Katie Cruel

Katie Cruel

Katie Cruel is a traditional American folksong, likely of Scottish origin. As a traditional song, it has been recorded by many performers, but the best known recording of the song is by Karen Dalton on the album In My Own Time. The American version of the song is said to date to the Revolutionary War period.

Lyrics

The American lyrics appear to contain an oblique story of regret. As given in Eloise Hubbard Linscott's The Folk Songs of Old New England, the full lyrics are:

When I first came to town, They called me the roving jewel; Now they've changed their tune, They call me Katy Cruel, Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

Chorus Oh that I was where I would be, Then I would be where I am not, Here I am where I must be, Go where I would, I can not, Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

When I first came to town, They brought me the bottles plenty; Now they've changed their tune, They bring me the bottles empty, Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

Chorus

I know who I love, And I know who does love me; I know where I'm going, And I know who's going with me, Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

Chorus

Through the woods I go, And through the bogs and mire, Straightway down the road, And to my heart's desire, Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

Chorus

Eyes as bright as coal, Lips as bright as cherry, and 'tis her delight To make the young girls merry, Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

Chorus

When I first came to town They called me the roving jewel Now they've changed their tune They call me Katy Cruel Oh, diddle, lully day, Oh, de little lioday.

Origins

The opening verse of the song bears a strong resemblance to the Scottish song, Licht Bob's Lassie, whose opening verses mirror the song in both notional content and form:

First when I cam' tae the toon They ca'd me young and bonnie Noo they've changed my name Ca' me the licht bob's honey

First when I cam' tae the toon They ca'd me young and sonsie Noo they've changed my name They ca' me the licht bob's lassie

Licht Bob's Lassie would appear to tell a story about a camp follower or prostitute:

I'll die my petticoats red And face them wi' the yellow I'll tell the dyser lad That the licht bob I'm tae follow

Feather beds are soft And painted rooms are bonnie I wad leave them a' And jog along wi' Johnny

Oh my heart's been sair Shearin' Craigie's corn I winnae see him the nicht But I'll see him the morn

The imagery about dyeing petticoats is shared by the Irish Gaelic lament ''Siúil A Rúin.

Performances

Dalton's performance of the song is perhaps the best known. About her version, Stephen Thompson has written that "It's unsettling to hear Dalton, who died homeless and haunted, sing of bridges burned and backs turned. Jerry Garcia also performed the song, as have a number of other performers, including Sandy Paton, Gingerthistle, and Bert Jansch (with Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart). The Demon Barbers also recorded the song on their 2005 album Waxed.

References

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