Two Peoples
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Traditional music is all about connections . . .

lyrics by Melissa L. Tatum
music by Jil Chambless*
arranged by Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse
recorded by Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse
Vocals, whistle, flute, native american flute Jil Chambless
Guitar, bouzouki, bass, percussion Scooter Muse
recorded at Saddell Abbey Studio, Florence, AL
recording engineer Scooter Muse

Here’s a preview sample of the song.

*This song has two different melodies. One is performed by Ghost of a Rose (music by Berdene C. Foye) and one is performed by Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse (music by Jil Chambless)

As a specialist in Indian law, I was well acquainted with the Trail of Tears, and as a long-time fan of traditional music with an appreciation for the connection between history and song, I was aware of the fact that the potato famine was not a true famine – Ireland actually exported food during the blight. But until Robbie O’Connell told the story, I had not known of the connection between the Choctaw and the Irish. One of the worst of the potato blights occurred a decade or so after the Choctaw were removed to what is now Oklahoma. Remembering what it was like to lose their homeland and be hungry, the Choctaw took up a collection and sent the money as humanitarian relief to Ireland. My brain wouldn’t let go of the story unil Dene and i wrote this song. 

I first met Jil and Scooter at the North Texas Irish Fest, where they were playing with Ed Miller. I really enjoyed their concerts, and found myself going home with a copy of Scooter’s solo CD, which I fell in love with. The next year they were back at NTIF and Jil had released her solo CD, which I also promptly fell in love with. When I heard they were recording a CD together, I knew I wanted a copy of that CD, and that I also wanted them for a house concert, and for them to record a track for the benefit CD. All three wishes were granted.

Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse both play with Henri’s Notions, the longest running Celtic band in the South, as well as with Ed Miller, and have recently released an album as a duo. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Jil Chambless now resides in Tuscaloosa and has played an active role in the Celtic music scene for more than 20 years. As a singer and flute and whistle player, Jil has completed many recording projects and performed at Celtic festivals and concerts all over the US as well as in Canada, Scotland and Israel.Award-winning banjo player and guitarist Scooter Muse has played banjo with a host of bluegrass legends, as well as handling first call banjo duties for the world famous Muscle Shoals, Alabama recording industry. After being exposed to Celtic music in the early 1980s, he launched into the world of Celtic music on banjo, and ultimately, moving into the world of open tunings on the guitar. In the 90’s Scooter founded the Full Moon Ensemble, who achieved national recognition, toured the US and Canada as well as Scotland and recorded 5 critically acclaimed CDs. After a successful 8 year run, the FME went their separate ways and Scooter was drafted as the guitar player for Henri’s Notions. In 2005, he recorded a solo guitar CD, Saddell Abbey, with all original material as well as original music set to the poetry of Robert Burns. 

The lyrics:

We are two peoples connected by heartbreak, by hunger and a love of the land
We lost our homes, our hope and our children at the whim of a government plan
We are two peoples divided by heartbreak, by struggle and the need to survive
We watched our people depart from our homeland, seeking to rebuild their lives

CHORUS: How can you starve in a land full of plenty?
How is money worth more than a life?
How can a government take from its people
All the things that they need to survive?

The French and the English encountered our people farming near river bluffs
We signed their treaties, and shared all our bounty, but for them it was never enough
Again and again they took parts of our home, all part of their master plan
We were the first on the trail full of tears, marching toward our new land

As tenant farmers of absentee landlords, we tended their fields and their stock
Our tiny acres grew only potatoes, then blight rotted half of the crop
No food in our bellies, no food in our cupboards, yet landlords had food to export
Cottage by cottage, our villages emptied as people fled Ireland’s shores

The crossroads of hist’ry united our peoples and showed us the way to survive
The heart of a people, though battered and broken, can mend and eventually thrive
With mem’ry of losses still fresh and tender, we reached out a helping hand
We clasped it tightly in faith and friendship, grateful to our fellow man

Now we live in a land full of plenty?
Our people and ways are alive
We’ll never let government take from its people
All the things that they need to survive