Bruce Peninsula, “Rosie”

As mentioned in a previous post, the Canadian band Bruce Peninsula produce a brand of indie rock that draws inspiration from Alan Lomax’s field recordings. I previously discussed the transformation of the song “Satisfied” from Lomax’s The Land Where the Blues Began collection to Bruce Peninsula’s 2009 A Mountain is a Mouth. Bruce Peninsula’s debut EP features a song entitled “Rosie,” possibly inspired by a track of the same name by Dobie Red on The Land Where the Blues Began. Though these two songs feature different lyrics, Bruce Peninsula’s use of “Satisfied” from The Land Where the Blues Began hints at the possibility that their “Rosie” was inspired by Dobie Red’s. Both feature a call and response structure with work song percussion. The melodies in both songs are also quite similar.

Bruce Peninsula, “Rosie” (2008)

Dobie Red, “Rosie” (1947-48?)

On further exploration, however, the more likely source material for Bruce Peninsula’s “Rosie” comes from a second Lomax collection, Prison Songs, Vol. 1: Murderous Home, as performed by C.B. & Axe Gang (1947-48?).

C.B. & Axe Gang, “Rosie” (1947-48?)

Interestingly, the second volume in this series, Prison Songs, Vol. 2: Don’tcha Hear Poor Mother Calling?, features two further songs entitled “O Rosie” and “Rosie” performed by “22” & Group With Hoes and “88” & Group With Axes, respectively.

“22” & Group With Hoes, “O Rosie” (1947-48?)

“88” & Group With Axes, “Rosie” (1947-48?)

In this proliferation of Rosies, we can see the workings of a vibrant folk culture as it adapts and transforms, perhaps most dramatically in the sixty year leap from C.B.’s version to Bruce Peninsula’s. By pointing out Bruce Peninsula’s source material, I am in no way trying to denigrate their work: I love their music, and I think their arrangements of songs like “Rosie” and “Satisfied” add a deeper layer of meaning to these tunes. What I am trying to suggest, however, is that in the age of mp3s and the internet it is still possible for a vibrant folk music community to exist. With reference to Bruce Peninsula I obviously don’t intend “folk” to mean Greenwich Village acoustic strumming, but rather the sense in which musical compositions belong to a broader community than just their originary artist, something to be passed around and, in turn, expanded upon. Thoughts?



Filed under Alt/Indie, Blues, Field Recordings, Folk, Lomax, Music

5 responses to “Bruce Peninsula, “Rosie”

  1. Pingback: Pistol George Warren, “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord” | See That My Blog is Kept Clean

  2. Hello. My name is Neil Haverty and I am a member of Bruce Peninsula. Just stumbled across this post. I just wanted to confirm that our version was in fact based on the Prison Songs version of Rosie, though we were drawn to the notion that Rosie existed in numerous songs and was almost mythical in that way. Our intentions in covering the song were not far off to what you laid out in the last paragraph; that folk music is a broad term to encompass any music shared between people and that that power alone is something to celebrate. I hadn’t listened to this version in a very long time, so thank you for the reminder. The original is just as vibrant and bone-chilling as I remember it.

    • zk.

      Wow. Thanks for commenting, I’m incredibly flattered that you managed both to find this blog post and consider it relevant enough to comment on. Thanks for the support!

  3. bee standingready

    hi, a fan of bruce peninsula :) .. just wondering if there was any link you may know of where i can find the lyrics to ” Rosie” ? thank you. :)

    • as I stated above, our version is based on a recording from the Alan Lomax collection. The lyrics, as we deciphered and recorded them, are below. We are certain that these aren’t 100% accurate, but hope we got the spirit of it anyways…

      Be my woman girl I’ll… Be your man
      Be my woman girl I’ll… Be your man
      Be my woman girl I’ll… Be your man
      Get that shiny dollar… In your hand

      In your hand lordy… In your hand
      Get that shiny dollar… in your hand

      Stick to the promise girl that… You made me
      Stick to the promise girl that… You made me
      Stick to the promise girl that… You made me
      Great god almighty tell her… I’ll go free

      And when she walks she reel em… Right behind
      Oh when she walks she reel em… Right behind
      Oh when she walks she reel em… Right behind
      Aint that enough to worry… My sweet mind

      Well, Rosie… Oh lord yeah
      Well, Rosie… Oh lord yeah
      Well, Rosie… Oh lord yeah
      Well, Rosie… Oh lord yeah

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