“Salley Gardens” – McPeake & May video from Country Music Hall of Fame performance

July 22, 2018.

Curtis Mcpeake & Andy May play Salley Gardens, from their CD The Good Things (Outweigh the Bad) in the Country Music Hall of Fame “Musician Spotlight” series. Nashville, TN. 

Curtis was 90 years old at the time of this performance, and it was just 3 days before he received the IBMA’s Distinctive Achievement Award honoring his many contributions to bluegrass music during his amazing 70-year career. http://curtismcpeake.com True to the folk process, Andy and Curtis merged two ballads to come up with this arrangement. It all started when Curtis played his instrumental arrangement of the old murder ballad, “Willow Garden,” for Andy. Andy loved it, but though he used to render this song with great feeling as a youngster, he hadn’t sung it in a long time. Preferring to avoid such dark lyrics these days, Andy sought out alternate words that would work with the tune and do justice to Curtis’ arrangement. He chose “Down by the Salley Gardens,” a poem by William Butler Yeats which is often set to the traditional Irish air, “The Maids of Mourne Shore.” Yeats himself wrote the poem based on a fragment of an Irish ballad he had heard, possibly “The Rambling Boys of Pleasure,” a song which may, in fact, be related to Willow Garden in its origins. To our knowledge, however, this is the first time Yeats’ words have been sung to the “Willow Garden” melody.