September-October 2015

Singin’ the Moon Up Becomes Dulcimer Jazz

By Susie Glaze and Joellen Lapidus

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Jean Ritchie and her dulcimer

From Susie:

For these past two years, since this column’s inception, I’ve been honored and privileged to have the chance to write about my dear friend and mentor, Jean Ritchie. Doing research into Jean’s life and work, fleshing out my own scholarship on her vast, beautiful and hugely influential body of work, has been a joy. Now it’s time to announce a transition, a great evolution of sorts: the introduction of “Dulcimer Jazz” from Los Angeles musician, Joellen Lapidus.

Joellen and I recently presented a tribute concert to Jean Ritchie at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. During our rehearsal for the show we had some good and interesting talk about Jean, as well as great playing and singing. When Joellen was improvising on her dulcimer I noted her great innovations, calling it “dulcimer jazz.” Joellen liked that for a title and I suggested a new column for FolkWorks. So, here it is: with this transition article, we introduce the new column, which will jump into my space and carry on the legacy of Jean Ritchie.

It seemed fitting to both of us that we should introduce “Dulcimer Jazz” with a sampling of that great conversation we had at McCabe’s. “Dulcimer Jazz” will be the natural next chapter in the great Jean Ritchie legacy, this time focusing on the one instrument that she made famous throughout the United States during the folk revival era in New York. Joellen’s and many others’ careers in music have been inspired by Jean’s dulcimer, brought from Eastern Kentucky as an accompanying instrument. Through the evolution of the instrument through its travels from New York and with the next generation, its use evolved and the dulcimer became a newly-formed instrument of choice among the folkies that lasted past the sixties. Joellen is a dulcimer virtuoso, as well as a builder, designer and teacher. She has much to offer the FolkWorks community with her reporting and writing, and I know you’ll enjoy the column when it debuts here in the coming months.

I’d like to say a big “thank you” to FolkWorks, Leda, and Steve, for encouraging and welcoming my writing for “Singin’ the Moon Up.” It’s been really fun to bring little-known stories about Jean Ritchie to this community. Most of all, I thank YOU, the readers of the column, and I hope to keep in touch by writing the occasional story for this space.

A few days after our tribute show, Joellen and I recorded our conversation, sharing insights and stories about Jean. Here it is, recorded on the beautiful summer Sunday afternoon of August 9th, 2015.

SUSIE: Hey, Joellen.

JOELLEN: Hi.

SUSIE: It’s so great to have you here at the house today, on a beautiful Sunday, talking about Jean Ritchie, a great inspiration to both of us.

JOELLEN: Absolutely.

SUSIE: And it was so wonderful to be able to express that at McCabe’s the other night.

JOELLEN: You showed the activist, but also just what a sensitive person she was…Like the “Cool of the Day” is just so heartfelt and just creates a state of peacefulness and a sense of her feelings about God…her spirituality.

SUSIE: Did I ever tell you the genesis of that song that she, Jean, told a group of people about “Cool of the Day”?

JOELLEN: Why don’t you tell me?

SUSIE: Jean was asked in an interview, “where did the song come from?” And this was actually funny, because the song itself inspires such reverence – it’s so poetically spiritual - she replied, “Well, it was a really hot day and I had a pile of shirts to iron.” And that was just reflective of the fact that this music came from her family’s use of song in ordinary, everyday circumstances. Music was woven into everything they did, just part of the ordinary fabric of life. And Jean had so many melodies in her head. She was a wife and mother, raising two boys, and her husband, George Pickow, would go into the city every day from Long Island to work, and Jean didn’t drive, so she was at home alone with her housekeeping and music and raising her boys. [At McCabe’s] it was just so grand to have the play party songs, too.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: Those melodies stuck in my mind long after our show.

JOELLEN: People go home singing, “What’ll I Do With the Baby-O.” “There Was an Old Woman and She Had a Little Pig,” you know …all those great songs.

SUSIE: And that you reinterpreted them in your own way and wrote a few new lyrics -- That’s exactly what Jean did and their whole family did that, made their own versions.

JOELLEN: Well, you know, you mentioned that her music comes from everyday events. To me, that’s what I learned from studying the older folk music, that people didn’t have radios and TV’s. And when I traveled in Canada in 1965, I hitchhiked from Montreal all the way to the end of Newfoundland, with another folksinger. People took us into their homes like crazy. Their music was about everyday events. We were in Nova Scotia and we stayed with this ethnomusicologist and all these local singers came over. We said to them, “We sing your songs, but you’re singing about people you knew. These were mines and factories and lumbering rivers where you live.” We’re in New York City and we’re singing these songs and it’s really amazing to be in touch with the people and places where these things actually happened. When you sing her [Jean’s] songs, that’s what you get in touch with, just the everydayness of how folk music expresses. Well, this is going to sound a little hoity-toity; like the profound through the everyday, but it is.

