Work songs are sung during work. Often their pace reflects the pace of the work, their rhythm helping to punctuate chops of the hoe, or of the ax, particularly for prison songs. Sailors use songs to heave-ho the ropes as they haul up sails. Farmers planting out hundreds of thousands of seedlings in spring for a CSA can benefit from the technology of work songs, as a way to stay light-hearted, connecting with teammates, moving along briskly, keeping track of the time and losing yourself in song. And as a celebration,though our bodies may be working, stooped to the task.. our minds, and our spirits are free to play.Download
These work songs, and those found below (SM Worksongers Workshop), were recorded in a few places, at the Clearwater Festival with Creek Iversen, at Sylvester Manor with Bennett Konesni, at Quail Hill Farm with Scott Chaskey, at Monkshood Nursery, Whallonsburg Grange Hall and Smithereen Farm with Max Godfrey, and a few just in the studio at our little community radio station. Thank you WGXC. We know that the work song movement is growing, and that these songs will continue their diaspora as friends and farm-mates of song-singers catch the bug. Spread the word, and if you’ve been able to record some songs, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll put them in for next year’s roundup.
Bennett Konesni is lucky enough to be nephew to the owner of Sylvester Manor Farm, a beautiful 400 acre historic plantation on Shelter Island, NY. They run an educational organic farm, and host an annual event called Plant and Sing where they celebrate their favorite things: singing and farming and particularly singing while farming. Bennett and his wife Edith have been touring with their work songs and run numerous work song trainings at the Young Farmers Conference and elsewhere. He has a lovely site started called worksongs.org.
Michael Neault is a curator who lives in Portland, Oregon. He kindly created these mixes for young farmers to play during mixers, for background music.
Listen to Greenhorns Radio here, brought to you by the Heritage Radio Network.
Adrienne Young-Ramsey is a grammy nominated folk singer / songwriter homesteading in Virginia, with her husband and children. In 2009, she founded Backyard Revolution, a program promoting the modern applications of historic skills and wisdom, expressing itself as a radio show, festival adventure, and (soon to manifest) farm school.
She has been a longtime supporter and cheerleader of local food and farm communication, and will release her fourth cd in 2013, a collection of early American standards and originals celebrating hearth, home, family, and GMO free farming.
Creek Iversen has been an environmental educator, mentor and farmer in the Hudson Valley for the past few years.
I'm Reid Jenkins. I'm a fiddle player and a student at Columbia University for environmental science. I worked with the Greenhorns during the summer of 2011 while Severine and team were based at Farm on the Locusts near Rhinebeck, New York, where I developed a cheeky rapport with the farm's cow, Narcissa. I've been playing fiddle since I was six years old and I'm currently in a folk pop band called Morningsiders that plans on taking over the world. Check out my band on Facebook / YouTube!
I also like dancing to techno music and giving/receiving massages.
Scott Kellogg is the co-author of the book “Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-it-Ourselves Guide” (South End Press) and the primary teacher of R.U.S.T. – The Radical Urban Sustainability Training, an intensive weekend workshop in urban ecological survival skills.
Currently, Scott is developing a new organization in Albany, New York named the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center. It is planned to be a demonstration of environmental technologies and sustainable micro industries applicable in today’s urban environment. He is simultaneously developing a low-impact integrated agroforestry operation in Northern New York as well.
Scott is also a co-founder of Austin, Texas’ Rhizome Collective, an urban sustainability education project, and worked as the director of its sustainability program from 2000-2009. In 2004, the Rhizome Collective was donated a 10 acre brownfield property in Austin, as well as a $200,000 brownfield cleanup award from the EPA. Scott worked as the site coordinator for the cleanup, and oversaw the removal and recycling of over 15 tons of debris from the site.
Scott is an experienced teacher, activist, ecological designer, and father. He presently lives in the Albany Free School Community in Albany, New York.
These are the songs of SAM COMFORT. Sam is a radical beekeeper working in the Hudson Valley and beyond. His project is called Anarchy Apiaries. There you can find his multi-media productions and find his international speaking schedule. I think he might be working on a book at the moment, but for sure he teaches workshops and classes and generally shows up at NOFA-NY. These are songs about bees, bugs and other things that Sam loves. Other natural beekeeping resources from Certified Naturally Grown, a sponsor of this almanac and certifier of natural beekeeping practices.
