Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Goin' to the West: Traditional

For the next few weeks, I'll tell you a little bit about the rest of the songs that I chose for my new album, American Songs vol. 2, and I might as well begin at the beginning...

(If you haven't already, please check out posts and free downloads of Oh Susanna, Unclouded Day, and Oh Sister.)

Story behind the song: Carter Little taught me "Goin' to the West" 10 years ago when we were in college, and it seemed like a perfect place to begin our first album together.

The song was composed sometime around 1880 when people were migrating in mass numbers across the country to new land in places like Texas and California. When I was a kid, I used to try to imagine what it would be like, traveling for weeks and months across the plains in a covered wagon. The exhilaration and excitement of the open road and new beginnings. And also the overwhelming exhaustion and fear.

I can only imagine that the story in "Goin' to the West" must have replayed over and over again in the 1800's. Originally sung from the male perspective, it is the story of a man whose wife has refused to go West. She is bound and determined to stay put, safe and sound "in the land you love." And he, in the traditional American way, has that deep longing, that intense need to keep going, keep searching for a better land, a better life.

If you listen to a lot of traditional music, you might know versions by the legendary Bill Staines, Peggy Seeger, and/or Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin.

Lyrics (Click on the title to listen to a sample):
Goin' to the West (traditional)

In this fair land I'll stay no more
Here labor is in vain
I'll leave the mountains of my youth
And seek the fertile plains
I'm going to the West

You say you will not go with me
You turn your eyes away
You say you will not follow me
No matter what I say
I'm going to the West
I'm going to the West

Three years have gone since we first met
Since I became your bride
Now I must journey far away
Without you by my side
I'm going to the West

I'll leave you here in this land you love
Met, seen, so bright and fair
Where fragrant flowers are bloomin'
And music fills the air
I'm going to the West

Thanks to The Mudcat Cafe, an amazing online resource for traditional folk music.

No comments: