Even though this song is related to “Lord Jamie Douglas,” a Scotish ballad from 1776; and that ballad uses a tune, known as “Waly, Waly,” that is English and dates back to the 1720’s; and that tune is related to another English ballad from the 1660’s, “The Water Is Wide” was virtually unknown to Folk music lovers in America until Pete Seeger recorded it on one of his American Favorite Ballads albums for Folkways Records in 1958.
I first heard “The Water Is Wide” on the soundtrack album to the TV show thirtysomething released in 1991. The gorgeous version in that collection was recorded by Karla Bonoff and originally released in 1979. Also in 1991, James Taylor added his rendition of “The Water Is Wide” to his album New Moon Shine.
Finally, the first acoustic guitar instrumental version I heard was done by Ed Gerhard on his exquisite 1996 CD Counting The Ways.
I decided to take a shot at an arrangement of my own a few years after hearing Ed’s. For the guitarists out there, my arrangement is in the key of C – Ed’s is in the key of D – and played with my guitar tuned a bit below standard pitch (for reasons I cannot explain) and capoed at the third fret.
Click on the blue link below to give a listen. I hope you enjoy it.