Ace frontier artist Gary Zaboly scouted up some old folk songs from the New England Frontier. They were collected during the Great Folk Scare of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Smithsonian Folkways released Witches and War Whoops in 1962. Title probably wouldn’t fly these days.
This album brings together a sinister and unusual collection of songs about the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, collected and performed by John Allison. The somber melody reflects the solemn lyrics that recount evil and punishments: “They hanged this weary woman then like a felon stout; Her white hairs on the cruel rope were scattered all about. And many knew her innocent of horrid charges made…” Liner notes include detailed information by Allison about each song and an introduction about the Salem Witch Trials.
Liner notes are available for download here.
It ain’t all about the witchcraft trials. Of particular note for our purposes is the ballad Bloody Brook, which recounts an episode from King Phillip’s War….
… And Lovewell’s Indian Fight, which recounts a 1725 battle in northern New England when Rangers tangled with Abenaki and took a mauling. That one was a popular ballad through colonial times. I get a kick out of the notion that Frontier Partisans might gather in some roadside tavern and hoist a tankard of ale or rum and run through its verses….
I just may have to dig into this tale…
BTW, Black Barrel Media serves up fine podcast series on the Salem Witch Trials that you can find at Infamous America. Perfect listening for the month of October, wouldn’t you say?