Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Friends and gifts from Scotland and America

Today the postman brought me two superb surprise packages sent by friends. One is a CD from the USA which I'd never heard of before - Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music; 34 historic songs, ballads and instrumentals, issued by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. They were all recorded by Joseph S Hall in 1939 as he tramped his way through the hills and hollers of Appalachia.

Along with it came a big box, about the size of two old phone books, this time sent from Scotland by a man I got to know last year. It was jam-packed with booklets, leaflets, 45 rpm records, tracts, and about a dozen CDs all carefully home-digitised from long-lost 78s and cassettes from generations ago! It'll take me weeks to go through it all.

Both are gold mines of authentic, rooted culture. Both have linguistic merit too, with distinctive vocabulary and phrases set within their natural cultural contexts of Scotland and Tennessee. No auto-tuners, no 'ProTools' audio software, no contrivances or self-conscious promotion by the musicians and singers - just the refreshingly real thing, with warts and all. Magnificent.

Which all then led into to a phone conversation I had this afternoon with a fiddle player who had been asked to tidy himself up and go to a studio to be filmed for tv show that's recording next week. He chased them and said they could come to him and film him at his usual wee rural venues, but he wasn't going to polish himself up and go to them!

Which begs the question, why do people feel the need to invent a stage culture and ignore the real stuff?

So, slow blogging for the next while as I work my way through all of these!


Steve Florman said...

I trust you'll be publishing a CD once you get all of this stuff preserved digitally? What a treasure trove!

Mark Thompson said...

I would love to, as I know many many people who would enjoy hearing them! But, as it's all from a private collection, I can't publish this material without permission. So we'll see how it goes - but for now selfish enjoyment is all I can do!