Book Reviews

From The Folknik May/June 1999

Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and its Makers

Craig Morrison, University of Illinois Press, 1325 South Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820, $29.95.

Mr. Morrison takes a somewhat academic approach to his subject, but this is still a very entertaining book, from start to finish.

The first few chapters give a historical view of the roots of "rockabilly," and then we get into the players who made it into a recognizable art form. If you were around in the fifties and sixties, this will be familiar friendly territory. And if you weren't, his coverage of the eighties revival (including Brian Setzer and others) is illuminating and right up to date.

Great short biographies of internationally known stars, such as Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee and Marty Robbins, are mixed in with equally thorough coverage of regional favorites such as Sid King and the Five Strings and Wanda Jackson.

Rather than give the reader the feeling that this is a nostalgic tour of the past, one is left with a fuller understanding of contemporary music and who we are today.

-Reviewed by James Denney

In addition to Go Cat Go! reviewed above, the University of Illinois Press has sent Pistol Packin' Mama; Aunt Molly Jackson and the Politics of Folksong by Shelly Romalis, one of the University's series of books on music in American life. The author is associate professor of anthropology at New York University, Toronto. Her acknowledgments for help in writing the book include our own Archie Green and the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers. She also mentions Alasdair Fraser and others.

Advance publicity notes that in 1931 Aunt Molly Jackson "was 'discovered' and brought north, sponsored and befriended by an illustrious circle of left-wing intellectuals and musicians including Theodore Dreiser, Alan Lomax, and Charles Seeger and his son Pete. Along with Sarah Ogan Gunning, Jim Garland (two of Aunt Molly's half-siblings), Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and other folk musicians, she served as a cultural broker, linking the rural working poor to big-city left-wing activism."

Romalis' description of Aunt Molly describes her as "an Appalachian woman who remained radical, raucous, proud, poetic, offensive, self-involved, and in spirit the 'real' pistol packin' mama of the song."

This fascinating book is available for review; call (415) 661-2217.

Herb Jager, former SFFMC factotum, has donated five books:

Songs and Recitations of Ireland, Book 5/The Wild Geese, a pamphlet published in 1978.

The introduction states that "the 'Wild Geese' was the name given by the romantic and sorrowful imagination of the Irish to the exiles who, like the wild birds and with their wailing cry, migrated to the Continent before and after the Battle of Aughrim, and the Surrender of Limerick in 1691." Music to songs among the 40 items in the booklet is not given. Included is Ewan MacColl's "The Shoals of Herrin' ", unaccredited to the author. However there is a story that an old fisherman once told Ewan "My grandfather used to sing that song"; a statement that pleased Ewan enormously as he felt it verified that he had composed a true song of working folk.

The Psalter of the United Presbyterian Church

Published in 1887, it contains "that which has highest merit and best adaptation to the sentiment." A great find for the hymn researcher.

Original Sacred Harp

The Sacred Harp was first compiled in 1884 by Benjamin Franklin White and was used by him in his singing schools in Harris and surrounding counties in Georgia. It has been revised eight times, this particular book's revision being done in 1971. The book starts out with some history of the Sacred Harp tradition, it being noted that Shakespeare mentioned sacred music sung.

The Folk Dance Book

C. Ward Crampton

This book was published in 1910 for "Elementary Schools, Class Room, Playground and Gymnasium". Mr. Crampton was Director of Physical Training, New York Public Schools, and states that the book is published "for the sole purpose of placing in the hands of the teachers of the public schools and playgrounds in New York City a description and the appropriate music for the folk dances of the course of study and those which have been approved from time to time as good physical training procedure."

All dances, including Swedish, Russian, German, Irish and the Highland Fling, are carefully described and accompanying music is given.

Songs Everybody Sings by Carrie Jacobs-Bond

Carrie Jacobs-Bond, an enormously popular song writer, was born in 1861. This book contains words and music to 30 of her most well-known songs including "A Perfect Day", "Just A'Wearin' for You" and "I Love You Truly", the latter probably being sung at more weddings than any other song ever composed.

Other recently received books include:

Two Good Arms, a collection of 51 songs, words and music by Charlie King

Charlie King, P.O. Box 6207, Hamden, CT 06517; $18 (plus $1.50 shipping)

These songs were recorded between 1976 and 1996. For those who can't read music notation, a discography tells how to get recordings. Charlie says: "Thank you for giving these songs a home. Please sing them. Don't worry about getting them right. Half the time I don't." For the many who've heard Charlie perform and thought "Now, I'd like to learn that song!" here is your chance.

Australian Traditional Songs, for Hammered Dulcimer, Autoharp, Fiddle & Friends, 1985

Mary Schander, P.O. Box 50151, Pasadena, CA 91104

A gift from SFFMCer Eric Park. The selection and arrangements of songs is by Mary Schander, who asks "Why would anyone want to publish, on their own, a book of Australian traditional songs for somewhat obscure instruments like the hammered dulcimer and the autoharp? Because I believed that someone should." She notes that these Australian songs 'played' well on the hammered dulcimer, that "the tunes were simpler than Irish but had a similar lilt and liveliness."

Great Australian Folk Songs

Collected mostly in Queensland by Ron Edwards

First published 1976, reprinted 1991 by Ure Smith Press, 372 Eastern Valley Way, Willoughby, New South Wales 2068, Australia.

Edwards is regarded as one of Australia's leading folklorists and has published a number of other books on Australian folk songs.

Notes on the jacket proclaim: "Here are more than 300 of Australia's folk songs together with music and extensive notes on derivationx and in addition a comprehensive index listing all known variations of every song collected in Australia to date-some 1,800 in allx Some of these songs came into being purely for the enjoyment of bawling them out over a keg. Others, more deeply felt, poignantly reveal the wisdom and humanity of men and women who have left no other mark on history. Folk songs demonstrate perhaps more vividly than any other form of human expression the feelings and attitudes of those people from who they evolved. They illuminate, in caustic or witty or philosophical verse, almost every act of life as it was when Australia was first settled and as it is today."

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