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December 22, 2009

Why I'm moving into a yurt in the woods in the middle of winter - a Manifesto

Hello Friends, Devoted Readers and Fellow Journeyers,

I started this post because I wanted to share something with you - a brilliant manifesto I found and photographed whilst doing my business in a bathroom in Ireland. But I wanted to give some sort of introduction, or hello, or something personal. And that something turned into a manifesto of itself. So catch this rare glimpse into my life and thoughts beyond the world of music, and you will see why I won't be posting again for a while. I hope you mull the thoughts over for a while and leave some comments to add to the discussion. Happy Solstice!

Tomorrow I'll to be moving to the edge of a woodland and into a yurt which will be my dwelling-place for the next 6 months. I’m going to be working on the land: clearing rhododendrons and brambles, chopping wood, creating low-impact buildings (a tree-bog compost toilet for starters!). The first few weeks, I will be fully over my head just trying to attend to basic things like keeping myself warm, dry, and fed. But ultimately the work I will be doing will lead towards something much greater than myself. I am planting the seeds of a dream that's been brewing for over a decade, which I've recently been drawn into. As I begin this work, I will be plunging into a prolonged disconnection from computers, amplified music, etc. for 40 days or so, in order to aid my reconnecting process with the quiet and luminous world of the winter forest.

The funny thing is, I don't know anything about what I'm doing. And yet, I'm doing it.

And, speaking of planting, a month ago at Samhain time, I planted some rice, and put my dreams and desires for the coming year into them. This is scary. I've never planted anything in my whole life. Sure, I've watered plants that had already sprouted, pulled thousands of ‘weeds’, spread compost and diligently plucked the yellowing leaves from my room's resident spider-plant. But they all came into being through someone else's aid. Now, for the first time in my life, I take responsibility for the life of another being. With these few dozen kernels, I commit to ushering a life into the world, and providing it with the environment it needs to flourish.

And as I nourish these seeds, I nourish myself. I am these seeds just as I am the compost in which they are planted, just as I am the water that courses over them. Their desire to grow tall is my desire to become myself. If they flower, with them will flower my dreams. According to all available information, rice cannot grow in Ireland. It's too cold here. Not enough sun. No one has ever done it before. Likewise, the tackling the challenges of climate change, the economy, the huge degree of inequity among the world's peoples, a spiritually ailing society mired in the dredges of an unfulfilled post-consumerist malaise, and finding a meaningful and personally fulfilling role to play in transforming the aforementioned headache-inducing mess, seems rather impossible too. But so many things that we now take for granted - flight, instant communication, moving pictures, etc. - were once deemed impossible. What brought them into being was a dream, diligently nourished and acted upon. If we can create dream into being such complex and multifaceted problems for ourselves (every element of which came about as a solution to some other problem, mind you), then we can dream into being a more sane, fulfilling, and sustainable way to approach our stay on this planet.

And if there is to be a change, a real (r)evolution in the way we operate as individuals, as a culture and a species, it will not come as a result of government-directed actions. We have seen the failure in Copenhagen, and though distressing, I know it could not have been any other way. It is as much a failure for our current political system as it is for the ailing environment. It would be easy to criticize Obama for his obvious posturing and unwillingness to do anything of value, and his covert loyalty to the military-industrial complex, but once again I know it could not have been any other way. Ultimately, our politicians are a reflection of ourselves. The only power they have is the power we have given them; they are corrupted by the corporations which was continue to fund. How can we expect them to reform when we are unwilling to reform our own lifestyles? They will only change when we take back our power and initiate the changes ourselves. But how? The mounting crises are so vast! How will we change in time?

It just occurred to me that the whole drama of the banking collapse is a reflection of our relationship with nature. We have been borrowing, and borrowing, and borrowing her resources, and continually putting off the payback. In the olde dayes, if a people cut down their forest, polluted their water, or over-hunted the animals, inevitably the floods and droughts and poisonings and scarcities that followed would wipe them out or drove them away. Natural consequence. Nature foreclosed on their property. Then, since the land couldn’t support people, no one would settle there for a while and the land would have a chance to rejuvenate, and build up its resources again.

But we’ve created such a hall of mirrors now. What happens in one part of the world affects another part, so that with advanced technology and abundant oil, we’ve been able to delay the natural consequences. And they’ve been snowballing behind us as we run, and they’re catching up in the form of ‘natural’ disasters and unprecedented changes in the elements. We bailed out the banks because we weren’t ready to wake up yet. At Copenhagen we bailed out the polluters, for the same reason. No one has asked “Why are we giving money to the banks in the hope that they’ll lend to us again?” or “Why are we still supporting an economic system which is vastly unjust, unsustainable, disempowering, and if left to its own devices will destroy us in the name of never-ending exploitative ‘growth’?” Or, rather, no one is listening to those questions and finding the courage to answer them. Is this denial rooted in the fabric of our cultural world-view and spirituality? Do we favor denial by nature or does it come because we are unwilling to face our own shadows, because we are afraid to see death as a natural part of the rhythm of life?

I do not believe humans are inherently destructive or bad for the environment. There have been cultures who maintained the ecosystem which housed them so well, and kept it in such perfect balance, that when these people were moved out or killed, the landscape fell to ruin as well. And the power of human creativity and love can surmount any obstacle. It must be stressed that the situation we're in came about not from some evil person's ill-intentions, but from a great many life-styles that were conducted without a sense of the greater picture. The current situation we have is not wrong, it's just out-of-balance. Vastly out-of-balance. We can re-balance it. But we have been conditioned to believe that we are powerless. We have complicitly given away our power away in exchange for a kind of comfort and stability. We have sacrificed our freedom without even knowing it. And in exchange we have been given a god named Convenience, to whom we sacrifice many more things. But we have made the situation from which we now suffer, and complicated as it is, we can unmake it. Because you and I can change, this community and civilization can change. But how?

Change begins in the hearts and minds of people; healing and growth come from within. Change begins with one person deciding to take responsibility for their own life, deciding to live neither as a victim nor as an agent of violence. Change begins when one person overcomes the barrier of social awkwardness and starts a conversation with someone they don't know about things that matter to them. Change begins when one person decides to love themselves, and proceeds to spread that love to those around them. Change begins when one person decides to leap into the frigid and bottomless waters of the unknown and pursue a dream which by any reasonable estimation is absurdly, outrageously impossible. Change begins when one person remembers how immensely beautiful, powerful and great they are, and decides to embody and radiate that greatness. Change begins when one person picks up a spade and turns their green pointless grassy lawn (or better yet - roof!) into a budding vegetable garden. Change begins when one person gives thanks for the rain that falls, the food that grows, and the billion rats and ants and plants and people who clean up our messes. Change begins when one person, who has been academically educated to the point of paralysis gets up off their arse and actually does something! Change begins when we let a child be a child and discover for their self who they are in this world. Change begins when we allow that same magnificent freedom to our own starry-eyed and beaming inner being. Change is the most natural process of life. It will happen whether we want it or not. But right now, we still have the power to choose how it will come.

