Down in the Valley

This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.

Down in the Valley is one of the best known, best loved and one of the most authentically traditional of American folk songs. My parents sang it to me as a lullaby. There's another nice variant of this song on the site. See Little Willie's My Darlin'

It was one of those songs from Pete Seeger records that I studied when learning to play the banjo. Pete's rendition from "American Favorite Ballads" is at the core of my banjo arrangement here. If you are a banjo player, I highly recommend The Homespun Tapes instruction CD by Pete "How to Play the 5-String Banjo." This is not a reproduction of his the original Folkways classic from the 1950's but a series of videos made in a library room or classroom at a conference, Merlefest I think, much later in life. It is priceless. Pete has a few revisionist thoughts about the techniques he taught us all way back in the day. He admits that the "basic strum" isn't really so basic: "It's just a strum". And he warns that it can get "muddy" if not played correctly.

"The banjo", Pete tells us, "is a rhythmic instrument more than anything else. It's true it's got some harmony and you can get some melody. But think if it as a rhythm instrument. And, all these little needle points of tone are like so many stars in the sky. If you use your ingenuity you can make some of them stand out from the rest like you could pick a constellation out from the rest of the stars in the sky."

Lyrics: 

Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.
Hear the winds blow, dear, hear the winds blow.
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.

Roses love sunshine, violets love dew,
Angels in heaven know I love you;
Know I love you, dear, know I love you,
Angels in heaven know I love you.

Write me a letter, send it by mail
Send it in care of Birmingham jail
Birmingham jail love Birmingham jail
Send it in care of Birmingham jail

Build me a castle forty feet high,
So I can see her as she rides by;
As she rides by, dear, as she rides by,
So I can see her as he rides by.

If you don’t love me, love whom you please,
Throw your arms round me, give my heart ease.
Give my heart ease, dear, give my heart ease,
Throw your arms round me, give my heart ease.

Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.
Hear the winds blow, dear, hear the winds blow.
Late in the evening, hear the winds blow.

Instruments: 
Tuning: 
C standard