Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vain and Careless

Vain and Careless (from the album Leave Your Sleep; words by Robert Graves)

Lady, lovely lady,
Careless and gay!
Once, when a beggar called,
She gave her child away.

The beggar took the baby,
Wrapped it in a shawl—
‘Bring her back,’ the lady said,
‘Next time you call.’

Hard by lived a vain man,
So vain and so proud
He would walk on stilts
To be seen by the crowd,

Up above the chimney pots,
Tall as a mast—
And all the people ran about
Shouting till he passed.

‘A splendid match surely,’
Neighbours saw it plain,
‘Although she is so careless,
Although he is so vain.’

But the lady played bobcherry,
Did not see or care,
As the vain man went by her,
Aloft in the air.

This gentle-born couple
Lived and died apart—
Water will not mix with oil,
Nor vain with careless heart.



I'm not the most visual person. Conjuring up a strong mental image takes a lot of effort for me. When I read works of fiction, I often realize halfway through the book that I've failed to create a face for my main character. I tend to envision my character's appearance through a thick haze, like I'm watching one of those cop shows that try to protect people's identity by blurring out their image. If I feel a strong need to create a face for them, I always have to pick a face I've seen in real life. I just can't make up my own.

Lack of vivid mental imagery is not where it ends for me. I am often likely to miss concrete details that are staring me right in the face. This deficiency caused me to spend fifteen minutes tearing my house apart last week looking for a pair of pants that I later discovered were already being worn...by me. It's the reason why I frequently have exchanges with my loved ones that go something like this:

"Annie! Why didn't you tell me I had food on my face?!"

"Uh...Sorry. I didn't notice."

"But it was an entire slice of pizza!"

I try to point out to them that on the flip side, I am an ideal person to be around if you are having a bad hair day, have recently put on a lot of weight, or are recovering from a face transplant. You'll look just as beautiful as ever to me!

All of this is not to suggest that I don't appreciate art and beauty in the visual realm. It's just that I might need to have it pointed out to me. As I've mentioned in the past on this blog, Natalie Merchant's music usually creates a feeling for me more often than it creates an image. But Vain and Careless (with words written by the poet Robert Graves) is an exception. Even I can't help but be swept away into the imagery of this wonderfully cinematic story. Here is how Natalie summarizes the visual appeal of the poem in the liner notes to Leave Your Sleep:

"The style of language and the imagery that Graves used to tell the story is reminiscent of a fairy tale. I love the image of the lady blindfolded, mouth open and laughing to bite the cherry dangling on a string, while the man who could be her lover passes by on stilts."

The music Natalie wrote to accompany this poem is so beautiful that it took me a few listens to fully appreciate that this poem is really quite humorous. Albeit dark at times. I love how the poet saw fit to show us right from the beginning just how careless this woman really was. I mean, it would be pretty shocking for her to have given her baby away to, say, her neighbor or her distant relative, but to give it away to a beggar? That's cold, sister.

But maybe this was the type of woman that the poet was attracted to. There are some completely outlandish stories out there about the character of Robert Graves' second wife, fellow poet Laura Riding. I'm not sure just how truthful all these stories are, but to give you a brief overview I will mention the following biographical highlights: at least one failed suicide attempt, psychological torture of a female rival, flying leaps out of third story windows, and a whole heaping load of adultery. Their marriage did not last a very long time.

So while some may have thought the careless woman and the vain man would have been "a splendid match surely," I would venture to say that this would have been a fairly disastrous coupling. You need look no further than the many examples of failed celebrity marriages to see that Vain and Careless don't make for long-term success. Sure, the flame would've burned bright in the beginning. Vain would proclaim his undying love for Careless while jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Careless would have Vain's name tattooed on a prominent body part. There would be a massive amount of public snogging, and the paparazzi would be there to catch every moment of it. The media would give them a hybrid name, like...Vainless. But it would end abruptly and catastrophically, for alas, "Water will not mix with oil, nor vain with careless heart."

Click here to see a video from Natalie's official site of the rehearsing and recording of Vain and Careless.

