Song of the Day, June 12: Adieu Adieu by Eliza Carthy

Today’s song is Adieu Adieu by Eliza Carthy. It’s part of a family of robber songs that includes versions like The Flash Lad and Newry Town. Eliza and her extended family have performed many interpretations of the songs in their various incarnations. This version (Roud #490), which was also recorded by the Watersons in 1975, is compelling and mournful. In the liner notes for their album For Pence and Spicy Ale, A.L. Lloyd describes the song in this way:

The ace and the deuce of robber songs. English, Irish, American versions abound. Some mention “Fielding’s gang,” a reference to the semi-official police force organised by the novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding and his blind half-brother John, about the middle of the eighteenth century. Our present set comes from Barrett’s English Folk Songs< (1891). Its unusual “Welladay” refrain evokes the underworld of Hanoverian England with its shabby finery and grubby lace.

Eliza included it in her breakthrough solo album Red Rice. It’s one of  the songs in which she most successfully merges a more modern instrumental sound — based on her amazing fiddle playing — with the traditional lyrics.

Adieu, adieu, hard was my fate,
I was brought up in a tender state.
Bad company did me entice,
I left off work and took bad advice.
Which makes me now to lament and say,
Pity the fate of young felons all
Well-a-day, Well-a-day

Enjoy this stellar interpretation of an enduring traditional song today.


About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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