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The Scots who left their homeland and came to the United States by way of Ulster, carried with them their belongings. They also brought something that didn't need a suitcase: their traditional music.
A beautiful new books charts the movement of this music from Europe to Appalachia. It's a movement of songs and generations.
The book is "Wayfaring Strangers," authored by Fiona Ritchie -- host of NPR's "The Thistle and Shamrock," which features traditional and contemporary Celtic music — and Doug Orr, president emeritus of Warren Wilson College.
The book comes with a CD of songs sung by artists including Pete Seeger, Doc Watson and Dolly Parton.
Ritchie only half-jokingly says Scottish songs are characterized by their melancholy.
"Scots do like to sing of broken hearts and sad songs of parting and of unrequited love, lost love, death, but also it has that sort of soul to it that comes from Scottish music and Irish music and Appalachian," Ritchie told Here & Now's Robin Young.
The movement of peoples around the world goes on to this day, and we need to remind ourselves that they bring with them their stories, their homesickness for the old place.Doug Orr
Ritchie says Woody Guthrie, the American folk legend, was inspired by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who traveled around Scotland collecting songs.
"Woody Guthrie really was of that same spirit," Ritchie said. "He traveled around as a sort of troubador, tuning into traditions of the people he encountered. And most notably Bob Dylan, who reached back, having been inspired by Woody Guthrie — who in turn was inspired by Burns — Dylan reaches back to the Burnsian approach of picking up bits and pieces of ballads — even just ideas, little bits of tunes — and re-purposes them, recreates new songs for a new generation."
Fiona Ritchie has spent over thirty years telling the stories of Celtic music on her show broadcast over National Public Radio, The Thistle & Shamrock®. Rightfully, she has received numerous awards and recognition for her contributions to this music. The Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has even honored her as a musical ambassador for helping listeners understand the importance of this beautiful and essential music.
This music is close to my heart and part of my DNA. My ancestors, the Partons, came from the Gloucester area of England. It also seems that other Partons may have gone to Scotland. There are various spellings, such as Partan, Parten, Partin, Partyn, and, of course, Parton. There is even an area in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, called Parton. Make no mistake: the music of that area of the Old World is in my blood.
This is why Fiona’s new book, Wayfaring Strangers, coauthored with Doug Orr, is so important to me and to anyone who loves this music. They have done an outstanding job in researching the origins of the troubadours and balladeers that created this music and spread it throughout the lands, including the United States.
I grew up in the Smoky Mountains listening to these ancient ballads that had crossed oceans and valleys to become an important basis for American folk, bluegrass, and country music.
In Wayfaring Strangers, Fiona and Doug have captured the stories of the people, the times, and the songs. They describe the transition in the music as it made its way across the Atlantic and through the valleys of the Appalachian Mountains.
"Barbara Allen" performed by Dolly Parton and Altan
"The Winding River Roe" performed by Cara Dillon
"The Farmer's Curst Wife" performed by Pete Seeger
"Shady Grove performed"by Doc Watson and David Holt
Also, "It Was a' for Our Rightfu' King" performed by Dougie MacLean and
"Benton's Jig/Benton's Dream" performed by Patrick Street
"Pretty Saro" performed by Bob Dylan
This segment aired on October 1, 2014.
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