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Pretty Saro

[ Roud 417 ; Ballad Index R744 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang Pretty Saro unaccompanied in 1959 on her first LP, Sweet England. The album's notes comment:

One of the finest American mountain lyric songs of the type derived from English folk song roots. The version is from Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians published by Oxford University Press.

She recorded it again together with Davy Graham in 1964 for their LP Folk Roots, New Routes. This recording was included in many anthologies, e.g. Shirley Collins' own Within Sound, and on the anthologies Electric Muse and Folk Now.

Hedy West sang Pretty Saro as the title track of her 1966 Topic album of Appalachian Ballads, Pretty Saro. She commented in the sleeve notes:

Pretty Saro is apparently a native lyrical piece from the 19th century. Grandma and Daddy always sing it in this slow free style and with this ornamentation. This long phrasing gives singers a chance to use the keen, long carrying tone quality that was considered excellent.

Andy Turner sang Pretty Saro on his 1990 cassette Love, Death and the Cossack.


Shirley Collins sings Pretty Saro

I came to this country in eighteen-forty-nine,
I saw many true loves but never saw mine.
I viewed all around me and I am alone,
And me a poor soldier and far from my home.

It's not the long journey I'm dreading to go,
Nor leaving the country for the deads that I owe.
There is nothing that grieves me nor troubles my mind
Like leaving pretty Saro my darling behind.

I wish I was a poet and could write a fine hand,
I'd write my love a letter that she might understand.
I'd send it by the island where them waters overflow
I'd think on pretty Saro wherever I go.

Farewell, my dear father, likewise mother too,
I'm going for to ramble this country all through.
And when I get tired I'll sit down and cry
And think on Pretty Saro with tears in my eye.