How Good is Me Life
Jim Payne sings and plays guitar, accordions, mandola, and tenor banjo.
Fergus O’Byrne sings and plays guitar, concertina, 5-string banjo and bodhran.
Dedicated to the memories of Dermot O’Reilly (1943-2007), Alma Payne (1909-2005), Arthur Payne (1936-2006), and Bruce Warr (1928-2006)
Jim Payne & Fergus O'Byrne
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All titles traditional except 3,12,13 by Jim Payne, SOCAN, 9 by Angus Stewart, SOCAN, 4 by John Conolly, BMI, 8 by John Keegan Casey (1846-1870)
All arrangements by Jim Payne, Fergus O’Byrne and Mark Neary.
Thanks to Robert Buck, Donna Butt, Spencer Crewe, Gail Fearin, Colleen Field of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University, Fred’s Records, Great Big Sea, Doreen McCarthy, O’Brien’s Music Store, Harold Payne, Ned Pratt, Rising Tide Theatre, Darlene Terry, Shirley Terry, Angus Stewart, Gordon Webber, our families and friends, and all the people who have been so generous in passing along the traditional songs, music, and stories to us over the years.
Recorded at Great Big Studios, St. John’s, Newfoundland, April-June, 2007
Engineered by Mark Neary.
Mixed by Mark Neary, Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne.
Additional technical support by Spencer Crewe.
Mastered by George Graves at The Lacquer Channel.
Photos of Jim and Fergus by Ned Pratt. Photos of Fogo Island by Jim Payne.
Produced by Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne for
St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 6J9 Canada
© SingSong Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Two Jinkers Jim first heard this song sung by Evan Purchase on CBC television’s flagship Newfoundland music program, All Around the Circle, and it has been reproduced over the years in the Gerald S. Doyle songbooks. Conception Harbour was known as Cat’s Cove until 1917, but since the action in this song takes place on the Funks, our vote for the Cat’s Cove mentioned here is Lumsden, near Cape Freels on the northeast coast, which until 1870 was known as Cat Harbour. The Funk Islands are a remote bird sanctuary about 40 miles off Cape Freels, where the now extinct Great Auk was last sighted in 1844. Carey’s chicks, or Mother Carey’s chickens, are actually seabirds properly known as Leach’s storm petrels.
2. Anchors Away, Love Fergus came up with this song out of Kenneth Peacock’s Songs of the Newfoundland Outports CD-ROM, from the singing of Mrs. Clara Stevens of Bellburns, Great Northern Peninsula.
3. Waltz Around the Cape Jim has spent a lot of time at sea in the past few years. having circumnavigated Newfoundland several times, gone through the Northwest Passage in both directions, been back and forth to Greenland and gone from Tierra del Fuego to the Antarctic Peninsula and back several times. This song was written while crossing Baffin Bay on the Akademik Ioffe, a Russian hydrographic acoustic research vessel under charter to Peregrine Adventures, and thinking that maybe there just weren’t enough songs about sailors missing loved ones at home.
4. The Trawlin’ Trade English songwriter John Conolly’s homage to the hard-working men who toil away in what is still one of the most dangerous occupations provides an excellent description of fishing life. You can practically smell the fish, feel the salt spray in your face, and the boat rock back and forth under your feet.
5. The River Driver’s Lament Many of the inshore fishermen of Newfoundland’s coastal communities worked in the woods during the winter when ice blocked the harbours and bays. River driving involved making sure logs being floated down river to paper mills or drum barkers didn’t jam up in ice. Many a man ended up in the frigid waters of Newfoundland’s great rivers after slipping off the logs they were trying to free from the jam. This is another song from the Peacock collection, from the singing of John T. O’Quinn of Searston, Codroy Valley.
6. Crockeryware The tricks played on unsuspecting suitors have provided fodder for many a comic ditty. This one involves a conspiracy between a maid and her mother, and proved downright dangerous for one poor fool.
7. Welcome Home My Sailor A Newfoundland version of a great old English ballad learned from the singing of the late White Bay singer and accordion player, Dorman Ralph. While the circumstance of somebody returning from away and being recognizable only by the token they carry seems a little bizarre in this day and age, the profusion of songs in this genre suggests they may have some basis in reality. These days, however, it is unlikely that the subterfuge used by these returning sailors and soldiers would be as easily forgiven.
8. Carroll Bán St. John’s, Newfoundland, was the only place outside Ireland to see an uprising related to the United Irish rebellion of 1798. While the culprits were caught and some of them hanged, there remained strong local sympathies for the situation in Ireland. Many of Newfoundland’s early Irish settlers came from the Wexford and Waterford area, and as we’ve found to our pleasure, those links are maintained today. Fergus found this song in Come and I Will Sing You, edited by Genevieve Lehr, and collected from the singing of Carrie Brennan of Ship Cove, Placentia Bay.
9. Sailors By Choice Inspired by his experience of work on the salt water, this song was written by Angus Stewart of Ramea, a beautiful and historic island community on the south west coast of Newfoundland. Angus has written several songs about life at sea and what draws people to that way of life, and released them on a recording called Reefer Songs. Reefer, by the way, was another term for a midshipman.
10. My Bonny Blue-Eyed Jane Another song from Come and I Will Sing You, this one was collected from Phillip Foley of Tilting, Fogo Island, one of the oldest communities of Irish settlers in Newfoundland.
11. The Liverpool Pilot A well-known shanty wherever sea music is sung, this Newfoundland variant was learned from the singing of the late Pius Power Sr. of Southeast Bight, Placentia Bay. Mr. Power had a major impact on the traditional folk song revival in Newfoundland and is heavily represented in the song collection, Come and I Will Sing You, from which we learned this version.
12. How Good Is Me Life! People who live on islands know there’s something special about living in splendid isolation and most Newfoundland songwriters have at least one song about how important the place is to them and their music. This is one of Jim’s.
13. Mom and Dad’s Jigs A set of dance tunes composed by Jim and named for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in 2005. We include them here since “the byes like to play a few tunes too, you know”.