The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #47891   Message #819396
Posted By: John Minear
05-Nov-02 - 06:03 PM
Thread Name: Water Is Wide - First American Version
Subject: RE: Water Is Wide - First American Version
Almeda Riddle, a traditional ballad singer from Arkansas, and a collector and singer of all kinds of songs, is listed as one who has recorded "The Water is Wide" on "Granny Riddle's Songs and Ballads," Minstrel JS-203, LP (1977), cut#B.05. The question is where and when she learned this song and from whom? Was this a "traditional" song she learned from her family or others early on, or is this a song she picked up from the "folk revival" once she began to perform in that context? The date for the recording suggests that latter context.

I looked at her book today, A SINGER AND HER SONGS; ALMEDA RIDDLE'S BOOK OF BALLADS, edited by Roger D. Abrahams and published in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by Lousisiana State University Press in 1970. The book predates the recording by seven years. While there is an extensive discussion by Granny Riddle of her songs and singing, and two appendices listing her songs, neither "The River is Wide" nor any variant of this is mentioned. The book was edited and put together by Mr. Abrahams from tape recordings he made of Mrs. Riddle in June and July of 1964, February of 1965, and April of 1967. It would seem to me that if she knew this song at that time it would be mentioned. I would guess that she learned it later, after the book was published, and that she learned it from people she met on the "folksong circuit" in the late sixties and early seventies.

Does anybody have a copy of this album, with lyrics and/or liner notes? What does she sing and what does she say about it? She loved to collect and learn songs from all over the place. I don't know why she wouldn't have continued that interest after she became involved with the folk revival.   

I'm also still trying to track down Peggy Seeger's version and her role in the transmission of this song if anybody has her lyrics. T.O.M.