One the few social or environmental movements I think is actually on the right path is the Transition movement. It is community-powered, viral, and dynamic. It tackles a number of challenges (peak-oil, climate-change, turbulent economy...) with a multifaceted and evolving solution based on building local resilience and taking advantage of everyone’s unique and different skills. It essentially takes a permaculture approach to creating community, and a ‘be the change’ approach to the global crises. It is a brilliant initiative and spreading like wildfire. But it is a social and material solution to a social and material problem, and our culture is also ailing spiritually.

The system which has fostered the climate crisis is the same system which has bankrupted the social and spiritual health of our society. It is founded on a materialistic worldview, and has fostered a cult of the individual ego. Our whole educational system is founded on this materialistic worldview and ego-worship. It has systematically stripped the mystery and greatness of ourselves as it has stripped the Earth of the diamonds in her shadows. In its glorification of rationality and the 5 gross senses it has denied the magical and powerful world of the soul and the subtle senses. This has in turn produced a gaping hole in people’s psyches, which is most often filled by over-consumption of goods, over-dependence on words, and sensory overstimulation (I’m not sure which among the 3 is the most damaging). Community was sacrificed to the cult of the personality, and the personality was glorified through goods, words, and sensory artifacts. We have made gods of ourselves, but only on the outside. Still, we are parched for the healing waters of the soul. Poetry is the healing of words. Art and music the healing of the eyes and ears. Exercise and gentle touch the healing of the body. But the greatest and most neglected healer of all is Nature. She is here, waiting, always willing to give, but we hardly take notice. We search so far and wide for happiness and healing, but so often we search in vain.

Happiness is not an ends to be achieved, but a means to be chosen. It comes from within. And, like Love, it is a choice always present. And Love is the most powerful currency for transformation that exists. By loving myself, my wounds will heal. By loving the people around me, community will be born. By loving the great Mother that gives and sustains life, by whose fruits we are nourished and upon whom we rest at night, the rift that has grown between us will close and we will find the way back into balance with her. With Love, balanced by Wisdom and Power, anything is possible.

I am not talking about hope. I don’t believe in hope.

In the hope for salvation, suffering is perpetuated. Hope is the band-aid over the festering wound of the future that will come if we don’t attend to the present. When we hope for anything outside us to solve our problems, we give ourselves the paralyzing excuse to sit back and do nothing. When we expect politicians, gurus, international humanitarian organizations, etc. to provide the answers and changes we need, we give away our power, agency and will, and become passive spectators to a match that we will lose for never having acted in. We need warriors; we need people who refuse to sit idly by while the things they love are laid to waste around them. The comfort zones we dwell within are being stripped away and reality is knocking at the door. It is as though we are on a ship, and half the people are running around, trading suits and dusting shelves and putting on makeup and the other half are trying to get everyone on the ship to be counted as equals in the eyes of the captain, or trying to turn the stirring wheel by a democratic process, or just criticizing everything, and meanwhile the whole ship is sinking. The time for denial and procrastination is over. A choice is before us: act or perish.

But one must not rush into action too soon. There is a great abundance of action right now, working at cross-purposes. Activists bumping heads.

It must be remembered that the whole situation of the planet right now, our great collection of crises and catastrophes, is the result of our well-intentioned actions, most of them seen to be solutions at the time. Short-sighted, perhaps, and human-centric certainly. But solutions nonetheless. Actions alone are not enough. We need vision: long-seeing, deep-reaching visions. We need dreams.

When action is not guided by the orchestrating vision of a true dream, the result is cacophony - a dissonance of wasted energy - and the solutions are short-sighted and shallow. When action is motivated by a sense of obligation or guilt, it creates a resentment which slowly and silently unravels all that the worker has sewn. But when action is motivated by inspiration and an authentic desire to give service, in whatever way we are called to and suited for - , then, then it will create an unstoppable, divinely-guided change in the world. The most efficient and effective person is the person who is following their heart’s calling. And the most intelligent person is the one who can hear not only their own mind, but also the intelligence of their soul, and those at work in nature. The heart is an organ of perception, a center of intuition and a powerhouse of inspiration. But so many people have denied their hearts for so long, that they can no longer hear the call.

And that, dear friends, is why I’m moving into a yurt at the edge of the woods. I’m not running away from society and community, I’m running towards a more ancient form of community. I’m following the call of my heart. I’m going to plunge into the silence and stillness of the winter woods, and perhaps I’ll discover something that I couldn’t hear before. I’m very excited about the growth that may take place, the wildness that may sprout in me. The paintings that will come, and the music without source. I know there may be times when I’m wet or cold or lonely or exhausted, but I know that since I won’t be able to run away from myself, these experiences will make me stronger.

But I’m not just doing this for my own personal growth. I’m doing it because I feel that I have a part to play in the unfoldment of a dream. I want to build a place that inspires people, opens them up to the magic of life and nature all around them, and educates in the true sense of the word - to 'draw out from within'. And I’m following the advice ancient Chinese words of proverb “If you are thinking a year ahead, sow seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate the people. By sowing a seed, you will harvest once. By planting a tree, you will harvest tenfold. By educating the people, you will harvest hundredfold.” And I’m also acting on the notion that trees are at the heart the solution to climate change, and that forests provide the best economy, and that forest farming is the most efficient known form of land management. And of course because trees are some of the wisest, friendliest people I’ve ever met, and I have a lot to learn from them.

The days are short now, and the nights are long. The sharp cold of winter draws us inside. The trees stand naked before us, and the mountains go to sleep. Now is the time for dreaming. Now is the time for clearing the fields of your heart and mind, allowing the untold stories to surface and the expired stories to find completion. In the great silence of the warm and infinite darkness within you, the murmurs of your heart can be heard. In this, the darkest time of the year, may you find a home in the ancient darkness within you, the domain of infinite unborn potential, and plant therein your seed of light.

Reality is created by dreams put into action. Go forth, you blessed warriors of tomorrow, dream your dreams and create!

You are all mighty beings, do not forget.

And, without further ado, here’s the manifesto that started this fantastic rant:

The Gaia Enlightenment: A Manifesto

December 16, 2009

John Roberts & Tony Barrand - Dark Ships in the Forest: Ballads of the Supernatural

As we approach the darkest time of the year, the sun goes to sleep and with it the sharp definition that it bestows upon the world. In the long, dark nights, more is possible because less is certain. Out of this unknown comes the supernatural. As we are called inward, called to sleep more and more, so are dreams are strengthened and we can become acquainted with our unconscious soul. This is the part of us that understands and communicates with the fairies, the elementals and sidhe. The old, authentic folk music is true because it addresses this part of us - it sings to the non-rational, pre-discursive part of our experience, and in so doing brings us into communion with it - a much needed act in today's over-analytical world.

If I were back home, today I'd be going to a party called the Solstice Revels, complete with Morris dancing, contra dancing, a mummers play, circus arts, storytelling, and other general merriment for six hours. It was always one of the highlights of the year, so I thought I'd share something Englishy and magical in spirit of it.

