Recordings and Publications

From The Folknik July/Aug 1998

Ballads, Banjo Tunes and Sacred
Songs of Western North Carolina

Bascom Lamar Lunsford
Smithsonian/Folkways 40082

This CD is a treasure trove of traditional American folk songs sung by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, who accompanies himself with frailing banjo, or, on a few tracks, with the mandoline, a mandolin-shaped instrument that has 5 strings on a banjo neck.

Lunsford was a living archive of folk song. Much of his repertoire, which he called his "memory collection", was gathered before the days of recording technology. He learned songs traveling the Blue Ridge Mountains in horse and buggy selling fruit trees, as a teacher, and later, as a promoter of folk music and founder of the Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.

The recordings in this CD are largely drawn from the Archive of American Folk Song. The 350 recordings made by Lunsford in 1949 were the largest contribution ever made to the archive. The CD also includes a few samples of his commercial records.

This CD features songs like "In the Shadow of the Pines", "I Wish I was a Mole in the Ground," "To the Pines", "Old Stepstone" and the widely-known Lunsford original "Mountain Dew." Lunsford was 67 when most of these songs were recorded- his voice was a little rough and couldn't quite reach all the high notes.

The recording also includes some spoken word, as Lunsford carefully credits his sources, and concludes with a 5-minute story of where he learned his music. The recording predates high fidelity, so the highest frequencies are missing. But to my taste, the songs are wonderful, the banjo playing is great, and the recording is well worth the listening. Lyrics for some of the songs are found in the detailed liner notes.

-Paul Barnett

Island Boy

Ken Perlman
Wizmak W579-27

Perlman plays fiddle tunes from Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton on clawhammer banjo and finger style guitar. These are the fruits of his long fascination with the music of the Canadian maritime provinces (see his article on the subject in Sing Out! 39:3), and features his amazing ability to play fiddle tunes on clawhammer banjo in melodic style (that is, note for note). I say amazing because it is hard to conceive how he does "bowed" triplets on the banjo, but he does and it sounds just right.

This is a wonderful, mellow, easy to listen to recording, one that will withstand many, many replayings. If you wish to learn to play this music on the fiddle, you may prefer to get his field recordings issued as a cassette on the Merimac label or his tune collection, which has been published by Mel Bay.

-Paul Barnett

Rounds Galore...and More

Sol Weber, Evy Mayer, Jan Maier and Murray Spiegal
Book, CD and tape
(available individually or in combination)

You're sitting around comfortably with dear friends and suddenly one of you bursts into song. One by one, the rest of you join in and in a matter of seconds ingenious, sinuous melodies begin to intertwine and gorgeous harmonies grow and swell. Then you realize your marvelous fantasy is happening on tape, you recognize some of the songs and feel increasingly convinced that you and your live friends could be singing like this.

It's true; you could sing like this. Legendary "Roundman" Sol Weber, singer and producer Evy Mayer and friends, Jan Maier and Murray Spiegal have created a teaching tape and adjunct to Sol's definitive compendium "Rounds Galore". Their voices are clear and warm, their arrangements demonstrate a wide range of options and they leave room for the listeners to add their voices on 9 of the 36 tracks. Singing along with this tape will elevate your commute to new heights (especially if you carpool).

And it's more than a teaching tape. Rounds in large doses can often be more fun for the singers than for the audience, but "Rounds Galore...and More" is a generous-spirited and sweet collection that is as fun to listen to as it is to sing with. Among my favorite rounds on the tape are "Dona Nobis Pacem" by Peter Schickele, a deeply haunting prayer for peace; "A Question of Tempo" by Joanne Hammil, a witty observation of modern life, "My Friend Sharon" by the late, great Jan Harmon and all of the rounds from John Krumm. The collection is pleasantly balanced between contemporary and traditional, complicated and easy, short and long, silly and somber, earthy and elevated.

As a lover of rounds myself, I feel very grateful to Sol, Evy, Jan and Murray. Their album expresses gently, generously and gracefully what is so important about round-namely the non-hierarchical and cooperative nature of this kind of singing. In a world obsessed with success at any price, glitz and "stars", the simple, straightforward and satisfying sound of four friends singing is welcome and precious and maybe one of the few antidotes to TV.

Buy this tape/CD and book together for your next family vacation, for a wedding present, for your church, carpool, club or for your kids' school music program. Tape, CD, and books are $10/ $15/$15 with $1.50 shipping and handling for each item and are available from Evy Mayer, 3050 Fairfield Ave. 3K, Bronx , NY 10466.

-Kate Munger

Faith Recommends:

Pass It On, the journal of the Children's Music Network, is a necessity for anyone who is or wants to use music in working with children. The spring 1998 editionhas an in-depth interview with Reggie Harris, six great songs, and ideas galore. Recent issues of Pass It On are available at 885 Clayton. Folklife Center News is put out by the Library of Congress Americn Folklife Center. The spring issue (Vol XX, No. 2) gives the story of the music of the migratory workers, as collected in Farm Security Administration camps by Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin in 1940 and1941. Voices from the Dust Bowl can be found online at < tshome.hmtl>. Folklife Center News can be seen at 885 Clayton or received from the Center at 101 Independence Ave., S E, WDC 20540-4610. Faith writes: "I was working for the Farm Security Administration and was out in the San Joaquin valley those years and knew Todd. The article sure brought back memories!!"

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