Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”

Richard et sa Stratocaster

Richard and his Stratocaster

Bob Dylan’s song, “Just Like a Woman”, was released as part of his “Blonde On Blonde”album in 1966. Dylan’s recording was not released as a single in the United Kingdom but the London pop band Manfred Mann recorded and released the song as a very successful European single in 1966, reaching number 1 in Sweden. Joe Cocker, Ricky Nelson, Rod Stewart and Richie Havens are among the many artists who have covered this song.

Roch

Roch

The song has been widely criticized for supposed sexism or misogyny in its lyrics but this was the 1960s. Anyone who lived through that decade will surely remember that nothing escaped the raised fists, painted banners and marching, shouting hoards of denim-clad individuals outraged by the Vietnam war, women’s rights, racial inequality and anything else that rubbed them the wrong way. At the time, I doubted the sincerity of the whole protest era although it was certainly fashionable and young people have always been slaves to fashion. I remember that in my first year at the University of Ottawa in 1968-69, young people took over the Administration building and disrupted all classes taking place in that building. The revised class schedules were communicated to students through typed messages stapled to telephone poles, a communication strategy that the Administration failed to mention to the students. Consequently, I missed half of my classes, unaware of their location, and I decided that the whole university experience was not for me. I quit before the end of my first year. To this day, I have no idea what so upset these protesting individuals. From then on, I have always chosen the path of least resistance.

Otis Redding en 1967

Otis Redding in 1967

My arrangement of “Just Like a Woman” is heavily based on Otis Redding’s series of soul ballads of the 1960’s, songs like “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”, “These Arms Of Mine”, and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Redding (1941-1967) had a unique style of singing which gained inspiration from the gospel music that preceded the new “soul” music. Otis Redding died at the age of 26 in a plane crash that occurred on December 10, 1967, near Madison, Wisconsin, during a multi-city tour with his band, the Bar Kays. Trumpet player Ben Cauley was the accident’s only survivor. Besides Redding, the other victims of the crash were their valet, Matthew Kelly, the pilot Richard Fraser, as well as guitarist Jimmy King, tenor saxophonist Phalon Jones, organist Ronnie Caldwell, and drummer Carl Cunningham.
(Image of Otis Redding – Public Domain)

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars, acoustic guitar, electric bass
Roch Tassé – drums

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Just Like a Woman

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The English ballad “The Death of Queen Jane”

Jane Seymour, Queen of England by Hans Holbein the Younger

Jane Seymour (c. 1508-1537), third wife of King Henry VIII, was Queen of England from their marriage in 1536 until her death the following year. Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, had failed to produce a male heir to the throne which led to her banishment from court after Henry’s request for an annulment of the marriage was refused by pope Clement VII. In retaliation, Henry VIII instituted the English Reformation where the Church of England broke away from the authority of the pope and the Catholic Church. Henry sanctioned the complete destruction of all shrines to saints. All dissident monks were also executed. In 1542, England’s remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown.

Henry VIII married six times and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, miscarried three sons and fell out of favour with the king. Henry began courting Jane Seymour and, in order to marry her, he had to find reasons to end his marriage to Anne. He had Anne investigated for high treason and she was eventually beheaded based on fabricated charges of adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. Henry was then betrothed to Jane the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution.

Richard and one of his Taylor guitars

Richard and one of his Taylor guitars

Queen Jane’s brief but significant reign led to the birth of a male heir, Edward VI, under very arduous circumstances. The English ballad “The Death of Queen Jane” is about the death of Jane Seymour following the birth of Prince Edward. Most versions of the song end with the contrast between the joy of the birth of the Prince and the grief of the death of the Queen. No direct evidence documents exactly how Jane Seymour gave birth but the popular view of a birth by cesarean section is unlikely, though ubiquitous in the versions of the song. Medical science at that time was not capable of such an operation. Cutting open a mother generally only happened when the mother died whilst labouring, in a desperate hope of saving the child. It is historically believed that Prince Edward was born naturally, and that his mother succumbed to an infection and died 12 days later.

