Pretty Polly

 

Geez, I don’t know. That might be too weird even for me. Here’s what it sounded like before I dubbed in the vocals:

 

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly come take a walk with me
Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly come take a walk with me
When we get married some pleasure to see

He led her over hills and valleys so deep
He led her over hills and valleys so deep
At last Pretty Polly, she began to weep

Oh Willie oh Willie I’m ‘fraid of your way
Willie oh Willie I’m ‘fraid of your way
All minding to ramble and lead me astray

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly you guessin’ about right
Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly you guessin’ about right
I dug on your grave two-thirds of last night

She threw her arms around him and began for to weep
She threw her arms around him and began for to weep
At last Pretty Polly, she fell asleep

He threw the dirt over her, and turned away to go
Threw the dirt over her, and turned away to go
Down to the river where the deep water flow

(Lyrics from the Dock Boggs version, recorded in 1927 in New York City.)

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

6 Comments


  1. I like the good strong bass notes from the mouth harp when Willie comes in and the frenzied plucking at the terrible end.

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  2. Oh yeah? Glad that worked for you. The frenzied plucking is actually a half-second echo effect.

    Reply

  3. I’m not an expert on the ancestry of songs, but this tune sounds a little Irish inspired. Do you know anymore more about the song itself?

    Also like the still shot of the sound waves. It took me a minute to realize what this was. I thought you tossed your camera in the air.

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  4. Well, the Wikipedia says it has roots in earlier songs from the British Isles. That’s pretty much a given with Appalachian murder ballads, though, I think. Less Irish than Scottish, probably.

    Yeah, the illustration was just a screenshot from the Windows Media Player. I didn’t know camera tossing was so popular! Looking at some of the pictures, it strikes me as something that could’ve started by someone making a virtue out of necessity: without a tripod, pictures taken without a flash at night are going to be blurry anyway, so why not play with the blur?

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  5. The earliest antecedent to ‘Pretty Polly’ is probably a 17th century broadside ballad from Hampshire called ‘The Gosport Tragedy, or The Perjured Carpenter’, which subsequently mutated into the better known & still sung murder ballad ‘The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter’. Like so many British songs, subsequently it became conserved – albeit in a somewhat different form – in the Appalachian tradition, for which many thanks are owed to those known & unknown singers who maintained it so richly through the 19th & into the 20th century.

    And thanks to Dave for rendering it here!

    Reply

  6. Thanks, Dick! You should edit that Wikipedia entry, I think.

    Reply

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