Daily Song Study

Bruce Springsteen – Erie Canal

In songs on November 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm

This wins the runner-up for oldest song thus far included in our studies (the oldest being Cold Blows the Wind, albeit in different form).

This tune was written in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen after Erie Canal barge traffic was converted from mule power to engine power, raising the speed of traffic above fifteen miles per day. The tune is sadly nostalgic, and memorializes the years from 1825 to 1880 when the mule barges made boomtowns out of Utica, Rome, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, and transformed New York. It works both melodically and lyrically, with a tremendously memorable chorus. It is covered here by Bruce Springsteen on a collection of folk songs done by various artists. His rough delivery works well with the narrator’s voice, and the transition from minor lament to major chorus helps make the song bittersweetly enjoyable.

  1. […] In the liner notes, she asks the very difficult question of what precisely makes something a folk song. There are no easy answers, and the lines blur with each successive generation of […]

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