The Wife of Usher’s Well

Hedy West (1938-2005) wrote perhaps the best loved folk song in recent American history, ‘Five Hundred Miles’, which she put together from fragments of a melody her uncle had sung to her in her Georgia childhood. Although she was a gifted songwriter she was also well known for her recordings of traditional songs, and for her ‘clawhammer’ banjo style. Here she is playing the traditional song ‘The Wife of Usher’s Well’.

The Mainly Norfolk site seems oblivious to the fact that Hedy West recorded this song, although it does give a good summary of the various British recordings. There are several interesting discussion threads on Mudcat Café concerning the history/meaning of this song; this one would seem to be a good place to start, and there are links to the others near the top of the page.

There is a good summary of Hedy West’s life and career on Wikipedia here, and there is also an obituary in the Guardian here.


Published by

Tim Chesterton

Family man; pastor of St. Margaret's Anglican Church on Ellerslie Road, Edmonton; storyteller; traditional folk musician and occasional songwriter. Email me at timchesterton at outlook dot com.

2 thoughts on “The Wife of Usher’s Well”

  1. Beautiful! I too was oblivious of Hedy’s recording of this, I must confess. You’ve given us a rich feast these last few days, Tim – many thanks!

  2. Glad you’re enjoying the songs, Antonia – I’m having a lot of fun searching them out.

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