Download Vain and Careless from Itunes - Vain and Careless - Leave Your Sleep

Before I wrap up, I have something only loosely Natalie-related to mention: Not too long ago I downloaded a song called Order 1081 from an album called Here Lies Love by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. I downloaded that song in particular because Natalie provides vocals on the track and the sample sounded pretty interesting. It was a style of music I've never heard Natalie sing to before, but it sounded great. So a few days later I downloaded some more songs...and then some more...and then some more. Here Lies Love is a concept album based on the life of Imelda Marcos and the woman who raised her, Estrella Cumpas. It features various (primarily) female vocalists and I am officially in love with the album. If you like music that is danceable and funky, but with lyrics that won't make you hemorrhage IQ points, I highly recommend you check out the album. In addition to Order 1081, I would suggest the title track Here Lies Love (with gorgeous vocals by Florence Welch), Every Drop of Rain, How Are You, and Pretty Face, but really you can't go wrong with hardly anything on this album. The fact that Nonesuch Records released both Here Lies Love and Leave Your Sleep in the same year makes me seriously think I need to just start buying everything they produce.

Download Here Lies Love on Itunes - Here Lies Love - David Byrne & Fatboy Slim

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cotton Alley / Gun Shy

Cotton Alley (from the 10,000 Maniacs album The Wishing Chair)

One time
you made me cry
be proud that I
remember

My chin is sore
the bruise is gone
but the spot is tender

Gave my hand
a sister coy
to Cotton Alley where
you did enjoy
your wicked games
you curious boy

Tied my laces up together
when I fell
you laughed
until your belly was sore

In the brick laid aisle behind
the five and dime store

That's how
I made you blush
but doubt if you
remember

Were my tears genuine
or those of a skilled
pretender?

Nothing precious
plain to see
don't make a fuss over me
not loud
not soft
but somewhere in between
say "sorry"
let it be the word you mean

I was a little pest who
never took a hint
could never take a hint

You pinched my fingers
in a door
tossed my coloring book in a
rusty barrel

Pulled spiders from my hair
fingers in the door

My favorite blue blouse
stained on the back
running from a berry war

Can you hear me scream
in Cotton Alley?


__________________________________

Gun Shy (from the 10,000 Maniacs album In My Tribe and Natalie's album Live In Concert)

I always knew that you would
take yourself far from home
as soon as, as far as you could go

By the quarter inch cut of your hair
and the Army issue green
for the past eight weeks
I can tell where you've been

Well, I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins
there is a world outside of this room and
when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun

So now you are one of the brave few
it's so awful sad we need boys like you
I hope the day never comes for
"here's your live round son
stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun"

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldiers blue blood streaming inside your veins

There is a world outside of this room and
when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun taking aim

I don't mean to argue
they've made a decent boy of you and
I don't mean to spoil your homecoming
but baby brother you should expect me to

"Stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun"

So now does your heart pitter pat
with a patriotic sound
when you see the stripes of old glory waving?

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins

There is a world outside of this room and
when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun taking aim

I don't mean to argue
they've made a decent boy of you
I don't mean to spoil your homecoming my baby brother Jude
and I don't mean to hurt you by saying this again
they're so good at making soldiers
but they're not so good
at making men



In the early days of 10,000 Maniacs there was quite a lot of chatter about the lyrics that young Natalie Merchant was writing. One of the most oft-quoted statements Natalie has ever made was about caring more about nuclear arms depots than boys. While many lauded her earnestness, there was a vocal minority (including, it would seem, some members of the band) that suggested that the Maniacs would never achieve mainstream success until Natalie started writing songs about more "fun" topics than, you know, war and stuff. What's wrong with a nice little song about falling in love or having your best friend steal your boyfriend? Why can't she write about boys?

Well, the songs that are being covered on today's blog post are solid proof that Natalie Merchant has written songs about boys. Specifically...her brothers.

Alright, I guess this wasn't what her critics had in mind. But it didn't matter. It seems she did just fine without their advice. It may not be a sexy topic, but writing about your siblings is a worthy endeavor. After our parents and our mates, the relationship we have with our siblings is perhaps the most complicated and deeply layered of all. Here are these individuals who are either firmly established in your life from the day you are born or come tumbling into it shortly afterward. They are your friends by default and (frequently) your enemies by nature. And as we start to age, the relationships we have with our siblings tend to get that much more complex. When I think about the most pivotal interactions I had as a child, interactions that shaped my view of myself and my view of the world, they usually directly involved my siblings, perhaps even more than my parents.

