Pretty Saro

Pretty Saro was one of the family jewels of the Watson Family

Pretty Saro marks the 200th song that I have posted to this site. It is a testament to the inexhaustible reservoir that is the folk tradition that there are still songs like this, a well known old war horse of a folk song, that I have yet to play here. I have no fear that I'll run short of material after the next 200.

Pretty Saro (Roud 417) was known in England in the early 18th century and was collected as by Cecil Sharp. It comes to us through the Appalachian mountain tradition. The tune is very similar to "The Wagoner's Lad" as sung by Buel Kazee and others. I fell in love Pretty Saro it from the recordings of Jean Ritche, Doc Watson and the Watson family. Pete Seeger's version on his Columbia album 'God Bless the Grass' is one of his most beautiful performances.

Pretty Saro was also picked up by more modern interpreters such as Judy Collins and Iris Dement. Bob Dylan wanted to put Pretty Saro on his 'Self Portrait' album and was recorded trying out six variations. The song was cut from the original but was since rediscovered in Columbia's vault and reissued on 'Another Self Portrait'.


Down in some lone valley, in some lonesome place
Where the wild birds do whistle and their notes do increase
Farewell pretty Saro, I'll bid you adieu
And I'll dream of my pretty Saro where ever I go

My love, she won't have me, and I understand
She wants a freeholder and I have no land
I cannot maintain her with silver and gold
Nor buy all the fine things that a big house can hold

It's not the long journey I'm dreading to go
Nor leaving of this country for the debts that I owe
There is but one thing that troubles my mind,
That's a-leaving pretty Saro, my true love, behind.

If I were a poet and could write a fine hand
I'd write my love a letter that she'd long understand
I’d send it by the islands where the waters overflow
And I'll dream of my pretty Saro where ever I go