A Cruel Woman

This week sees us tread triumphantly into double digits! This week we recorded episode #10 of our Folk Song A Week project.  So first of all we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been watching and sharing our videos, when we first started we honestly thought it would just be us watching them!

So for this week we thought we’d do a classic traditional ballad, and we went for Barbara Allen.

Barbara Allen; also known as Barbriellen, Barb’ry Allen, Cruel Barbara Allen and various other names, is Child Ballad #84 and is first seen referenced in print in the diary of Samuel Pepys in his entry of 2nd January 1666 where he references hearing a Mrs Knepp singing it at a New Years party.

The song has been done by several big acts in the past such as Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel and even Billie Joe Armstrong (of GreenDay fame)!  As with our version of Long Lankin, we decided for this ballad to strip it right right back and create our own arrangement of it.  We opted for giving almost a circus-style tune to the guitar line and adopt a minor key for it instead of the major versions that are more common.  We have gone for the more modern version of the lyrics instead of the traditional ones; although there are so many variants of the lyrics it’s hard to say what is original and what isn’t! The closest I can find in print is this 1885 broadside of two versions of the song.

barbara allen

So here we are, our version of the classic folk tune: Barbara Allen.  Enjoy 🙂


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