The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Red River Valley Mystery

The origins of the famous folk/cowboy song "Red River Valley" are uncertain. Variations on the title are plentiful too and range from
"Cowboy Love Song", "Bright Sherman Valley", "Bright Laurel Valley", "In the Bright Mohawk Valley", and "Bright Little Valley"—depending on where it has been sung.
Some think the song is of Canadian origin, dating from the time of the Wolseley Expedition (1870) which was a military force organized to put down the Red River Rebellion at the Red River colony in the Manitoba province. It was, according to Wiki, also intended to "counter American expansionist sentiments in northern border states."

Others think "Red River Valley" came from Iowa in 1879 because a manuscript of the lyrics exists which has a notation to that effect.

Wiki also notes that
The song appears in sheet music, titled "In the Bright Mohawk Valley", printed in New York in 1896 with James J. Kerrigan as the writer.
There is no mystery, however, as to how popular the song is. It's one of the first songs many of us learn to sing. It's simple, hymn like melody is easy to follow and it's my opinion that the song embodies and conveys a wistful kind of natural spirituality and sentiment that even an atheist is comfortable with.

The lyrics suggest a hard truth--love, like life, is not eternal, does not last. The narrator seems to grasp this truth but resists it. He knows that his lover is leaving and asks for some sign of affection ("come and sit by my side if you love me").  He holds out hope against hope that somehow their love can be maintained, that it's not over.

There is also no longer a mystery as to which version of this song is the absolute, very best of all time. It's this one.


  1. I'm philosophically opposed to the entire concept of "Stevie Nicks." I loves me some Chris, though. He saved the song. ;-)

  2. Heh. Sorry about the "Stevie" thing. I know you must have your reasons...
    Chris is great. Joyce really likes him too.

    1. I do have my reasons, chief among which is I believe she single-handedly killed one of my favorite bands. Fleetwood Mac was a damned good band until they hired that Buckingham-Nicks duo and then things went all to Hell. As to why I don't place equal blame on Mr. Buckingham... well, I'm a sexist pig, for starters, and Lindsey does play a passable guitar. Ms. Nicks, on the other hand, simply twirls around the stage while screwing up most things she touches.

      We be done now. ;-)