Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bound for the Shady Grove

Sometime before "x" and I left our little house in Cleveland Heights, I remember acquiring two things: one, a Joni Mitchell cd, which returned me to singing good, honest, and perhaps not always kind, songs. The second was a Smokey Mountain cassette tape that had a version of the old fiddle tune, "Shady Grove."

Oh, how I just loved that song. It was like nothing I'd ever heard. The words of that version went something like this:

Peaches in the summertime
Apples in the fall
If I can't have the gal I love
I'll have no gal at all

Shady Grove, my little love
Shady Grove I know
Shady Grove, my little love
I'm bound for the Shady Grove

Cheeks as red as a bloomin' rose
Eyes of the deepest brown
You are the darlin' of my heart
Stay til the sun goes down

Shady Grove, my little love...

And so on.

It was such a sweet little egg-on of a song. I was completely charmed by it. It must have been 1996 or '97, not too long before the move to exurbia but probably after one of the two miscarriages I had. It was like a Siren to my willing ear.

So it's always been a favorite, and is so easy to sing and to teach a child to sing (I recently met a darling little girl who evidently does quite a number on Shady Grove). I think I've decided to put it back in the Bedtime Song Rotation myself.

The lead-up to this evening was that my friend Jawbone and his friend from Kent were to play a gig that included Shady Grove. Well, there was discussion about all these lyrics, which of course I had never heard. Little did I know just how damn many versions there are of Shady Grove. Doc Watson's version features this verse:

When I was a little boy
I wanted a Barlow knife
And now I want little Shady Grove
To say she'll be my wife

Ok, Doc. That's cool.

Then I found all these other verses:

Had a banjo made of gold
Every string would shine
The only song that it would play
Wish that girl was mine

When I was in shady grove
Heard them pretty birds sing
The next time I go to shady grove
Take along a diamond ring

When you go to catch a fish
Fish with a hook and line
When you go to court a girl
Never look behind

Makes sense. This is a song about courting Shady Grove.

My favorite line had to do with little Shady Grove and her little bare feet. I think at some point it hit me that I wish I were that Shady Grove. That's who I was, that's the place from which I grew into a woman, that whole brown-eyed-girl-barefeet-in-the-front-yard-chasing-fireflies.

So I'm gonna teach my children this song. Tomorrow, after we I know my son can handle the guitar part. It will be fun, and something we can hold on to when things get ugly or scary. And when I'm gone, and someday I will be gone, they can sing it with their children. Like the songs that pop up occasionally that Grandma or Grandpa D sang, it will be a way of knowing me.

So,

Shady Grove, my little love,
Shady Grove I know
Shady Grove, my little love
I'm bound for the Shady Grove.

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