Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mad Dog McRae: Raggle Taggle Gypsy

Our traditional Tuesday song is from Mad Dog McRae: “Raggle Taggle Gypsy.”

“Raggle Taggle Gypsy” is a song that Francis James Child in his The English and Scottish Popular Ballads dates to the early 18th century. According to Child the earliest printing of this song was dated 1720. Nick Tosches in Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'N' Roll alleges that the song is based on a true story involving Lady Jane Hamilton, the wife of John Kennedy, Earl of Cassilis, and her lover – an outlaw named Johnny Faw. From my understanding that Johnny Faw or Faa was the name given to all of the kings of the Gypsies in Scotland.

Unfortunately, while many including Tosches point to the Lady Jane Hamilton story as the origin of the song, it actually predates this particular story and is older than 17th century. Like many early folk songs, it has numerous versions with differing story lines and is known by various identities. Other popular names for this song include, but are not limited to, the following: “The Gypsy Laddie,” “Black Jack Davy,” and “Johnny Faa.” Mad Dog McRae, a traditional band from Plymouth, England, does a rousing rendition of this song. I picked their version over some better known studio versions of this song because of their high energy performance.

Unfortunately, outside of their Facebook and MySpace presences, Mad Dog McCrea has no dedicated web site. This is unfortunate as I would like to learn a little more about this band. Perhaps one of their fans could do the honor and build them a first class site. I hope they come to America soon, as I would love to hear them live. I’ll leave you with, what I believe to be one of their originals, a song about excesses, as they ask the questions, “Am I drinking enough: am I smoking enough; am I killing myself slowly, fast enough?”

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