Barbry Ellen - traditional, arr. Morgan
In the seventies, a bunch of us (Figgy Duff et al) travelled around Newfoundland, seeking singers and songs from the oral tradition. One particularly rich area was around Bonne Bay and a little further up the coast, where, in St. Paul's, we met Freeman and Becky Bennett.
This is Freeman's beautiful version of Barbara Allen, the English folk song. It has a particular magic which I have always loved. The guitar accompaniment is a little odd, kind of in a different key almost, but suits the mystery of the song.
We found a complement with Pete Zorn's soulful sax, reminiscent of darkened city streets, and the darker soul of the story.
O death is pictured in your face, and sorrow has gone from you
I can't keep you from your grave, so fare thee well dear Johnny
As she was going through the town, she heard the church bell tolling
The more it tolled it seemed to sound, hard- hearted Barbry Ellen
She looked to the east, she looked to the west, she saw his corpse a-coming
Saying "put him down my little boys, that I may gaze all on him"
The more she looked, the more she laughed, 'til further she got from him
All her friends cried out "for shame - hard-hearted Barbry Ellen"
Johnny died that night by the day, and Ellen on the morrow
Johnny he did die for love, but Ellen died for sorrow
Johnny was buried in the low churchyard, Ellen in the higher
Out of Johnny's grave grew a rose, and out of hers a briar
It grew 'til it grew to a true love's knot, grew 'til it couldn't grow higher
Grew 'til it grew to a true love's knot, and the rose grew 'round the briar