Saturday, December 12, 2009

*In Folklorist Harry Smith’s House-"Little Moses" — The Carter Family (1932)

Click on the title to link to a presentation of the song listed in the headline.

The year 2009 has turned into something a year of review of the folk revival of the 1960s. In November I featured a posting of many of the episodes (via “YouTube”) of Pete Seeger’s classic folk television show from the 1960s, “Rainbow Quest”. I propose to do the same here to end out the year with as many of the selections from Harry Smith’s seminal “Anthology Of American Folk Music,” in one place, as I was able to find material for, either lyrics or "YouTube" performances (not necessarily by the original performer). This is down at the roots, for sure.

(trad./A. P. Carter)


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Covered by Dylan
during Mar 5, 1970 "Self Portrait" sessions (credited to Bert A. Williams/Earle C. Jones),
during 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour
(a fragment with Dylan on piano, probably dating from Nov 1975 is part of the "Renaldo and Clara" soundtrack),
performed live in 1992 and 1993.
DOWNLOAD & LISTEN to a Bob Dylan live performance
(San José, CA, May 9, 1992) (Real Audio, 444 KB)

Dylan's most likely source is The Carter Family's recording (RCA Studios, Camden, NJ, Feb 14, 1929, included in Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music (track 53) on Folkways, (possibly through Joan Baez's rendition).


Little Moses... belongs to the category of the religious ballad. Such songs were common in the Middle Ages....
Liner notes for "White Spirituals," Atlantic SD-1349.


transcribed by Manfred Helfert.


Away by the river so clear,
The ladies were winding their way,
And Pharaoh's little daughter stepped down in the water
To bathe in the cool of the day.
Before it was dark she opened the ark
And found the sweet infant was there.
And away by the waters so blue,
The infant was lonely and sad.
She took him in pity and thought him so pretty
And it made little Moses so glad.
She called him her own, her beautiful son
And sent for a nurse that was near.

And away by the river so clear,
They carried the beautiful child,
To his own tender mother, his sister and brother,
Little Moses looked happy and smiled.
His mother so good done all that she could
To rear him and teach him with care.

And away by the sea that was red,
Little Moses the servant of God,
While in him confided, the sea was divided,
As upward he lifted his rod.
The Jews safely crossed while Pharaoh's host
Was drownded in the waters and lost.

And away on the mountain so high,
The last one that ever might see,
While in his victorious, his hope was most glorious
He'd soon o'er the Jordan be free.
When his labor did cease, he departed in peace
And rested in the Heavens above.

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