As far as I’m concerned, Tim O’Brien is one of the finest musicians in the United States today. He is a fine songwriter but has always had a great respect for traditional folk music and often plays and records traditional songs. Here for your listening pleasure we have two for the price of one: ‘Fiddler’s Green’, which is one of Tim’s own compositions, and then the classic ballad ‘Pretty Fair Maid’. They are both from his 2005 album ‘Fiddler’s Green‘, which has some wonderful tunes on it – including a superb version of the old ballad ‘The Buffalo Skinners’ which I can’t find anywhere on YouTube.
‘Pretty Fair Maid’ is known by various names in the tradition, including ‘There Was a Maid in Her Father’s Garden‘, ‘Fair Maid Walking‘, ‘Young and Single Sailor‘, and ‘John Reilly‘. It tells a familiar story in traditional folk music: a young man has to leave his love for a long time (going to sea? going to war?), and she gives him a ring to take with him, or they break a ring and each take half. When he returns, at first she doesn’t recognize him (why? – it’s very Shakespearean!), but when he produces the ring (or his half of the ring), her eyes are opened and she sees it’s her long lost true love etc. etc. If I were the young man in question, I might be a little unsure of the love of a young woman who had completely forgotten what I looked like, but there we are, that’s how the story goes!!!
You can find out more about about Tim O’Brien and what he’s up to at his website here.