Little Birdie - Songs about Birds and Birders

This CD came out of a simple idea: that I would do a show for my local Audubon chapter of songs about birds.  Being an avid birder as well as traditional music and folklore enthusiast, it was a great project.  As I did research, however, a strange thing started to happen:  I started to make up other words to the songs I was using.  I’m not much of a songwriter, so this was unusual.  But for a while there, it seemed like I couldn’t take a walk in the woods or a drive in the car without some silly reworking of an old song going through my head.  Eventually I gave in, and the show became as much about celebrating (and laughing at) birders like me, as it was about the objects of our affliction, ... I mean, affection.  

All the songs not designated as traditional were written by me.  On track 8, I’d like to thank Piper and the Plovers: Lorien and Caelyn Shultie, and Piper Lowry, assisted by Shevaun Shultie and Bill Grabin.  

Guitar and banjo are played by me, and most songs were done in one live take.

To hear clips of or download the songs on Little Birdie, please go the the CD's & Downloads page and click on the Little Birdie link to CDBaby.com.

The Cuckoo

I’ve known this song since my pre-teen years, and have always loved the banjo flourish that begins it. Like many traditional songs about birds, the cuckoo is just a bit player, most of the verses having to do with life in general. There are many possible verses for this song, and I chose the ones I like.

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Birding Blues Again

words and music by Monica Grabin

This is based on Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues, which begins: “Woke up this morning, looked around for my shoes. What do you know about that? I got them old walkin’ blues.” So I just changed it a bit. There’s something pleasantly ridiculous to me in singing about Red Knots and Upland Sandpipers in this style, but it’s an idea whose time has come.

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Mnemonic Madness

Monica Grabin

Basically, this is an extended jump-rope rhyme. I love mnemonics which help me to remember bird calls, and these are some I have learned from fellow birders over the years. It was really fun to put them together.

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The Cuckoo Revisited

Words by Monica Grabin; Music Traditional

This was the first parody I came up with. I tried hard to make it conform to the original, but twisted. Since I often look for birds with people who are a lot better at it than I am, this song is pretty much based on direct personal experience. “Bird haahd” is the tagline of Noah Gibb, another Maine birder. I've always liked it.

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Little Birdie

traditional

Another lovely traditional song that mentions birds, although only half of the song is about them, and I have no idea what birds might be referred to. I've sung this one for years, and learned it from the Greenbriar Boys, a sixties string band I much admire.

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Gray Goose

traditional

I learned this from the singing of Sweet Honey in the Rock, who do it much better than I do. I have used the song in teaching American history, as a metaphor for the resilience of African-American people and their culture, which survived through unimaginable obstacles, enriching us all.

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Little Birdie 2014

Words by Monica Grabin; Music Traditional

I wanted one song to reflect how I actually feel when I’m out with my binoculars. I love finding birds and the feelings of excitement, challenge and fulfillment when you get that gorgeous creature in your sights.

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The Piping Plover Song

words and music by Monica Grabin

This is the first song I wrote about birds, a few years ago. I was working with another York County Audubon Board member, Pat Moynahan, to teach children at summer camp about the endangered Piping Plovers on our beaches. Pat said I should write a song for kids about plovers, and I said I wasn’t a song writer. Right. The next day, Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles” entered my head, and the rest was history. Let’s help those plovers!

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When You Hear Them Cuckoos Hollerin’

traditional

A folk song from the American south, where Cuckoos are sometimes called “rain birds” for their supposed tendency to call before a storm. I felt the song needed more verses that were actually about birds, so I wrote the ones about Mourning Doves and Crows.

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