Hard Times, Come Again No More

Alacrates's picture

One album I that came across a long time ago that I felt married folk traditions with the classical musicianship of Yo-Yo Ma, is "Appalachian Journey" (1997), featuring James Taylor and Alison Krauss on vocals, along with other instrumental tracks.


I found this album around the same time I saw David Lynch's film "The Straight Story", and the music in it is connected for me to the soundtrack & visuals of that film. When I listen to this album & and picture the landscapes I imagine these songs to have emerged out of, it almost brings a tear to my eye, hehe.

I play a version of this song on my ukulele, and find the chords & semi-antiquated lyrics to be powerful. The song for me evokes 19th C. America, which makes sense when I look up it's origins, as it was composed in NYC in 1854.



Hard Times, Come Again No More

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sign of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door,
Oh hard times, come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty, and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sign of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door,
Oh hard times, come again no more.

There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart, whose better days are o'er.
Though her voice it would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore.
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave,
Oh hard times, come again no more.

* * * * *

The album also has Alison Krauss' rendition of the Shaker classic "Simple Gifts". I first came across this song as a teenager, trying to get a handle on classical music, listening to the music of the American composer, Aaron Copland.



"When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right..."

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Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I love the Alison Kraus version of Simple Gifts. Thanks for sharing all this stuff. What a powerful tune. These songs have so much magic in them. These words, voices from our ancestors, speak straight to our blood, and the blood hearing it, resonates with all the long memory held in these songs.

Thinking of this, thinking of Straight Story, it makes me want to paint a barn hex to put on our house. That's kinda something I've had in mind doing. Don't know when that will happen... but I would like to have it on there.

I often kind of wondered about barn hexes -using the folk magic of them for green wizard land-fertility/blessing projects in the urban core.

I do like Copland a lot myself too. I believe we saw Appalachian Spring at the symphony a few years back. I could riff on folk music for awhile, and it would be fun to trade some videos/songs on youtube. So I'll just share a few I really like here.

I really like a lot of the stuff that came out of the British Folk Revival -and then the Acid Folk Rock that came after that. So let's start with Shirley Collins, one of my favorite singers.

Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band from the album 'No Roses" (For such rough material as a murder balld... it's simply beautiful) (And in some of the murder ballads you will find bits of faery lore. Of course there is a lot of faery lore in general in the Scottish/English/Irish ballads ... and that got transmitted to America.. specifically Appalachia...)


It wouldn't be a list of some favorite folk songs if I didn't have the Incredible String Band on here with Ducks on a Pond. Robin Williamson from ISB went on to learn the harp among many other instruments and is involved in the Druidic scene over in England. They really blew my mind the first time I heard them. (Fall is a great time of year to listen to folk!)


And how about this from Vashti Bunyan, the song Rainbow River off of "Just another diamond day" album. Here Robin Williamson plays the whistle. I like the sing-songy nursery rhyme like lyrics in this one. It always touches me.


I could go on... but I will force myself to stop! Love sharing music. Thanks for starting this thread!

Alacrates's picture

"These words, voices from our ancestors, speak straight to our blood, and the blood hearing it, resonates with all the long memory held in these songs."

Yes, I definitely feel that to be true. I really resonate with American literature and music from the 19th century, maybe it does connect with the ancestry I come from. For the most part, my great-grandparents were Belgian farmers who came to Manitoba around 1900, that mix of European culture in a foreign land has connections for me, I think.

Great list of songs here! I hadn't heard of any of these before, I particularly liked the track from Shirley Collins & the Albion Country Band... ("Albion" recalled for me the poetry of William Blake)... I liked the instrumentation in the Vashti Bunyan track as well...

A folk soundtrack I listen to often when I'm writing is from the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewlyn Davis"... I have no idea really what that film was trying to say, but I feel like it was trying to cover a shift from older-style folk music to the type of recordings that Dylan ushered in...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfeKFKG3JWM (I love this scene in the movie, when Davis plays his heart out on this version, and the promoter takes a moment, and responds with: "... I don't see any money in this.")

I'm not sure if the music of Roscoe Holcomb is popular in your region, but I think it deserves mention in a discussion of American folk music. I only heard about him from a CD that I got from Starbucks, composed of tracks that Bob Dylan had chosen to add to the disc. Holcomb apparently worked his career as a miner and a farmer, and was recorded as a singer later in life. I really liked the droning, dirge-like quality of his singing..


I play a version of this song on my ukulele, and take a little bit from the Holcomb style, but for the most part sing it like Dylan did in his cover.


And the main song from the film, "Dink's Song": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJxsTq4brTM

Alacrates's picture

On the topic of folk music, another recent album I like, from a Winnipeg artist that I follow, Ruth Moody, is "These Wilder Things"...


Her live performances are great. This last album has a cover of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark", and a collaboration with Mark Knoffler, the guitarist for the Dire Straits.

Her songs "One Light Shining" and "Nothing Without Love" are for me anthem songs for the troubled times that we are living in now.