No matter how far you get away from each other as adults, physically or emotionally, no matter how much they may have hurt or even terrorized you, they are the only people that can fully understand your family dynamics. They are the only people who know what is was like to be raised by your parents. I stopped trying years ago to explain to anyone what my upbringing was like. The quizzical expressions on too many faces made me realize it was a vain endeavor. The only people I can talk to about it are my siblings. And that, more than anything else, keeps us from ever drifting too far apart.

Obviously, Cotton Alley and Gun Shy, while having the brother theme in common, are very different from each other in their tone. Cotton Alley tells tales of brotherly torture both silly and significant, but the tone of the song and the way the words are sung make it clear that fondness is behind every expression. I'm not sure if this is accurate, but the lyrics sound very much to me like sentiments being expressed to an older sibling, one whose attention we younger siblings pine away for, even though usually when we get that attention it ends in them laughing and us crying.

Gun Shy, however, is a song with a much more serious topic and has words that are clearly directed at a younger sibling. Natalie's pleas and warnings to her brother, especially when she addresses him by name at the end of the song, are very moving. When I heard this song for the first time (on Natalie's Live In Concert album), I had already heard Natalie sing many songs in the first person and I'd heard her sometimes give names to the characters in her songs, but I had never really thought any of those songs were about her or about people in her life. But Gun Shy was different. I couldn't imagine that she was singing to anyone but her actual baby brother.

Here's what Natalie has said about Gun Shy:

"I felt so betrayed when my brother joined (the army) because he's my baby brother and I felt he was ignoring all my teaching."*

Is it because of my own partiality that I think that a roughly 24-year-old Natalie Merchant talking about her "teaching" is uniquely lovable? Probably. The more significant question is, Would baby brother ignore her teaching even after hearing this song?

"I sent him the album including Gun Shy on cassette and told him to listen to every song without exception. He came to see us in Germany a couple of weeks ago and he told me the army was no life for him."*

What can you say? She's a woman who can a get a point across.

While I think Cotton Alley is a very sweet song, the lyrics pale in comparison to the lyrics to Gun Shy or any other song on In My Tribe. It's remarkable to think how much Natalie progressed in her writing abilities in only a couple of years.

Download Cotton Alley on Itunes - Cotton Alley - The Wishing Chair

Download Gun Shy (Natalie's solo version, because that's the one I prefer, because it's my blog, so there) on Itunes - Gun Shy (Live) - Live In Concert

Click here to see a very old live performance of Gun Shy on Natalie's official website. And if you are tempted to make fun of her outfit, I'd just like to point out that her fellow band member is dressed a lot like the Colonel from Kentucky Fried Chicken, so...you tell me which is worse.

I want to take a moment to say thank you once again to those who have sent me e-mails. I appreciate your kind words and I especially enjoy hearing your insights about the songs. I am also getting lots of song requests and I assure you I am working on them, so keep your eyes peeled. See you next week!

*The Guardian, 1987

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Golden Boy

Golden Boy (from the album Motherland)

Top of the fold
toast of the town
everyone stops when you come around
they hold their breath for you

Heroes are born
idols are made
we're all fools for this factory fame
and you've got the brand new face

You've got the brand new face
golden boy

Beauty untamed
stupid and wild
poster boy, you're society's child
cut your teeth
cut your mouth
cut it out

Meteor rise from obscurity
all it took was a killing spree
and the whole world was lying at your feet
golden boy

I know my place
stick to my lines
stay in your shadow
don't block your light

So you can shine divine
golden boy



I don't plan too far in advance which songs I'm going to talk about on this blog from week to week. Most of the time I just look at my Ipod, pick out a song that I feel like talking about and start from there. Other times, inspiration strikes.

Several days ago I had just finished one of the best books I'd ever read. I read a lot, but I rarely complete a book feeling fully satisfied. I always feel like it could have been better, it could have been more. Reading this book felt like falling in love. I went into the book store in a haze of euphoria, wishing I could take a book off every shelf in the store and feeling full of optimism that they would all be just as enlivening as the one I'd just completed. I knew logically, of course, that this was a ridiculous notion, but I didn't care. That's what falling in love does to you. It makes you ridiculous. It makes you not care that you're ridiculous.

