Beanhole Beans

About Beanhole Beans

Beanhole Beans are a great Maine culinary tradition, legend has it that the Native tribes in Maine (who selected and improved our local beans over thousands of years of cultivation) taught the Europeans how to cook beans in holes dug into the ground. They would build a fire in the hole, make a huge bed of coals, put a pot of soaked beans on the coals, and cover it all up with earth. In a day’s time they’d come back and the coals would still be hot and the beans would be cooked.  This ended up being a staple of the lumberjacks as they drove logs down the rivers to the mills out of the north woods. The cook would go a day ahead of the log drive and bury a pot of beans in the riverbank, and it would be ready for the riverdrivers when they arrived.

The extra layer of the song is this: as I understand it, when Molly Gawler and Lao Gillam got married a few years back, Lao decided to buy Molly a Bob Childs Fiddle as a wedding present. He told John all about it but told him not to tell anyone about it, and John said okay, we won’t spill the beans before the wedding. So he wrote this song as a reminder to himself not to spill the beans. Later, he made a big pot of beanhole beans for the wedding ceremony and everyone enjoyed ‘em.

This is one of my favorite examples of a new worksong. Here’s why:

  • It blends the classic call and response format that has evolved to work so well in labor situations with mixed crews… so anyone who doesn’t know the song can easily find their place in it.
  • Melody is simple and stepwise but bluesy, easy to catch but doesn’t get dull once you start playing.
  • Easy to find harmonies over a simple melody like that.  But they can get gritty and dirty if you want it.
  • The format of a question “Do you like to” is great, very easy to improvise more questions because all you actually have to improvise is what you’re putting in the beans.
  • Rooted in the history of the people using the song 
  • What’s more it’s connected to culinary history, how great is that!
  • It is celebratory, always good to celebrate. 

Dip Pull Sway

I created this song to help synchronize the oars as we we get going. Often when we first start out the rowers are all operating at slightly different rhythms. Over time I've discovered that a simple count works best to get everyone rowing in the same time signature.  But instead of counting 123-456-78 I have them count 123-123-12 because the boat seems to row best in this slightly asymmetrical pattern:  (Reach, Pull, Pause).  "Reach Pull Pause"  doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, so I improvised "Dip Pull Swing" which somehow does, and still gets the idea across.  By the time this video was taken the words had evolved to "Dip Pull Way", which makes even less sense but was easier to sing and really got the whole crew going.

This is a technique I learned in Ghana from the singing fishermen there, who would start off songs with words but over the course of a morning of fishing would shift into singing vocables or sounds that rolled off the tongue easily and motived the group to keep working through the hardest of the net hauling.  Works for rowing too, and is easier than keeping clever rhymes going...

East End Farmer's CRAFT tour of Sylvester Manor

Last night we had a great CRAFT tour of Sylvester Manor for 30 young farmers, followed by a potluck and a few worksongs. We discussed the ancient music that has been an integral part of farming culture- from field hollers to cow calling to apple tree wassails- a musical blessing of the apple trees.

Here are two of the songs we learned:

Malpas Wassail
Walking Boss


Malpas Wassail

The Wattersons made a famous recording of this classic song:

Now the harvest being over
And Christmas drawing in
Please open your door
And let us come in
With our wassail

Chorus (after each verse):
Wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

Here's the master and mistress
Sitting down by the fire
While we poor wassail boys
Do trudge through the mire
With our wassail

Here's the master and mistress
Sitting down at their ease
Put your hands in your pockets
And give what you please
With our wassail

This ancient awd house
We will kindly salute
It is your custom
You need not dispute
With our wassail

Here's the saddle and the bridle
They're hung upon the shelf
If you want any more
You can it sing yourself
With our wassail

Here's an health to the master
And a long time to live
Since you've been so kind
And so willing to give
With our wassail


Note: These days we've taken to singing some of these classic verses and then inventing our own lyrics to suit the occasion.  For instance:

Here's a health to the mountains
And also the trees
Here's a health to the flowers
The birds and the bees

Ramblin in the New Mown Hay

a.k.a. "I Like To Rise"  

Here's a nice video of the inimitable Rose Sheehan and the Newtowne Morris Men.