Francis James Child, public domain

The song “The Death of Queen Jane” survives to this day in great part to the work of Francis James Child (1825 – 1896). Child was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. “The Death of Queen Jane” is Child Ballad 170. The earliest record of the song seems to be a publication called The Lamentation of Queen Jane, licensed in 1560.

In the Harvard library, Child accumulated one of the largest folklore collections in existence, studied manuscript rather than printed versions of old ballads, and investigated songs and stories in other languages that were related to the English and Scottish ballads. His final collection was published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads which contained 305 ballads. The melodies to most of the ballads were collected and published by Bertrand Harris Bronson (1902-1986), professor in the English department at the University of California, Berkeley, in and around the 1960s.

 

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, mandolin

 

To hear the piece, click on the title below.

The Death of Queen Jane
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The Ravens Play Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”

Richard

Richard

“Queen Jane Approximately” is a song featured on Bob Dylan’s 1965 album titled Highway 61 Revisited. Highway 61 extends from New Orleans, Louisiana to Wyoming, Minnesota, cutting across the entire country from north to south. The highway is often called the Blues Highway because of its long history in blues music, part of the route lying on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

In 1965, I had already started playing guitar, as had two of my best friends, Martin Cunningham and Pierre Lafleur. Another friend, Roch Tassé, played drums and still plays on this site. We formed an orchestra called the Ravens. All four of us were dressed in black – black turtlenecks, black pants, black stockings, black shoes. More than 50 years later, my childhood friends are still my friends. Friends for life.

Marty

Marty

Over the years, there has been much speculation about the identity of Queen Jane, with the popular options being Lady Jane Grey, who held the throne of England for 9 days and was beheaded for treason in 1553 while still a teenager; Jane Seymour, Queen of England and third wife of Henry VIII who died in childbirth in 1537; and Joan Baez, a popular 60s folksinger romantically linked to Dylan.

“Queen Jane Approximately” is one of many Dylan songs of the period which featured adverbs and other qualifiers in their titles. Some examples are “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, “Obviously 5 Believers”, “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine”, “Positively Fourth Street”and others. Dylan never revealed the reason for this particular preoccupation.

Roch

Roch

In 1965 and 1966, Dylan released three albums which were to change the face of contemporary music forever. “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde” formed the heart of Dylan’s very best work. Musically, he collaborated with the best studio musicians from Nashville as well as rock and blues dignitaries from The Band and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Lyrically, the words came from another world, one which was eventually recognized for its unique brilliance and would earn Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. “Queen Jane Approximately” is an integral part of this imposing output which rivals and indeed surpasses that of any artists in any discipline.

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitar, electric bass guitar
Martin Cunningham – acoustic guitar
Roch Tassé – drums

To hear the piece, click on the song title below.

Queen Jane Approximately

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Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me

La partition originale 1919

The original sheet music 1919

“ Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” was written in 1919 by Carey Morgan (1884-1960), Charles McCarron (1891-1919) and Arthur Swanstrom (1888-1940), who were Tin Pan Alley composers and lyricists. It was first recorded the same year by singer Irving Kaufman (1890-1976), a very popular early recording artist who sang with such jazz greats as Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931) and Eddie Lang (1902-1933). Tin Pan Alley refers to that area of New York City where music publishers, lyricists and songwriters operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The end of the Great War brought much jubilation to the American public and, in a few short years, the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age unceremoniously barged through the door. The transition was rapid and dizzying. Music in the immediate post-war era had still favoured the sentimental and often corny offerings of vaudeville with shades of ragtime but, by 1925 and the first electric recordings of popular music, that sentimentality had disappeared and been replaced by a very contemporary brand of revelry. Many songs of the early post-war era, like “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me”, featured a slow intro to the later more lively proceedings but these intros were quickly abandoned and were not to be heard in any subsequent recordings.