Roberts and Barrand sing with an uncanny harmony which is greater than the sum of its parts. It is an old form of harmony, an organic and off-kilter one which seems to predate the methodized mathematical harmonies that characterize western vocal music. And because they have such a compelling quality to their voices, their energies, and their songs, they manage to avoid the trap too common to English folk-singers, namely that of sounding like a total dork. They're more like the Watersons, or the Pinder Family, or some Appalachian clan - they do find a harmony, but it's an itchy harmony that wakes you up rather than lulling you into passivity. Enjoy these ballads, seek out their other work, and cozy up for winter - it's going to be a long one.

Widely acclaimed for their lively and entertaining presentations of English folk songs, JOHN ROBERTS and TONY BARRAND have performed at major festivals, colleges, clubs and coffeehouses throughout the United States, Canada, and their native Britain. They sing the ballads and songs of the sea, of rural pursuits, of social and sociable situations, of industrial toil and strife, and much more, typically arranging their material thematically to better illustrate the lives and the social history of the people who made and sang the songs. Their songs are punctuated with tales, monologues, dances and tunes, giving a more complete appreciation of the wealth, diversity, and vitality of the English folk tradition.

John and Tony met at Cornell University in 1968, as fellow graduate students in psychology. They discovered that they shared a common interest in folk song, and started performing together the following year. Unaccompanied two-part singing was always a primary staple of their repertoire, and the stark harmonies of their well-balanced voices soon brought them to the attention of the folk music community. They also draw upon a variety of instrumentation: John is a leading exponent of both Anglo and English concertina, as well as being a fine banjo and guitar player; Tony is a skilled percussionist, on drums, bones and spoons.

Both are active in the folk dance arena as well as in song. Tony is a well-known Morris and clog dancer, and his teaching is in demand across the United States. His recent book, Six Fools and a Dancer, has been hailed as the definitive work on Morris Dance in the United States. John, an able dancer himself, is more often found providing the music on concertina. When not singing or dancing (and often when he is) Tony teaches folklore and esthetics via the University Professors Program at Boston University; John is a freelance music engraver and desktop publisher.

In their many years together as a professional team, Roberts and Barrand have recorded with a number of companies including Swallowtail, Front Hall, Folk Legacy, National Geographic, and, most recently, Golden Hind. These recordings include a critically-acclaimed album of authentic sea shanties, an album of drinking songs recorded live in a Chicago tavern, An Evening at the English Music Hall, and four albums of songs from their celebrated Christmas pageant, Nowell Sing We Clear. Their latest release (August '92) is a program of English folk songs entitled A Present from the Gentlemen. They have also recorded a selection of the songs that the composer Percy Grainger collected in Lincolnshire during the early years of this century, to be released in the near future. Their next project will be a sequel to an earlier recording of sea songs and shanties.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand - Dark Ships in the Forest: Ballads of the Supernatural

Year: 1977
Label: Folk Legacy Records

As children, we are as familiar with the story-world of elves, giants, witches, and ghosts as we are with the world of the reality around us. This kind of fantasy plays a major role in our growing up, but as we mature it seems to get shuttled further and further into the backs of our minds, closeted up, to be released only for the occasional entertainment of our own children.

But it is precisely this variety of fantasy which provided a major part of the entertainment of days gone by. Songs and tales, carried in a family tradition intermittently refreshed by itinerant musicians and raconteurs, were full of bizarre encounters between young men and water nymphs, knights and dragons, fairy queens and magicians; and many of these same ballads, as song or story, have been carried down to us through the same family traditions.

Why were these themes so popular? In a world of oppression and misery, the adventure world of heroic knights and distressed damsels offered some brief escape. And in the world of the inquisition, of the continuing struggle between God and Satan, the shining white and the murky black, with the might of the church pitted against the insidious powers of witchcraft, it would seem natural to spice these adventures with the incarnations of supra-terrestrial forces.

But changing times lead to changing ballads. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table give way to Robin Hood and his merrie band of outlaws. Regal seductions make room for romps in the hayloft, Contemporary events are celebrated in new ballads, which take pride of place in the family repertoire. Many of the older songs are forgotten, or changed beyond recognition; but they are not all lost.

Old motifs, like old soldiers, seldom die; they live on in the new ballads and in adaptations of the old, altered, perhaps, but never really forgotten. Occasionally they appear in full glory in a miraculously preserved saga of ancient intrigue, perhaps remaining almost unchanged over the centuries. They may just come as fleeting allusions, shadows of the past ill at ease in their new settings. Sometimes (particularly, it seems, in their migration across the Atlantic) they disappear, leaving stark, grim tales of unexplained death, murder, and tragedy, And at times, it seems, they serve only to muddle an apparently rational sequence of events. But they remain with us, in many cases the same supernatural elements common to our children's fairy tales: the ghosts, wizards, talking birds, shape transformations, and miracles of a magical world of long ago.

The songs we sing here were born of this stock. Because of our biases, they are based on English or English-derived tradition, or are English in style or spirit (as it were). Many of them are filled unashamedly with the fantastical events of the balladry of yesteryear; others carry only faint indications of some long-gone past, of unnatural happenings, of pagan ritual, and of disconcerting power, In the primal forest of folk songs, these are our dark ships.

- John Roberts March 1977

Oak, Ash, and Thorn

Rudyard Kipling's "A Tree Song" sets the scene for the stories and poems of Puck of Pook's Hill, This setting of the verses is by the late Peter Bellamy who, after the breakup of the Young Tradition, became one of Britain's best-known exponents of traditional song. He has arranged a considerable number of Kipling's "songs," using original melodies or adapting traditional ones. This tune is his own.

We also use it as a scene-setter, a "calling-on song." The magic of trees lies deep in the roots of Druidic religion and mythology, and the oak, ash, and thorn are central characters of the bardic tree-alphabets; much of this tree lore has survived in folk tales, in English as well as in Celtic tradition.

Of all the trees that grow so fair, old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the sun than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn:

Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn, good sirs,
(All on a midsummer's morn!)
Surely we sing of no little thing
In Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Oak of the clay lived many a day
Or ever Aeneas began,
Ash of the loam was a lady at home
When Brut was an outlaw man,
And Thorn of the Down saw New Troy Town,
(From which was London born);
Witness hereby the ancientry
Of Oak, and Ash, and Thorn,

Yew that is old, in churchyard mould,
He breedeth a mighty bow,
Alder for shoes do wise men choose,
And Beech for cups also,
But when you have killed, and your bowl it is spilled,
And your shoes are clean outworn,
Back you must speed for all that you need
To Oak, and Ash, and Thorn,

Ellum, she hates mankind, and waits
Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
That anyway trusts her shade,
But whether a lad be sober or sad,
Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He'll take no wrong when he lyeth along
'Neath Oak, and Ash, and Thorn,

Oh, do not tell the priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin,
But we've been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring summer in,
And we bring you good news by word of mouth,
Good news for cattle and corn:
Now is the sun come up
from the south,
By Oak, and Ash, and Thorn,

The Broomfield Wager

Cyril Poacher, our source for this "pub" version of a most venerable ballad, was a regular at the Saturday night sing-songs in The Ship Inn, at Blaxhall in Suffolk, The somewhat garbled nature of the story line is heightened by the mysterious "Hold the wheel" chorus, apparently the result of a misunderstanding of "had his will" by a visiting (and presumably inebriated) yachtsman, It stuck.