I like to rise when the sun she rises,
early in the morning
And I like to hear them small birds singing,
Merrily upon the layland
And hurrah for the life of a country boy,
And for ramblin' in the new mown hay.
In the spring we sow at the harvest mow
And that is how the seasons round they go
but of all the times, if choose I may,
I’d be rambling through the new mown hay.      


In summer when the sun is hot
We sing, and we dance, and we drink a lot
We spend all night in sport and play
And go rambling in the new mown hay              

In autumn when the oak trees turn
We gather all the wood that’s fit to burn
We cut and stash and stow away
And go rambling in the new mown hay              


In winter when the sky’s gray
we hedge and ditch our times away,
but in the summer when the sun shines gay,
We go ramblin’ through the new mown hay.         


Appleton, Hope, Lincolnville Schools

It was great fun singing and talking with the students at the Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville Schools this week.

I taught and demonstrated:
Haul on the Bowline
Warm Them Pipes
Throat Singing like this
Norwegian Seljefløyte tunes like this
Maine Fiddle tunes, like these

And showed video of:
Singing Farmers in Tanzania
Musical Herders in Mongolia
Singing Fishermen in Ghana
and The Worksong Project to collect and share more worksongs.

It was particularly fun showing off my papercutting artworks and answering everyone's questions about them. 

Thanks so much for having me!  Keep on singing!
- Bennett


Jody was sung by Benny Richardson in Ellis Unit, part of the Texas penitentiary system in Hendersonville, Texas in the 1960s.  It was collected by Bruce Jackson and his scholarship matches the remarkable nature of the song itself. 

There is a great video that includes Jody being sung by Benny Richardson here at The video, which was made by Pete and Toshi Seeger, includes a transcript that is useful for reading along as you watch the video.

Another important resource for Jody is "Wake Up Dead Man, Hard Labor and Southern Blues" by Bruce Jackson.  In it he describes the epic nature of the song, which has a simple form, satisfying melody and and haiku-like lyrics that distill the prison experience 


I've been working all day long,
Pickin' this stuff called cotton and corn,

We raise cotton, cane and a-corn.
'Taters and tomatoes and a-that ain't all,

Back is weak and I done got tired,
Got to tighten up just to save my hide.

Boss on a hoss and he's watchin' us all,
Better tighten up, (if we) don't we'll catch the hall.

Wonder if the Major will go my bail.
(Or) give me twelve hours standing on the rail.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.

I see the Captain sittin' in the shade.
He don't do nothin' but-a he get paid.

We work seven long days in a row.
Two sacks of Bull and a picture show.

In the wintertime we get no lay,
Cuttin' cane and makin' syrup every day.

When it gets wet in the cane field.
All the squads work around the old syrup mill.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.

Two more months and it won't be long.
Gonna catch the chain 'cause I'm goin' home.

Goin' back home to my old gal, Sue,
My buddy's wife and his sister, too.

Ain't no need of you writin' home.
Jody's got your girl and gone.

Ain't no need of you feelin' blue,
Jody's got your sister, too.

First thing I'll do when I get-a home.
Call my woman on the telephone.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.

Gonna settle down for the rest of my life.
Get myself a job and get myself a wife.

Six long years I've been in the pen.
Don't want to come to this place again.

Captain and the boss is drivin' us on.
Makin' us wish we'd-a stayed at home.

If we had listened what our mama say,
We wouln't be cuttin' wood here today.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.

Captain and the boss is drivin' us on,
Makin' us wish we'd-a stayed at home.

We had listened what our mama say,
We wouldn't (be) droppin' big timber here today.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah.

From Wake Up Dead Man CD recorded by Bruce Jackson at Texas prisons in the mid-'60's.



L: Anjelina, Anjelina, Anjelina astandasta
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