My Taylor 30th anniversary guitar

I first heard “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” in the 1960s as part of the amazing repertoire of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. It was a dynamic, short piece, enthusiastically delivered by the band. It was only through research into the piece that I eventually heard the intro that was part of its earliest incarnation. The intro is certainly dated and I can even understand why everyone decided to ignore it for the last 100 years. However, I surely don’t agree with the practice.

History, as it relates to any discipline, is the repository of all human knowledge. It is all we have. Consequently, it is in my view a very grave error to rewrite it or change its facts in any way. If a musical idiom falls out of favour in more modern times, is it not the height of arrogance to simply erase it? Are contemporary people superior to those who came before? So, not surprisingly, I have chosen to play “ Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” in its original form, complete with its intro, corny to some but completely legitimate.

Richard Séguin – voice, mandolin, acoustic guitar, electric bass, kazoo

To hear the song, click on the song title below.

Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me

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Bob Dylan’s “Gates of Eden”

Richard

Richard

The 1960s was a very different time where popular musicians didn’t dance. They didn’t have to dress up in outlandish clothes and they didn’t perform in gigantic arenas backed by light shows and multimedia presentations. They stood or sat, played their instruments and sang into a microphone. And almost all of them had something to say.

I remember when news of a singer named Bob Dylan reached Canada. I was 13 years old. The word everywhere was that he sang about socially important things that people of my generation valued : peace, civil rights and everyone’s belief that young people were really changing the world. Then, in 1965, when nobody really expected it, things really did change.

Alrick

Alrick

Previously, Dylan’s songs had been laid out in front of you – nothing was hidden, nothing was obscure. But a change started to cast its shadow on us with Dylan’s 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home”, which featured some very different and disturbing songs. The lyrics began to be more surreal and non-linear. When I heard “Gates of Eden”, featured on the album, it made me wonder where this very new direction in music was leading us. I was a smart 15-year-old but I didn’t understand the song’s juxtaposition of plain English words that flowed into a foreign landscape of four-legged forest clouds, lampposts with folded arms and iron claws, wailing babies, ships with tattooed sails, black Madonna bikers and gray flannel dwarfs, all of this on display outside the gates of Eden, where no sound ever escaped, a place where there were no kings, no sins, no trials. Coming on the heels of Dylan’s previous songs, something as obscure as “Gates of Eden” simply did not fit.

Nobody expected Dylan to release 34 songs, excluding 14 outtakes and singles like “Positively 4th Street”, on three separate albums (“Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde”, a double album), in a little more than a single year, This unequaled artistic output formed the heart of Dylan’s extraordinary impact on contemporary culture and created a path leading directly to his Nobel prize in Literature, awarded in 2016.

Roch

It should be noted that some of these songs were over 10 minutes long, which was controversial at that time. Songs over 3 minutes did not fit into any radio station’s commercial platform. To circumvent this, some disc jockeys created what became known as “underground radio”, where long and more controversial songs were played, often during the early morning hours. In Ottawa, the contribution of Brian Murphy, who developed a weekend overnight radio show called Free Form Radio on Ottawa’s CKBY-FM station, needs to be underlined and appreciated.

I’ve often wondered where Dylan’s exploding consciousness might have led him, had it not been for a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken vertebra and a concussion, on July 29, 1966. He was never the same afterwards and many say that the accident prevented him from pursuing his previously reckless and potentially destructive lifestyle. Certainly, Dylan’s later songs, many of them superb in their own right, never matched anything on those three mid-sixties albums. I intend to revisit this exquisite era in future posts.

My arrangement of “Gates of Eden” features our trio, with Roch Tassé on drums and Alrick Huebener on bass. We play “Gates of Eden” in honour of three of the most outstanding musicians of our time in Pat Metheny (guitar, b. 1954), Jaco Pastorius (bass, 1951-1987) and Peter Erskine (drums, b. 1954).

