House Carpenter

Album: English Folk Songs (1882)

Songfacts®:

  • This traditional English ballad (a term used in the 1800s to describe a song that tells a story) is known by various names, including "Demon Lover" and "James Harris." The song refers to a visit from a past lover who tries to lull a woman from her husband (the house carpenter) and her child. He succeeds, and the two set sail on the sea. The woman sees a beautiful hill on the horizon. Her lover (the "Devil") tells her that it is Heaven, but that their path lies in another direction. He then bounds the ship toward a dark hill (Hell), which is the true and final destination. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mark - Salem, AR
  • Some of the many artists to perform this song include Bob Dylan, Nickel Creek, Natalie Merchant, Ewan MacColl, Pete Seeger, and Hurt.

Comments: 2

  • Pete from Melbourne, AustraliaTony Rice (1951-2020) was one of many artists to record this song, which he did on his album Church Street Blues. As a tribute to Rice, progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers played this album in its entirety during their 2019 Rockygrass appearance, with House Carpenter becoming the centrepiece, transformed into a 10-minute vocal and instrumental epic with singer/mandolinist Chris Thile turning in a searing performance, wringing every last shred of emotion from the story and the song. This live recording is worth seeking out and is a great introduction to the song for those who are new to it.
  • Zabadak from London, EnglandPentangle did a version on their Basket Of Light album in the late 60s.
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