Cuan Liner Notes: Bound for Caledonia
Track 4: Bound for Caledonia (4:09)
A sailor and his true love sat down to make their moan
Wherein by came their own countryman
Saying “Rise up m’bonny lassie. Make haste and come away.
There’s a vessel lying bound for Caledonia.”
“Oh,” said the sailor, “are you willing for to pay
five hundred guineas before on board we go?”
“I’ll pay them plack and farthing before on board I go
if you’ll take me to my bonny Caledonia.”
“Well,” said the sailor, “her money we will take
and when we’re on the sea we’ll throw her over deck
or sell her for a slave long before they know she’s gone
and she’ll never see her bonny Caledonia.”
“Oh,” said the captain, “that’ll never do
for there are no slaves sold into our country now.
They would hang us every man, they would hang us one and all.
If we sold her for a slave in Caledonia.”
“Well,” said the sailor, “she’s lying down below.
She’s bound hand and foot and ready overboard to throw.
She’s bound hand and foot and ready overboard to throw
And she’ll never see her bonny Caledonia.”
So the captain away to the fair maid he has gone
Saying “what is the reason that you lie here so long?”
Saying “what is the reason that you’re lying here at all
For you’ve paid your passage dear to Caledonia”
“Oh,” said the lassie, “oh, woe is me
that ever I was born such hardships for to see
for the sailor’s got a lassie he likes better far than me
and it causes me to weep for Caledonia.”
So the captain away to the sailor he has gone.
He’s taken him by the neck and he’s overboard him thrown,
Saying “taking this cup of water though the liquor be but small
And drink your lassie’s health to Caledonia.”
They sailed east and they sailed west
Until they reached the land that they all love the best
For the winds they did beat and the seas they did roar
And they’ve all arrived safe in Caledonia.
And they had not been there but three quarters of a year
When in fine silks and satins he’s made for her to wear
When in fine silks and satins he’s made for her to go
Now she’s the captain’s wife in Caledonia.
Colm and I began tracking on a Sunday after playing a sold out concert in Long Beach, Washington the night before. As we got to the studio, we swapped places with brilliant singer and songwriter Susan McKeown, also Dublin-born, who had been doing a little bit of recording that morning. After hugs and a little bit of chat, we set to work on our first track. As we were just beginning our work I mentioned that the first version of this song that I had ever learned was from Susan’s recording “Sweet Liberty” years before with my brother Mark.
It’s a long song made longer by the musical breaks we added, but it seems necessary in these story songs to allow the listener a moment to catch up with the plot. Colm can flat pick just about any tune I throw at him, so it was excellent that he already knew one of my favorites, Cregg’s Pipes, off of which he could base the little breaks we added. He originally tracked it on his cittern, but on a whim, just before he hit the road to Portland for our last day of tracking, weeks later, I asked him to throw his tenor guitar in the car as well. What you hear on the existing recording is that tenor guitar…and we began and ended with Bound for Caledonia, completing another nice little circle!
I’ve always loved Fylde instruments, made by Roger Bucknall in England. I still remember spending a good hour or more trying a Fylde Bouzouki in the back corner of Hobgoblin, just off London’s Oxford St., in the summer of 2000. It had such a warm, bassy, fun feel to it, and the fretboard somehow made it seem all the easier to play. I very nearly bought it, and still regret not doing so to this day.
Years later, I waited 9 months for a handcrafted Fylde Alexander guitar to get to me in Dublin, but once it came it was more than worth it (and the tidy, but very reasonable, sum it had cost). The immaculate cedar finish, the slightly narrower fingerboard, the telltale zero fret. It’s a joy to play, and even as I write this it’s only a few tantalizing feet away, having traveled across continents.
So, on my second week of living in Seattle, when I found Dusty Strings and saw a gorgeous Fylde cittern - I just had to have it. I gave it a brief try in the store, but the tuning wasn’t one I’d have used (I think it was tuned in straight 4ths with mixed high and low strings) - but it was very easy to tell that a lot more could come of it. I bought it there and then, which I think is the only time I’ve ever bought a retail instrument based on one trial, and have more than made up for my prior regret.
It’s an absolute joy to play, it’s still in perfect condition, and it sounds great. There’s just something about it that suggests wonderful chords and interplay. I wish I could explain it. We’d used it before, notably on the opening track on Colleen second album Lark, and it was great to give it another chance on Cuan.
As Colleen mentioned, there can be too much of a good thing - and when we tried to use the cittern as the melody instrument, on top of more cittern, it just didn’t quite work. So we also feature a very nice, very well made, Lark in the Morning rosewood tenor guitar, getting a rare outing in F!
As for the song, I should admit that we’ve always known this song simply as “Caledonia”, but have taken a small liberty with the name to avoid confusing people buying the record with the also-excellent Dougie MacLean song of the same name.