When First Unto This Country
This song is a bit of a mystery. It's structure doesn't line up with the old British or Irish ballads. It isn't derivative of the American spirituals. It seems no one is quite sure where it originated, although there is an obscure 1934 recording from Alan Lomax's field work. It's been referred to as a "stranger song," having no particular known pedigree and being told from the perspective of a stranger in a strange land. Lomax recorded the Gant family's performance in Texas, but the Gants were strangers to Texas themselves. The sweet melody belies its dark themes that range from unrequited love to brutality. That makes this deeply personal tune, a story told by an immigrant, about as American as it gets.
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