O wager, O wager, O wager I'll lay you,
I'll lay you five thousands to your one
That a maiden I will go to the merry broomfield
And a maiden I'm sure I will return.
That a maiden I will go to the merry broomfield
And a maiden I'm sure I will return
Hold the Wheel!

And then did this young maid get on a bay hobby's back,
All for to ride to that green broom (that green broom),
And when she got there, she found her own true love
Lying in that merry green broom fast asleep.

Nine tines did she walk round the crown of his head,
Nine times round the soles of his feet,
Nine times did she say, "Awake, master,
For your own true love is standing nearby.

And when she had done all that she dare do,
She stepped behind that bunch of green broom (that green broom)
All for to hear what her own true love would say
When he awoke out of his domestic sleep.

He said, "If I'd been awake instead of being asleep,
My will I would have done toward thee,
Your blood, it would have been spilled for those small birds to drink,
And your flesh it would have been for their food."

"You hard-hearted young man, how could you say so?
Your heart it must be hard as any stone,
For to murder the one that loved you so well
Far better than the ground that you stand on,

"Nine times of this bell did I ring, master,
Nine times of this whip did I crack,
Nine times did I say, 'Awake, master,
For your own true love is standing nearby."

1 Oak, Ash, and Thorn - 2:43
2 The Broomfield Wager - 4:12
3 The Wife of Usher's Well - 2:45
4 Tom of Bedlam - 3:57
5 The Dreadful Ghost - 4:22
6 The Foggy Dew - 5:07
7 The Derby Ram - 3:31
8 The Maid on the Shore - 3:45
9 Reynardine - 3:03
10 The False Lady - 3:21
11 Polly Vaughn - 3:18
12 The Two Magicians - 5:19

pirates like ships or alternate link
vinyl | mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ cover

if you like it, I think you can get some more at Freebornman's livejournal. More of the style, at least.

December 6, 2009

Jean Ritchie - The Most Dulcimer

And - can you face it - one more dulcimer album! By the queen of the dulcimer, princess of the folk revival herself, Jean Ritchie. One of the only people who could be deep, authentic, and totally appalachian while still being clean, pretty, and acceptable-to-city-folkies. Thus, she had a big impact on the folk scene, along with Doc Watson (the two shared an album recorded at Folk City in the early '60s. You could probably get it around somewhere...). Though she's familiar with (& wrote the book on) all manner of dulcimer styles and forms, she plays in her endemic, traditional style, held in her lap, strumming across the 3 strings with a feather.

Biography by Steve Leggett
Jean Ritchie was born into a large and musical family in Viper, Kentucky in 1922. The Ritchie family was very much a part of the Appalachian folk tradition, and had committed over 300 songs (including hymns, traditional love songs, ballads, children's game songs, etc.) to its collective memory, a tradition that Ritchie has drawn on (as well as preserved and maintained) for the entire length of her performing career. She grew up in a home where singing was intertwined with nearly every task, and the beautiful,
 ephemeral nature of these mountain songs and fragments was not lost on her. After graduating from high school, Ritchie attended Cumberland Junior College in Williamsburg, Ky., moving on to the University of Kentucky, where she graduated in 1946. She accepted a position at the Henry Street Settlement in New York City and soon found her family's songs useful in reaching out to the children in her care. Her singing, although she never had a strong pop sort of voice, was perfect for the old ballads, especially when she accompanied herself on lap dulcimer, and the ancient modal melodies of her family felt fresh and airy in her hands. Ritchie soon found herself in demand in the New York coffeehouses, and her official career in music began. After hearing some casually recorded songs by Ritchie, Jac Holzman, who was just starting up Elektra Records, signed her to the label, eventually releasing three albums, Jean Ritchie Sings (1952), Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family (1957) and A T
ime for Singing (1962) at the height of the folk revival. Although she never reached the household name status of Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, Judy Collins or the Kingston Trio, Ritchie maintained her Appalachian authenticity, and her subsequent albums worked to preserve the rich folk tradition of the Southern Appalachians. Among her many releases are two from Smithsonian Folkways, Ballads From Her Appalachian Family Tradition and Child Ballads in America, None but One (which won a Rolling Stone Critics Award in 1977), High Hills and Mountains, Kentucky Christmas, and The Most Dulcimer. Married to the photographer George Pickow, the couple has re-released many of her albums on their own Greenhays Recordings imprint.
Jean Ritchie - The Most Dulcimer

Year: 1992
Label: Greenhays

Review by Steve Leggett

Although Jean Ritchie is associated with the Appalachian lap dulcimer, an instrument she largely introduced -- along with Richard Farina -- to the emerging folk revival of the 1960s, she seldom features it on more than a handful of Tracks on her many albums. As she tells it, this led to her forever being asked at performances and appearances, which album has the most dulcimer? Well, this one does, which is why it is called Most Dulcimer, and it has been assembled to present that aspect of Ritchie's talent. And having the most dulcimer, it is probably, therefore, the most immediately accessible of her records, and definitely the best introduction yet to her particular vision of the Appalachian folk music tradition. Airy and modal, Most Dulcimer has the kind of built in mountain nostalgia that anyone can relate to, but in this case, it's earned, rather than an affectation, since Ritchie grew up in the Cumberlands and learned these songs from her friends, family and neighbors in the truest expression of the oral tradition, before the various modern communication mediums (like radio, records, television, the Internet) all but swept that tradition away. Charming, chiming and calming, the songs on Most Dulcimer add up to a wonderfully cohesive sonic tour of the Appalachian song tradition, part riddle and game, part art song, part jubilee. Highlights include the two gems that open the sequence, "Over the River to Feed My Sheep" and "Pretty Saro," as well as two well-written Ritchie originals, the elegant "Wintergrace" and the funky (for a dulcimer, anyway) "Movin' on Down the River."

1 Over the River to Feed My Sheep - Ritchie - 1:30
2 Pretty Saro - Ritchie Family, Ritchie - 2:45
3 Edward - Traditional - 3:47
4 Killiekrankie - Ritchie - 1:29
5 The Haven of Rest - Gilmour, Gilmore, Moore - 2:45
6 Wintergrace - Ritchie - 3:56
7 Locks and Bolts - Traditional - 2:28
8 Mourning Tears - Ritchie - 4:15
9 Movin' on Down the River - Ritchie - 2:53
10 Dabbling in the Dew - Traditional - 2:09
11 Jubilee - Traditional - 2:01
12 Four Marys - Traditional - 2:44
13 Aunt Rhodie R.I.P. - 4:50
14 The Parson's Farewell - Ritchie - 2:27
15 Come You Home Again - Ritchie - 2:10
16 The Soldier - Ritchie - 1:45

and track 3
mp3 192 (160 on a few tracks) | w/ scans | 56mb

and get her 1st album for Elektra just posted at Times Ain't Like they Used to Be.

