"As They Lay Sleeping"

© 1979 Lee Ruth


Photo: Warren Winter

Chris Vallillo

Slide Guitar - 1936 Angelus Dobro
Rhythm Guitar - Collings OM-3
Tenor L
ute - 1926 Gibson tenor lute
Mandolin - 1920s Kalamazoo flatback
Bass - 1960s Mossrite electric

  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original


Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:
As they lay sleeping
In their father's bed
He played his guitar
Soft words that said
Night watch I'm keeping
While my daughters dream
And their easy breathing
Also makes it seem
They've been here all along
And it is true
As the sun it passes
From me to you

Soon he will wake them
Take them from their bed
Oh so gently shake them
Soft words be said
If they are hungry
Give them some bread
With a taste of honey
They shall be fed


No one can lead them
In or out of freedom
Gladly I will feed them
While they are here

Here where they will not stay
Here where this night
Passes to another day
And the sun so bright
Shines them along their way
Home to their mother
Smiling awaiting
Their return to her
In the sun I sing and play
All this was said
As they lay sleeping
In their father's bed
As they lay sleeping
In their father's bed

As they lay sleeping, in their father's bed
He played his guitar, sang words that said
"Night watch I'm keeping, while my daughters dream
And their easy breathing, almost makes it seem
They've been here all along, and it is true
As the song it passes, from me to you"

Soon he will wake them, take them to their beds
Oh so gently shake them, soft words be said
If they are hungry, give them some bread
With a taste of honey, they shall be fed
No one can lead them, in or out of freedom
Gladly I will feed them, while they are here

Here where they will not stay, here where this night
Passes to another day, and the sun so bright
Shines them along their way, home to their mother
Smiling, awaiting, their return to her
In the song I sing and play, all this was said
As they lay sleeping, in their father's bed
As they lay sleeping, in their father's bed

Artist on the Song:
Lee on the Song:
By the time I heard about the Lee Ruth CD, most of the songs of his I'd known were spoken for but Lee kindly sent me a cassette of some of his additional songs to listen to and consider. I knew the first time I heard"As They Lay Sleeping" it was the song I should record. It had an intimacy that seemed almost sacred. I connected with it instantly. As the new father of a little girl myself, I've lived the moments he wrote about firsthand. What father hasn't watched his sleeping child and felt those feelings of love and hope?

Rearranging the song for slide guitar proved challenging. It's a deceptively complex piece, and the rhythm is tricky. Lee's original version was fingerstyle guitar accompanied by fiddle with no instrumental break. After trying many variations, I broke the second verse for the instrumental and used the remainder of that verse as a bridge. I tried out many different parts with this song, but they all just got in the way. In the end, I kept coming back to the "less is more" concept of a simple, straight ahead arrangement. Classic Lee, simple, but complicated!

When my daughters Jennifer and Sally came to visit me, it was always a special occasion, and on one of those occasions, of an evening, in 1979, when they were fourteen and eleven years old, they fell asleep listening to a radio drama called "Moon over Morocco." I sat in my easy chair looking at them and listening to Mustapha, the master storyteller, who told stories so well they came true, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of my own meager gifts as storyteller, song-maker, and occasional parent. Turning off Mustapha, I gazed at the sleeping beauties and thought, "What story, however large or small, can I tell that begins in and is absolutely true to this moment, and that projects--however briefly, dimly, narrowly--some course of action that will come to pass?" Picking up my guitar and beginning to play, I wrote this song, which both begins and ends in that moment: "As they lay sleeping; in their father's bed; he played his guitar; sang words that said…"
Artist on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artist:
I first met Lee Ruth in the early 90s at the Salt River Folk Life Festival in Florida, MO. This wonderful down home festival takes place at the Mark Twain Birthplace and always features a pot luck dinner and jam session for the musicians on Saturday night. I had seen Lee perform on stage, but it wasn't until I actually sat down and started playing with him that night that I began to appreciate the depth of his music. His beautiful simple but complex guitar playing was a delight to see and hear up close, and the starlight sky of a Missouri summer night was the perfect backdrop for his songs: intimate songs of places and people brought to life with a gentle, yet
determined sense of purpose. His ability to craft a lyric and melody together is second to none.

Over the years, I've shared many similar nights with Lee, playing and singing, swapping songs and stories of the music and the lives we've led pursuing it. Those nights remain some of my favorite musical experiences. Lee's generosity with his talents both with me and the countless people he has taught and performed to over the years is the best tribute to the man he is.

Every first weekend in August for a few years, starting in the early 1990s, I had the pleasure of playing at the Salt River Folk-Life Festival at Mark Twain Lake in northeastern Missouri. Chris Vallillo, who hails from over in western Illinois, was another performer who also played Salt River most of those same years. They kept us pretty busy, alternating between playing on the main stage and over in the children's area, so it wasn't always possible to sit and listen with a careful ear to the other performers, but Saturday evening we had a chance to make up for that. The musicians and crafts-persons would pool their food resources into a great pot-luck picnic, followed by a music-making session that often lasted long into the night, and it was during these picking and singing sessions that Chris and I had the opportunity to listen closely to each other and play music together and with other music-making friends. We connected well, with parallel lives lived in rural Illinois and rural Missouri, each of us doing regular radio shows in our respective communities, each of us living and making our music with a sense of the place we live in and the people and history of that place. Several times since then Chris has played in Columbia, and we've had a brief window of opportunity to renew our friendship, and I look forward to that unknown future musical rendezvous. Hope it's soon.
Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:
I met Chris only once, at KOPN radio back in the early 1990s. He was in town and was producing "Rural Rt. 3" for the radio station in Macomb, Illinois. The show reminded me of one of the first shows I produced at KOPN, a Sunday night live music show called "Boone County Live." It was clear to me that music was our common passion and bond. Lee Ruth suggested that Chris might like to contribute a song to the project. When Lee told me Chris had a new baby in his life and he had chosen "As they Lay Sleeping," I knew right then we had the perfect guy for the song.

All vocals and instruments played by
Chris Vallillo

Recorded at Studio 13, Macomb, Illinois, in the summer of 2003

Performance copyright 2003
Gin Ridge Music


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