CONTINENTAL VILLAGE is the name of the place where I grew up, in the Hudson River Valley, about 50 miles north of New York City

The area had been an encampment of the Continental Army during the Revolution. All the streets were named for Revolutionary War heroes, and the remains of the walls that had surrounded the old farms ran through all the woods. Although Sodom and Gomorrah was only an hour's train ride away, Continental Village was a sleepy, country place where we could sled and play baseball in the middle of the road and I actually used to take a piece of bread and a safety pin on a line and walk to the lake to catch fish. It was a great place to be a kid. Musically, I also grew up in a continental village, hearing songs from the West, the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico and the South. It was a vast palette or music that I absorbed through records and concerts, books and the radio. Here are collected songs I have been singing since I lived in Continental Village, as well as some I have written and some which have caught me a little more recently. They're all songs I've lived with for a very long time and that I needed to sing for someone besides myself. In this I have been helped by very generous and extremely talented friends, and I can't possibly than them enough! This CD is dedicated to the memory of my father, Edward Palmes, 1916-2004

Bad Dream

Monica Grabin

This is a song about my kids. They're all grown up now, but when they were little, they'd show up sometimes at my bedside with big, frightened eyes, and it always amazed me that I had the power to soothe their fears.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 3:26

Buffalo Skinners

traditional

Graphically tells the story of the slaughter of the buffalo that went on after the Civil War. Government policy called for wiping out the vast herds in order to deprive the Indians of means of survival and to make way for the railroads. The song was originally a complaint about recruitment and conditions in lumber camps, called "Canada-i-o." It moved west with the settlers and became a different, more gripping, story.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 4:29

Two Sleepy People

Frank Loesser and Hoagy Carmichael (1938)

One of the best concerts I ever attended was a solo performance by Jim Kweskin in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1979. He sang this and many other classic popular songs, not just the novelty tunes, and single-handedly opened my ears to the great American songbook. I guess I just had to get old enough to appreciate them. This was one he sang that night.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 3:59

A Border Affair

public domain

This one began as a cowboy poem written in 1915 by Charles Badger Clark, Jr., "poet lariat" of South Dakota. It tells a story of loss across geographical and racial divides. I've never heard anyone else sing the whole poem, and the racial element is always left out, but I thought it was important and added to the poignancy of the story.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 5:32

Down on Penney's Farm

traditional

From the singing of the Bentley Boys. I learned this from a recording that was in the AV room of my high school library. I used to go in there with headphones and rock out on old-time music. I just loved the upbeat delivery of the truly awful situation, which is so typical of old-timey songs.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 2:45

Bob Dylan's Dream

Bob Dylan

I’ve sung this song since I was about 13, and never get tired of it, although I understand it a lot better now. When I sing it, I see my old high school friends, who are all scattered and gone.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 4:42

Run, Come See Jerusalem

Blind Blake (1929)

I don’t know when I first heard this song, but whenever it was it knocked me out. It’s about a true event, a hurricane in the Bahamas in 1929, before storms were named. It’s got terrific energy and I love singing it, but I have to carry a chorus around in my back pocket. Thank heaven for multiple tracks.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 2:32

Can't Write a Letter

Monica Grabin

This is about my husband, Bill. It was written when I was on the road in Canada in a rock and roll band, and he was home in Massachusetts. I’d always pin his picture on the wall of every new hotel room I inhabited, and wish he wasn’t so far away. That was over 30 years ago and we’re still doin’ all right.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 4:22

Ukukele Lady

Gus Kahn and Richard Whiting (1925)

I learned from the singing of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, who were very big heroes of mine. I tried to come up with some new harmonies and little wrinkles, and the instrument is a finger piano, or mbira.

Read more… close
0:00 / ???
  1. 1
    0:00 / 3:41

Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

Jimmy Cox (1923)

This is such a great song, and has been sung by so many amazing vocalists, that I don’t feel I really do it justice, but the instrumentalists do, so bear with me. I have no idea when I learned this one; it seems I’ve always known it.

Read more… close