Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest 1937 - 46
Dust-to-Digital DTD-43. 5 CDs, 1 DVD & a 456 page hardback book.
CD 1. PIGTOWN FLING. THE SIDNEY ROBERTSON RECORDINGS: Recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, Scots Gaelic, and Serbian performers captured by fieldworker Sidney Robertson in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1937.
French Canadian: 1. Leizime Brusoe - Fisher's Hornpipe. 2. Leizime Brusoe - Pigtown Fling. 3. Leizime Brusoe - Lancer's in Five Parts. Lumberjacks and Farmers: 4. Robert Walker - Lost Jimmie Whalen. 5. Warde Ford - Little Brown Bulls. 6. Warde Ford - Crandon.7. Warde Ford and Art Ford - I'd Rather Be a Nigger than a Poor White Man. 8. Charles Spencer - Mighty Adley-ca-budley-fatley-ca-ham-shaw. 9. Charles Spencer - Locks and Bolts. 10. Clyde Spencer and Harry Fannin - The Sinking of the Titanic. Scots Gaelic: 11. John H. Matheson - A Mhàiri bhàn òg / O Fair Mary. 12. John H. Matheson - Stocainnean daoimean / Diamond-Patterned Socks. 13. John H. Matheson - Eilean Leòdhais / Isle of Lewis. 14. John H. Matheson - Gabhaidh sinn a' rathad mòr / We Will Take the High Road. Serbian: 15. The Balkan Troubadours (Dan Radakovich, Nick Mitrovich, Lubo Mitrovich, Bob Rajacich, and George Rajacich) - Alaj Gigi. 16. The Balkan Troubadours (Dan Radakovich, Nick Mitrovich, Lubo Mitrovich, Bob Rajacich, and George Rajacich) - Angelina vodu lije / Angelina Is Pouring Water. Finnish: 17. Cecilia Kuitunen - Charm for Hiccups. 18. Anna Leino - Charm for Toothache. 19. Olga Simi and Sue Simi - Pium, paum. 20. Matti Simi and Sue Simi - Vilho ja Pertta / Vilho and Bertta. 21. Matti Perala - Heramäen pukki / Old Man's Goat. 22. Josefiina Perala - Kataja / The Juniper. 23. Otto Sarkipato - Lähtetään pojat nyt soutelemaan / Boys, Let's Go Rowing. 24. Otto Sarkipato - Keskellä lahtea / In the Middle of the Bay. 25. Maria Heino - Laurilan Aleksin harmoonipeli / Laurila Aleksi's Accordion. 26. Maria Heino - Ei kukaan puhu puolestani / No One Speaks on My Behalf. 27. Maria Heino - Eikä ne haavan lehdet lakkaa / Never Cease the Aspen Leaves. 28. Maria Heino - Istuta, tyttö / Plant, O Girl
CD 2. THE RIVER IN THE PINES. THE WISCONSIN LUMBERJACKS RECORDINGS: Performances of the acclaimed Wisconsin Lumberjacks band of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, recorded by both Sidney Robertson and Alan Lomax during National Folk Festivals in Chicago and Washington, D.C., in 1937 and 1938.
1. Earl Schwartztrauber and Ray Calkins - Fred Sargent's Shanty Song. 2. Otto Rindlisbacher - Hounds in the Woods. 3. Ray Calkins and unknown percussion player - Shantyboy Tune (Kväsarvalsen). 4. Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher - The River in the Pines. 5. Sven "Shantyman" Svenson (Otto Rindlisbacher) - Dinner Horn Solo. 6. Otto Rindlisbacher and Ray Calkins - Soldier's Joy. 7. Frank Uchytil with Otto Rindlisbacher and Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher - The River in the Pines. 8. Otto Rindlisbacher and John Giezendanner - Woods Holler; Hoot Owl Holler. 9. Otto Rindlisbacher, Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher, Ray Calkins, Frank Uchytil, Earl Schwartztrauber, and John Giezendanner - Medley: Die lustigen Holzhackerbuab'n / The Jolly Lumberjack; Fred Sargent's Shanty Song; Schuhplattler. 10. Sven "Shantyman" Svenson (Otto Rindlisbacher) - Cow Horn Solo. 11. Sven "Shantyman" Svenson (Otto Rindlisbacher) - Lumberjack Story; Swedish Dialect Story. 12. Sven "Shantyman" Svenson (Otto Rindlisbacher), Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher, Ray Calkins, and Frank Uchytil - Kväsarvalsen / Swagger Waltz. 13. Otto Rindlisbacher - Rippling Brook. 14. Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher, Otto Rindlisbacher, and unknown pianist - Saeterjenten's sontag / Herdsgirl's Sunday. 15. Ray Calkins - Styrmans vals / Pilot's Waltz. 16. Peter H. Plante - Rolling the Logs; French Dialect Story. 17. Frank Uchytil - Marie Patin. 18. Otto Rindlisbacher and Ray Calkins - Turkey in the Hay. 19. Otto Rindlisbacher and Ray Calkins - Woodchopper's Jig. 20. Otto Rindlisbacher - Gamle reinlander / Old Reinlander. 21. Otto Rindlisbacher and John Giezendanner - Yodeling. 22. Otto Rindlisbacher - Sørland springar'n.
