Ballad of America Volume 2: America Singing

by Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band

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about

This is the second CD in Matthew Sabatella’s Ballad of America series, which tells the story of the United States through traditional folk songs. The songs in this collection are among the most commonly sung in the history of the United States. They present uniquely American musical blends, with roots in European and African traditions and branches that have sprouted countless regional and personal variants throughout the country. Collectively, these songs of work, fun, and love transcend social and ethnic boundaries, painting a broad picture of America during the 18th and 19th centuries when music making was, for many, an integral part of everyday life.

Ballad of America Volume 1: Over a Wide and Fruitful Land was released in 2005 to universal acclaim. The album focuses on the Westward Expansion of the United States, following the paths of the pioneers, sailors, lumberjacks, immigrants, ‘49ers, farmers, slaves, soldiers, cowboys, and railroaders who moved the country across the continent and into the 20th century.

On the strength of live performances that supported the release of Volume 1, New Times Broward/Palm Beach named Sabatella Best Acoustic Performer, writing that his “best asset is easily his voice, urgent but unforced, sweetly melancholy in telling personal stories and powerfully evocative in rendering antiquated songs intimate again.” On stage and on the new album he plays guitar, clawhammer banjo, and mountain dulcimer. He is backed by the Rambling String Band, which features Lynn Griffith on banjo, mandolin, and vocals; Chris DeAngelis on bass fiddle and vocals; Jack Stamates on fiddle; and Sean Edelson on mandolin and guitar.

As the group performed at festivals, museums, libraries, coffeehouses, and nightclubs throughout 2005, their repertoire expanded to include folk songs that were well known compared to the relatively obscure selections that made up the bulk of Ballad of America Volume 1. When the musicians entered Liquid Ghost Recording Studios (Boca Raton, FL) in February 2006, their goal was to capture fresh, live performances of songs they felt should be known by every American. They wanted to keep the songs alive in the hearts, minds, and voices of everyone who has heard and sung them, introduce them to anyone who hasn’t heard and sung them, and help preserve them for future generations to hear and sing.

Ballad of America Volume 2: America Singing brings those goals beautifully to fruition.

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released November 9, 2006

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about

Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band Florida

With vocals, guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and bass fiddle, Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band bring to life music that is woven into the fabric of the United States: traditional folk songs, fiddle tunes, old-time country, bluegrass, Appalachian music, ragtime, blues, spirituals, railroad and cowboy songs, work songs, sea shanties, reels, breakdowns, ballads, and more. ... more

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Track Name: Wabash Cannonball
chorus:

Listen to the jingle, the rumble, and the roar
As she glides along the woodlands, through hills and by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine, hear those lonesome hoboes call
While traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball

verses:

From the great Atlantic Ocean to the wild Pacific shore
From sunny California to ice-bound Labrador
She's mighty tall and handsome, she's known quite well by all
She's the 'boes accommodation on the Wabash Cannonball

This train, she runs to Memphis, Mattoon, and Mexico
She rolls through East St. Louis and she never does it slow
As she flies through Colorado, she gives an awful squawl
They tell her by the whistle, the Wabash Cannonball

Our eastern states are dandy, so the people always say
From New York to St. Louis and Chicago by the way
From the hills of Minnesota where the rippling waters fall
No changes can be taken on the Wabash Cannonball

Now here's to Boston Blackey, may his name forever stand
And always be remembered by the 'boes throughout the land
His earthly days are over and the curtains round him fall
We'll carry him home to victory on the Wabash Cannonball
Track Name: Go Tell Aunt Rhody
chorus:

Go tell Aunt Rhody
Go tell Aunt Rhody
Go tell Aunt Rhody
The old gray goose is dead

verses:

The one she's been saving (x 3)
To make her feather bed

She died in the mill pond (x 3)
Standing on her head

She left nine little goslins (x 3)
To scratch for their own bread

The goslings are crying (x 3)
Because their mother's dead

The gander is weeping (x 3)
Because his wife is dead
Track Name: Skip to My Lou
chorus:

