I’ve had this tune floating around my head for a number of years now, one of those tunes that you can hum but never get round to learning. Well, I though it was time to put that right.
I think I first heard Barlow Knife when hanging around with a bunch of old-time musicians from Wisconsin one long musical weekend in Sligo back in the mid 90’s but the memory is hazy so I can’t be certain. Four Men and a Dog recorded a more Irishy version of it but it’s the old-time versions that I like best. I got most of this version from an early 70s recording by The Fuzzy Mountain String Band with a few tweaks of my own to suit my mandolin playing.
A Barlow knife is a type of penknife that originated in England but became very popular in America. You can read more about the tune title on this traditional music site.
There is also a short lyric to go with it.
I been livin’ here all my life,
All I got is a Barlow Knife;
Buck horn handle and a barlow blade,
Best dang knife that ever was made.
There are a number of versions of this tune on YouTube, none of which have the ties across the bars like The Fuzzy Mountain String Band version. This one gives you a good idea though.
*Unfortunately the video I originally linked to has been removed but click here to listen to a sample of The Fuzzy Mountain String Band’s version on Apple Music, track number 32.*