Colm MacCárthaigh: Vocal and Guitars, Matt Jerrell: Drums, Ryan Davidson: Double Bass, Hanz Araki: Whistle

Lyrics:

Oh there were two sisters side by side
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
Oh there were two sisters side by side
The boys are bound for me
Oh there were two sisters side by side
The eldest for young Johnny cried
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

Johnny gave the youngest a beaver hat
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
Johnny gave the youngest a beaver hat
The boys are bound for me
Johnny gave the youngest a beaver hat
The eldest didn’t think much of that
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

Johnny gave the youngest a gay gold ring
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
Johnny gave the youngest a gay gold ring
The boys are bound for me
Johnny gave the youngest a gay gold ring
He didn’t give the eldest a single thing
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

Oh sister, oh sister, give me thy hand
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
Oh sister, oh sister, give me thy hand
The boys are bound for me
Oh sister, oh sister, give me thy hand
And you can have Johnny and all his land
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

Oh sister I’ll not give you my hand
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
Oh sister I’ll not give you my hand
The boys are bound for me
Oh sister I’ll not give you my hand
And I’ll still have Johnny and all his land
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

So away she sank and away she swam
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
So away she sank and away she swam
The boys are bound for me
So away she sank and away she swam
Until she came to the miller’s dam
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

Oh miller, oh miller, give me thy hand
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
Oh miller, oh miller, give me thy hand
The boys are bound for me
Oh miller, oh miller, give me thy hand
He took her ring and pushed her in again
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me

The mellory was hanged on the mountain head
Sing-aye-dum a Sing-aye-day
The mellory was hanged on the mountain head
The boys are bound for me
The mellory was hanged on the mountain head
The eldest sister was boiled in lead
I’ll be true on to my love if you’ll be true to me


Notes about Two Sisters

“Two Sisters” is a song I learned growing up from the singing of David Connolly, whose words are probably closest to the version recorded by Clannad on the incredible album Dúlamán. There are a lot of variations of this song, and it’s known by at least five other names, including “The Bonny Swans”, “Twa Sisters”, “The Wicked Sister”, “The Cruel Sister” and “The Wind and Rain”. To go with the variety of different names, there’s a huge variety in the words, plot, melody, and pacing across the many versions. Despite being widely recorded, the song always seems to sustain new attention. Tom Waits has recorded a version, as have Altan, and a rendition shows up in the Child Ballads. Hanz and Matt who graciously appear here on my version, recorded it as the title track on Hanz’ incredibly incredible “Wind and Rain” album.

I’ve been playing this song up-tempo with a kick in it, as you hear here, and as an opening number at shows, almost since I first learned it. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels appropriate for a song that’s set on a raging river, with a current too strong to fight. The melody has a broad range, that I just about barely manage to sing at all. I always know that if I can get through this song, everything will be fine. Many thanks to the supportive audiences over the years who’ve lent some positive energy to keep things on track!