Lou, Lou, skip to my Lou
Lou, Lou, skip to my Lou
Lou, Lou, skip to my Lou
Skip to my Lou, my darling

verses:

Lost my partner, what'll I do?
Lost my partner, what'll I do?
Lost my partner, what'll I do?
Skip to my Lou, my darling

I'll get another one prettier than you (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Little red wagon, painted blue (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Fly in the sugar-bowl, shoo fly shoo (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Pigs in the parlor, what’ll I do? (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Rats in the bread tray, how they chew (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Catch that red bird, skip to my Lou (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Can’t get a red bird, a blue bird’ll do (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling

Can’t get a blue bird, a black bird’ll do (x 3)
Skip to my Lou, my darling
Track Name: Buffalo Gal
chorus:

Buffalo gal won't you come out tonight
Come out tonight, come out tonight
Buffalo gal won't you come out tonight
And dance by the light of the moon

verses:

As I was walking down the street
Down the street, down the street
A pretty little gal I chanced to meet
Oh, she was fair to view

She was the prettiest gal I’ve seen in my life
In my life, in my life
And I wished to the Lord she’d be my wife
Then we would part no more

Oh, yes, dear boy, I'm coming out tonight
Coming out tonight, coming out tonight
Oh, yes, dear boy, I’m coming out tonight
And we’ll dance by the light of the moon

I danced with that gal with a hole in her stocking
And her heel kept a-rockin' and her toe kept a-knockin'
I danced with that gal with a hole in her stocking
And we danced by the light of the moon
Track Name: Blue Tail Fly
chorus:

Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Master’s gone away

verses:

When I was young I used to wait
On master, handing him his plate
I brought his bottle when he got dry
And brushed away the blue tail fly

He used to ride each afternoon
I'd follow with a hickory broom
The pony kicked his legs up high
When bitten by the blue tail fly

The pony run, he jump, he pitch
He threw my master in the ditch
My master died and who'll deny
The blame was on the blue tail fly

We layed him under a simmon tree
His epitaph is there to see
"Beneath this stone I'm forced to lie
A victim of the blue tail fly"

Old master's dead and gone to rest
They say all things is for the best
I won't forget until I die
My master and the blue tail fly

The skeeter bites right through your clothes
A hornet strikes you on the nose
The bees may get you passing by
But, oh, much worse, the blue tail fly
Track Name: Oh Susanna!
chorus:

Oh, Susanna
Oh, don't you cry for me
For I'm goin' to Louisiana
With my banjo on my knee

verses:

I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee
I'm goin' to Louisiana
My true love for to see

It rained all night the day I left
The weather it was dry
The sun so hot I froze to death
Susanna, don't you cry

I had a dream the other night
When everything was still
I thought I saw Susanna
A-coming down the hill

A red, red rose was in her hand
The tear was in her eye
I said, "I come from Dixie land
Susanna, don't you cry"

I soon will be in New Orleans
And then I'll look around
And when I find Susanna
I'll fall upon the ground

But if I do not find her
I will surely die
And when I'm dead and buried
Susanna, don't you cry
Track Name: On Top of Old Smokey
On top of Old Smokey
All covered with snow
I lost my true lover
By a-courtin' too slow

Well a-courting's a pleasure
And parting is grief
But a false-hearted lover
Is worse than a thief

A thief he will rob you
And take all you have
But a false-hearted lover
Will send you to your grave

And the grave will decay you
And turn you to dust
Not one girl in a hundred
A poor boy can trust

They'll hug you and kiss you
And tell you more lies
Than the crossties on the railroad
Or the stars in the skies

They'll tell you they love you
Just to give your heart ease
But the minute your back's turned
They'll court whom they please

I'll go up on Smokey
On the mountain so high
Where the wild birds and the turtle doves
Can hear my sad cry

As sure as the dewdrops
Fall on the green corn
Last night she was with me
Tonight she is gone
Track Name: Bile Them Cabbage Down
chorus:

Bile them cabbage down, down
Bake that hoecake brown
The only song that I can sing is Bile Them Cabbage Down

verses:

Raccoon has a bushy tail
Possum’s tail is bare
Rabbit’s got no tail at all
But a little bunch of hair

Raccoon and the possum
Racin’ cross the prairie
Raccoon ax the possum
Did she want to marry?

