17 Canal Songs

The Canaller's Songbook: LadyDpiano

Have you ever been on a boat? Better yet, have you sung on a boat?! I sure have from local shores to crystal blue waters in Mexico!

Unlike sea shanties, the collection of canal collections contains almost no work songs. These songs took their melodies from the popular music of the day. The subjects used in canal songs tell us a bit about how the canaller viewed himself and how he was viewed by others.

The Canaller's Songbook

The Good Ship Calabar: LadyDpiano

1. The Good Ship Calabar (Ireland)

          C                                      G7              C
Come all ye dry land sail-i-ars and listen to my song
                                            Bb                   C
It's only forty verses and I won't detain ya long
                                                  Bb                      C
It's all about the adventures of this Sou' Lisburn barge

                                                               G7            C
As I sailed as a man before the mast on the good ship Calabar.

2. Boating on a Bullhead (YouTube Video)

3. Simon Slick (Lyrics and Midis)

4.From Buffalo to Troy (Song in Key of A)

5. A Trip on the Erie

6. A Life on the Raging Canal On Spotify

7. Oh! Dat Low Bridge

This song was written for an 1880's minstrel show called, The Grip. Music by David Braham and lyrics by Edward Harrigan.

      G                   Em                    D7
It's many miles to Buffalo (Oh that low bridge)
 G                                      D7        G
Balky mule he travels slow (Oh that low bridge)
             G                 Em                       A7                 D7
There's gravel on the towpath, there are hornets in the sand,
       C                   G                         D7         G
Oh, pity poor canallers that's so far away from land.
G                    Em             G                     Em
Look Out! That Low Bridge, Look Out! That low bridge.
      C                         D7
The captain, cook and all the crew,
      G            D7             G
oh duck your heads way down
       C                    D7
The fastest boat in all the fleet,
         G           D7        G
"Two Sisters," come to town.

8. Meeting of the Waters

This was the song sung in New York City on November 4, 1825, for the dedication of the opening of the Erie Canal. Chords and Lyrics.

             D               G        D  
Let the day be forever remembered with pride,
             A7                                    D     A7
That beheld the proud Hudson to Erie allied.
                                                        D                  A7
Oh, the last sand of time from his glass shall descend,
           D            G              A7            G
E'er a union so fruitful of glory shall end,
           D            G              A7
E'er a union so fruitful of glory shall end.

9. I'm Afloat (Written in 1842)

        F                                      C7
I'm afloat! I'm afloat! On the Erie Canal.
       Bb              F                                                 C7
Its wave is my home and my scow beats them all.
       F                                                 C7                          F
Off! Up, with your hats! Give three cheers, now three more.
       Dm              Bb              C7                     F
I'm afloat! I'm afloat! After four months on shore. 
       A7                   Dm                 G7                C7
The prim, painted packets right past us may souse. 
                  F                      C7                      F                        C7
They may rub. They may bump, but they can't stave out bows.
         G7                                     C7
With darkness around us, and bridges full low.
                                               G7             C7
O'er the raging canal rights onward we go.
            F                                                 C7               F
Come, boy. Whip the mare. Keep her head to the wind.
          Bb                  F                                          C7
And I warrant we'll soon leave the snails all behind.
       F                                               C7                           F                Dm             Bb
Up! Up! with your caps. Now give cheers three times three. I'm afloat! I'm afloat!

            C7      Dm                          G7                  C7                 F
The canaller is free.  I'm afloat! I'm afloat! And the cook's getting tea.

10. The Raging Canal By P Morris

11. The Aged Pilot Man mudcat.org

12. The Girl from Yewdall's Mill www.loc.gov/resource

13. Black Rock Pork (lyrics)

14. Paddy on the Canal (Midi & Lyrics)

15. The E-ri-e (Lyrics)

16. The Dark-eyed Canaller (YouTube)

17. Low Bridge, Everybody Down (Sheet Music)

        Em                         Am         B7
I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Em                              B7   
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
Em                                            Am          B7
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Em                           B7
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
Em      G                                         D7            
We’ve hauled some barges in our day
Em                                      B7
Filled with lumber coal and hay
       Em                   Am             B7
And we know every inch of the way
          Em            B7    Em
From Albany to Buffalo

D7    G                           D7
Low bridge, everybody down
G                                                D7    G
Low bridge ’cause we’re comin’ to a town
And you’ll always know your neighbor
          G                          C
You’ll always know your pal
                G           C                  G    D7  G
If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal

The last song is one of my favorites. Have fun with the chord progressions. Perhaps purchase the book if you're interested in playing the melody lines, The Canaller's Songbook.


-- LadyD

 "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

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