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic 12-string guitar
Alrick Huebener – electric bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Gates of Eden

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“Sitting on a Fence” by The Rolling Stones

Richard et sa mandoline Eastman

Richard and his Eastman mandolin

When The Rolling Stones came to North America in 1964, they brought with them American blues and R&B, with some stinging original compositions, everything as raw and electric as could be. As the decade progressed, many rock bands, both American and British, began to temper their electric repertoire with more acoustic songs, likely another Dylan influence.

“Sitting on a Fence” was recorded in late 1965, in LA, during the sessions for the album “Aftermath,” but did not make it onto the pressings of either the UK or US editions of that album. The song made it to North America on the catch-all album “Flowers” in the summer of 1967, the much publicized “Summer of Love” which introduced the “hippies” social phenomenon to the world. The song was a departure for The Stones, featuring a more bluegrass flavoured instrumentation.

I remember hearing the lyrics to the song and thinking that, as a child, I had been the direct opposite of Jagger’s persona singing the song. My older sister sometimes brought me a small trinket back from a date in Ottawa with her future husband, a small red, white and blue rubber ball or a stuffed animal. This was like heaven to me, the kids in our big family not used to being pampered. I was also raised Catholic so, contrary to the song lyrics, I was very easy to please and I definitely knew wrong from right.

By the time I was 18, things had changed. I had no idea what I would do with my life and could not see myself as an adult, living on my own, getting married, raising a family. Dreams that I had fostered had dissipated with the many setbacks in my life – the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as Shakespeare so brilliantly put it. I found myself sitting on a fence. I could not commit to anything, I was angry and disappointed and simply resigned myself to going wherever my life would take me. I made no decisions for the next decade. So, this song that was so unlike me as a child, ended up fitting me like a glove as a young adult.

I dedicate this song to all of the men, women and children in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, many of whom have been hard hit by our recent devastating storm. From what I have seen in my visits, I especially sympathize with the municipalities of Hammond and Bourget, where the devastation is very harsh indeed.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitars, mandolin, electric bass

Sitting on a Fence

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“Gotta Get Away” by The Rolling Stones

Richard

Richard

In my opinion, 1965 was the best year of the 20th century. I was 15 years old and Rockland high school had given me my first girlfriend and friends who are great friends to this day. I had started learning the guitar and formed my first rock group with three of these friends: Marty Cunningham, Pierre Lafleur and Roch Tassé. We called ourselves The Ravens, after Poe, and dressed in black pants, black socks and black turtleneck sweaters on stage. We played one dance at the high school and retired! To hear the current Ravens play The Rolling Stones hit “The Last Time” click here.

Marty

Marty

Roch played on my first albums in the 1970s and has played in several local bands, becoming a tremendous drummer and percussionist along the way. We live quite far apart but are still great friends and Roch is a regular contributor to this website. Although Pierre’s path has led him away from music, Marty, Pierre and I are friends for life and regularly meet for brunch.

Linda

Linda

We are now getting together, augmented by Linda Challes who lives with Roch at the Howlin’ Huskies Studio in Ste-Cécile-de-Masham, Qc, for yet another Rolling Stones’ song, “Gotta Get Away”, released in 1965, as was “The Last Time”, not to mention The Beatles “Nowhere Man’, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by … oh yes, The Rolling Stones, who were everywhere in 1965. It really was an exceptional year.

Roch

Roch

Starting in 1964, rock and pop bands from the United Kingdom became popular in North America and contributed to the rise of the “counter-culture” on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Beatles led this «British invasion» followed by groups such as the Rolling Stones, The Zombies, The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Who and Them (featuring Van Morrison). “Gotta Get Away” was released on the UK album “Out Of Our Heads”, the US/Canada album “December’s Children” and as the B-side of the single release of “As Tears Go By.” At that time, the albums released in the UK were different from the ones released elsewhere. Singles were released because popular individual songs were played on the radio and singles were much cheaper than albums, which contained songs most people didn’t know. Consequently, “Gotta Get Away” is one of the lesser known Stones songs.