Kevin Roth - The Mountain Dulcimer Instrumental Album

So, um, the other album to break a whole bunch of boundaries in the dulcimer world, also played by a guy who later turned to children's music for his staple diet, is this one. I quite like the drones and swoops of this all-dulcimer album, I must say. I'm curious to hear the other albums listed from the Flying Fish unearthing, though I'm also wary, as Kevin's presence completely spoiled an otherwise fine Ola Belle Reed disc for me. Anyways, here's some good modal old-timey classical celtic indian medieval Beatle-folk for ya. Enjoy!

Kevin Roth (born 1957 in San Diego,California) is an American folk singer and dulcimer player who has released thirty-two albums. His most recent CD is titled Between the Notes. He has performed at the White House for Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Roth lives with Chris Fitzpatrick in Hollywood, Florida.

He sang the theme song to the 1990s PBS children's program Shining Time Station.

Kevin Roth - The Mountain Dulcimer Instrumental Album

The mountain dulcimer is more accurately described as a fretted zither. Performing the songs of traditional mountain folk and contemporary urban musicians, as well as composing his own, Kevin Roth offers a diverse repertoire: an old Virginia fiddle tune, an East Indian melody, a Clementi sonata, a Baptist hymn and pieces by Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and the Beatles.

Year: 1977
Label: Folkways Records FW03570

Side A
101 Medley: The Red Hair Boy and Marie's Wedding - 1:45
102 Planxty George Brabazon - 1:38
103 Norwegian Wood - 2:26
104 Duncan - 2:10
105 Medley: Southwind and The Wind that Shakes the Barley - 2:48
106 Copos de le Montagne - 2:13
107 Sally in the Garden - 1:27
108 Medley: Farewell to Tarwathie and Sheebeg and Sheemore - 2:40
109 Soldier's Joy - 1:38

Side B
201 Ragutati Ragava Raga Ram - 3:16
202 Singing in the Country - 1:38
203 Dry Bones - 2:29
204 June Apple - 1:28
205 Nightingale - 2:28
206 Thinking about the Old Ways: Medley: Soldier's Joy, Water Bound, Somebody Kicks My Dog Around - 2:13
207 Greensleeves - 2:11
208 Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - 1:42
209 Bring in Good Ale - 2:16
210 Clementi Sonatina - A Dulcimer Varation - 1:33

mr | vinyl, cleaned, mp3 >256kbps vbr

John McCutcheon - 2 albums

And, just to show you that I don't have anything against nice, pleasant music (so long as it's done well and not too sappy), here's some fine heart-warming strings and things. Usually the separating question is: have they gone deep enough into the traditional music to understand its subtle depth, or have they merely skimmed its harmonious overtones? In McCutcheon's case, I believe the former is true. Even when making children's music, he stands apart from the crowd in making music that doesn't belittle the innate intelligence of children. But these two albums come before his childrens phase, when he was just making lovely glistening bits of folk.

Biography by P.J. Swift
One of the most prolific and respected children's artists, John McCutcheon has consistently produced quality children's albums (and folk albums) since the early '70s. McCutcheon is first and foremost an instrumentalist. Like thousands of others in the '60s, McCutcheon, a Wisconsin native, taught himself how to play a mail-order guitar and joined the local folk scene. His interest became more serious, however, when he sought to find the roots of this music. McCutcheon headed for Appalachia and learned from some of the legendary greats of traditional folk music. Along the way, he became adept at a multitude of instruments, including fiddle, banjo, guitar, autoharp, jaw harp, and especially the hammered dulcimer. McCutcheon is considered one of the undisputed masters on the hammered dulcimer and adapts much of his music around the instrument. 

By the time of his first album, How Can I Keep from Singing in 1974, McCutcheon as a young man had already drunk deep from America’s well. Born in Wisconsin, he enrolled at St. John’s University in Minnesota and almost immediately felt the call to seek a broader curriculum beyond the classroom walls. “I had discovered these old Folkways records of people like Roscoe Holcomb and Clarence Ashley,” he remembers, noting just two of the many American folk artists who piqued his imagination. “And when I realized that they were still alive, I decided I wanted to learn all I could about them. From them.”

This meant, he continues, “walking out to the end of the college drive as a 19-year-old kid and sticking out my thumb. I thought I was going off on a three-month, independent study to find banjo players. Even then, I knew it was the ultimate in cultural denial to play banjo in Minnesota,” he remembers, laughing. “What I didn’t realize was that this music needed to be learned in its context. After all, I’d come out of academia, where they compartmentalize life into boxes like Biology 101. But you learn about this music by going into people’s homes and going with them when they play at dances, in churches or on the picket line. And the more I did this, the more I understood that this music isn’t just about putting your finger on the right part of your instrument, singing the right note or writing the right word.”

John McCutcheon - Wind That Shakes the Barley

Year: 1977
Label: Rounder

Review by Matt Fink

Originally released in 1977, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, McCutcheon's second release, was a groundbreaking recording for hammer dulcimer music. Having established himself in folk circles for his instrumental prowess, McCutcheon, having only himself picked up the instrument two years prior, broadened the horizon of the hammer dulcimer as a popular folk instrument. The innovation he brought to traditional jigs, reels, rags, as well as American folk and bluegrass, was, and still is, truly breathtaking. Joined by a cast of friends on guitar, concertina, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo, these songs fill out amazingly well, providing a perfectly adorned stage for McCutcheon's mesmerizing playing, as well as providing excellent harmony vocals on Carter Stanley's "Who Will Sing For Me?" Following up a swinging "Dallas Rag" with Bach's "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring" certainly isn't common pairing, but McCutcheon expertly blurred boundaries on this release. Overall, for fans of hammer dulcimer music, and most fans of traditional folk music in general, this is an absolute must.

