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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Chicken Charlie Folklore: What is a ballad? (39) RE: Folklore: What is a ballad? 09 Mar 08


Re. Jim's comment--yes, if you go back to the POETRY /I'm not shouting, I just can't do italics/ aspect, there is a tightly prescribed set of specs for a ballad form in poetry--also for a lyric form, way back to Greek lyric poets Inc., in the BC/BCE days.

Many ballads have refrains, but IMO I don't "require" a song to have a refrain to be a ballad. "Battle of Harlaw," probably my fave from all the British Isles, has no refrain but tells a story. Then there's "Barrett's Privateers" sung by Stan Rogers, that not only has a refrain, it has a second line that never varies. Out of eight lines per verse-chorus, only three change. Takes for bloody ever to move the action along.

Doc John--

I wouldn't consider "RIL" a ballad per se, but you bring up an interesting point. I think that RIL, Cumberland Gap and possible several other songs originated mainly because a rhythm was desired. If I play Cumberland Gap for a crowd of folks milling around, if there's a clog dancer within 4.3 miles, they will come to it like a moth to a flame and start stomping away. [I hate it--they get more props from the crowd than I do. :)] I believe the "verses" to Cumberland Gap started as just improv bits of fluff tossed out by the musicians in a disconnected way. Then some overly retentive person such as myself came along and connected the verses or arranged them chronologically or somehow. My point is that Cumberland Gap as I sing it now is a ballad about one guy living there, with all the family antecedents, but I'll but originally it was nothing so organized. RIL was perhaps originally a random set of comments which were arranged into a song--actually two songs, considering that there is the railroad version and the Leadbelly work song version, which has nothing of the dialog of the engineer and the whatsis load-checker dude. "I foo'd you ! I foo'd you! I got pig iron! I got pig iron! I got a-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l pig iron!"

Chicken Charlie


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