“Gotta Get Away” is representative of The Rollings Stones’ lyrical depiction of discontent, disrespect and misogyny, which they have fostered from their very beginnings. After a series of blues and R&B covers which left no doubt as to their attitude, they released “It’s All Over Now” in 1964, followed by such likewise acerbic songs as “Time Is On My Side”, “Heart Of Stone”, “The Last Time”, “Play With Fire”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” , “Get Off Of My Cloud”, “Gotta Get Away”, “Paint It Black”, “Stupid Girl”, “No Expectations” and “Under My Thumb”, to mention only a few. This was a very powerful message to some of the more impressionable kids I knew and some really took it seriously. I remember one Ottawa kid who was tall and skinny, wore a long black coat that went to his ankles, black jeans and black t-shirt, black Army boots and even his long hair was dyed black. He loved the Rolling Stones and his life was fueled by the profound negativity of their lyrics. He was the very personification of “Paint It Black.”

As the current active members of The Ravens, Roch, Marty and I intend to present more songs from our youth on this site.

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars, electric bass
Marty Cunningham – acoustic guitar, percussion (hand claps)
Linda Challes – percussion (hand claps)
Roch Tassé – drums, percussion (hand claps)

Gotta Get Away

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Chris Stapleton’s “Burden”

Richard

Richard

Chris Stapleton (b. 1978) is an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer from Kentucky whose work has been recognized with five Grammy Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards and ten Country Music Awards. As a vocalist, his strong tenor voice is equally suited to R&B and other genres. His song “Burden” forms part of the soundtrack to the film of the same name.

The film “Burden” deals with Mike Burden (b. 1970), an orphan raised by the Ku Klux Klan in the small-town of Laurens, South Carolina. Like all others caught in this racist culture, he grew up violent and hateful of all but his own. It is only through the compassion of a black minister named Reverend David Kennedy that Burden’s life changed dramatically. When they first met in Laurens, Burden was grand dragon of the local KKK and Kennedy was an African-American pastor who had grown up in segregated housing. At the time, Kennedy was trying to fight the existence of the small town’s Redneck Shop — a store, which was Burden’s idea, that sold racist memorabilia and hosted an unofficial KKK museum.

After meeting and falling in love with his first wife, Judy Harbeson, Burden started to question his involvement with the KKK. The Klan retaliated against Burden for rebelling against them. Burden and Harbeson were locked out of the apartment they’d been renting from a Klan member and with nowhere to go, Burden, Harbeson and her two children ended up at the Laurens police department begging for help. Incredibly, Kennedy offered to give them lodging, saying he saw a father and husband trying to protect his family against the Klan.

The 2018 film “Burden” was written and directed by Andrew Heckler and relates the events of Mike Burden’s life. Destined to be a low-budget effort, the film received a tremendous boost when both Tom Wilkinson and Forrest Whittaker, two world-class actors, decided to participate in the project.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, mandolin

Burden

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Sam Amidon’s “Blue Mountains”

Sam Amidon (b. 1981) is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Vermont born of folk musician parents. His surname is of French extraction and, oddly enough, means “starch.” Amidon tours extensively all over the world using New York City as a home base.

His song “Blue Mountains” was included in Amidon’s 2014 album entitled “Lilly-O” which was recorded in Reykjavik by Icelandic recording engineer Valgeir Sigurðsson. The album also features, among other talented musicians, master guitarist Bill Frisell.

The Blue Mountains are usually referred to as the Blue Ridge Mountains, a large Appalachian mountain range. The Alleghenies region is the rugged western-central portion of Appalachia.

Much of Amidon’s music consists of reworkings of traditional folk songs, bringing out their haunting dreamlike qualities. His parents performed and recorded in the early shape-note and Sacred Harp traditions common to sacred choral music and rural American church music in general. Their influence on their son’s music is significant.

