So it is on nights like these, when rain that should be snow pounds against the window and sets me to tossing and turning because I’m afraid another leak will spring in the roof of this 126 year old house and send the third floor tenant running for a lawyer, that I think of Koerner, Ray and Glover. Why? That’s just how I roll__out of bed.
I must go now to the back of the house and listen to that tune which Leadbelly called “Gallis Pole,” which Led Zeppelin certainly called “Gallow’s Pole” and which as “Hangman,” Spider John Koerner, along with Dave “Snaker” Ray and Tony ”Little Sun” Glover, reworked into particles of current that still ebb and flow through the knob and tube wiring of my brain.
Like so many British folk tunes, “Gallow’s Pole,” snaked its way over time from the mid-Atlantic states to deep down South, and what you’ll hear in Koerner, Ray and Glover’s take (as well Leadbelly’s ) that you won’t in Zeppelin’s is the narrative piece.
A condemned man stands on the scaffolding facing the hangman hoping that his nearest and dearest will ride up post haste with enough currency to upend the inevitable. In this case, the man waits for his father, mother and wife. Now you’re probably wondering how such grim stuff can possibly get me through the night. Well, I’ll tell you; it’s not so much what the singer says, in this case Spider John Koerner, it’s the way he says it. Koerner, Ray and Glover’s is the loosest, most spirited version of “Gallows Pole” you’re likely to hear and emblematic of their jumpy, good time approach to American folk and blues music.