My CDs - Give Me a River Liner Notes
This was my first solo album, done without the moral support of Crab Alley to back me up. It was a fearful business, one that I was in a hurry to get over with—hence the breathless quality of some of the songs recorded herein that should have been slowed way down. I’m deeply grateful to the wonderful generosity of Robin Jung, a fine fiddler with an inherent notion of harmony and arrangement, Tom Anthony, whose bass and viola da gamba anchor these humble compositions, and engineering wizard Les Lenz, who led me through it all.
Janie Meneely: guitar, vocals
Tom Anthony: bass, viola da gamba
Robin Jung: vocals, whistle and fiddle
Sing Me a Song
Don’t you just revel in an October day, when the sky is a rich blue and the waves sparkle in the light? That’s what this song is all about, pure and simple.
Give Me a River
I wrote this song for Don Backe of Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB). Don has been in a wheelchair ever since an accident took away the use of his legs. He’s been instrumental in raising the funds to equip a fleet of sailboats for use by people who aren’t able to scurry around the foredeck. He said sailing gave him his legs back, and I immediately conjured the image of running to the sea. As it happened, the song is largely biographical—right down to sewing a sail from my mother’s old bedsheet—and marks a turning point in my life, when I realized that I had handicapped myself—locked myself in what had been instead of what might be. I’ve come a long way since then, and indeed now have a boat that I can sail, hand upon the tiller, feet upon the rail. And I try to make my life happen, instead of putting others in charge.
Answers (Lindsay’s Song)
My then teen-age daughter Lindsay was a bit reckless at times in her choice of friends. This is her mother speaking. The song remains special to her, now that she is a mom with two kids of her own (does that make me a grandmother? gasp).
Thomas Point Light
When I was teenager, I crewed just about every weekend on one racing boat or another, out in the open water of the Bay between Tolley Point and Poplar Island. The Thomas point Lighthouse was such a prominent landmark, always, and let us know we were almost to the finish line. When I was older and began cruising up and down the Bay. The light remained my herald of homecoming, and still does. It is owned now by a non-profit consortium that includes the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and it is open to the public for scheduled tours.
Victory Chimes/Edwin and Maud
It tickles me no end that the Maine quarter displays the image of the Victory Chimes, a Bay-built ram schooner that sails today as part of Maine’s famous windjammer fleet. The boat’s original name was the Edwin and Maud, and she was one of two rams that remained afloat in the 1950s, working as “dude” schooners out of Annapolis and carrying tourists around the Bay. The other was the Levin J. Marvel, whose disastrous sinking in Herring Bay during Hurricane Connie changed maritime law forever. I understand that the Edwin and Maud’s name was changed to Victory Chimes in part to distance her from that tragedy. In any case, I had the opportunity to sail aboard her (with my son Stewart) the year she returned to the Bay to celebrate her centennial. This song gushed forth during that four-day jaunt.
Nellie the Sea Nettle
This is just a lovely bit of silliness that fell onto an envelope one day. I sometimes sing a different ending:
Now wedding bells are ringing out for Barney and his bride
They said their vows, they took their bows, it cannot be denied
Take a peek out in the creek, you can watch ‘em spoon
Living very happily, down in old Annapoly
Underneath the silver moon.
Once upon a time I taught at the Key School in Annapolis, and we took the fifth and sixth graders to Echo Hill Outdoor School for a taste of the great outdoors. While there, we listened spellbound when one of the camp’s instructors told us the requisite ghost story around the camp fire. Since then I heard the story repeated, twice, by people from different parts of the Bay, who duly reported it to me when I began asking around for watermen’s stories relating to the Bay. I took great pleasure in turning it into a song, adding bits of detail to “strengthen” the plot. Since then I’ve learned that the story was fabricated from whole cloth by one of the camp’s instructors, and had nothing to do with local folklore. Ah, but it is now as sharp a piece of local legend as any you’ll find, having slipped from the light of that campfire and into the imaginations of young listeners all around the Bay. I suspect that’s how most folklore takes root, and I stand by my song.
Sweet Yellow Legs
I was always charmed by stories of animals that could change themselves into humans as a result of true love or a magic kiss or . . . . This story is based on the Chinese (I think) tale of “The Crane Wife,” but it has a distinct Bay twist.
This was a favorite from the Crab Alley days. I think it tells its own story quite well enough and needs nothing for me to add.
With all the different bands out there who have recorded Twiddles, I figured I’d better record it too, if for no other reason than to put my mark on it. The lyrics fell out on a scrap of paper about as fast as I could write them down. Some songs are like that. Meanwhile, this little ditty has taken on a life of its own and has sailed well beyond the Chesapeake Bay. My fantasy is to hear it sung someday in an English pub, fobbed off as a traditional number.
Mollie the Bold
This song goes out to any woman who’s ever been yelled at by some insensitive lout on a boat. I understand there are more than a few Mollie the Bold characters who show up routinely at Halloween balls around the Bay. I’ll drink to that!
Go to the River
I sometimes suffer from depression, and this is my song about that.