CD 3. HARPS AND ACCORDIONS. THE ALAN LOMAX RECORDINGS: Alan Lomax's 1938 Michigan field recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, French Canadian, German, Irish, Lithuanian, Ojibwe, Polish, and Swedish performers.
Ojibwe: 1. Alan Lomax - Introduction to Joe Cloud. 2. Joe Cloud - Red River Jig. 3. Joe Cloud - Squaw Dance. 4. Joe Cloud and Clarence Cloud - White River Two-Step. French Canadian: 5. Edward King - Le Jour de l'an / New Year's Day. 6. Edward King - Ida Goyette, no. 1. 7. John Cadeau with Ed Cadeau, Adelore Vizina, and probably Joe Miron, Mose Bellaire, and Edward King - Non que j'aime donc que la boisson / No, So I Don't Love Anything but the Drink. 8. Fred Carrière - La fille du roi/ The King's Daughter; Le mariage anglaise / The English Marriage. 9. Exilia Bellaire - I Went to Marquette. 10. Fred Carrière - Pretty Polly; Those Western Shores Lumberjacks. 11. Bill McBride - No Sir. 12. Bert Graham - Joe Williams. 13. Unidentified man - Torch Lake. 14. Lester Wells - Traverse City. 15. Nils Larsen - Yulia and Olaf. 16. Lester Wells - Long Barney. 17. Adolphus Delmas - Hayfoot, Strawfoot. 18. Ed Thrasher - Shoot the Cat. Lithuanian: 19. Charles Ketvirtis - Russian Gigue. 20. Charles Ketvirtis - Buffalo Gals. 21. Charles Ketvirtis - Mother Song. German: 22. Herman Meyers - Was war an diesem Baum? / What's on This Tree? Polish: 23. Edwina Lewandowski and Stephanie Lewandowski - Chodz gaski moje / Come My Little Geese. 24. Felix Kania - Wedding March. 25. Tony Strzelecki and possibly Tony Wasylk - Irish Washerwoman. 26. Tony Strzelecki - Polish Polka. 27. Adolph Romel and Sylvester Romel - Wzelaznej fabryce / In the Steel Mill. 28. Tony Strzelecki and possibly Tony Wasylk - Turkey in the Straw. 29. Felix Kania - Czerwono posiado, a zielono zniszo / Red When It Was Planted, Green When It Bloomed. 30. Edwina Lewandowski and Stephanie Lewandowski - Goldmine in the Sky. Finnish: 31. Yalmer Forster - Kulkurin valssi / Vagabond Waltz. 32. Amanda Härkönen - Kaurapellon pientareella kasvoi kaunis kukka / On the Side of an Oat Field Grew a Beautiful Flower. 33. Aapo Juhani - Juliana. 34. Henry Mahoski - Kauhavan Polka. 35. Selma Elona Halinen - Pikkulintu erämaassa lauleleepi suruissana / A Little Bird in the Desert Sings Sadly. 36. Frank Maki - Meripojan laulu / Sailor's Song. 37. Amanda Härkönen - Oli mulla ennen punaset posket / I Used to Have Red Cheeks. 38. Kalle Kallio - Kuule sinä Hiltu kun laulelen / Listen Hiltu When I Am Singing. 39. Wäinö Hirvelä - Kylläpä kai / I Guess So. 40. Kusti Similä - Yli kymmenen vuotta Korpiinissa oli jo asuttu / Ten Years We've Lived in Corbin. 41. Lillian Aho - Oi Herra, jos mä matkamies maan / Oh Lord, if I, a Wanderer of the Earth. 42. Pekka Aho and Lillian Aho - Mun kanteleeni kauniimmin / My Kantele Will Sound More Beautiful. 43. Emil Maki - Suun kloorin kloorin halleluuja! / Oh Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
CD 4. WHEN THE DANCE IS OVER. THE HELENE STRATMAN-THOMAS RECORDINGS, PART ONE: Recordings made throughout Wisconsin in 1940, 1941, and 1946, encompassing not only Finns, French Canadians, Germans, Irish, Lithuanians, Ojibwe, Poles, Scots, Serbs, and Swedes, but also African American, Austrian, Belgian, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Ho-Chunk, Icelandic, Italian, Luxemburger, Norwegian, Oneida, Swiss, and Welsh performers.
