Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

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September 16, 2013
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Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 9-16-13

Are you confused about the difference between/among “country” songs, “blue grass” songs, “folk” songs and “cowboy” songs? Be calm. You aren’t the only one who wanders in the Forest of Musical Confusion. Elucidation is at hand.

Country Music supposedly comes from rural southern roots — think Ozarks and includes plenty of twang. A country singer’s popularity increases if he or she owns a raspy voice, pronounces “thing” as “thang,” fingers as “fangers,” and mentions Daddy and Mama frequently.

Folk Music derives from people who arrived on this continent from anywhere else in the world bringing their ethnic tunes with them. Mostly, folk songs are about war, work, and/or a variety of social gripes which sometimes turn into “spirituals” that stick in one’s head like a bad migraine. Think — “Tom Dooley”

Bluegrass Music has a “high lonesome sound” and is acoustic — mostly. This genre contains any song anyone may personally care to include, be it “spiritual,” “folk” or “country” — think scrambled eggs of musical tunes that require the singer to moan in a sick, sad and sorry wail. Often harmonized.

Cowboy Music originated as a form of folk music (surprise, surprise). What makes it cowboy? The tunes were either composed, plagiarized, or adapted by punchers, waddies and buckaroos who followed the south ends of cattle on trail drives or bred and raised bovines on ranches.

Some purists claim there’s only a couple hundred “genuine” cowboy songs. (Purists are so uptight). New cowboy songs get written every day. You don’t have to know how to straddle a horse or brand a cow to write a cowboy song — but it helps. Many “new” cowboy-song composers write parodies to well-known tunes by mentioning cows, horses, trails, horses, doggies, horses, and horses — plus throwing in a few ai-yis and yips.

The following is an example sent to me from an amateur song writer of Rattlesnake Gulch, Mont.

Cowboy Trail Song

(Tune: the Caisson Song)

By Agnes Grubbledinger

Over hill over dale, cowboys hit the dusty trail

Oh those cowboys go riding along

Hear them cuss, raising dust,

herding cattle through the brush

Oh those cowboys go riding along.

Chorus ...

Oh, it’s ki yi yay as they drive the herd today

Turn back that doggie ‘fore it’s gone!

Oh those cowboys go riding along

And where-e’er they go, you will always know

That those cowboys go riding along.

In the storm, in the night,

when those cows get on the fight

See those cowboys go riding along

Saddle up, let ’er buck,

just swing aboard and trust to luck

And those cowboys go riding along.

Chorus ...

Oh, it’s ki yi yay as they drive the herd today

Turn back that doggie ‘fore it’s gone!

Oh those cowboys go riding along

And where-e’er they go, you will always know

That those cowboys go riding along.

Was it high, was it low,

where’d that snaky doggie go

As those cowboys go riding along?

Was it left, was it right,

now they won’t get home tonight

And those cowboys go riding along?

Chorus ...

Oh, it’s ki yi yay as they drive the herd today

Turn back that doggie ‘fore it’s gone!

Oh those cowboys go riding along

And where-e’er they go, you will always know

That those cowboys go riding along.

See how simple it is? ❖


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The Fence Post Updated Oct 17, 2013 10:00AM Published Oct 1, 2013 10:57AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.