Sunday, March 8, 2009

A week of folksongs (1) : The Coo-Coo Bird

You can't talk about the origins of pop music, of country music, of the blues, without mentioning folk songs from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I owe them (at least) a week.

So I'll try to post folk songs this week (starting from today), hopefully everyday, with a few historical comments.

Most of these songs come from the great compilation Folksongs : Old Time Country Music 1926-1944 from the French label Frémeaux et Associés, and of course from The Anthology Of American Folk Music compiled by Harry Smith.

First song is "The Coo-coo Bird", first recorded by old time banjo player Clarence Ashley in 1929. The song comes from England or Ireland (no one really knows). Ashley sings it his own way, making it sound very Appalachian with his unique 5-string banjo tuning.

You can read about the story of that song on Ashley's website. I forst intended to post the original version, but that one, with Doc Watson on the guitar, recorded in 1961, is indeed way better.

Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley - The Coo-Coo Bird (buy) (1961)


Paul said...

Great post. You might like to hear this live version from Townes Van Zandt: Cuckoo Song (Live)

Nicolas L said...

Thanks Paul, that live version is fine (with funny spoken comments)
I didn't know it