Ho-Chunk: 1. Stella Stacy and Henry Thunder - Flute Song. 2. Winslow White Eagle - War Dance. Oneida: 3. Wallace Smith and Albert Webster - Tsyatkatho. Pan-Indian: 4. Margaret "Laughing Eyes" Edaakie (Eagle) and Phyllis Lewis - 49 Song. French Canadian: 5. Leizime Brusoe, Robert McClain, Walter Wyss, and Emery Olsen - Good for the Tongue. 6. Ernest Joseph Belisle - Je ne veux pas d'un avocat / I Do Not Want a Lawyer. 7. Charles Cardinal - How They Sang the Marseillaise in Chippytown Falls. 8. Mary Agnes Starr - Michaud. 9. Marie Donalda Lagrandeur - Bonsoir, mes amis / Good Night, My Friends. Belgian (Walloon): 10. Alfred Vandertie - I Went to Market. 11. Alfred Vandertie - C'est l'café / It's the Coffee [the Kermiss Song]. 12. Emile Boulanger - Dance Tune. Cornish: 13. John Persons - Cornish Story. Welsh: 14. William Reese and Selina Phillips - Cawn esgyn o'r / Paradise. 15. Dr. Daniel W. Wickham - My Welsh Relation. 16. Hugh P. Jones - Y mochyn du / The Black Pig. 17. John Williams and chorus - Siani bach / Dearest Sian. African American: 18. Lillie Greene Richmond - Hide Thou Me. 19. Lillie Greene Richmond - Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane. 20. Lillie Greene Richmond - One More River. Anglo-American: 21. Preston Willis - Chase the Buffalo. 22. Hamilton Lobdell - Barker's Call. 23. Pearl Jacobs Borusky - My Old Hen's a Good Old Hen. 24. Pearl Jacobs Borusky - Last Saturday Night I Entered a House. 25. Charles Dietz - Did You Ever See the Devil? 26. Charles Dietz - Three Dishes and Six Questions. Lumberjack and Irish American: 27. Emery DeNoyer - Snow Deer. 28. Emery DeNoyer - Shantyman's Life. 29. Emery DeNoyer - Irish Jubilee. 30. John Muench with Ralph Weide - Irish Washerwoman. 31. Noble Brown - Oh, It's Nine Years Ago I Was Diggin' in the Land. 32. Robert Walker - McNamar' from County Clare. 33. Charles Robinson - Fond du Lac Jail. 34. Lewis Winfield - Moody Alphabet Song. 35. Bill Neupert - Red Light Saloon. 36. John Christian - Red Light Saloon. 37. Bessie Gordon - Gambler's Blues
CD 5. MY FATHER WAS A DUTCHMAN. THE HELENE STRATMAN-THOMAS RECORDINGS, PART TWO
German and Austrian: 1. Noble Brown - My Father Was a Dutchman. 2. Richard Taschek with Laura Zenz and Louis Taschek - Die Deutschmeister / The German Master [Regiment]. 3. Hans Huber - Wiener Fiakerlied / Viennese Coachman's Song. 4. Ella Mittelstadt Fischer - Wir sitzen so fröhlich beisamen / We Sit So Merrily Together. 5. Charles Robinson - Sockery's Cat. 6. Martha Steinbach - An einem Fluss daraus an Schuss / By a Rapidly Flowing River. Swiss: 7. Albert Mueller - Landjäger / Gamekeeper. 8. John Giezendanner with Albert Giezendanner - Echo Yodel. 9. Otto Rindlisbacher - Ländler. Luxemburger: 10. Jacob C. Becker - Onse gescht fu Chicago / Our Guests from Chicago. Dutch: 11. Rika Tuinstra Enhoff - Schaarensliep! / Knife Grinder! 12. Marvin Fennema - Bokkie / Billy Goat. 13. Anna C. Gysbers Scholten - Moeder, moeder de beer ist los / Mother, Mother, the Bear Is Loose. 14. Mary Tillema Smedema - Epitaph. 