Red River Valley
Red River Valley - Squeek Steele, Pianist
“Red River Valley” is a folk song and cowboy music standard of uncertain origins that has gone by different names—e.g., “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. It is listed as Roud Folk Song Index 756, and by Edith Fowke as FO 13. Edith Fowke offers anecdotal evidence that the song was known in at least five Canadian provinces before 1896. This finding led to speculation that the song was composed at the time of the 1870 Wolseley Expedition to Manitoba’s northern Red River Valley. It expresses the sorrow of a local woman (possibly a Métis) as her soldier lover prepares to return to the east. The earliest known written manuscript of the lyrics, titled "The Red River Valley”, bears the notations “Nemaha 1879” and “Harlan 1885."Nemaha and Harlan are the names of counties in Nebraska, and are also the names of towns in Iowa.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. The tune and lyrics were collected and published in Carl Sandburg’s 1927 American Songbag. In 1925, Carl T. Sprague, an early singing cowboy from Texas, recorded it as “Cowboy Love Song” (Victor 20067, August 5, 1925), but it was fellow Texan Jules Verne Allen’s 1929 “Cowboy’s Love Song” (Victor 40167, March 28, 1929), that gave the song its greatest popularity. Allen himself thought the song was from Pennsylvania, perhaps brought over from Europe.