I’m not aware of this song being among the ballads Child collected in his landmark folkloric work The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, but it shares common elements with many of the songs therein, and appears to be English in origin. While the references to London Town betray English origins, some of the text has been modernized and Americanized, with the Butcher’s Boy becoming a Railroad Boy in Kazee’s version.
Its inclusion in Harry Smith’s seminal Anthology of American Folk Music has made this a popular song for revivalists to cover, with folks from Peggy Seeger to Elvis Costello taking a crack at it.Kazee’s voice is smoother and gentler than the recorded voices of many of his Kentucky bretheren. The modal banjo accompaniment is georgous.
The Butcher’s Boy (MP3)
Courtesy of Archive.org