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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.


Janas said...

Thank you, Irate Pirate

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, Irate Pirate!!!
It's just one the best of her albums!

oldfolkie said...

I got this note from my SingOut group this week. It seems that Jean's in the hospital :

If you already know this, please excuse the duplication. We just feel it is
better to hear about it twice than not at all.
Jean Ritchie suffered a stroke on December 4 and has been in Saint Francis
Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island, ever since. We spoke with her son Jon
Pickow yesterday afternoon, and he said that his mom took a turn for the
worse this past Sunday and she is now in the ICU. One encouraging sign is
that Jean has been able to open her eyes, respond to her immediate
environment, and follow simple requests.
As long as Jean remains in the ICU only her family can see her, so please do
not attempt to visit her for the time being. If and when she pulls through,
we are sure she will be spending a lot of time in rehab, during which visits
will certainly be welcome. It's OK to send Jean cards and letters at home,
or you can send an e-mail to: Greenhays@...
There is little point in phoning the hospital at this time.
Jon has already posted two updates on the Mudcat Cafe bulletin board, and we
suggest you look there for additional information. Here is a link:
That's all we know for now. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Jean and
with the whole Ritchie-Pickow family, including George, Jon, and Peter.
--- Steve & Marilyn Suffet

Anonymous said...

Hi from Cy
I offer my Love, Respect and Hope for Jean Ritchie recovering......
Thanks be to her for preserving the cross over tunes from the Old World to the New.
As I am not a blogger I could not comment on the posting in 'Times Not Like They Used to Be':
My 10" copy of "Jean Ritchie Sings", EKLP-2 has the following tracks:
Side 1, 1) O Love is Teasin', 2, Jubilee, 3, Black is the Color, 4 A Short Life of Trouble, 5, On Morning in May version 1, 6, One Morning in May version 2, 7, Old Virginny, 8, Skin and Bones. Side 2: Track 1, The Little Devils, 2, My Boy Willie, 3, Hush Little Baby, 4, Gypsum Davy, 5, The Cuckoo, version 1, 7, The Cuckoo, version 2, 7, Little Cory and 8, Keep Your Garden Clean.
The Production Supervisor was Jac Holzman and the cover notes were written by Edward Tatnall Canby. The record was copyright 1952 by the Elektra-Stratford Record Corp. 361 Bleecker Street, New Yor 14, N.Y. The notes confirm that the recordings were made, "over a period of months and in no less than four different improvised studios-of-the-moment". The recordings were "culled from the best of many performances, joined together with the convienence of modern tape editing."

So thanks for sharing these two Jean Ritchie listens.
Cy from Pck.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much , can u share Jean Ritchie: Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition album?