15. Dick Kok - Wiene Wederslweh bloed volksrang / Blood of Netherland Flows; Vlaggelied / Flag Song. 16. Henry Kempers - Daisy, Daisy. Italian: 17. Thomas St. Angelo, Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose DeGidio, and Michael Ranallo - L'America è tanto bella / America Is Most Beautiful. 18. Irene Ruffolo - Sona la mezzanotte / It Is Midnight. 19. Joseph Accardi - Tiki-ti, Tiki-ta!. Croatian: 20. Charles Elias Jr. - Introduction to Tamburitza Instruments. 21. The Elias Tamburitzans (Charles Elias Jr., Ann Elias, Martha Elias, and Mary Filipovich) - Medley: Da nije ljubavi nebi svjeta bilo / If Not for Lovers There Would Be No World; Vinca ca / Wine, Wine. Czech: 22. Charles Pelnar, John Pelnar, Bill Slatky, and Louis Kasal - vestková alej / Prune Song. 23. The Yuba Bohemian Band (Otto Stanek, Wencil Stanek, George McGilvery, William Tydrich, Anton Stanek, Nick Rott, Martin Rott, and Alfred Stanek) - Popelka polka / Cinderella Polka. 24. Emily Bauer McClure and Mayme Bauer Doser - Pod naima okny / Underneath Our Windows. 25. Emily Bauer McClure and Mayme Bauer Doser - Kdy jsem el cestic úzkou / As I Walked That Narrow Path. 26. Albert Wachuta - Voják od Prairie du Chien / Soldier from Prairie du Chien. Polish: 27. John Ciezczak - Zbojniki / Bandits' Dance. 28. John Ciezczak - In the Style of Saba 29. Bernice Bartosz - Matus moja, matus / Mommy, My Mommy. 30. Bernice Bartosz - Mia czapke/ Hat with Peacock Feathers. 31. Adam Bartosz - Zajumia bory / The Forests Roared. 32. Stasia Pokora - Awitajze / Oh Hello. Lithuanian: 33. The Lithuanian Group from the Church of the Immaculate Conception (John Abromaitis, John Aldakauskas, Lucia Aldakauskas, Mary Aldakauskas, Ruth Baranoucky, Ann Belekevich, Edward Girdaukas, Alexander F. Skeris, Stella Skeris, Agnes Zupancich) - Subatos vakareli / Saturday Night I Saddled My Black Horse. Finnish: 34. Jalmar Nukala and Mamie Wirtanen Nukala - Tula tullallaa, posket pullalla / Cheeks Full of Pulla. Swedish: 35. Abel Jotblad - Flickan på Bellmansro / The Girl at Bellmansro. 36. Charles O. Lindberg - Luffarevisa / Hobo Song. 37. Ruth Johnson Olson and Alice Johnson Carlson - Julen är inne / Christmas Is Here. Danish: 38. Kamma Grumstrup - Fra fjerne lande kom hun dronning Dagmar / From Far Lands Came Queen Dagmar. Norwegian: 39. Otto Rindlisbacher - Fannitullen / Devil on the Wine Keg. 40. Alice Everson - Kom kjyra / Come Cows. 41. Britha Lothe and Hannah Haug - Her er det land / This Is the Land. 42. Hans Waag - Gamle mor / Old Mother. 43. The Psalmodikon Quartet (Elsie Thompson, Emily Thompson Flugstad, Nora Thompson Brickson, and Bertha Larson) - Yderst mod norden / Far in the North. Icelandic: 44. Sigurline Bjarnarson and Christine Gudmundsen - Ólafur reið með björgum fram / Olafur Rode Beneath the Cliffs.
DVD. ALAN LOMAX GOES NORTH. "THE MOST FERTILE SOURCE": The new documentary film combines digitally restored silent color film footage, related field recordings, voice-over readings from Lomax's correspondence and field notes, and onscreen text to create an audiovisual narrative featuring the performers and scenes that captivated Alan Lomax during his 1938 Upper Midwestern foray.