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Susie Glaze

SUSIE: Oh, it’s not hoity-toity at all. It’s exactly the way I feel. Luckily my brothers shared folk music with me as the folk revival came along and they began to learn to play the music themselves. That’s when I really began to sing in earnest, and began to realize that through music there was a transcendence of the everyday. So I do feel that profound quality in the storytelling in Jean’s songs, whether they’re the collected ones or ones she wrote. That’s one thing I was glad to give to the McCabe’s audience was her gift as a songwriter.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: She never intended to be a songwriter. She was just going to be a teacher and social worker.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: And then she was swept into a community, along with such folks as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and Odetta and all those folks, so she was inspired to write. I remember her telling me that she was asked to be part of a specific festival or performance event in which there was just original material to be performed, or there was a lot of original songs, so she was inspired to write new songs for that purpose.

JOELLEN: That’s interesting.

SUSIE: It wasn’t like a political thing or a movement that she was inspired to write about because she wasn’t a protester type person at all. She wasn’t political at all. But she was inspired to write a song because she thought that those people would appreciate it and they would like her to do that. You know, I think she wrote things, “Blue Diamond Mines” is one of those ones because Woody Guthrie was in her environment.

JOELLEN: She was in the right place at the right time.

SUSIE: Many times.

JOELLEN: It’s so interesting because as a teacher, you’re a storyteller. And she came from a singing family, so she got to tell her stories through song as well and she just happened to be up in New York City instead of Kentucky when that whole folk revival exploded and I think that’s the process of folk music, that your environment affects your music.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: And it’s hard because there’s such a tension between the traditional music of a community and urban music. Well, now that tension exists everywhere because of TV and the internet. The tension exists between preserving the old and the inevitable changes of the folk process which is accelerated if you grew up in the city, even if you only had radio. If you have radio and TV, you’re hearing things that are not in your 40 mile radius of living. And it affects you.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: I mean, I always marvel at people who grow up and their families got together and sang. If you go on YouTube, there’s some great footage of the family reunions where they’re all singing and the women are all in the aprons in the kitchen making something and singing. I like to say the only singing my family ever did was “Happy Birthday,” you know, once a year. Three or four times a year, you know? But what a rich way to grow up, musically.

SUSIE: Rich. And I got to hear it.

JOELLEN: Yes, you went to some of the reunions.

SUSIE: Yes, when we went to the one Ritchie family reunion and then we were part of the CD release concert for “Dear Jean” in Berea, Kentucky in May of 2014. I got to sing with and for Jean and her family, their family’s Christmas song, “Brightest and Best”. It was amazing to be amongst a whole church full – about 400 people – who already knew the harmony parts to the song. As all those voices rose to meet me I felt it was one of the most sacred moments I’ve ever experienced.

JOELLEN: Right.

SUSIE: I’ll always be grateful that I was asked to do that.

JOELLEN: What you’re talking about, to me, is community music.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: Folk music that is part of a community. It’s a way a community passes down its experiences and its wisdom.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: And also creates cohesiveness and spiritual unity and we lack that today.

SUSIE: Oh yes.

JOELLEN: Going to a concert is kind of like a crumb of that experience.

SUSIE: Yes, a good way to put it.

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Joellen Lapidus and her dulcimer

JOELLEN: Because I remember growing up, I grew up in New York, and the only music I heard was on the stage. And then when I traveled, I did that trip through Canada, that’s when I experienced that people played music in their homes. And the other thing was later, when I moved to California, I lived in Big Sur, I was taught instrument making by this man, Freddy Mejia is his name, and he lived in Carmel Valley with his Flamenco troupe. He now lives in Santa Cruz, CA. So after a day of watching him in his shop, we had dinner and then they just started playing music and dancing on their back porch. They had a big deck and I think that was the first time I experienced that these guys were just playing this music for their own pleasure, and it was more than pleasure. I mean, because it goes deeper than that, that Flamenco music and the dance. It was like all of a sudden, there’s this other world that I hadn’t really experienced. And I think you’ve experienced that with the Jean Ritchie family.

SUSIE: Oh, yes.

JOELLEN: I think we long for that.

