God Speed the Plough

(First verse off a mug at my grandmother's house)
(aka "the farmer's arms" the first verse is part of a song farmers in England apparently used to sing on Ploughman's Monday as a way to embarrass people who hadn't yet paid for their services... it was like trick-or-treat for farmers)
(It is also a Morris Dancing song...)

(Verses 2,3,4 by Bennett Konesni) 

Let the wealthy and great, roll in splendor and state, I envy them not I declare it
I eat my own lamb My own chickens and ham I shear my own fleece and I wear it
I have lawns I have bowers I have fruits I have flowers The lark is my early alarmer
So Jolly boys now Here's God speed the plough Long life and success to the farmer

Well I wake every morn To the dew on the corn when light hasn't quite touched the sky-o
To the lowing of cows And the grunting of sows And the mare with a glint in her eye-o
There are deals to be made, There are debts to be paid, To feed madame credit, the charmer
So Jolly boys now Here's God speed the plough Long life and success to the farmer

Well I think every day of my girl far away of the riches she'll find on her travels
of the sharp foreign smells and the barbaric yells and the fine silty loams and the gravels
But they can't be as fine As just spending some time in the field in the dusk in the summer
So Jolly boys now Here's God speed the plough Long life and success to the farmer

Well of all that I love Under heaven above these things are the best of them all-o
It's the smell of the land and the touch of your hand how it grips soft and warm close to mine-o
and your voice like a bell well it casts quite a spell an arrow to pierce through the armor
So Jolly boys now Here's God speed the plough Long life and success to the farmer
So Jolly boys now Here's God speed the plough Long life and success to the farmer

Tiny Bubbles

Here is the worksong version that we sing in the fields.  I'm teaching it at an "East End Sing" at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, NY

Below is the official Don Ho verse- I think it’s the only “real” verse:

Tiny bubbles    Tiny bubbles
In the wine    In the wine
Make me happy    Make me happy
Make me feel fine    Make me feel fine

But I like to add lots and lots of other verses:

Tiny bubbles    Tiny bubbles
In my juice    In my juice
Make me happy    Make me happy
Make me feel real loose    Make me feel real loose

In my tea… Make me need to pee
In my drink… Make me really think
In my milk… Make me smooth as silk
In my water… Make me feel like I oughter
In my beer… Make me lose all fear
In my bacardi… Make me want to party

and so on…

FYI Don Ho sings a chorus but I never do.
I think these verses are enough.



In 2005 I spent two months living and working with a group of farmers who are part of a widespread tradition in northwest Tanzania: making music and dance in the fields, as they work.

It's a sort of singing, dancing, farming cooperative.  One day they'll till or weed one member of the groups field, another day they'll move on to someone else's.  Imagine getting together with fifteen of your friends and saying: okay, today we're going to weed Tom's garden, tomorrow we're going to weed Chrissy's and on Wednesday we're going to go over to Ellen's place.

It's called "reciprocal village labor" and that's exactly what they do in Tanzania only they sing and dance and have fun while they do it.  It's a community party in the field and and it's amazing to behold- or event to try out in your own neighborhood.  It makes your work seem so much more doable if you've got a mob of friends helping you out.

To top it off, many of these groups develop songs and dances throughout the farming season that they then use to compete against similar groups during harvest festivals.

There are many different styles of musical labor in the region: one style uses only bells on the wrist to accompany songs, some are purely a capella, others include drums or other instruments.

The first part of the clip (which is the title sequence for a longer film about musical labor that I will share with you over time) is a tradition called "magungulu" which only uses bells.  In the second clip Hoja Charles, the group leader, plays the Kadete, a "spike fiddle", which is made from a small lizard-skin drum, bicycle brake cable, and a bow made of a stick and sisal fibers.

YWW 005 - Gold Dust Fever

Your Weekly Worksong is... Gold Dust Fever


So far for weekly worksongs we’ve had southern, New England original, Sea Chanty, and an Tanzanian jogging song.  Today I’m going to bring you a California gold-digging / Maine woodstacking song that I wrote myself.  I’ve choosen it because we were singing it the other day while filling the wood closet at John & Ellen Gawler’s house in Belgrade, Maine.  I recorded it and I like the spirit of it so much I want to share it with you.


This song fits into simple the call and response tradition, and it’s got a kind of old-timey adventure in the lyrics.  But it’s pretty new.  I wrote it in 2006.

How I wrote it

Well, I had a good hook “well the gold dust fever gets you down” and I just started building the song from there.  I typically focus on finding melodies first and then I spend a bunch of time on the rhymescheme.