The Wisconsin Lumberjacks: From Rice Lake and Ladysmith. In August and September 1938, Folklorist Alan Lomax Traveled Michigan Recording "a Thousand Songs" for the Library of Congress. Serbs: Detroit Area. Croatians: Copper Country (The Floriani Tamburitza Group). French Canadians: Baraga. Finns: Upper Peninsula, "Enough Material for Years of Work.
Some years ago I recall being told that a group of American academics were concerned that too much attention was being paid to the Anglo-American traditions of Appalachia and that not enough attention was being given to the musical/cultural traditions of other parts of America. As my own interests were well set in the Appalachians I did not pay too much attention to what others were thinking, although, over the years, I have occasionally thought about what might have been going on in other American communities.
There are, today, a great many recordings available of Appalachian singers, musicians and story tellers. There are also many recordings available from the Ozarks, another area of Anglo-American songs and music. But there are not many recordings from some other parts of America, and this is rather strange, because song and music collectors did (and still do) visit many of these other regions. Indeed, the Library of Congress, for example, now houses many of these recordings, some of which have surfaced in this amazing and magnificent collection issued by the Dust-to-Digital team in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Press, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Association of Cultural Equity/Alan Lomax Archive.
According to Professor James P Leary, of the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this is a "redemptive counterculture project" - an attempt to examine just what was going on in one of those other regions, and it really does work! Here are some 187 songs and melodies selected from the collections of Sidney Robertson Cowell, Alan Lomax and Helene Stratman-Thomas. I would love to be able to claim competence in reviewing all of these recordings, but I cannot and much of what I have to say will, by necessity, by limited to those pieces which fall within my own sphere of knowledge. At one point I began to feel that the range of material heard here was just too great for one person to review. I also began to wonder just how Professor Leary managed to provide so many excellent notes to all this material. But, he has done so and he certainly deserves praise of the highest order for his accomplishment.
Let me begin with the Anglo song tradition. I first came across the singers Warde Ford and Robert Walker on the 1956 Folkways LP Wolf River Songs (FE4000). They had been recorded that year by Sidney Roberson Cowell and I was especially impressed by Ford, whose repertoire included such songs and ballads as The Golden Willow Tree (Child 280), Andrew Batan (Child 250), The Nightingales of Spring, Young Johnny (The Green Beds) and a very complete version of the old slavery ballad The Flying Cloud. It now seems that Cowell had first recorded Ford and Walker almost twenty years earlier and a few of these recordings now appear on this set, alongside their neighbours Art Ford, Clyde Spencer and Harry Fannin. I had always associated Warde Ford with the Anglo-American ballads, so it came as something of a shock to hear him now singing a song such as I'd Rather Be a Nigger than a Poor White Man.
On this set Walker gives us a long version of the local ballad Lost Jimmy Whelan while Ford gives us an equally long version of another local ballad Little Brown Bulls. Quite a number of pieces come from the lumber camps of the Northern woods. There are two versions of The River in the Pines, one sung the other played on the fiddle, and I recall being surprised one night in a Kentish pub when a gypsy began to sing the song. He had, I guess, learnt it directly, or indirectly, from a Country and Western LP.
The song Little Brown Bulls is sung to the Scottish tune Farewell tae Tarwathie, while Lost Jimmy Whelan employs a tune that is related to the Gaelic Fainne Geal an Lae. In other words, these local songs used existing tunes for the words. No doubt there were Irishmen in those northern woods as well as Scots and here we find recordings of several Irish pieces, some folk, as in Oh, it's Nine Years Ago I was Diggin' the Land, a good version of The Kerry Recruit, some from the Irish stage, such as Irish Jubilee, Irish Washerwoman and McNamara from County Clare. One other local song, A Shantyman's Life, also uses an Irish, rather than Scots, tune to carry the words. And, of course, some people travelled to the woods from other parts of America, bringing their songs and music with them. The Sinking of the Titanic is a version of the song The Lost Shipwhich was composed by the Kentucky singer Richard "Dick" Burnett, who published the text in a booklet although he never recorded the piece. The two singers who perform this song were also, originally, from Kentucky.
Unsurprisingly, there seem to have been quite a number of bawdy songs sung in the camps and here we are given versions of No Sir, No Sir, Joe Williams, Torch Lake, Hayfoot, Strawfoot, Alphabet Song, two versions of Red Light Saloon and a version of the song Nelly Coming Home from the Wake, here called Shoot the Cat. The notes suggest a naval origin to the phrase "Shoot the cat", although Partridge gives a couple of earlier references which, he says, meant "to vomit".
