The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141964   Message #3297892
Posted By: John Minear
28-Jan-12 - 11:38 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
Early on in this thread, I mentioned that there was a Cajun French version of "The House Carpenter" which has the line "On the banks of the Tennessee," in three verses. It was collected by Alan Lomax in 1934 and is called "J'ai marie un ouvrier" . Here is a link to the text with a translation:

The fact that this version refers to the "banks of the Tennessee" probably means that it is derived either from the "Andrews/De Marsan" broadside of 1858, or from the tradition that precedes the printing of that broadside, or perhaps from a later oral tradition that incorporated elements from that broadside. It is also possible that this is a fairly late addition to the Cajun repertoire from the early country music world. Unfortunately, the Google Book selection is chopped. And I don't know what Alan Lomax might have said about this, since I don't have access to the liner notes.

However, I'm also wondering if there is any possibility that this ballad might actually have been appropriated by the French Acadians from their English neighbors before their exile from the Northeast beginning about 1755.

Such an early appropriation seems unlikely because of the reference to "the banks of the Tennessee", but we don't know for sure when that reference crept into the oral tradition. Surely it predates the printing of the broadside in 1858. Gardner-Medwin said: "by 1794 both the river and the state are called "Tennassee." So probably sometime between the latter part of the 1700's and the middle of the 1800's "the banks of the old Tennessee" became a phrase the back-country folks would have understood. But that seems too late for any Acadian connection up north. So when did this ballad enter the Cajun tradition?