It was in this state of exhilaration and ridiculousness that I came upon a shelf displaying a series of four books that ripped me right out of my haze and dropped me in the grim mire of reality. Here were the titles of those four books:

  • Serial Killers
  • Cannibal Killers
  • Sex Killers
  • Spree Killers

Each book's cover was graced with the picture of a famous killer that matched the "theme" of that book. Maybe on another day I wouldn't have noticed so much, or even at all. But the book I'd just read had filled me up with a sense of wonder and delight about humanity and being confronted with the faces of non-fictional maniacal killers shocked my system. Maybe it was also because of the fact that just on the other side of the shelf was a rack of Ramona and Beezus books and I don't normally think of Ramona and Beezus and serial killers at the same time. (Not normally.) I realize it's a bit simple of me to have felt surprise at that moment, but that is what I felt. And that's when I decided that this week's blog would be about Golden Boy.

Here is a quote from Natalie about what inspired the writing of this song:

"I was thinking about America's obsession with kid murderers, kids who kill
their classmates. The morbid fascination is what's so shocking, the way these boys go from absolute obscurity to front-page news and stay there for weeks."
*

I read books for two reasons: 1) To learn something useful or 2) To be entertained. In a perfect scenario, both things happen at the same time. I understand that there is a thriving market for True Crime stories, but unless it is your profession to detect and hunt down psychopaths, I honestly can't grasp the appeal. I want to be inspired, not disturbed. If I have to be disturbed, I want it to be by something that has a deeper meaning and value than morbid curiosity.

I can't say that Golden Boy is a favorite song for me personally, but one can't really argue with the observation being made through its lyrics. Lyrics that apparently some people have misunderstood...a lot. I heard someone remark that this song always made them think with fondness about their dearly departed relative. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that their last name was Dahmer.

Another quote:

"Names of serial killers are easier to conjure than names of great humanitarians. We repeatedly make celebrities out of psychopaths whether we intend to or not."**

Alright, maybe she's being overly cynical here. Let's all put this statement to the test: Everyone take a moment and name as many serial killers as you can. Okay, now name as many humanitarians as you can.

Go ahead. Take your time.

A few more seconds...

Done?

Yeah...I failed too. So in an attempt to even up the score, I will now give you a short list of famous(ish) humanitarians: Jean-Pierre Hallet, Harold Robles, Jane Goodall, Masanao Goto, Niall Mellon, Almira Fales, Jody Williams, and Yanis Kanidis. Now you may not be motivated to read extensive biographies on each of these people (and I'm not gonna lie and say that I did either), but if you can memorize this list and add it to the handful of other humanitarian names you know, then the next time someone asks you if you can list more humanitarians than serial killers (and let's face it, this comes up in conversation all the time), you may just succeed!

That's all for this week, folks. Make sure to tune in next week when I promise to talk about something less serial killer-y. If you'd like to share your thoughts (and please do, it makes me feel less like I'm talking to myself, which is, I've heard, the first step on the road to serial killing), feel free to e-mail me at nmcompendium@yahoo.com or leave a comment below. Ta ta for now!

Click here to watch a video of Natalie and her band performing Golden Boy live.

Click here to download Golden Boy from Itunes - Golden Boy - Motherland

* Japan Times
** Elektra Website

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stockton Gala Days

Stockton Gala Days (from the 10,000 Maniacs albums Our Time In Eden and Unplugged)

that summer fields grew high
with foxglove stalks and ivy
wild apple blossoms everywhere
emerald green like none I have seen
apart from dreams that escape me
there was no girl as warm as you

how I've learned to please
to doubt myself in need
you'll never, you'll never know

that summer fields grew high
we made garland crowns in hiding
pulled stems of flowers from my hair
blue in the stream like none I have seen
apart from dreams that escape me
there was no girl as bold as you

how I've learned to please
to doubt myself in need
you'll never, you'll never know
you'll never know...

violet serene like none I have seen
apart from dreams that escape me
there was no girl as warm as you
how I've learned to please
to doubt myself in need
you'll never, you'll never know
you'll never know...

that summer fields grew high
we had wildflower fever
we had to lay down where they grow
how I've learned to hide, how I've locked inside
you'd be surprised if shown
but you'll never, you'll never know



In the career of every popular and well-known musical entertainer, there are two categories of "hit" songs. The first and most obvious category is that of the songs that are released as singles, get lots of radio airplay and not coincidentally are usually the most uptempo and catchy songs on any given record. There have been many of these songs throughout Natalie Merchant's career - These Are Days, Carnival, and Kind and Generous being just a few examples.