BRIAN DEWAN used to build furniture for a living and as of late is making and projecting I-CAN-SEE filmstrips. Two CDs, Brian Dewan Tells The Story and The Operating Theater feature songs with autoharp and electric zither accompaniment. He has exhibited drawings and filmstrips at The Brooklyn Museum, The New Museum, Pierogi gallery, The Armory Show and Modern Art Oxford. His recent recording of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting Of The Snark has aired in London and New York.
While studying art, organ and composition at Oberlin College he recorded electronic music with Putney, Buchla, Arp and Moog synthesizers. He plays zither and other instruments with The Raymond Scott Orchestrette and arranged Scott's electronic music for live acoustic septet in collaboration with accordionist Will Holshouser. In addition to performances of instrumental music he has also provided live accompaniment to the silent films of Ladislaw Starewicz, Harry Smith, Ester Shub, Oscar Fischinger, and rare films from the Mark Newgarden collection. These were screened at Lincoln Center, Galapagos, Tonic, The Robert Beck Theater and The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium.
Join MAX GODFREY for a raucous, foot-stomping evening of singing. We will learn many songs traditionally sung by prisoners and field workers as a means of enduring the hardships of forced labor, but which have been rediscovered by farmers as tools for making their work more enjoyable. With simple, call-and-response structures, these songs can be learned quickly and require no vocal "skill" whatsoever, and are great for singing in the field, in the kitchen, or around the campfire. We will start with the simplest songs and share some more involved worksongs as our lungs warm up. Max is a Georgia farm apprentice and is on tour this winter in hopes of sharing these songs with as many folks as possible.
The Association for Cultural Equity has a free database of Alan Lomax recordings:
Follow the link and click "sound recordings," and then go to "browse recordings by" and hit genre. For songs similar to the ones I've shared with y'all choose "work songs" or "prison songs" or "holler." Browsing by these genres will give you lots of good recordings to check out. Also, here are some names of work songs to be sure to search for in the site, that y'all may remember from the singsongs (On the ones that are hard to find I've included artist names to search for):
There are some sound recordings done by John and Alan Lomax that I haven't found online but I have found at libraries. Although lots of the Lomax recordings are on the Cultural Equity database, some of the ones I've shared with you (Pauline, Old Rattler, Cornbread Peas Black Molasses, Hammer Ring, Drop old Diamond) are not on the database and you'll have to find them on these collections:
Here's a good source for southern folk music in general: The Bill Broonzy Story. Big Bill Broonzy lived and worked alongside Leadbelly. He sings many of the songs he grew up with in the collection The Bill Broonzy Story and between the tracks he is interviewed by Studs Terkel and gives the story behind the songs. They're not all worksongs but I think that if you are interested in worksongs then you will be interested in the folk-blues songs he sings. I don't mean to present one man's story as characteristic of life in the south, but the interviews do help give you an idea of the experiences that gave birth to many standard american folk songs. If you cannot find the CDs at the library, the interviews and songs are up on youtube in installments, here.
Worksongs in Practice: Plant and Sing Festival. Every October on Shelter Island, NY. Includes a community Fall harvest and garlic planting, while singing worksongs. Sylvester Manor Educational Farm--internships, wwoofing, banjo-building workshops, contra dances.
Please download the file, upload the playlist along with the tracks and enjoy our favorites tunes.
Come, boys, I will tell you a story;
Come here, I will whisper it low.
Are you thinking of leaving the homestead?
Don't be in a hurry to go.
For the city has many attractions,
But think of the vices and sins.
Though once in the vortex of fashion,
How soon the course downward begins!
Don't be in a hurry to go,
Don't be in a hurry to go.
If you're thinking of leaving the homestead,
Don't be in a hurry to go.
You may talk of the mines of Australia,
They're loaded with gold, without doubt.
But there's plenty of gold on the farm, boys,
If only you'll shovel it out.
The mercantile life is a hazard;
The goods are first high and then low.
Better trust the old farm a while longer.
Don't be in a hurry to go.
So, the farm is the safest and surest;
The orchards are loaded today.
You're King of the Air on the mountain,
And monarch of all you survey.
Better risk the old farm a while longer,
Though the profits come in rather slow.
Remember, you've nothing to lose, boys,
Don't be in a hurry to go.
This immersive summer workshop is a rigorous introduction to the field of Oral History, in the beautiful Hudson Valley.
Come all ye budding oral historians, radio documentarians, writers, filmmakers, media advocates, and photographers who wish to make of use of oral history in your practices. Over the course of eight days, we will cover interview techniques, project design, recording tutorials, archival practices, and ethics, along with special topics related to the field. This is a great opportunity to jump-start a project in a supportive environment, or to get this training under your belt for future projects, with the benefit of deadlines and critique.