I heard “The Lassie Who Had the Land” on a recording of a spectacular singer I never met. Her name was Bridget Tunney, and she was from Ireland, from the part of Donegal that’s hard up against Fermanagh. She sang like a human bagpipe. She had a very hard edge to her voice on certain notes. When I heard this song it took a long time for it to make sense for me, both what it was about and musically as well. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

A version one often hears starts a little differently, going to the 5 note on “of” in “of a bright May morning.” But I heard Bridget Tunney sing it down one more step (4), and that one just stuck with me.

Excerpted from Traditional Songs with Jody Stecher

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