The second category of popular songs, though, are not songs that are played on the radio, that may or may not be uptempo and catchy, and that the casual fan may never have even heard. These are the songs that are beloved to the die-hard fans, the ones who are not satisfied with a "Greatest Hits" collection - they are instead intimately acquainted with every song on every album and thus have the pleasure of creating their own personal "Best of" playlist. I have no doubt that Stockton Gala Days is this type of song for many Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs fans.

To start with, let's get a little history lesson about what Stockton Gala Days are.

Or not. I had an incredibly difficult time finding any information on this subject, primarily because when you search "Stockton Gala Days" in a search engine 99% of the results are about the song, not the actual...event? Is it an event?

"Stockton isn't exactly a small town. It's more like a place where two main roads meet. Every year they have this festival." - Natalie Merchant, Rock Compact Disc, 1992

Alright, event status confirmed. What else? Here's a sample of all the information I could gather (stop me if it gets boring): Stockton is a town in Chautauqua County, New York, north of Jamestown. It was settled in the early 1800s. They had problems with predatory wolves (see last week's blog). They were afraid of "hostile Indians." Some of the first names of people who lived there - Ichabod, Abner, Shadrach and Freelove (you heard me.) There were many butter and cheese factories there. And from that point the details really thin out. And by "that point" I mean about 1915. If you have some information about Stockton and particularly its Gala Days, please enlighten me. But for now I'm giving up.

Let's move on to the song itself. First, the lyrics. For me, Natalie's lyrics have always produced a general feeling more than any sort of particular visual image. But this song is an exception. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I was raised in a very large city and had very little experience with countrysides, rolling hills and open fields. If I had tried on my own to imagine experiencing these things as a small child, I think I would've ended up envisioning something that looked not at all unlike a fabric softener commercial. But the words to this song are so delightfully descriptive that I can listen to it and imagine an experience that is both beautiful and transportive, a vision that makes me nostalgic for a childhood I never experienced and homesick for a home I never had. Wild apple blossoms, garland crowns, wildflower fever. The very sound of those words coming from a voice full of love are as beautiful as the images they conjure up.

Here's what Natalie had to say about the song:

"Whenever we played that song, all I thought of was being a young girl and having the true friendships that we have when we're young. I had a rural upbringing and I feel very close to - I don't want to sound like a hippie girl, but I spent a lot of time in grape vineyards and cornfields and the forest, and that song just brought to mind how happy I was when I was younger, and that feeling of summer and this great expanse of time that summer was, and how I spent it, and who I spent it with." - Musician, November 1992

Musically, this song has two elements that I really love. First, it's the pacing. I really geek out over songs that build to a crescendo and this song does it beautifully. There's a point near the end of the song where it sounds like the instruments are all slowing down and you can sense the end coming...and then everything breaks open and the song just bursts forth with a final surge of energy. You can hear this particularly on the Our Time In Eden version.

Second, the instrument that really takes this song the extra mile for me is the violin. I think the violin is the most underused instrument in rock music, I suppose because it's not traditionally considered a rock music instrument (and yes, I know some might argue that 10,000 Maniacs aren't exactly a "rock" band, but let's just say I'm using the term loosely.) But in Stockton Gala Days, the violin is what keeps the song from being merely pretty and instead makes it beautiful. This aspect of the song is particularly notable on the Unplugged version.

In many ways Stockton Gala Days is a fine companion to These Are Days - songs that call to mind beautiful settings, meaningful relationships and reflections on the purest joys of life.

Download Stockton Gala Days on Itunes - Stockton Gala Days (Live) - MTV Unplugged: 10,000 Maniacs

Thursday, December 2, 2010

House Carpenter

House Carpenter (from the album The House Carpenter's Daughter; traditional)

“Well met, well met
and I know true love
well met, well met”, said he
“I’m just returning from the salt, salt sea
and it’s all for the love of thee”

“Come in, come in
my own true love
and have a seat with me
it’s been three-fourths
of a long, long year
since together we have been”

“No I can’t come in
and I can’t sit down
for I have but a moment’s time
they say that you’re married
to a house carpenter
and your heart shall never be mine”

“Well I could have married
the king’s daughter fair
she would have married me
but I forsaked upon
her crowns of gold
and it’s all for the love of thee”

“Now will you forsake on
your house carpenter
and go along with me?
I’ll take you where
the grass grows green
on the banks of the bitter reeds”

She pick’d up her wee little babe
and kisses, gave it three saying,
“stay right here my darling little one
keep your papa company”

Now they had not been
on the ship two weeks
I swear it was not three
when his true love began
to weep and moan
and she wept most bitterly

“Are you weeping
for my silver and gold
are you weeping for my store or are
you weeping for that house carpenter
that you ne’er shall see no more?”