Possum is a cunnin’ thing
He travels in the dark
And never thinks to curl his tail
‘Till he hears old Rover bark

Possum up a ‘simmon tree
Raccoon on the ground
Raccoon say to the possum
‘Won’t you shake them ‘simmons down?’

Jaybird died with the whoopin’ cough
Sparrow died with the colic
Along come the frog with a fiddle on his back
Inquirin’ his way to the frolic
Track Name: Down in the Valley
Down in the valley
Valley so low
Hang your head over
Hear the wind blow

Hear the wind blow, love
Hear the wind blow
Hang your head over
Hear the wind blow

If you don't love me
Love whom you please
But throw your arms round me
Give my heart ease

Give my heart ease, dear
Give my heart ease
Throw your arms round me
Give my heart ease

Down in the valley
Walking between
Telling our story
Here's what it sings

Here's what it sings, dear
Here's what it sings
Telling our story
Here's what it sings

Roses of sunshine
Violets of dew
Angels in heaven
Know I love you

Know I love you, dear
Know I love you
Angels in heaven know I love you

Build me a castle
Forty feet high
So I can see her
As she goes by

As she goes by, dear
As she goes by
So I can see her
As she goes by
Bird in a cage, love
Bird in a cage
Dying for freedom
Ever a slave

Ever a slave, dear
Ever a slave
Dying for freedom
Ever a slave

Write me a letter
Sent it by mail
And back it in care of
The Birmingham jail

Birmingham jail, love
Birmingham jail
And back it in care of
The Birmingham jail
Track Name: Pick a Bale of Cotton
chorus:

Oh, Lawdy, pick a bale a cotton
Oh, Lawdy, pick a bale a day

verses:

You got a jump down, turn around
Pick a bale a cotton
Got a jump down, turn around
Pick a bale a day

Me an' my partner can
Pick a bale a cotton
Me an' my partner can
Pick a bale a day

Had a little woman could
Pick a bale a cotton
Had a little woman could
Pick a bale a day

Went to Corsicana to
Pick a bale a cotton
Went to Corsicana to
Pick a bale a day

I b'lieve to my soul I can
Pick a bale a cotton
I b'lieve to my soul I can
Pick a bale a day
Track Name: I've Been Working on the Railroad
I've been working on the railroad
All the live long day
I've been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away
Can't you hear the whistle blowing
Rise up so early in the morn
Can't you hear the Captain shouting
"Dinah blow your horn"

Dinah won't you blow
Dinah won't you blow
Dinah won't you blow your horn
Dinah won't you blow
Dinah won't you blow
Dinah won't you blow your horn

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Someone's in the kitchen I know
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Strummin' on the old banjo

Fee, fie, fiddle-ee-i-o
Fee-fie fiddle-ee-i-o
Fee, fie fiddle-ee-i-o
Strummin' on the old banjo
Track Name: Red River Valley
chorus:

Come and sit by my side, if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true

verses:

From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathways a while

I've been thinking a long time, my darling
Of the sweet words you never would say
Now, alas, must my fond hopes all vanish?
For they say you are going away

Do you think of the valley you're leaving?
O how lonely and how dreary it will be
Do you think of the kind hearts you're breaking?
And the pain you are causing to me

They will bury me where you have wandered
Near the hills where the daffodils grow
When you're gone from the Red River Valley
For I can't live without you I know
Track Name: Crawdad Song
chorus:

You get a line, I'll get a pole, honey
You get a line, I'll get a pole, babe
You get a line, I'll get a pole
We'll go down to the crawdad hole
Honey, baby, mine

verses:

Hurry up, babe, you slept too late, honey
Hurry up, babe, you slept too late, babe
Hurry up, baby, you slept too late
The crawdad man went past your gate
Honey, baby, mine

Yonder come a man with a sack on his back, honey
Yonder come a man with a sack on his back, babe
Yonder come a man with a sack on his back
He’s totin’ all the crawdads he can pack
Honey, baby, mine

