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YouTube Gold: Almeda Riddle

A wonderful singer of classic folk songs

‘The Harvest Home’ Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images

You can live your life in one country and still have vast areas of ignorance, or in this case, two, those two being the song Black Jack Davey and the singer here, Almeda Riddle. We never heard of either until fairly recently.

The song has been around a long time, under many different names, like ”The Gypsy Laddie”, “The Draggletail Gypsies”, “Seven Yellow Gypsies” and “Johnnie Faa,” according to Wikipedia.

Riddle’s may be the best though.

A native of Arkansas and related to Jesse and Frank James, she was born at the tail end of the 19th century and had a vast knowledge of traditional folk music.

She was a key player in preserving folks songs and passing them down. We saw a post recently by a guy from Arkansas who said she came to his school and at that point in life he found her boring. Later, he realized how much she meant to him and was ashamed.

This is a very spare version of the song. If you’d rather hear a more orchestrated version, both Doc Watson and Loretta Lynn have recorded it as has Bob Dylan.

It would be hard for anyone to match this though. It’s funny - the first time, it didn't make an impression. But later you find yourself humming it.

If you’re wondering why there’s no embed here, it’s because the account owner won’t allow it.