And there are a number of non-bawdy songs which originated in the Old World. These include versions of Locks and Bolts, a song which has turned up all over the States; Pretty Polly/Those Western Shores, a version of the song that Sam Larner called The Ghost Ship and which can be heard on MTCD369-0; Chase the Buffalo, a song which could, on first hearing, be thought of as coming from the New World, when in fact it seems to have first appeared on British broadsides; My Old Hen's a Good Old Henwhich is well known to southern American fiddlers for the tune Cluck Old Hen but which, again, was originally an Old World children's rhyme; Last Saturday Night I Entered a House, also known as Courting the Widow's Daughter; Font du Lac Jail, a version of the 18th century English broadside Hard Times; Gambler's Blues, a version of The Unfortunate Rake/Streets of Laredo; Did You Ever See the Devil?, the same piece that the gypsy Joe Jones used to sing, as Yonder Come the Devil, and a good version of the ballad Captain Wedderburn's Courtship (Child 46), here called Three Dishes and Six Questions.
Some songs and ballads sung here in various languages are versions of pieces that are also known to British singers. There is a version of the cumulative song The Tree in the Wood which is sung in German as Was war an diesem Baum?/What's on this Tree? and there is a fascinating version of the ballad of Clerk Colvill (Child 42) sung by Icelandic singers as Ólaf reið með björgum fran/Olafur Rode Beneath the Cliffs. Some other songs, which are not directly related, do tell stories similar to ones found in British folksongs. Here I am thinking of three Finnish songs, Juliana, Vilho ja Pertta/Vilho ans Bertha and Meripojan laulu/Sailor's Song, three of which were issued on 18th century Finnish broadsides. The first two tell of love affairs between people of different social classes, a topic well represented in British broadside ballads of the same period. Interestingly, Juliana is also known as The Maid of India and in this version of the song we find the story being reset in Indiana. The third, sung to a tune that I know for the song The Coast of Malabar, relates to a sailor who receives news that his sweetheart no longer cares for him. Again, I can think of a number of similar British songs. Then there is the French song La Fille du Roi, sometimes called Le Mariage Anglais, concering a French girl who is married to an English king. In this version the English king has been replaced by another "outsider", this time an Irishman who, like the Englishman in the original versions, was unpopular in his town.
Of course it should be remembered that English is not the only language to be heard spoken (and sung) in Great Britain and Ireland. The singer John H Matheson was born on the Hebridean island of Lewis and was in his twenties when he sailed for the New World. Here he sings four beautifully sung Gaelic songs: A Mhàiri bhàn òg / O Fair Mary, Stocainnean daoimean / Diamond-Patterned Socks, EileanLeòdhais / Isle of Lewisand Gabhaidh sinn a' rathad mòr / We Will Take the High Road. The notes to the latter piece state that the tune is related to the children's song London Bridge is Falling Down, and so it is, though I would suggest that it is actually nearer to the tune used for the Jacobite song Will Ye Go to Sheriffmuir?
We are told that during the period 1830 - 50 some six thousand Cornish miners left their home to work in the tin mines of Wisconsin. John Persons, a descendant of these miners was recorded telling a Cornish folktale, though sadly one told in English, rather than in Cornish. We are also told that a considerable number of Welsh-speaking people emigrated to Wisconsin during the same period. They, unlike the people from Cornwall, did continue to speak in Welsh. There are four Welsh recordings here, two of which use the Welsh tune Y Mochyn Du/The Black Pig, which I know for the song Cosher Bailey's Engine.
And this now brings me to the many other non-English speaking people who settled in America, some of whom actually settled there a long time ago. I am, of course, speaking about the Native American people who feature in a few recordings here. There is a flute-song and a war dance from the Ho-Chunk people and a fascinating church hymn sung by representatives of the Oneida people. This latter piece has a tune similar to Amazing Grace and is quite moving in its sincerity. And there is also a selection of tunes played on the fiddle by Joe Cloud, of the Chippewa people. Some years ago, on one of my visits to New York's National Museum of the American Indian, I heard recordings of native fiddle music which were being played in the background as part of an exhibition. It all sounded very "ethnic", that is until I recognized one tune as being a version of Turkey in the Straw. I think that it came as a shock, as it was not the sort of thing that I had expected to hear. But now I can hear Joe Cloud doing the same sort of thing. He was apparently taught to play the fiddle by his father and alongside a beautiful Squaw Dance we can also hear him playing Red River Jig and White River Two Step, this latter tune sounding at times like Fiddlin' Arthur Smith's recording of Florida Blues.
The fiddle must be one of the most popular folk instruments in America. Small, light in weight and easy to carry, it was taken to all the corners of America and was often the lead instrument for social dances. We know that many old-time tunes can be traced back to England, Scotland and Ireland. Others, such as Fire in the Mountains, Old Molly Hare and Flop-Eared Mule seem to be based on tunes that originally came from other parts of Europe. Some of the recordings heard here also seem to confirm this. Take, for example, the Serbian tune Alaj Gigi, the opening few bars of which sound remarkably like the opening to Old Johnny Booker, or the Belgium Walloon tune C'est l'café which spread to Britain and America at the time of the Great War. Or what about two Norwegian tunes, here played on the Hardanger fiddle, Sørland springar'n and Fannitullen/Devil on the Wine Keg, tunes which bear more than a passing resemblance to the fiddle tune Drunken Hiccups, complete with its pizzicato passage. Even the second title - Fannitullen/Devil on the Wine Keg - seems to confirm a relationship.
It really can be difficult trying to sort out just where some of these tunes actually came from in the first place. Leizime Bruscoe was born in Canada in 1870 and learnt to play fiddle there. He moved to Wisconsin in 1890, but just where did he learn to play the tunes that we hear on this set, namely Good for the Tongue, Fisher's Hornpipe, Pigtown Fling and a five part version of The Lancers? Or what about the Norwegian fiddler who recorded a Norwegian tune, Rippling Brook, an onomatopoeic tune which sounds remarkably "old-timey", alongside versions of Turkey in the Straw (he called it Turkey in the Hay) and a version of the Chicken Reel which he called Woodchopper's Jig? Another French Canadian recorded Ida Goyette # 1, which turns out to be a version of Buffalo Girls. When Alan Lomax asked the fiddler where he had learnt it, he replied "(From) my dad". And where did he learn it from? "In a lumber camp He learnt it by himself He made it up." Really? Buffalo Girls must have been a very popular tune and another version, this time recorded from a fiddler of Lithuanian ancestry, is also included in this package, along with the note that the tune "is likely of eighteenth-century German origin, but by the nineteenth century it was widely known by Anglo-American fiddlers prior to its acquisition of lyrics for the minstrel stage in 1844." As to Turkey in the Straw, there is another version here played by two fiddlers, the lead one being born in America to Polish grandparents. This performer, Tony Strzrlrcki, also played a version of The Irish Washerwoman alongside Polish polkas. Interestingly, the pair played in what is described as a Polish style, one where Strzrlrcki played the melody, while the second fiddle played the chords behind the melody.
If I have stressed the fiddle tunes heard on these CDs, then it is because many are played by outstanding musicians, including some that I have not yet mentioned, such as the Belgium fiddler Emile Boulanger, whose untitled Dance Tune would not sound out of place in any old-timey gathering. And, of course, it is not just fiddle music that we hear on these recordings. Popelka polka/Cinderella Polka, a great tune, is played with flair by the Yuba Bohemian Band, while the Swedish Kvösarvalsen/Swagger Waltz is played on a piece of birch bark, in the same way that we can sometimes get a tune from a leaf or a blade of grass. Another Swede gives us a blast on a cow horn and there are German and Swiss zithers aplenty. There are also Tamburitza instruments from Croatia and several recordings of the Finnish Kantele. Switzerland is, of course, represented by some yodeling and I do wonder if the Swiss immigrants were responsible for the yodeling heard on recordings by singers such as Jimmy Rodgers and some of the so-called cowboy singers. Were there Swiss cowboys? I know that a version of the Swedish Kväsarvalsen/Shantyboy tune, a version of which is on this set,was collected by the folklorist William A Owens from singing Swedish cowboys in Texas, so, who knows?
Over the years Dust-to-Digital records have produced an amazing set of recordings. Many of these come with well written books. I think that my favourite, so far, has been the set of 4 CDs and book called Opika Pende - Africa at 78 rpm, an outstanding collection of music from all over Africa. But I am now beginning to think that Folksongs of Another America has probably overtaken the African set as being the best set of folklore documents that I have heard in a long time. It is a truly amazing production. If it does not win an award for the best reissue set of 2015, then I really will eat my hat!
Mike Yates - 16.9.15
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