative nigh
I met the contagion and sank to the tomb
My soul flew to mansions on high

Go tell my companion and children most dear
To weep not for me, now I'm gone
The same hand that led me through scenes most severe
Has kindly assisted me on

All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2015, 07:45:13 PM »
Such a great album!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2015, 09:06:49 AM »
Hi all,
Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton played "Hick's Farewell" at a Friends of Old-Time Music concert in New York City, and it was recorded and released on a Folkways album.  Music from this concert series was later released in a more extensive set by Smithsonian Folkways.  I think Doc's singing and Gaither's playing on this song are kind of a miracle of focus and concentration, they are so present and in what they are doing.  Here is Doc and Gaither's performance of "Hick's Farewell":



Spoken, Doc: This next tune is an old Christian Harmony song.  This was written about a fellow that, uh,  went on some missionary work back when the country was being settled into Tennessee, and he took a fever of some sort, and he thought he was gonna die . . . and, and he wrote this song back to his wife in a sort of a letter.  It's called 'Hick's Farewell".

FIDDLE SOLO

The time is swiftly rolling on
When I must faint and die
My body to the dust return
And there, forgotten, lie

The persecutions rage around
When antichrists appear
Beneath the cold and silent ground
There's no disturbance there

My brother preachers, boldly speak
And stand on Zion's wall
Confirm the strong, revive the weak
And after sinners call

Through heat and cold I've toiled and went
And wandered in despair
To call poor sinners to repent
And seek the Savior dear

My little children, near my heart
And nature seems to bind
It grieves me sorely to depart
And leave you all behind

Oh Lord, a father to them be
And keep them from all harm
That they may love and worship thee
And dwell upon thy charm

My loving wife, my bosom friend
The object of my love
The time's been sweet I've spent with thee
My sweet, my harmless dove

Though I must now depart from you
Let this not grieve your heart
For you will shortly come to me
Where we shall never part

All best,
Johnm




« Last Edit: April 29, 2015, 02:07:47 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 09:08:00 AM »
Hi all,
The Watson Family recorded a lot of secular material in addition to the religious songs they recorded. One really nice hillbilly blues sort of song they did was "I'm Troubled", which had Doc on guitar (played out of D position in standard tuning) joined by his brother, Arnold, on harmony vocal and harmonica.  Lyrically, the song seems related to "On Top of Old Smoky".  Here is Doc and Arnold's version of the song:



HARMONICA SOLO

A meeting is a pleasure, and a parting is grief
But a false-hearted lover is worse than a thief

A thief can but rob you and take what you save
But a false-hearted lover take you to your grave

REFRAIN: I'm troubled, I'm troubled, I'm troubled in mind
If trouble don't kill me, Lord, I'll live a long time

HARMONICA SOLO

The grave will decay you and turn you to dust
Ain't a girl in a million that a poor boy can trust

They'll hug you, they'll kiss you, they'll tell you more lies
Than the cross-ties on the railroad, or the stars in the skies

REFRAIN: I'm troubled, I'm troubled, I'm troubled in mind
If trouble don't kill me, Lord, I'll live a long time

HARMONICA SOLO

I"m going to Georgia, I'm going to roam
I'm going to Georgia, gonna make it my home

Gonna build me a cabin on the mountain so high
Where the wild birds and the turtledoves can hear my sad cry

REFRAIN: I'm troubled, I'm troubled, I'm troubled in mind
If trouble don't kill me, Lord, I'll live a long time

All best,
Johnm


Offline Johnm

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2015, 04:51:03 PM »
Hi all,
Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton are paired again for "And Am I Born To Die?  I find the impulse behind this kind of religious song fascinating; there is so little comfort, but much resignation.  Here it is:



Doc, spoken:  My Dad was the, uh, lead singer at the church, and Mama helped in the gospel singing at the church, but she sang quite a few of the old ballads.  My first actual memories of music, when I think about it, I was sitting on Mama's lap when I was little, just a little fellow, maybe, two years old, hearing the singing in the church.  And it was a great sound, the singing was very pure then, no vibrato in the voices at all, well, you know, just good straight harmonies.  And some of those mountain people had voices like you wouldn't believe.

FIDDLE

And am I born to die,
To lay this body down?
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown?
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown?

Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be

A land of deepest shade
Unpierced by human thoughts
That weary region of the dead
Where all things are forgot
That weary region of the dead
Where all things are forgot

All best,
Johnm




Offline Johnm

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2015, 07:44:13 PM »
Hi all,
Doc on guitar, Gaither on fiddle, and Arnold Watson on banjo combine for "Honey Babe Blues", another great hillbilly blues number.  Doc also did this one as a solo fingerpicked piece, really terrific, but I don't know if he ever recorded it that way.  You can hear it at: 

SOLO

Lord, I ain't got no honey baby now
I ain't got no honey baby now
Oh ho me, oh ho Lordy my
Ain't got no honey baby now

It's good girl, you ain't no girl of mine
Good girl, you ain't no girl of mine
Oh me, and it's oh ho Lordy my
Good girl, you ain't no girl of mine

BANJO SOLO (Spoken: Now pick it, boy)

My good girl, well she done left this town
My good girl, she done left this town
Oh ho me, and it's oh ho Lordy my
. . . no honey baby now

SOLO

I'm leavin' on that early mornin' train
Leavin' on that early mornin' train
Oh me, and it's oh ho Lordy my
Leavin' on that early mornin' train

SOLO

All best,
Johnm

« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 07:45:17 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2015, 12:54:58 PM »
Hi all,
The Watson Family's recording of "The Lost Soul", from their first Folkways record features Doc playing guitar out of D minor in standard tuning, and being joined by his brother Arnold on vocals along with one of his female relatives, either Doc's wife, Rosa Lee, or one of his cousins, Dolly Greer or Sophronie Miller.  In a really odd choice, the fairly scholarly notes that accompanied the record did not list the personnel that performed the song.  The word "aye", meaning "forever" in this context, is pronounced so as to rhyme with "day".  I've compressed the transcription so as not to show repetitions of lyrics that result from response lines.  I think this is an amazing set of lyrics, and I think Arnold Watson's voice, in particular, is so well suited to this song.  Here is the trio's rendition of the song:



What an awful day when the Judgement comes
And the sinners hear their eternal doom
At the sad decree they'll depart for aye
Into endless woe and gloom

REFRAIN: I'm paying now the penalty
The unredeemed must ever pay
Though for help I cry, it is now in vain
For alas, I'm doomed for aye

If I could recall all the years now gone
For my Savior's cause, I would spend each one
But they never again can to me return
And the task is left undone

REFRAIN: I'm paying now the penalty
The unredeemed must ever pay
Though for help I cry, it is now in vain
For alas, I'm doomed for aye

Oh I realize, but alas, too late
What a dark mistake all my life has been
I refused His love with a various heart
And I must pay the price of sin

REFRAIN: I'm paying now the penalty
The unredeemed must ever pay
Though for help I cry, it is now in vain
For alas, I'm doomed for aye

All best,
Johnm



Offline Vermonter

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2015, 11:40:34 AM »
When the first Doc Watson/Clarence Ashley Folkways album came out, I bought it. One of the several recordings that changed my life,and I've still got the vinyl. Such deep and bone-chilling songs/tunes there. The record came without a jacket--one of those Folkways recordings a person could get somewhere around 46th street that had two holes in the label. Anybody remember those?

There's apparently a dvd of some of that Lomax-filmed concert at the Friends of Old Time Music concert, but not much of Doc. Everybody undoubtedly knows this already. Some cuts are on youtube.
 http://www.amazon.com/Ballads-Blues-Bluegrass-Roscoe-Holcomb/dp/B008SYI2J6

Offline Stuart

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2015, 12:33:56 PM »
The record came without a jacket--one of those Folkways recordings a person could get somewhere around 46th street that had two holes in the label. Anybody remember those?

Yeah, I do. I think they were odd lots--too many records / too few jackets--perhaps originally for promo purposes, or maybe blems. There were also LPs with holes punched in the jacket corners, or the corners cut off--returns, cut-outs, etc., that went for cheap. 

I remember seeing someone back in the late sixties who made the comment that his latest album "was soon to appear in drugstore and supermarket bargain bins everywhere." It might have been Patrick Sky, but I can't remember for sure.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2015, 01:35:33 PM »
Hi all,
The Watson Family's rendition of "When I Die" can be found on their first Folkways album.  The album inexplicably fails to list the singers on the song, but among them are certainly Doc and his brother Arnold, who is singing lead.  The woman may be RosaLee Watson or one of the cousins, like Sophronie Greer.  Doc accompanies the group out of G position in standard tuning.  I sure love this song and the family's rendition of it.  I've left out response lines in the lyrics transcription.  Here is the song:



Because I believe and have found salvation
When I die, I'll live again
That I may take part in the jubilation
When I die I'll live again

REFRAIN: When I die, I'll live again
Hallelujah, I'll live again
Because I'm forgiven my soul will find heaven
When I die, I'll live again

The fear of the grave is removed forever
When I die, I'll live again
My soul will rejoice by the crystal river
When I die, I'll live again

REFRAIN: When I die, I'll live again
Hallelujah, I'll live again
Because I'm forgiven my soul will find heaven
When I die, I'll live again

Because of the Lord, I have made confession
When I die, I'll live again
But now, on my soul, there is no transgression
When I die, I'll live again

REFRAIN: When I die, I'll live again
Hallelujah, I'll live again
Because I'm forgiven my soul will find heaven
When I die, I'll live again

All best,
Johnm

 

Offline banjochris

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Re: Watson Family Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2015, 04:17:52 PM »
I emailed Smithsonian Folkways and asked if they could send a PDF of the original LP liner notes; maybe the vocalists will be ID'd there.
Chris

 


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