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Black Muddy River

[Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter]

This song originally closed Grateful Dead's 1987 album In the Dark. Norma Waterson sang it on her first solo album, Norma Waterson, with Eliza Carthy singing backing vocals. Waterson:Carthy recorded this at least three times live, always with Norma singing lead and Eliza backing her. The first version was recorded live at the Fiddler's Bristol on 27 November 1998, and published in 2004 on the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A second live version, recorded on 7 July 2000 on the Heidecksburg in Rudolstadt, Germany, is on the compilation CD Tanz- und Folkfest Rudolstadt 2000. I think that Saul Rose is still playing melodeon on both versions, though the sleeve notes on the Rudolstadt recording don't mention him. The third version was recorded live at Union Chapel, Islington, and published in 2002 on the charity compilation Heart of England Vol. 2. No recording date is shown but Tim van Eyken is already present so this should be a 2002 recording. A fourth Waterson:Carthy version of this fine song is on their 2004 album, Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand. Martin Carthy said in the latter album's sleeve notes:

Somebody—and neither Norma nor I knows why—sent us a ninety minute tape with just one song on it. Black Muddy River. Norma found the tape when she was hunting around for songs to put on her first solo CD for Ryko in 1996. Every gig we do we say that someone unknown person sent it and as yet no one has come forward to claim it as their gift. Whoever you are, thank you very much. She didn't recognise the band at the time nor did she recognise the singer, neither did Liza nor did I. It was John Chelew—who produced the CD—who identified the band as the Grateful Dead and the singer as Jerry Garcia, who wrote the song along with Robert Hunter. I think it sums up, but in uniquely American terms, what we all do and what it feels like.

Jenny Sturgeon sang Black Muddy River on her 2015 EP Source to Sea. This video shows the Jenny Sturgeon Trio with Jonny Hardie on guitar and Charlie McKerron on fiddle in Tamarach, Scotland, in 2017:


Sorry, I can't show the lyrics here as I don't have the copyright owners' permission to publish them. But please feel free and ask me to send you the song's lyrics.