1 Wind That Shakes the Barley, Morpeth's Rant, Saten Island - Traditional - 3:30
2 Planxty George Brabazon, Si Bheag Si Mhor - OCarolan - 5:47
3 Every Bush and Tree - Pierce - 2:57
4 Dallas Rag - Traditional - 2:53
5 Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Bach - 2:14
6 Carter Store Medley: Wildwood Flower/Red Wing/Wake up Susan/Temperance - Traditional - 3:56
7 Sculley's Reel, Morrison's Jig - Traditional - 3:56
8 If I Were a Featherbed - McCutcheon - 2:44
9 St. Anne's Reel/Cricket on the Hearth/Kitchen Girl/Mississippi Sawyer - Traditional - 4:06
10 Sally in the Garden/Wild Rose of the Mountain - Traditional - 4:10
11 Who Will Sing for Me? - Stanley - 3:18
12 Hangman's Reel/Campbell's Farewell to Red Gap - Traditional - 4:51
13 Greensleeves - Traditional - 1:56

nmr | mp3 160kbps | w/o cover | 52mb

John McCutcheon - Fine Times at our House

Year: 1982
Label: Greenhays

Review by Steve Leggett
John McCutcheon's love for traditional Appalachian music is apparent on all of his many albums, but Fine Times at Our House, recorded for Jean Ritchie and George Pickow's Greenhays label, is particularly neo-Appalachian in feel, featuring several fiddle medleys and McCutcheon's own bright and airy hammer dulcimer playing. Among the many highlights here are the opener, "Wild Rose of the Mountain," a fiddle reel that makes the heart soar, and a wonderful segue that puts two traditional melodies, "Lonesome John" and "Fine Times at Our House," together in one basket. Most of the tracks are instrumentals, but McCutcheon's appropriately creaky singing on the haunting dirge "Times Are Not What They Used to Be" is particularly moving. A bright joy seems to permeate every inch of this record, and its offhand, easy flow makes it a wonderful introduction to McCutcheon's considerable body of work.

1. Wild Rose of the Mountain/Wild Rose of the Mountain
2. Hale's Rag
3. Nancy Ann/Hey, John D., Where'd You Get Your Britches?
4. Lonesome John/Fine Times at Our House
5. Amelia's
6. Samanthra
7. I Am the Bravest Cowboy/Cowboy's Dream
8. Times Are Not What They Used to Be
9. Grandpa's Waltz/Clarinet Polka
10. Sally Ann
11. Back Side of Albany/Cooley's Reel
12. Carolan's Farewell to Music

fine and dandy.
mr | vinyl, cleaned | mp3 >256kbps

and you can also download mp3s from his website (not sure how he got to have "" but he must have got in early...)

Unearthed: A Bounty of Flying Fish!

A devoted grapeviner has stumbled across and acquired a great buried treasure, in the form of dozens of Flying Fish and other old LPs, at a garage sale. Flying Fish, as many of my posts demonstrate, was one of the premier folk-and-beyond labels, along with Folkways and Folk Legacy (also represented here). Their early releases were universally good. I'm not sure about their later releases, which is the bulk of what you'll find here, but I'm betting there's some gems in the lot.

Anyways, she's offering these LPs to anyone who wants to digitize and post them. Fellow bloggers, devoted listeners, take note! Here's a great chance to make a contribution to the music blogosphere and get a collectible item to boot! Here's her letter & vinyl list:

Thanks for taking a look. The garage guy said he snapped these up for next to nothing when Flying Fish discontinued vinyl around 1989. Most of them were played once to make cassette copies. Some are still unopened. He considered ripping them for his iPod, but decided he's too old to spend the time. I thought I had a sure taker to rip these, but after a week of searching. I'm starting to wonder if I imagined this post. My equipment and skills just aren't up to the task.

Here's the list. If you need more info on anything, let me know. You're welcome to anything you promise to rip. Hopefully you'll share it in the blog. If not, send me copies and I'll find a blog home if I have to start one myself. You're getting first pick. I'll shop it around elsewhere after a week 

If you know of likely takers for the stuff that's not your line of country, thanks for any leads. I feel a karmic duty to keep the garage guy collection alive.

Flying Fish and Mountain Railroad
0323 Anne Romaine - Take a Stand
3084 Artie Traum - Take a Stand
3914 Artie Traum - Life on Earth
        Artie Traum and Pat Alger - From the Heart
0509 Aztec Two-Step - See, It Was Like This
        Becky Thompson - After All This Time
0400 Bell and Shore - Little Movies
0325 Blue Riddim Band - Live in Jamaica
0255 Blue Riddim Band - Restless Spirit
0437 Bonnie Koloc - With You on My Side
        Bonnie Koloc - Wild and Recluse
0242 Cathy Winter - Breath on My Fire
        Cherish the Ladies (first LP
0468 Critton Hollow - Great Dreams
0497 Dave Mallett - For a Lifetime
0060 Don Lange - Natural Born Heathen
0222 Don Lange - Live
0039 Ellipsis
8000 Emery Christiansen - Between Planes
0418 File - Cajun Dance Band
0457 The Flips - What's in the Bright Pink Box?
        Fred Small - No Limit 
        Fred Small - I Will Stand Fast
0436 Geof Morgan - Talk It Over
0277 Geof Morgan - Finally Letting It Go
0353 George Gritzbach - All American Song
0432 Glenda Faye - Flatpickin' Favorites
0391 Guy Carawan - The Land Knows You're There
        Happy Traum - Bright Morning Star
        VA: The Heartbeat of Soweto
0044 Howie Bursen - Building Boom
0482 Jan Marra - These Crazy Years
2782 Jim Kweskin - Lives Again
0365 Jim Page - Visions in My View
0331 John O'Connor - Songs for Our Times
0443 Jonathan Stevens - Creationland
0376 Laura Burns and Roger Rosen - Light This Night
1992 Lenny Anderson - Hot Off the Press
0458 Linda Allen - Women's Work
0439 Linda Waterfall - Body English
0308 Lorraine Duisit - Hawks and Herons
        Lorraine Lee and Bennett Hammond - Light as a Feather
0405 Mark Nelson - Southern Light
0485 Patricia Shih - Leap of Faith
0256 Peter Alsop - Uniforms
0078 Phil Rosenthal - Indian Summer
0324 Preston Reed - Playing By Ear
0428 Robin Flower - Babies With Glasses
0326 Robin Flower, First Dibs
0359 Robin and Linda Williams - Nine Till Midnight
0327 Robin and Linda Williams - Close As We Can Get
0499 Roy Forbes - Love Turns to Ice
0399 Ruth Pelham - Look to the People
3425 Sally Rogers and Claudia Schmidt - Closing the Distance
0202 Sam Chatmon and the Barbecue Boys
0312 Si Kahn - Unfinished Portraits
0479 Skyline - Fire of Grace
0388 Tony Trischka and Skyline - Skyline Drive
4015 VA - Songs for Peace
0306 Steve Lyon - There's No Place Like MArs
0498 Velma Frye - I Am to Someone
3065 Woodstock Mountains Revue - Back to Mud Acres

Andrew Rowan Summers - Christmas Carols with Dulcimer
Doc Scott's Old-Time Medicine Show - World's Most Unusual Songs
George Davis, the Singing Miner - When Kentucky Had No Union Men
Gerry Axelrod and Robert Macklin - Songs of Nature and the Environment
Kevin Roth - After the Rain
Kevin Roth - Women
Kevin Roth - New Wind
Kevin Roth - The Other Side of the Mountain
Kevin Roth - The Living and Breathing Wind
Kevin Roth - The First Few WordsLiz Getz - How Can I Keep from Singing
Ron Turner - Self Titled
Tom Morgan - Bluegrass with Friends and Family
Tracy and Eloise Schwartz - Down Home With
VA - Hootenanny Tonight

Folk Legacy
Helen Schneyer - Ballads, Broadsides and Hymns
Ed Trickett - The Telling Takes Me Home

