Bob Dylan: Pretty Saro

Editor’s Note: Coincidentally, Brendan had already prepared the following post about the folk song “Pretty Saro” before the news this week of the unearthed, previously unreleased (not even on bootleg) Bob Dylan version. Recorded in 1970 during the Self Portrait sessions, Dylan’s “Pretty Saro” will be featured on the new 35-track box set Another Self Portrait. The box set will be released on August 27th and features outtakes, demos and live versions of songs from Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning. You can watch the video for Dylan’s recording of the song below.

By: Brendan

“Pretty Saro” is an old ballad that was featured in the movie Songcatcher, and the novel Revival. Listen to or purchase Sam Amidon’s performance below and Elizabeth Laprelle‘s version at Amazon.

As with many 19th century songs, lyric’s vary – here’s one version:

I came to this country in eighteen-forty-nine,
I saw many true loves but never saw mine.
I viewed all around me and I am alone,
And me a poor soldier and far from my home.

It’s not the long journey I’m dreading to go,
Nor leaving the country for the deads that I owe.
There is nothing that grieves me nor troubles my mind
Like leaving pretty Saro my darling behind.

I wish I was a poet and could write a fine hand,
I’d write my love a letter that she might understand.
I’d send it by the island where them waters overflow
I’d think on pretty Saro wherever I go.

Farewell, my dear father, likewise mother too,
I’m going for to ramble this country all through.
And when I get tired I’ll sit down and cry
And think on Pretty Saro with tears in my

Elizabeth Laprelle: “A Voice You Just Have to Hear”

By: Brendan

Elizabeth LaPrelle may be my favorite discovery of the year. She sings old time ballads, and reminded me why I loved the Songcatcher movie and soundtrack so much. She re-ignited my interest in ballads, which led me to thousands of free songs available on Cultural Equity, thanks to the Alan Lomax archive (more about which later). She also co-hosts my new favorite podcast, The Floyd Radio Show. You can listen to an interview with Elizabeth on NPR and sample her music here.

Buy @ Amazon

Allison Crowe: Newfoundland Vinyl

Muruch‘s long-time musical mascot Allison Crowe just released her new album, Newfoundland Vinyl. The album was originally created during a theatrical production for which Allison was the Musical Director and intended to represent 200 years of music popular in Newfoundland, yet its true scope is so much broader. It plays like a lovely, vintage collection of traditional Irish and Canadian folk ballads, lively sea chanteys and drinking songs, parlour songs and country tunes with surprising retro, girl-pop harmonies woven throughout. The album is full of dazzling melody and such a unique charm. And Allison’s voice is so strong and spectacular, I’m afraid Foxygen has fierce competition here for my favorite album of the year.

It’s appropriate that Newfoundland Vinyl is Allison’s first vinyl LP, as a more classic album has rarely been recorded. The limited edition, 180-gram vinyl LP is currently only being stocked at select locations in Canada, but is available worldwide in digital format through all the usual online outlets. That is how I’m listening for this review, as I just couldn’t wait for the vinyl to arrive. What an exquisite, unusual collection. What a voice, what a voice, what a voice!

Allison released Newfoundland Vinyl on her own independent label, Rubenesque Records. I’m starting to think Allison Crowe’s DIY folk style is Canada’s answer to Ani Difranco, or perhaps more accurately Anaïs Mitchell since the theater-to-album story of Newfoundland Vinyl is very similar to that of Hadestown. But I digress.

Allison also arranged, produced, engineered and performed the entire album herself — including all of the intricately layered harmonies in which her singular, extraordinary voice mimics a backing choir of singers. I was truly shocked to learn that bit of information, as it sounds as if she has several different singers accompanying her.

The opener “Black Velvet Band” and “The Men Who Die For a Living” are among my favorite tracks.

“The Black Velvet Band” is a traditional Irish ballad about a man’s chance encounter with a girl, which leads to his arrest and transport as a prisoner to Australia. The Dubliners may have recorded one of the more famous renditions of the song, but Allison’s is the most stunning version I’ve heard and just may become the definitive version (as her cover of “Hallelujah” has) over time.

“The Men Who Die For a Living” is a haunting ode to miners and their families that is universally powerful — whether you live in the mining territories of Newfoundland, Appalachia or elsewhere.

“Easy,” which plumbs the depths of Allison’s voice, has a more mellow, classic pop-folk sound and was a 1979 country hit for Canadian singer Eddie Eastman, so it’s a perfect fit for the album’s vinyl theme.

Also of note is the fun, funny, rollicking drinking song “Skipper Billy’s Wake.” It’s one of the more uptempo and humorous songs on the album.

The lilting finale “Sweet Forget Me Not” is another splendid showcase of the album’s pretty, multi-layered harmonies.

This is one of those gorgeous albums that you love more with every single listen and I never thought Allison could make an album that I would love more than 2007’s Live at Wood Hall, but indeed she has.

Newfoundland Vinyl is my new favorite Allison Crowe album, possibly my favorite album of the year and just may be on its way to becoming one of my favorite albums of all time. It has the timeless beauty of a classic folk album.

Buy @ Amazon

Buy @ Amazon.co.uk

Buy @ CDBaby

Allison Crowe Official Site

Muruch’s Allison Crowe Posts

Don’t forget to enter our Allison Crowe giveaway! You could win a copy of her new album, Newfoundland Vinyl, on vinyl LP and mp3.