In Appalachia, a particular type of ballad which singles out tragedies came to the front during the 19th century. Train wrecks, mining disasters and murders became the subject of many popular songs – dozens were written about the sinking of the Titanic alone. Murder being a purely human venture, those particular songs became very popular and were known as “murder ballads.” Murder ballads originated in Scandinavia, England, and lowland Scotland in the premodern era. These ballads came to America with European settlers, many of which populated Appalachia, a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from New York State to Alabama and Georgia.

It can be argued that the song “Blue Mountains” is a murder ballad although murder is never overtly mentioned in the song. At best, it is about philandering – a married man lures a young girl into the wilderness, “past dark cabin windows where eyes never see.” Evil lurks palpably.

The treatment of death in early Appalachian songs is something most of us have never experienced. In the 19th century, as much as 46% of all babies did not live past their 5th birthday. Infant mortality rates are higher in rural Appalachia than in other parts of the United States. The region’s low income, geographic isolation, and low levels of education all reduce access to modern medical care. Folk beliefs and superstitions, a very poor substitute for medical care, continue to influence birth practices : a dove mourning outside the window is considered a bad omen, as is a member of the household sweeping the steps after sundown.

The early recordings of Appalachian music are unique and the sharper edges of private and personal pain emerges from the very grooves of these recordings. The voices have their own notions of tragedy. How many times had these people seen, in their own valley, righteous innocent people senselessly wiped away by car accidents, drownings, tuberculosis, children falling down wells. A.P. Carter’s sister Etta was a 13-year-old schoolgirl picking berries one afternoon, fevered in bed that night and dead by morning. There was no reason and, worst of all, there was no time to mourn. There were other children to raise, planting, weeding, cooking, sewing, feeding hogs, milking cows, chopping firewood. Appalachia’s most famous author, Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) from Asheville, North Carolina, described his 12-year-old brother’s death in his novel “Look Homeward Angel” like so : “He was a quiet boy, and there were many, and he had gone unnoticed.”

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitar

Blue Mountains

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“Sail Away Ladies” by “Uncle Bunt Stevens

The old-time fiddle tune “Sail Away Ladies” was included in Harry Smith’s ground-breaking 1952 six-album compilation entitled Anthology of American Folk Music, which was instrumental in the rise of the American Folk Revival in the 1950s and 1960s. Although “Sail Away Ladies” was originally recorded in 1926 by John L. “Uncle Bunt” Stevens (1879-1951), the piece has its origins in the British Isles of the 18th century. Uncle Bunt’s magnificent playing, with its echoes of Cajun fiddle music, summons up the sound of folk activities from a long gone era, tasks like husking bees, barn raisings, quilting parties and entertainment like barn dances. It is, to me, one of the very best recordings of the first half of the 20th century.

John Stephens was a farmer for most of his life. He rapidly rose to fame in 1926 when he placed in regional fiddle competitions and then won the title of World Champion Fiddler, besting 1,876 other fiddlers in automobile magnate Henry Ford’s series of contests. The competitions were held at Ford dealerships through the East and Midwest and winners of the local contests were brought to Detroit to play in the championship round. Stephens’ prize was said to be $1,000, a new suit, a new car, and a new set of teeth. After recording four 78 RPM sides for Columbia Records and making a short tour with some appearances on the Grand Ole Opry stage, Uncle Bunt retired from public life and returned to his farm in Bedford County, Tennessee.

The lyrics to the song come from a 1927 recording by Uncle Dave Macon. Ever the entertainer, Uncle Dave’s lyrics are essentially nonsense and good-natured fun. I’ve chosen to incorporate lyrics from African-American versions of the song into mine. For more on Uncle Dave Macon and his music, click here.
Although “Sail Away Ladies” was recorded hundreds of times by hundreds of artists, almost all available versions are identical. The notable exception is a 1957 recording by Odetta (Holmes,1930-2008), a wonderful laid-back folk/blues interpretation. I based my version of the song exclusively on the recordings of Uncle Bunt and Odetta. I also chose to use my new mandolin exclusively on this piece. After all, mandolins and fiddles are identically tuned.

