‘Pa’s Fiddle Primer'(July 02, 2012)
Although not given to watching much televisions these days, I will confess to spending some of the middle seventies with Little House on the Prairie; and becoming seduced by its enchantments I subsequently read many of Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiographical books. And if you want an exceptional view of 19th-century America you could do worse than read the same. However, if you would rather listen than read there’s always ‘Pa’s Fiddle’.
Using the music that accompanied the television series comes the album ‘Pa’s Fiddle’, an equally precise and inspired view of American folk music from the period. Early in 2012 a concert took place just outside Nashville - ‘Pa’s Fiddle Primer’ draws together some of the songs from the concert. And I can’t help but think that Charles "Pa" Ingalls, Laura's own non-fictional father and a much-admired fiddler, would have approved.
From the simple joy of ‘The Yellow Heifer’ through the inherent sadness of ‘The Blue Juniata’ from Riders In The Sky and the mournful ‘Green Grows the Laurel’ with Deborah Packard’s fragile engaging vocals, to ever-popular tune ‘The Irish Washerwoman’ this is an inspired time-capsule of musical history. There’s the comic music hall story of ‘Captain Jinks’ complete with its narrative and sing along chorus, plus a delightful couplet of the old Jacobite tune ‘The Campbell’s Are Coming’ and the incipient happiness of ‘Haste To The Wedding’.
‘Pa’s Fiddle Primer’ features performances from some outstanding acoustic musicians including Matt Flinner (mandolin), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Byron House (acoustic bass), Butch Baldassari (mandolin), Mike Bubb (acoustic bass), Bob Carlin (banjo), Pat Enright (guitar), Matt Combs (fiddle), Dennis Crouch (upright bass) and Shad Cobb (banjo). Featured bands are Riders in the Sky, Deborah Packard/ John Mock, Judith Edelman/Blair String Quartet, The Peggy Duncan Singers and Mac Wiseman.
This old music and songs catches the heart strings as it tells human stories. Standing as a magnificent reference for life on America’s frontier these songs celebrate life and loss, happy times and sad, pulling folk through adversity and hardship. As Laura Ingalls once said: “If you want to know the spirit of those times, you need to know these old songs.”
Reviewer: Tom Franks