Whatcha gonna do when the lake runs dry, honey
Whatcha gonna do when the lake runs dry, babe
Whatcha gonna do when the lake runs dry
Sit on the bank, watch the crawdads die
Honey, baby, mine

What did the hen duck say to the drake, honey
What did the hen duck say to the drake, babe
What did the hen duck say to the drake
Ain't no crawdads in that lake
Honey, baby, mine
Track Name: Old Blue
chorus:

Yah, old Blue
You good dog, you

verses:

I had a dog and his name was Blue
And I betcha five dollars he's a good dog, too
Come on, Blue
You good dog, you

I shouldered my gun and I tooted my horn
And I went to get a possum in the new ground corn
Come on, Blue
You can come too

Old Blue bayed, and I went to see
Blue had a possum in a ‘simmon tree
Come on, Blue
You good dog, you

That possum come out on a swinging limb
Blue barked at the possum, possum growled at him
Come on, Blue
You good dog, you

Blue grinned at me and I winked at him
I shook out the possum out, Blue took him in
Come on, Blue
You good dog, you

Baked that possum nice and brown
And I layed them sweet potatoes round and round
Come on, Blue
You can have some, too

Well, Old Blue died and he died so hard
He shook the ground in my backyard
Go on, Blue
You good dog, you

Dug his grave with a silver spade
Lowered him down with a golden chain
Go on, Blue
You good dog, you

When I get to heaven first thing I'll do
Take my horn and blow for Blue
Go on, Blue
I'm comin' too

Come on Blue, come on Blue
There's a possum in Heaven for me and you
Go on, Blue
You good dog, you
Track Name: Billy Barlow
"Let's go a-huntin’,” says Risky Rob
"Let's go a-huntin’,” says Robin to Bob
"Let's go a-huntin’,” says Dan'l to Joe
"Let's go a-huntin’,” says Billy Barlow

"What shall we hunt?" says Risky Rob
"What shall we hunt?" says Robin to Bob
"What shall we hunt?" says Dan'l to Joe
"Hunt for a rat," says Billy Barlow

"How shall we get him?" says Risky Rob
"How shall we get him?" says Robin to Bob
"How shall we get him?" says Dan'l to Joe
"Borrow a gun,” says Billy Barlow

“How shall we haul him?” says Risky Rob
“How shall we haul him?” says Robin to Bob
“How shall we haul him?” says Dan’l to Joe
“Borrow a wagon,” says Billy Barlow

"How shall we divide him?" says Risky Rob
"How shall we divide him?" says Robin to Bob
"How shall we divide him?" says Dan'l to Joe
"Hack him to pieces," says Billy Barlow

"I'll take shoulder,” says Risky Rob
"I'll take side,” says Robin to Bob
"I'll take back,” says Dan'l to Joe
"Tail bone mine,” says Billy Barlow

"How shall we cook him?" says Risky Rob
"How shall we cook him?" says Robin to Bob
"How shall we cook him?" says Dan'l to Joe
"Each as you like it,” says Billy Barlow

"I'll broil shoulder" says Risky Rob
"I'll fry side,” says Robin to Bob
"I'll bake back,” says Dan'l to Joe
"Tail bone raw!" says Billy Barlow
Track Name: Home on the Range
chorus:

Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

verses:

Oh, give me a home
Where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

Where the air is so pure
The zephyrs so free
The breezes so balmy and light
That I would not exchange
My home on the range
For all the cities so bright

Oh, give me a land
Where the bright diamond sand
Flows leisurely down the stream
Where the graceful white swan
Goes gliding along
Like a maid in a heavenly dream

Oh, I love these wild flowers
In this dear land of ours
The curlew I love to hear scream
I love the white rocks
And the antelope flocks
That graze on the mountain tops green

The red man was pressed
From this part of the West
He's likely no more to return
To the banks of Red River
Where seldom if ever
Their flickering campfires burn

How often at night
When the heavens are bright
With the light of the glittering stars
Have I stood here amazed
And asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours