Monday, May 01, 2017

Another musical journey.

I said that I would do this over the Easter break but I didn't. I'm now thinking that I need at least six weeks between such projects and it's not about finding the music. I love doing that - I wouldn't be writing at all if that were not the case. It's more the richness and variety that is on offer; I could write twice as many posts if I only listened to a quarter of the new (at least to me) music that I do. Posts like this are the ones I like doing the most. They are the most rewarding but they take the longest time to figure out. That's the excuses done.
If it raises awareness and sells a few of the artists' works then that is good enough for me.
Let's go!

The last post of this kind Imaginary Appalachia started in Canada. This one starts in Michigan and I'm not sure that we will get any further south this time, although the music might at times suggest that we have.



Red Tail Ring - Fall Away Blues (CD Baby, 2 September 2016).

This is the most recent release from the Kalamazoo, Michigan based duo that comprises Laurel Primo and Michael Beauchamp. Entirely acoustic, it contrasts new takes on traditional songs and tunes with new ones that tackle themes such as gun crime (something in traditional music that is as old as guns), immigration and environmentalism (both of which are barely less so). It is their fourth album release.

Now this.
It is, as the artist says, "more southern and more country influenced" than her first release 'Sad-eyed Lomesome Lady' and I will return to that in another post. Raised in East Vancouver, BC and now based in Saskatoon, SK (and also in Toronto)  this is all about... quite simply  the things that she wanted to write about and it is not going to get a party started.

Steph Cameron - Daybreak Over Jackson Street (Pheromone Recordings, 21 April 2017).

I only happened across this artist by a rare strike of fortune. Yesterday. It got me thinking and now writing again. It is as sparse and beautiful in its production as it is disenchanted, yet hopeful, in its content. The most important thing is that it is always questioning but never preachy.

This journey is not really about new music. I discovered the next record after it occurred to me that I couldn't recall having heard anything new from Canadian fiddle player and singer-songwriter Kendel Carson in a couple of years.  I found this... and if you like female vocal harmonies and multiple fiddle players this could be just the thing for you too.


Belle Starr - belle starr (Roaring Girl Records, 2 April 2013).

The two other artists are Stephanie Cadman and Miranda Mulholland. The trio had previously released an EP 'The Burning of Atlanta' in April 2012 but that is harder to find. In both cases there are quite a few covers.  I think that, to be found on the above-mentioned LP, the cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Tougher Than The Rest' is particularly effective.

Not all the content relies on lyric and the fiddle tune 'Charity Kiss' is top-notch. It reminds me just how much I like this sort of music and, therefore, of Orcadian fiddle group Fara.
The penultimate track 'Art O'Leary' is an English translation of an Irish poem, 
Art Ó Laoghaire, set to music.  He fought for the Catholic cause with the Hungarian Hussars, in the army of Maria Theresa in the mid-late 18th century and survived that only to be murdered on his return to his family in Ireland.

This journey will end with a Canadian duo - Kacy & Clayton -  that has covered another poem set to music. This one is often regarded as trad. and anon. but in fact it is nothing of the kind. That song is not, however, on this that is their second LP.


Kacy & Clayton - Strange Country (New West Records, 6 May 2016).

For me the classic cover on this album is their take on 'Over The River Charlie' that is an American song of long standing.  It is not the song I was alluding to above, however.

That is 'The Dalesman's Litany' and it appears on the 2013 album 'The Day Is Past and Gone'. It is in fact a 20th century song in the sense it is now known.
The words, originally a poem in Yorkshire dialect, were written and/or collected by Frederic William Moorman (1872 - 1918), the first Professor of English Language at the University of Leeds (1912 - 1918). The setting of it to a tune, by Dave Keddie of Bradford, Yorkshire, came decades later.
The first commercially released recording of this song that I am aware of is that by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior on their first record as a duo, 'Folk Songs of Old England Volume 1' (1968). On this the lyrics have been "translated" into more prosaic English. The duo later became the core of electric folk band Steeleye Span and the song became a classic of the British folk revival.
The thing about the version by Kacy & Clayton is its beautiful naïvety; i
t is all the better for the fact that a few of the many Yorkshire locations mentioned in it are mispronounced but, like so many before it, the song has crossed the ocean.

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