Red Clay Ramblers - Soundtrack to Sam Shepard's Far North
Doc and Merle Watson and the Texas Playboys - Soundtrack to Places in the Heart
Clam Chowder - For Here or To Go
Michael Tomlinson - Still Believe
Eric Bogle - Singing the Spirit Home
Alice Gerrard and Mike Seeger
Tom Paxton - Even a Gray Day
Mike Cross - Rock 'n' Rye
Mike Cross - Prodigal Son
Mike Cross - Born in the Country
Makem and Clancy - We've Come a Long Way
Kell Street Camp Meeting - Dinner and Joy on the Ground
The Star Accordion Band - Scottish Favorites Vol. 2
VA- The Greater Antilles Sampler
VA - Songs and Dances of Vandee
Mikron Theatre Company - Songs of the Canals and Waterways of Great Britain
Mary O'Hara - At the Toyal Festival Hall
David Philoe - Seychelles
Yulya - Sings Her Favorite Russian Songs

A fair number of these artists are probably forgotten for good reason. Tendentious movement and preachy new-agey song titles. Self-righteous liner notes. Smug faces on the covers. I'll eventually skim it all, and would be delighted to discover my cruel first impressions were wrong. But I'm sure there's somebody out there who loved the crusading union printer/songwriter  Lenny Anderson. It takes all kinds. And the web has a home for all of it, I'm sure. I just don't want to be the person who sent the last surviving copy of Patricia Shih's proudest gift to the landfill. 

anyone who would like to take on the task of ripping and posting some of these should contact
johannalapp at that yahoo place dot com
and then leave a comment in this post or email me and her once the file is uploaded. Or, if you have a blog of your own, post it there and leave a note in the comments.

and a word about ripping vinyl:
If you feel inclined to rip a vinyl and digitize it, and have the equipment and time to go through with the task, why settle for less than the best sound quality? I mean, pops & clicks have their charm, but they don't really add that much to the music. That said, I'd always rather have an album with pops & clicks than one that's been 'over-cleaned'. Most of the vinyl ripping programs out there have built-in 'de-clickers' which apply a single algorithm and wipe out all the high frequency sounds, resulting in a sound that is devoid of pops & crackles and also devoid of most of the musical excitement, sounding like a blanket has been draped over the speakers. If you listen on a laptop or built-in computer speakers, you may not be able to notice the difference. But if you listen on good speakers, these over-cleaned recordings sound HORRIBLE. Worse than cassettes. So please, if you do rip and share some of these, either leave the scratches as they are or use this excellent program: ClickRepair, which cleans without sacrificing the music or audio quality. Then, share mp3s of a high quality (192kbps and above). Photograph or scan the front & back covers, if you can, for an even better share.

Let the fish fly!!!

Ustad Vilayat Khan - Inayat

Another stupendous and jaw-droppingly good Indian musician. Recently someone commented that the remark in the liner notes for Debashish Bhattacharya belittling Vishwa Mohan Bhatt was totally uncalled-for. That is true. However, the fact upon comparison that D. Bhattacharya completely blows VM Bhatt out of the water is also true (I'm great at inciting aggravation, huh? They don't call me Irate for nuthin'). Similarly, if you compare Ustad Vilayat Khan with Pandit Ravi Shankar, you see that in fact there is no comparison. And I like Ravi and V.M. Bhatt! I think they've done very important work in spreading this music and appealing to a western audience. 'Pandit' means teacher. 'Ustad' means master. That, perhaps, is the difference. The Bhatts & Shankars spread the music (a tad watered-down, perhaps, but still beautiful) to a wider audience, and have an important role as teachers/ambassadors. But for the pure, unflinching, raw stuff you have to go with the masters. Ravi Shankar's music is nice. Vilayat Khan's is aggressive, powerful, unexpected, trancendent, mind-boggling. And yet, for all that, Ravi and his student VM Bhatt get the grammy's, the recognition, the money, and the true masters get only the small crowd of devoted, hardcore fans. But I don't just say these things to boost one fellow and demean another. I point to a difference in quality, because it leads to a different experience in listening: Vilayat's music will reward your listening a great deal. As much, perhaps, as Nikhil Banerjee's, Ali Akbar Khan's, or Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's. Well, maybe not quite as good as ZM Dagar. But for excitement, you can't beat it. I count it akin to Clarence White's guitar playing: ceaselessly creative and unpredictable, never falling into a dull moment - and so the experience of listening is one of continual awakening, sometimes blissfully, sometimes rudely, but such is life. One only wishes Vilayat could have lived that life a little bit more, instead of being chained to his room to practice... but you can hear his yearning to break free in every beat. And that's the power. !

Biography by Ken Hunt
Vilayat Khan, one of the greatest Hindustani musicians of the 20th century, was born in Gouripur in East Bengal (later Bangladesh) in August 1922. (Various other dates are strewn throughout the literature but that is the date that he confirmed in 1993.) His grandfather, Imdad Khan (1848-1920) and his father Enayat Khan (1894-1938) -- Vilayat Khan gives the spelling Inayat Khan -- were famed musicians in their lifetimes and Vilayat and his younger brother Imrat Khan inherited their musicality. Their gharana is known as the Imdadkhani gharana after their grandfather. 

He studied initially with his father. On his father's death in 1938 his training became the responsibility of his mother, Bashiran Begum, his grandmother, Bande Hussain Khan, and his maternal uncle, Wahid Khan. Around the same period Vilayat Khan began recording 78s. Peculiarly it is reported that he had to cope with odious comparisons with his father. Gradually he developed a style which, while acknowledging his kinsfolk's contribution, spoke with his own distinctive voice. His most outstanding contribution to his gharana's tradition is the evolution of what is known as a vocal style or gayaki ang on sitar. To some degree this is a term of convenience. Other contemporary musicians were striving to develop instrumental styles which more closely resembled the human voice -- it was after all the goal of all instrumentalists to mimic as far as possible the human voice -- and Vilayat Khan did not have a monopoly in this endeavor whatever some commentators claimed. That is not to detract from his achievement which was considerable and caused a sensation. 

Vilayat Khan's strides in compensating for the sitar's shortcomings were immense. His career was marked by a regally consistent musical quality. An outspoken critic of low standards, he maintained levels of personal integrity that on occasion earned him the disfavor of the establishment. Little of his work was in any context other than the strictly classical one although he worked with Satyajit Ray on the soundtrack to the film Jalsaghar and the Ismail Merchant/James Ivory film The Guru. He might be summed up as a keeper -- not a quencher -- of the flame.

Another Bio:
As a performer, Vilayat Khan is the sixth generation of a renowned family of sitarists. Vilayat Khan's great grandfather Ustad Sahabdat Khan gave the Surbahar (Bass Sitar) the final form that it has today. His grandfather, Ustad Imdad Khan, pioneered the Imdad Khani Gharana (tradition) of sitar technique. In this tradition, Ustad Imdad Khan brought human vocal profundity to the sitar, drawing upon khyal (Indian vocal technique). Vilayat Khan's father and teacher, Ustad Inayat Khan, continued and expanded this traditon. Vilayat Khan has continued and expanded it as well. He has introduced his own innovations in sitar performance, including the 'gayaki' ang style of vocalization.

