“Pretty Saro” is a song that, depending on who you ask, may or may not have 18th-century origins in Somerset, Ireland, or be a 19th-century tune created in the Appalachians. It’s fairly popular in modern-day folk and “old-time” music circles.
In this video I’ve found, Elizabeth LaPrelle sings the tune in what to most modern American ears is a somewhat harsh, loud, almost shouted fashion, far different from the sort of smooth conventional singing most of us hear and learn. This is a hallmark of old-timey Appalachian song; many people can’t stand it, but devotees think it shows emotion and character, more so than what Southern rural singer Ginny Hawker calls “piano singing”.
LaPrelle is a very young singer, but her style is authentic. As the video at the top of this page shows, if you listen to the late Cas Wallin from 1980, of the Wallin family of traditional Appalachian ballad singers from Madison County, North Carolina, you can (allowing for the differences of age and sex) note the similarities between his singing and LaPrelle’s.
“Pretty Saro” is often (if not most often) sung unaccompanied, but fiddles and banjos on occasion play behind the singer. Here’s an example of a singer, Kate McKenzie, with Carson Hudson on fiddle backing her up as she essays the song.
And how are you all this lovely Saturday morning?