06. Raincrow Bill
(traditional, arr. Guthrie-Terry/Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., BMI-copyright control)
Track 6 – Raincrow Bill (MASTER 699)
From at least Pennsylvania south and west to Arkansas and perhaps beyond (not to mention Germanic traditions), to hear a crow call, or to see a flock take flight in the late afternoon foretells rain that night or the following day. The belief is widespread among whites and blacks, north and south. (See W.D. Hand’s magisterial North Carolina Folklore, VII [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1964], p. 314, and the references there.) It would seem too that the rain crow is especially powerful, Hand reports, for “to see a ghost, take a rain crow’s egg, break it in water, and wash your face” (p. 142).
Terry and Guthrie provide a definitive lesson in acculturation as they swap versions of the instrumental tune “Raincrow” on harmonica. (Note that Guthrie borrows Terry’s mouth harp.)
This tune was ostensibly copyrighted in 1927 by early country artist Henry Whitter who recorded a number of traditional songs and ballads, and then claimed copyrights.