A Childhood Favorite and Beyond: “Lavender’s Blue”

Lavender Flower Clip Art

Lavender Flower Clip Art

I grew up hearing “Lavender’s Blue” into adulthood because my aunt sang or hummed it all the time. Even now, she remembers the title or the melody, depending on the day. I thought of it as only a pop song, because Dinah Shore and other artists recorded it.

The song came back to me month or so ago, when I heard it in connection with a TV movie I was looking forward to watching. (The film was actually pretty good.) Afterward, I decided to research the song. Turns out it’s an English folk song dating back to the seventeenth century. It’s mostly considered a lullaby today. A few years ago, a film version of Cinderella used “Lavender’s Blue” as a theme.

A YouTube search for a favorite version (in addition to my aunt’s) lead me to the English folksinger and fiddler Jackie Oates. I’d like to hear more from her. A new mom, her latest recording is a collection of lullabies, but I think the song below is on a different album. Enjoy!

 

 

The Butterfly, by The Bothy Band

Awhile ago, I researched the song, “The Maid of Coolmore” for a separate essay and came upon this instrumental by The Bothy Band–“The Butterfly.”  I heard the tune before, but it’s been a long time. Anyway, I think it’s pretty, so here it is:

 

 

Monarch butterflies by franzi

 

Wonderful Butterfly-Girl by j4p4n

Blue Butterfly by gustavorezende

 

Retro Floral Butterfly by GDJ

Andy M. Stewart–A Tribute

Damn! Damn! Damn! Yesterday, I was listening to Andy M. Stewart’s version of ‘The Loch Tay Boat Song” on YouTube and then later cranked it up for “The Queen of Argyll.” I hadn’t played any Silly Wizard for a long time, and I missed the music. I started reading the YouTube comments. One person wrote: “RIP Andy.” I wanted to cry. I did not know until I read this obit from TheScotsman that he passed away on December 27, 2015 after numerous health problems. He was only 63.

I discovered Silly Wizard’s recordings just a few years after they disbanded. It all started at a Schooner Fare concert during their Signs of Home tour. That CD has a gorgeous  cover of “Golden,Golden.” Before they performed it, Steve Romanoff asked, “Has anyone ever heard of Andy M. Stewart, the Scottish folk singer?” I hadn’t, but after the song I decided to find out. That led to owning all of Silly Wizard’s recordings, his own By the Hush. and Johnny Cunningham’s Fair Warning. I still have them.  Stewart’s version of “Golden, Golden” is best; after all, he wrote it.

It wasn’t just his interviews, his humor, or the beauty of his singing voice. His concert with Manus Lunny was the first concert I attended by myself–ever. It was November 1990, and I heard they would be appearing at Ireland’s Four Provinces, a pub in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (This location closed several years ago; now there’s one near where I live.) Anyway, they were doing two shows–at 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. I wanted to go to the early show.

I was 26, so I knew I would likely be okay because I tried my best to be watchful and wise. However, as a motorized wheelchair user and a woman, so many people feared (and still fear) for my safety at night. I told my aunt of my plans, and she was against it. We had a prolonged disagreement for about three days. But I couldn’t let go. She didn’t want to go with me, and no one else was available to ask. No way could I manufacture a boyfriend out of thin air to go with me. I thought about hiring a bodyguard, and then wondered exactly how to do that. I knew it was up to me. The next day at work, I made the arrangements. That evening at dinner, I told my aunt: “I’m going to the show.” She didn’t like it, but relented.  “For God’s sake, be careful!” she said as she hugged me on concert day.

The workday was typical. After I left the office I rode the Metro to Cleveland Park. It was raining, but I had my red rain cape.The line was long getting in, but several people assisted me with directions and answered my questions. I went in, put my purse, cape and the novel I was reading on a nearby chair and looked around. It was crowded, but felt very homey. A server handed me a menu. I ordered an Irish coffee–for the one and only time–with dinner. I chatted about folk music and Celtic instruments with the people around me.

Then the show started. It was great seeing Andy in person!  He did many of the familiar songs, including “Dublin Lady” and Silly Wizard songs, but much of the program was from the new recording, At It Again. I bought a copy, and I still have it, too. He was so funny!  My only regret is not attempting to approach him to say hello and “great job!” Once the show ended, I gathered my stuff, went to the Metro to ride to my bus stop to get the bus home.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop talking about how great it was. My aunt enjoyed my running commentary, and said she was glad I had a good time. That led to many other concerts, plays, night classes and events by myself. But I liked it better going with my aunt and other people. As a friend says, “Concerts are better shared.” A few years later, my aunt and I saw Andy M. Stewart again–this time with Gerry O’Beirne–as part of Wolf Trap’s Irish Festival.

I also miss his bandmate Johnny Cunningham, whom I had seen at The Barns of Wolf Trap once, with Christian LeMaitre and the fiddler from The Chieftains.. Johnny appeared with his brother, Phil, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which would have been around 2001. Johnny died in 2003.

Here’s a recording of “Golden, Golden”:

 

Here’s Silly Wizard’s 1988 live performance of “The Banks of the Bann/Willie Archer.” The other day while doing errands, tunes from Live Wizardry were in my head as I went up and down the sidewalk.

My own concert days are limited now for various reasons. But I still would like to go to something special one day again. I would love to go to a concert with my aunt again, but it’s not something she finds enjoyable now. But I keep hoping…

And I also think of the Righteous Brothers’ song about rock-and-roll heaven. Much sadness and loss is happening in the wider world these days. Music may not heal in some situations. But it is comforting to think that musicians who are no longer here of every stripe have a hell of a band.

Peter Mayer’s “Japanese Bowls”

When I first heard this song on a 2011 episode of “A Prairie Home Companion” and the blogged about it, I had no idea that people would love the song so and respond to the post.. I’m so happy that people like it.

I’ve had some comments from people who have had trouble downloading Jearlyn Steele’s performance. It’s still available on the PHC website. Just click on Segment 3 of the audio icon. I believe it’s also on one of Steele’s CDs available in the Pretty Good Goods Catalog.

I also tried additional YouTube searches. Here’s performance of it by Peter Mayer himself, with background on what inspired the song. Enjoy! Also check out some of his other songs.

Here’s a video with lyrics: