The Mackerel of the Sea
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Audio CD, February 26, 2014
Knight William (5:02)
Mackerel of the Sea (3:58)
Maid On the Shore (6:15)
Silly Shepherd Swain (3:26)
Oxford Girl (3:32)
Rocky Banks of the Buffalo (2:47)
The Unquiet Grave (3:49)
Well Below the Valley-O (2:55)
Two Magicians (5:46)
The Outlandish Knight (4:10)
Total running time, 41:40
Dean Rathje: vocals, guitar, banjo, bass.
“Mackerel of the Sea” consists of my interpretations of ten Child Ballads. You might say, Child ballads with a beat.
“Knight William” is also known as “Knight William and the Shepherd’s Daughter.” It concerns an amorous encounter between a knight and a shepherd girl, and her subsequent complaint to the King. It is Child Ballad 110.
“Mackerel of the Sea” is Child Ballad 36, also known as “The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea.” It tells of a man’s two children, enchanted by their evil stepmother as a worm and a fish.
“Maid on the Shore” may be a variant on Child Ballad 43, “Broomfield Hill.” It’s about a young maiden, captured to a sailing ship, who enchants her captor and rows herself to safety.
“Silly Shepherd Swain,” about a young man who discovers a woman bathing naked in a stream and returns her to the safety of her father’s house, is Child Ballad #112, also known as the “Baffled Knight.”
“Oxford Girl” is a murder ballad, later known in the US as “Knoxville Girl.” In 17th Century England, it was known as “The Wittam Miller.”
“Rocky Banks of the Buffalo” originates with Child Ballad 14, “The Bonnie Banks o Fordie.”
"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78.
“The Well Below the Valley,” also known as “The Maid and the Palmer,” is Child ballad 21. A maid denies a passing stranger a drink of water from the well, so he looks into her soul and tells her just what she is, what she’s done, and what she’ll suffer in return.
#44 of the Child Ballad collection is “Two Magicians,” a song that first appeared in print in 1828. A blacksmith vows to deflower a maiden, and the two of them go through a transformation chase.
“The Outlandish Knight” is also known as “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight,” Child ballad #4. A young woman is wooed away from home by a false suitor who clearly intends to murder her, but she turns the tables, gets the upper hand, and sends him to a watery grave.
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