Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shake Sugaree

Shake Sugaree is a song I´ve always loved, especially in the original version as performed by the amazing Elizabeth Cotten. "I've a little secret, I ain't gonna tell... I'm goin' to heaven in a ground pea shell... Oh, Lordy me, didn't I shake sugaree, everything I got is down in pawn..." It´s Elizabeth ´Libba´ Cotten (1895-1987) on guitar here only by the way, as her great grandchild Brenda Evans is singing it. And what a voice she´s got... Brenda was only twelve (!) at the time, and contributed to the lyrics together with her brother Johnny and her two cousins Sue and Wendy, on gran Elizabeth´s melody. According to Cotten in the liner notes "the first verse, my eldest great grandson, he made that himself, and from that each child would say a word and add to it. To tell the truth, I don´t know what got it started, but it must have been something said or something done". Find this jewel on the cd Shake Sugaree (Smithsonian Folkways).

Shake Sugaree was covered by many, as were other Cotten classics as Freight Train - which she wrote when she was eleven btw, so it runs in the family - and Oh Babe, It Ain´t No Lie. Greenwich Village folky Fred Neil did a nice version with slightly altered lyrics as I´ve Got A Secret (Didn´t We Shake Sugaree) on his eponymous second album (Water ´67) for instance. The loving reading Taj Mahal gives to the song even comes with a spoken intro about Libba and with a children´s choir. Find it on his ´88 cd Shake Sugaree (Taj Mahal Sings And Plays For Children) on the Music For Little People label. Bob Dylan never recorded it in the studio alas, but played homage to it a couple of times in concert in ´96 and ´97. Another interpretation I really like comes from Mary Lou Lord´s Got No Shadow album (Work ´98). Short and sweet. Oh Lordy me indeed...

Elizabeth Cotten - Shake Sugaree MP3
Fred Neil - I´ve Got A Secret (Didn´t We Shake Sugaree) MP3
Taj Mahal - Shake Sugaree MP3
Bob Dylan - Shake Sugaree (live Atlanta 1-12-´97) MP3
Mary Lou Lord - Shake Sugaree MP3

12 comments:

AndyMac said...

Thank you! The Elizabeth Cotten version is just beautiful.

Matt said...

More and more, with each new song I hear from her, I'm digging Mary Lou Lord.

Thanks for this one.

boyhowdy said...

Timing is everything -- I just put up my own post on Cotten a day before yours! I'm a b ig fan of the Mary Lou Lord myself, but you win with the Fred Neil...I claim on-vacation-without-a-hard-drive.

Ramone666 said...

Cool that we chose to post about this song at more or less the same time. I honestly didn´t know you got there just a little bit earlier...

Annie said...

Thanks for this post! I love all of the versions. I somehow wasn't familiar with Elizabeth Cotten before this. Now I've got some serious researching and listening to do! PS, who is the artist behind the painting on in your banner? I'ts wonderful.

Ramone666 said...

Annie, the painting is by my grandfather. Glad you like it.

Johnny Smoke said...

Do you have a link to these files?

Ramone666 said...

Sorry Johnny, these have expired long ago.

Lucrecio said...

can you please specify what does "shae sugaree" mean ? my english is very prosaic, you see...

Arleen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Judy Ranelli said...

I know I'm late to the party, but I think a ground pea is a peanut.

jdogg said...

Memphians will forever associate the song with the late folk singer Sid Selvedge, and with the remarkable group he was a part of, Mudboy and the Neutrons, with included Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwaite and Jim Dickinson. Selvedge recorded the song as "I've Got A Secret" on his 1976 album "The Cold of the Morning" and Mudboy and the Neutrons recorded it on one of their three albums, as I recall, the album "Negro Streets at Dawn" from 1986 on the New Rose label.