3 “The House Carpenter” by Clarence Ashley


December 1, 2008 by gadaya


Well met, well met, said an old true love
Well met, well met, said he
I’m just returning from the salt, salt sea
And its all for the love of thee
Come in, come in, my old true love
And have a seat by me
It’s been three-fourths of a long, long year
Since together we have been

Well, I can’t come in or I can’t sit down
For I haven’t a moment’s time
They say you’re married to a house carpenter
And your heart can never be mine

Says, it’s I could have married a king’s daughter dear
I’m sure she’d have married me
I forsaken her crowns of gold
And it’s all for the love of thee

Will you forsaken your house carpenter
And go along with me
I will take you where the grass grows green
On the banks of the deep blue sea

Said, it’s she picked up her little babe
And kisses she gave it three
Says, stay right here, my darling little babe
And keep your papa company

Then it’s she jumped on the snow white steed
And him on the dapple gray
They rode till they come to the banks of the sea
Three hours before it came day

Says, it’s are you a-weeping for my silver and my gold
Says, it’s are you a-weeping for my store
Are you a-weeping for that house carpenter
Whose face you’ll never see anymore

Says, it’s I’m not a-weeping for your silver or your gold
Says, it’s I’m not a-weeping for your store
I am a-weeping for my darling little babe
Whose face I’ll never see anymore

Hadn’t been on the ship but about three weeks
I’m sure it was not four
Till they sprung a leak in the bottom of the ship
And they sinken for to rise no more

Clarence “Tom” Ashley was one of the few performers on the Anthology that was rediscovered by the Folk revival. Thirty years after his debut recordings activities of the 1920’s, solo or with various string bands (The Carolina Tar Heels, Byrd Moore and his Hot Shots), and his life on the road travelling with medecine shows, he gained a new audience of young people from the cities discovering his “old-time music”, a mixture of old modal banjo ballads and tunes from the appalachians mountains, comic songs from the medecine shows and Hillbilly Blues. When Ralph Rinzler met Ashley in a fiddler’s convention in the early 60’s, he was also introduced to Doc Watson, who was making a living at that time playing electric guitar with a country and western swing band. Doc would soon become one of the most loved performer of american folk music, continuing and expanding the tradition of people like Clarence Ashley.

-You can read about his life and his rediscovery by Ralph Rinzler on a website dedicated to his memory and see also lots of great pictures of him with his family and friends.

-I’ve made a compilation of 14 tracks, focusing exclusively on Ashley’s solo performances with his banjo and an extraordinary unaccompanied version of “Wayfaring Pilgrim”. There will be other occasions on this blog to present the music he made with other peoples as well.

1.Little Sadie

2.Coo Coo Bird

3.House Carpenter

4.Old John Hardy

5.Naomi Wise

6.Dark Holler

From the compilation issued by County Records “Greenback Dollar 1929-1933”tom-hettie

7.Whoa Mule

8.Shout Little Lulu

9.Wild Bill Jones

10.Cluck Old Hen

11.Little Hillside

From the Folkways lp “Clarence Ashley and Tex Isley”

12.Shady Grove

13.Walking Boss

14.Wayfaring Pilgrim

From “Original Folkways Recordings Of Doc Watson And Clarence Ashley, 1960-1962”



The House Carpenter Variations

Perhaps one of the most famous of the Child Ballads, originally titled “The Demon Lover” and also known as “James Harris”, it’s the tale of a woman who leaves his husband and child to follow her lover on his ship and then regrets before the ship sinks in the sea. In the original english version, the lover is the devil himself but it’s common that it loose its supernatural aspects in american versions.

-You can go here for the lyrics of Clarence Ashley’s version

-I made a selection of 17 versions among the many available for this song. i’ve choose to include the most famous ( Joan Baez, young Bob Dylan, Nathalie Merchant), the most traditionnals (A.L Lloyd, Texas Gladden, Dillard Chandler, the Walin Brothers) with contemporary versions that i like (Kelly Joe Phelps, The Handsome Family, Jolie Holland). There’s also a french-cajun variant called “J’ai marié un ouvrier” interpreted beautifully by guitarist and singer David Doucet.

1,The Demon Lover, A.L. Lloyd, from “English & Scottish Folk Ballads”

2.The House Carpenter, Mrs. Texas Gladden, from “Archive of Folk Culture – Anglo-American Ballads, Volume 1”house_carpenter

3.Little Farmer Boy, Dillard Chandler, from “Dark Holler: Old Love Songs And Ballads”

4.The House Carpenter, Annie Watson and Gaither Carlton, from “The Doc Watson Family”

5.The House Carpenter, Doc Watson, from “Live at Gerdes Folk City”

6.House Carpenter, Bob Dylan, from “The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991”

7.The House Carpenter, Joan Baez, from “In Concert”

8.House Carpenter, Doug and Jack Wallin, from “Family Songs and Stories from the North Carolina Mountains”

9.The House Carpenter, Pete Steele and his wife, from “Banjo Tunes And Songs”

10.House Carpenter, Jean Ritchie, from “Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City”

11.House Carpenter, Pentangle, from “Early Classics”

12.The House Carpenter, Nathalie Merchant, from “The House Carpenter’s Daughter”

13.The House Carpenter, Kelly Joe Phelps, from “Shine Eyed Mister Zen”

14.J’ Ai Marie Un Ouvrier, David Doucet, from “1957”

15.The House Carpenter, The Handsome Family, from “Milk & Scissors”

16.Daemon Lover Variations, Janet Smith & Steve Mann, from “Imaginational Anthem Vols. 1-3”

17.Demon Lover Improv, Jolie Holland, from “Catalpa”




9 thoughts on “3 “The House Carpenter” by Clarence Ashley

  1. Onkel Toby says:

    Fantastic stuff. Thanks so much!

  2. songbuilder says:

    Thank you from Holland for this great music

  3. dead79 says:

    Thanks much for all the music and writeups. Sorry to see that the link for Clarence Ashley’s World is not working.

  4. Kevin says:

    This blog is amazing.

    I got a copy of “The House Carpenter” by Clarence Ashley in a compilation of old country tracks and didn’t know anything about it.
    It first played in a “shuffle” of songs and I stopped and replayed it… and then again and again. It wrenched my guts more and more every time I listened to it. What an amazing, dark track.

  5. […] – Clarence Ashley’s “Coo Coo Bird” (for more about Clarence Ashley, including recordings, go to this previous post) […]

  6. […] are dozens of versions of this tune out there (the Old Weird America blog covers some of the variations), but I always associate it with that jumpy Appalachian guitar sound, […]

  7. Koos says:

    Why is this website called “Old Weird America”? The only thing weird is why people prefer to listen to rap crap or boy band pop instead of real music like Clarence Ashley and Franck Hutchison.

  8. Nicolas says:

    Hi ! Thanks for this incredible mine of informations and music ! I think the link to the file is broken. Would it be possible to get it an other way ? Thanks again !

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