If you’re trying to write your own worksongs but struggling, try on these tips: - Keep it simple.  Simple melody.  Simple lyrics.  Direct call and response. - Simplify it even more.  Take out any unnecessary notes, beats, words, and ideas - Start with a catchy turn of phrase and then find a rhyme that completes it.  Then do that again, and again, again, so that the rhyming phrases for a story, and that’s how I build songs. - If you don’t have a catchy phrase, look for a catchy melody line, and build three more lines that build (simply) on that.

Why I like this song:

- Call and response enthusiasm.  People just love singing along with this song! - Easy to find the harmonies - A clear storyline - There’s a little pause between verses that gives you time to catch your breath - Making up verses is a fun challenge

If you try it:

- Try memorizing the lyrics while you’re stuck in a small space, like a bathroom, or an airplane.  It will be easier, somehow. -  You might hold off on teaching the entire chorus to your whole workcrew unless you’ve got some time on your hands.  There’s a lot of words in there! - Look at the lyrics as a story arc - it’s got a beginning, middle and end, and remembering that the story follows that trajectory will help you remember the verses and their order.

Check it out:

Here is Gold Dust Fever on worksongs.org - Enjoy!

Holler back with any questions or ideas!

And let me know if you decide to sing it...




YWW 002 - The Farthest Field

This week’s song is The Farthest Field by David Dodson.  When you hear it you might say “that’s not a worksong!”  It doesn’t have a driving rhythm.  It’s not up-tempo.  The chorus isn’t easy to remember. But all that said, it is a great worksong.  Why?  It’s got wide open harmonies that are easy to find because the song lopes along at a reasonable tempo.  It works even when songsters aren’t in perfect rhythmic lockstep- so you can be a hundred feet or more apart and the song still works.   And it’s call and response melody lines mean that the lines sung by the crew change throughout the song, but in a way that doesn’t require memorization.  It’s a simple song that stays interesting to beginners, and therefore it’s a gem for a worksong leader in the fields.

As a Maine boy who went to college in Vermont I feel a personal connection to the song because it describes many of my favorite places... away up in the farthest field.  David says that he wrote this song about a walk he was on with friends in northeastern Vermont.  It was in a field that went way up to the ridgeline and you could look out across rows and rows of mountains.  Who wouldn’t want to be transported into that scene from a hot and weedy carrot patch in sweaty August?

Click here to see the Sylvester Manor Worksongers leading this song before the opening Keynote at the 2013 NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association of New York) conference.  Thank you to Brendan McMullan for recording it on Edith’s phone.

The lyrics are on the worksongs.org post for “The Farthest Field”

Here is David Dodson’s website.  He recorded the song on his album “Weasel Rhythm”  When we spoke he mentioned Rise Up Singing might be interested in including this song in their newest edition.  Hope it makes it David!

This song is also recorded on the Kallet, Epstein and Cicone album “Heartwalk.”

Until next time worksongers- keep them pipes warm! Bennett

We All Need a Fruit

Here is a recording of song author Steve Eaton leading this song as a part of the Sylvester Manor Worksongers workshop at the 2013 NOFA-NY Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY


We all need a fruit, to house the seed
We all need a fruit, to house the seed
We all need a fruit, to house the seed
And we’ll all bake bread in the morning

I love the birds and they love the trees

A field full of flowers and billions of bees

I got something you got to believe

Plenty of food for everyone to eat

We all need a fruit, to house the seed

…invent other verses as needed…


Warm them pipes

By Bennett Konesni, 2013
Make up lyrics as you go along…


Who’s gonna warm them pipes-o?
Who’s gonna warm them pipes-o?
I’m a gonna warm them pipes-o…
I’m a gonna warm them pipes-o…

Who’s gonna warm them pipes-o?
Who’s gonna warm them pipes-o?
Steve’s gonna warm them pupes-o
Steve’s gonna warm them pipes-o

Who’s gonna warm them pipes-o?
Who’s gonna warm them pipes-o?
Farmers gonna warm them pupes-o
Farmers gonna warm them pipes-o

Warm them pipes well warm them pipes
Warm them pipes well warm them pipes
We’re a gonna warm our pipes-o
We’re a gonna warm our pipes-o

The Farthest Field

by David Dodson

There is a land high on a hill where I am going There is a voice that calls to me The air is sweet, the grasses wave The wind is blowing away up in the farthest field

REFRAIN: Oh walk with me and we will see the mystery revealed When one day we went our way up to the farthest field The sun will rise, the sun will set Across the mountains and we will live with beauty there The fragrant flowers the days and hours Will not be counted and peaceful songs will fill the air


I know one day I'll leave my home Here in this valley and climb up to that field so fair And when I'm called and counted in That final tally I know that I will see you there


Oh my dear friends I truly love To hear your voices lifted up in radiant song Though through the years we all have made our separate choices We've ended here where we belong.


Though I've heard this in many different settings I learned this song from Mia Bertelli for the 2013 NOFA-NY Winter Farmer's Conference.