> Norma Waterson > Songs > Black Muddy River

Black Muddy River

[Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter]

Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter's song Black Muddy River originally closed Grateful Dead's 1987 album In the Dark.

Norma Waterson sang Black Muddy River in 1996 on her first solo album, Norma Waterson, with Eliza Carthy singing backing vocals.

Waterson:Carthy recorded Black Muddy River 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 noted on the last album:

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:

Lyrics

Norma Waterson sings Black Muddy River

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone,
When I can't hear the song for the singer
And I can't tell my pillow from a stone,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.

When the last bolt of sunshine hits the mountain
And the stars start to splatter in the sky,
When the moon splits the southwest horizon
With the scream of an eagle on the fly,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And listen to the ripples as they moan.
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.

Black muddy river, roll on forever,
I don't care how deep or wide,
If you got another side,
Roll muddy river, roll muddy river,
Black muddy river, roll.

And when it seems like the night will last forever
And there's nothing left to do but count the years,
When the strings of my heart begin to sever
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And dream me a dream of my own.
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own,
And sing me a song of my own.

Waterson:Carthy sing Black Muddy River

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone,
When I can't tell the song from the singer
And I can't feel my pillow from a stone,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.

When the last ray of sunshine hits the mountain
And the stars start to splatter in the sky,
When the moon hits the northwest horizon
With a shriek like an eagle on the fly,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And listen to the ripples as they moan.
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.

Black muddy river, roll on forever,
I don't care how deep or wide,
If you got another side,
Roll muddy river, roll muddy river,
Black muddy river, roll.

And when it seems like the night will last forever
And there's nothing left to do but count the years,
When the strings of my heart begin to sever
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And dream me a dream of my own.
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own,
Sing me a song of my own,
Sing me a song all of my own.