“A curse on the sailor she swore
a curse, a curse she swore
you robbed me of my sweet little babe
that I never shall see no more!”

Well, they had not been
on the ship three weeks
I swear it was not four
until there came a leak in the ship
and she sank
to rise no more…



I love a good cautionary tale. When I was a child, there was a stretch of time in which these types of stories were the only ones that interested me. I demanded to be told the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf over and over again. Goldilocks was also a favorite. My book of Aesop's Fables was a constant companion. No matter how many times I heard or read these stories they never lost their appeal. In contrast, stories that had a more ambiguous moral, such as Little Red Riding Hood, held absolutely no mystique.

It makes perfect sense to me now, of course. At whatever point it is that we figure out that the world is a dangerous place (most of the time at a pretty young age), we spend the ensuing years trying to find a suitable navigation system. At any age, it's a difficult concept to accept that terrible things happen to people without warning or reason. If we can figure out a way to ward off disaster, then we gain a measure of control, if only in our heads. It's reassuring when someone who behaves badly gets punished in the end, instead of the innocent victim, which is much more often the case in real life.

I have mixed feelings about these tales now. In learning about the general philosophy that spurred the creation and perpetuation of these fables, I was a little bit disgusted. It can best be summed up this way: In order to help children avoid dangerous or unscrupulous behavior, let's tell them stories that will keep them under our moral control...by scaring the ever loving snot out of them.

Well, congratulations on a job well done! I mean, how many stories that conclude with children being eaten by wild animals are really necessary? And what kind of weirdos sit at their children's bedside and conclude their nightly ritual by telling these horrifying tales just before kissing them on the forehead, turning out the light and saying, "Sweet dreams, darling"? It's madness!

But then again...If guidance is what I was looking for in learning the moral of these stories, then I would have to say a measure of success was achieved. Yes, I can think of more gentle ways to impart such guidance, but they may not have made such a strong impression.

If you want people to listen to you, you shouldn't lie. Alright.

If you want people to listen to you, you shouldn't lie because everyone will hate you and a vicious wolf will eat you. YES, SIR!!!

Which brings us to this week's song. I guess over time someone figured out that children aren't the only ones who need cautionary tales. Adults are capable of their own brand of misbehavior, ours being of the variety that usually wreaks havoc not just on our own lives, but on the lives of others around us. Although tons of artists have done renditions of House Carpenter, Natalie's version was the first I'd ever heard and I absolutely loved it from the very first listen. It is a moralistic tale in the grandest tradition. But I discovered that some of the original words to the song were a great deal darker than the version that Natalie recorded. Check out this portion from the very end of the song that didn't make Natalie's cut:

"O what a bright, bright hill is yon,
That shines so clear to see?"
"O it is the hill of heaven, " he said,
"Where you shall never be."
"O what a black, dark hill is yon,
"That looks so dark to me?"
"O it is the hill of hell," he said,
"Where you and I shall be."

Whoa. Tradition holds, at least in the eyes of some, that the mariner represents none other than Satan himself. Way to up the ante!

Here's what Natalie had to say about the song in the liner notes to The House Carpenter's Daughter:

"So many of these old songs contain warnings to impetuous young women who would dare leave the comfort of husband and home under the spell of a false lover. The consequence could be ruin, disgrace, and in this case, even death."

No little irony, of course, that tales like those told in House Carpenter are seemingly always directed at women. Because, you know, what could possibly be the harm in a guy leaving his wife and children? No need for warning there!

But, nonetheless, I've been duly warned. I vow to never be wooed by Satan or any other wily sailor. Also, I want to make it clear that I have never, ever entered the forest home of any bear family and sat in their chairs, eaten their porridge, or slept in their beds and I never will. Lesson learned.

Download House Carpenter on Itunes - House Carpenter - The House Carpenter's Daughter