Everly songs

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Barbara Allen was mentioned in a post on May 10 as inspiration to Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. I didn’t consider this to be accurate, but didn’t want to rely exclusively on intuition, so I did a bit of research on the song [beyond clicking on the suggestions YouTube offers on the right hand column and Wikipedia]. [I had already studied Bridge quite thoroughly in the formal academic paper from the Berklee College of Music https://www.berklee.edu/bt/251/lesson.html]

I would like to share here some of the findings that go beyond the Bridge Over Troubled Water controversy.

Charles Seeger was an American musicologist, composer, teacher, father of the American folk singer Pete Seeger and author of Versions and Variants of the Tunes of "Barbara Allen”. As Sung in Traditional Singing Styles in the United States and Recorded by Field Collectors who Have Deposited Their Discs and Tapes in the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress.
One may read the book here:
and in PDF format here:
Pages 280 – 281, 288 and 298 are of particular interest.

One doesn’t have to read music in order to benefit from this work. Just following the contour of the many musical transcriptions gives a pretty good idea of the variations on the song’s tune.

Besides the Library of Congress link I posted this month, one can access the recordings here:

I imagine that Pete Seeger, having access, not only to his father’s material, but to his direct advise, chose to sing the song in the most American possible way.

Some interesting, though quite technical, ideas can be found here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/849832

Child Ballad #84:


An old version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYpwMGCd5pw

Some 1930s versions from Kentucky that could very probably be the sort of influences the Everlys heard.
A cappella female: https://lomaxky.omeka.net/items/show/41
Two females with guitar accompaniment singing in unison: http://lomaxky.omeka.net/items/show/810

Goldmund’s version would be the first step, harmonically speaking, after the simple a cappella two voice unison singing. He plays an [almost] invariant constant drone over the whole song.

Ye Vagabonds’ version would be the next step after the above. The Vagabond to our left is mimicking a hurdy-gurdy player and [apparently] singing the melody, while his brother is sounding the drones with his fiddle and voice.

Reference to the hurdy-gurdy:

Dolly Parton & Altan’s duet is a good example of the transition from drone to two voice harmony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=087p-Wpkyog


The King’s Singers version is accompanied by an orchestra and is arranged in a quite sophisticated manner, including four part harmony and polyphony:

A modern jazz block harmony in swing rhythm example:


Ike’s “arrangement” consists of a rather “compressed” melody [the vertical intervals are shortened] and expanded in time [the phrases are rather long] sung by Don, with the usual parallel thirds harmony by Phil and a pretty simple guitar accompaniment in 3/4.

Both Simon & Garfunkel and Billie Joe & Norah Jones’s versions are obviously Everly vocal copies with only slight changes in the accompaniment, while Art Garfunkel’s is more in an early style with modern instrumentation.


A version with American native [?] touches:

An interesting scholarly exercise that includes a supposedly Mexican zapateado ;D: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIVarkjVSGQ

I already posted Ye Vagabonds’ link some time ago and Chris posted the video, but this link has the added value of the rose & briar allegory image: https://yevagabonds.bandcamp.com/track/barbara-ell...
I love their nonchalant humor, sensitivity and talent.

An interesting debate:
Please scroll down to the debate.

As I mentioned in my first post this month: "far and away the most widely collected song in the English language — equally popular in England, Scotland and Ireland, and with hundreds of versions collected over the years in North America."[ Roud, Steve & Julia Bishop (2012). The New Penguin Book of Folk Songs. Penguin. pp. 406–7. ISBN 978-0-141-19461-5.

Last update on August 31, 7:07 pm by Ricardo Delgado R..
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