By the age of four, Vilayat Khan was playing the sitar. At eight, his first public performance catapulted him to fame. Since then, Vilayat Khan has performed throughout India, the United States and Europe, including concerts at Buckingham Palace, the enormous Royal Albert Hall, and the royal courts of Iran and Afghanistan. Often loudspeakers have had to be placed outside packed auditoriums to make his music available to disappointed fans who were turned away due to lack of seating.

Vilayat Khan has extensively recorded the traditional classical music of India and his own compositions within that tradition. Such compositions include his film scores, including scores for films by Satyajit Ray and by Merchant and Ivory.

Vilayat Khan is called "Aftaab-e-Sitar", the radiant star of the sitar, a title conferred on him by the late President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Revered guitar genius Andres Segovia called Vilayat Khan "a genius one of the handful of the world's greatest musicians." The San Francisco Chronicle and Le Monde of Paris both called him "The greatest sitarist of the century."

Ustad Inayat Khan - The Father and Guru

Born in 1894 in Uttar Pradesh Ustad Inayat Khan was the beloved father and Guru of Ustad Imrat Khan and Vilayat Khan. In the early 20th Century Ustad Inayat Khan moved his family to what is now their home in Calcutta. He was sponsored by many of the rich Indian families to play and help spread Indian culture in a country that was beginning its struggle for independence from the Raj. Calcutta was developing into the seat of art and culture in India and this is the city in which he chose to develop his gharana.

Ustad Inayat Khan was a master of Sitar and Surbahar. He developed the gayaki ang in sitar which his father had developed for the surbahar and his sons would further develop as a trademark of their gharana. He gave a new dimension to crafting and manufacture of the sitar and his structural modifications of the instrument are still used in the instruments of today whilst his musical contributions are standardised practice for today's musicians. The flair with which he played made him the greatest musician of his generation and his legendary recordings illustrate and record the  contributions he made to music. 

Inayat Khan was a great ambassador for Indian classical music in India. He popularised the sitar and made it accessible for the general population. This was a time when many of the famous Indian music festivals were started. His music was the soul of India in those times of change and he had a great and unrivalled following throughout the country. This contribution to popular arts and culture can be illustrated by his friendship with Rabindranath Tagore, the legendary writer, artist and poet. Together these two giants of culture put poetry to music to bring it alive in some of the most famous Indian folk songs and anthems. Each inspired the other to take the arts of India to dizzying new heights.

Ustad Inayat Khan dedicated his life to music; He played, taught and lived with an equal passion to strengthen the name of his gharana and the profile of classical music in his country.

Ustad Vilayat Khan - Inayat
Raga Piloo

Label: Navras Records

This is a wonderful performance by the greatest sitarist of the past 65 years. The essence of his gharana's long development of this raag is right here. It often sharply recalls to me his LP recording from back in the late sixties, and I now realise that then he was faithfully transmitting and further enriching what his father, the great Inayat Khan had bequeathed him. Now, with this recording, all that these two great artists - and much of what others have done as well - is preserved for posterity. Any flaw? Well yes, the recording quality is not quite up to the standard of that of most other of his recent live performances - but that is a mere quibble which I include to demonstrate that I am not merely raving! A must have for any true lover of this music! 
"el violero viejo", Joel R. van Lennep

Tracks 1 & 2:
Raga Piloo

and hear some of his brother, Imrat Khan over at RootBlog. (& again). You'll probably find other VK there too...
and more VK at Henry's Archive.

Debashish Bhattacharya - Hindustani Slide Guitar - Raga Bhimpalasi

Debashish Bhattacharya - Hindustani Slide Guitar - Raga Bhimpalasi

Year: 1997
Label: Indida Archives

Here's a bit more of the "Best slide guitarist in the world" for you, in case your interest was piqued by the previous music post. As opposed to the previous affair, which was world fusion, this is straight, traditional Indian classical music. Not for the short-of-attention-span! But well worth the investment of listening hours. Epic, fantastic stuff, I tells ya!

Product Description
Debashish Bhattacharya's imaginative renderings and innovative extensions of playing technique and instrument design reveal the kind of provocative re-thinking that has always been at the vanguard of Indian classical music. Raga Bhimpalasi is played in the afternoon, evoking a contemplative sense of peace and the majestic grandeur of creation.

a customer said:
This is one of the best Hindustani recordings of all time. I hope you will not let the guitar factor get in the way of your giving this cd a chance. Make no mistake about it, in the hands of Debashish Bhattacharya his acoustic slide guitar is as "valid" and "authentic" a Hindustani instrument as a sarod or a sitar. Plus he has altered the guitar by adding drone and sympathetic strings so it does indeed have a very "Indian tone" to it. Gorgeous tone actually.
If you never have 70 uninterrupted minutes to dedicate to a cd then actually Debashish's Raga Saraswati cd may be a better choice for you because it has three shorter performances rather than the one long one contained on this cd. Plus, in terms of "performance quality" you aren't sacrificing anything by buying Saraswati. It's an epic recording as well. I give the slight nod to the Bhimpalasi cd because the 48-minute alap, jor, and jhala on this cd is so magnificent, and it so perfectly displays the profound emotional impact and creativity that stands at the heart of a great Hindustani improvisation that I just have to choose this one. Plus the gats are volcanic as well! The Saraswati cd is also amazing, the performances are just more compact so none of the alap's get to stretch out and go quite as deeply as this one does. My advice: Buy them both!

In terms of just sheer improvisational ability and emotional power, Debashish is right up there with Viliyat Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, etc....

If you've never heard of him before, don't worry. Whether you're just a guitar fan who is curious to hear something new or you're a knowledgeable longtime fan of Hindustani music this cd will blow your mind. Debashish and Samir Chatterjee (the tabla player) created one of the pearls of recorded music.

Raga Bhimpalasi is a beautiful raga and they create one of its best-ever versions.

1. Raga Bhimpalasi: Alap, Jor & Jhala (48:24)
2. Raga Bhimpalasi: Vilambit Gat in Rupak Tal (16:42)
3. Raga Bhimpalasi: Drut Gat in Tintal (13:11)

get it.
mp3 >256kbps vbr

dedicated to everyone who enjoys this particular brand of genius...

R.I.P. Jack Rose

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, fellows. Though I'm somewhat settled and would be happy to post, the internet/phones have been down for quite a while, and are only up for brief intermittent spells. I only just learned upon coming back to the web that Jack Rose, the most beloved and best of the new generation of Takoma-style players, has met old Blind Joe Death and now travels in his company. All the info I have can be gathered from Delta Slider, and he's probably more able to keep updated as the info comes in.

There will be mourning. There will be singing of the Raga Yaman Blues for Dr. Ragtime. 
Farewell, you black rose of mystery.