La fanfare de Rockland

The Rockland Marching Band

When I was 11, my mother didn’t like my downhearted demeanor after the death of my brother Gabriel and enrolled me in the Rockland marching band. I played baritone for two years and I remember that my older band mate sitting next to me always told me not to play so loud! I didn’t like the rigid formality of learning to read music and play compositions in a predetermined manner. I wanted to play like my brother had played and his playing, influenced by his hero Jerry Lee Lewis, was abandoned and very far from rigid. To me, that’s the way music was meant to be played and when my brother Bob guided me towards the guitar in 1963, I learned to play like my brother Gabriel played. I never wanted to play anything that was identical to what other musicians played. My style of playing is self-taught and certainly not as skilful as other players but it is mine and it is the living manifestation of my brother Gabriel’s gift to me.

After many, many auditions of Uncle Bunt’s and Odetta’s recordings, absorbing the essence of “Sail Away Ladies”, I proceeded with test recordings of the song the way it came to me. I was very surprised when my recording featured a Bo Diddley beat! Mixing Bo Diddley (Ellas McDaniel, 1928-2008) into an old-time fiddle tune might be sacrilegious but I’ve always loved Bo so I liked the result. Then, last December 31, I found that New Year’s Eve was the birthday of Bo Diddley … and Odetta ! I igured it was a sign or some kind of cosmic endorsement, so I went ahead with my version. For more information on Bo Diddley and his music, click here.

The most natural, unsophisticated musician I’ve ever known was Alcide Dupuis (1928-2008), a fiddler from Rockland. Yes, I also noticed that Alcide’s birth and death years are identical to those of Bo Diddley, as if I needed a further endorsement ! Alcide was a small imp of a man who learned to play from an uncle but he only knew where to place his fingers on the neck of the fiddle and how to move the bow to get the sounds he wanted. Alcide didn’t know chords, keys, notes, nor song titles. His repertoire included many jigs, reels and cotillions which changed keys in midstream, making it impossible for any other local guitarists he knew to follow him. When I started playing with Alcide, I had a good ear and a fair knowledge of music structure so I was able to follow him when he changed keys. The first time this happened, Alcide was astonished – for the first time, he was hearing his tunes as they were meant to be played. He was so happy to have found someone he could play with. We formed a good friendship and we started playing together, mostly for beers in the tavern of the King George Hotel in Rockland.

Moi et Alcide en plein vol, 1978

Me and Alcide in full flight, 1978


When my recording career took off, I was asked to play at an autumn festival held simultaneously at La Ferme Denis and the Plantagenet High School. I invited Alcide to join me and I also gave him half of the generous stipend I received for performing. For Alcide, this was the big time ! He had never been paid to play music in his life before. He showed up in a fabulous black silk shirt with a colourful flower motif, trousers with a crease that would have cut steel, shoes polished and hair slicked back! As you can tell from the photo, we had a great time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two happier men. The guitar I’m playing was made for me in 1976 by Marc Beneteau, a luthier, good friend and guitarist who played with me for a number of years, in concert and on my recordings.

Seeing Alcide initiate a song was like nothing else in this world. Songs were stored in his memory but he couldn’t identify them by title, key or any other method so he scratched at his fiddle until the notes led him to the song. He would find the path, gradually connecting the dots until the melody he wanted emerged. Then, Alcide would take off like a Boeing 747, driving the song out with complete joy, his feet stepping complicated rhythms in time with the music (he was a terrific stepper). Alcide Dupuis was a veritable force of nature. He was transformed when he played, his face twisting in a grin of pure joy. It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing music and I’d like to dedicate my version of “Sail Away Ladies” to Alcide’s memory.

Richard Séguin – voice, mandolin, percussion

Sail Away Ladies

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