Rambling Steve Gardner "The Gallows Pole" Yokohama Blues For Blues Fest 2012

Posted: Feb 5, 2012

American Roots storyteller and singer Rambling Steve Gardner, performs "The Gallows Pole" at the Blues For Blues" Festival held in Yokohama, Japan Feb. 2012. The festival was held to raise money and awareness for the continuing recovery efforts being made in Tohoku, Japan after the March 11, 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. Rambling Steve Gardner performed at the Yokohama Union Church while several other venues from YIS to the British House also hosted performances. For more information on Rambling Steve Gardner check out his home page over at : www.stevegardner.info Some history of the song "Gallows Pole" is as follows: "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" is one of many titles of a centuries-old folk song about a condemned maiden pleading for someone to buy her freedom from the executioner. In the collection of ballads compiled by Francis James Child, it is indexed as Child Ballad number 95; eleven variants, some fragmentary, are indexed as 95A to 95K. The ballad existed in a number of folkloric variants from many different countries, and has been remade in a variety of formats. It was recorded in 1939 as "The Gallis Pole" by folk singer Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, but the most famous version was the 1970 arrangement of the Fred Gerlach version by English rock band Led Zeppelin, which was entitled "Gallows Pole" on the album Led Zeppelin III. Origin The song likely originated in a language other than English. Some fifty versions have been reported in Finland, where it is well known as Lunastettava neito. It is titled Den Bortsålda in Sweden, and Die Losgekaufte in German. A Lithuanian version has the maid asking relatives to ransom her with their best animals or belongings (sword, house, crown, ring etc.). The maiden curses her relatives who refuse to give up their property, and blesses her fiancé, who does ransom her. In a Hungarian version called "Feher Anna," collected by Béla Bartók in his study The Hungarian Folk Song, Anna's brother Lazlo is imprisoned for stealing horses. Anna sleeps with Judge Horvat to free him, but is unsuccessful in sparing his life. She regales the judge with 13 curses. Francis James Child found the English version "defective and distorted", in that, in most cases, the narrative rationale had been lost and only the ransoming sequence remained. Numerous European variants explain the reason for the ransom: the heroine has been captured by pirates. Of the texts he prints, one (95F) had "degenerated" into a children's game, while others had survived as part of a Northern English cante-fable, The Golden Ball (or Key). Child describes additional examples from the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Russia, and Slovenia. Several of these feature a man being ransomed by a woman. The theme of delaying one's execution while awaiting rescue by relatives appears with a similar structure in the classic fairy tale "Bluebeard" by Charles Perrault in 1697 (translated into English in 1729). Legendary folksinger Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, who also popularized such songs as "Cotton Fields" and "Midnight Special" first recorded "The Gallis Pole" in the 1930s, and set the stage for the song's popularity today. Lead Belly's rendition, available through Folkways music and recently re-released by the Library of Congress, differs from more familiar recordings in several notable ways. The Lead Belly version is performed on acoustic twelve string guitar, and following an introductory phrase reminiscent of the vocal melody, Lead Belly launches into a furious fingerpicking pattern. His haunting, shrill tenor delivers the lyrical counterpoint, and his story is punctuated with spoken-word, as he "interrupts his song to discourse on its theme".