Fair And Tender Ladies

Fair And Tender Ladies

Fair and Tender Ladies


Traditional arrangement Tim O’Brien / Cornbread Nation / ASCAP

Come all you fair and tender ladies
Be careful how you court young men
They’re like the stars on a summer’s morning
They first appear and then they’re gone

They’ll tell to you some flattering story
And then declare they love you well
Away they’ll go and court some other
And leave you hear in grief to dwell

I wish to the lord I’d never seen him
Or in his cradle he had died
To think a fair and tender lady
Did fall in love and was denied

I wish I was a little sparrow
And one of them that could fly so high
I would fly away to my true love’s dwelling
When he would speak I’d be close by

But I am none of those little sparrows
And none of those that fly so high
So I’ll sit down in grief and sorrow
And hope my morrow will pass by

Oh love is handsome and love is charming
And love’s a beauty when first it’s new
But love grows older and love grows colder
It fades away like the morning dew

Come all you fair and tender ladies
Be careful how you court young men
They’re like the stars on a summer’s morning
They first appear and then they’re gone


Tim O’Brien – acoustic guitar and vocal
Kevin Crawford – whistle
Cillian Vallely – uillean pipes
Tim Edey – acoustic guitar, accordion
Trevor Hutchinson – acoustic bass

Engineered by Gary Paczosa at Minutia Sound, Nashville, and by Trevor Hutchinson at Marguerite Studios, Dublin

Song notes:

Welcome to the 2016 edition of Short Order Sessions (SOS). Jan and I are scaling back to one release per month this year. So watch for a new release on the third Friday of each month. If you’re new to SOS, the label puts out digital releases only, and they can be purchased at iTunes or Amazon, and can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music.

Fair and Tender Ladies, also called Little Sparrow, is sung on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and is known in the US as a prototypical Appalachian ballad. In America it’s been recorded by everyone from the Carter Family to Joan Baez, from Bob Dylan to the Osborne Brothers. Irish traditional singers Tommy Maken and Liam Clancy released a lovely version in 1986, and Ozark singer Marideth Sisco sang a starkly moving version in the 2010 movie Winter’s Bone. I took the lyric from Patrick Gainer’s book Folk Songs From The West Virginia Hills.

This track came about in 2005 when Compass Records organized a benefit CD, Hands Across The Water, as relief for victims of the tsunami that year in Southeast Asia. At the time I was in production for the CD’s that became known as Fiddler’s Green and Cornbread Nation. This ballad was on my short list of songs for that project, but when I heard that my friends in the Irish traditional music Lunasa (www.lunasa.ie) wanted to collaborate on a track for Hands Across The Water, I recorded a guitar and voice version to which they overdubbed.

I’m touring the USA with Lunasa for a month starting February 19, so watch for us out on the road. (Tour dates listed at www.timobrien.net) I’m looking forward to singing this song and others with Lunasa’s backing.

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by R & T