SUSIE: We do, we do. And that’s one part of the discussion in relation to our Jean Ritchie tribute show that we did “Singing the Moon Up” back in 2005. Steve, my husband, Steve Rankin, adapted Jean’s book, Singing Family of the Cumberlands, to be the first half of a two part stage show. And he talked about it in his liner notes to the program, making this specific point, that we need this communal singing since we’ve lost so much of that in the digital age.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: Where families don’t even have a meal together, much less make music or do anything together to provide bonding and cohesion within their family, that’s artistic or creative. They don’t do it anymore. I know that trends come and go and styles come and go, but there’s much less opportunity for artistic cohesion as you said. The Ritchie Family is still very closely bonded through the generations because of their yearly reunions and music that was handed down. And music is, I’d say, oh maybe 85-95% of what they do at their reunion. They sing from morning to night on all the porches, in all the meadows, and it’s just beautiful with all the generations gathered. One really touching moment was when one of their young cousins, he was about 20 or 22 years old, had learned one of the old ballads, “Lord Bateman.” This is an old English ballad about a lord that went to India and found the love of his life because “The Turkish Lady” freed him from a prison. They promised to marry in seven years and marry no one else during that time. He goes back to England, and then the Turkish Lady comes to find him after the seven years are up. As fate would have it, the lady shows up on the very same day Lord Bateman was coming home with his brand new bride! The Turkish Lady says, “Don’t you remember how I freed you? We promised to marry no one else.” And you know what he did? He sent that new bride home with her mother and said, “Here’s all the stuff we got for our wedding. Take it home with you, but I will marry the Turkish Lady!” So this young man had memorized this in the same custom the Ritchies had known for generations, all a cappella, eyes closed, and everyone from like three or four generations were quiet as a pin. So that gave me hope.

JOELLEN: Wow. I think when we have festivals we’re trying for that experience.

SUSIE: Yes!

JOELLEN: And people are so depressed after festivals because they have that experience of being of a musical community, whether it’s one day or three days or a whole week. And then they leave.

SUSIE: I know.

JOELLEN: And they feel bereft.

SUSIE: Yes, they do because that bonding in an artistic environment can be actually quite ecstatic – fulfilling in the deepest sense.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: There’s also such a feeling of free acceptance. Sometimes you don’t even get that from your own family. Many times you don’t. And so if you had this place where you’re trusted, you’re loved, and it’s a big group of people with all kinds of diverse, you know, ways and situations, and you bond over one song or a bunch of songs, and you might perform them. It’s the greatest kind of sharing.

JOELLEN: You said something before the show that really made an impact on me. You said that for Jean, it wasn’t about her, it was about the music, and it was about the fact that the song – presenting the song -- was primary. I think a lot of people get lost there, because to “make it” musically you have to be a personality.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: And I think once people have achieved a certain amount of success, they’re able to let go of that.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: But I thought about that quite a bit with our show, especially, because it’s an unusual show because it was in Jean’s honor. So there was that sense of – there was just this added layer to it. It wasn’t just about the music, it was about – I don’t even know if I can put it into words. Just honoring her and just realizing how much – like if she hadn’t done what she did, Richard Fariña never would have probably heard the dulcimer. It never would have gone to Europe.

SUSIE: Or California either, probably.

JOELLEN: Yes, well I wasn’t going to go there yet. Richard Fariña took the dulcimer to England and that’s where he met Terry Hennessy, who is the man who made the dulcimer that was on the cover of his album, and that dulcimer inspired so many people on the West coast because we weren’t around dulcimers. So I mean, again, Jean’s influence is just so – and that’s, I wouldn’t have done what I did.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: It’s just so profound and to think that you and I can’t even see the effects of what we’re transmitting.

SUSIE: Yes, it is.

JOELLEN: Anybody who performs or teaches knows that you’re transmitting a vibrant musical tradition to people, and especially with a dulcimer, because people learn it in an hour. All of a sudden they’re musicians, you know, and it’s such a thrill.

SUSIE: Yes. But I think that it’s – what we’re talking about are intangibles.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: We’re talking about some things that are unseeable. They’re “feel-able” when you share them with an audience or designated spiritual power. That’s what happens with me, because when I’m singing Jean’s songs I’m really praying. I’m singing to my spiritual power because often I’m nervous, so that spiritual power becomes my audience. Then the intimacy is possible. Jean herself talked about singing for people and she noted a few things that stay with me today. She would say “I close my eyes for privacy, because I’m singing the song for myself. I’m glad that they’re there (the audience)” (and now I’ll paraphrase and speak for myself here), but if I were to open my eyes and address the audience visually, I’d be worried about what their expressions might mean, whether they like me or not, and I’d be so busy worrying about how they’re liking it I would completely lose focus on the storytelling, lose my words and total focus. There are people who don’t really understand that process – and now returning to what you said about having to be a big personality as a musical star: if a certain level of charisma, so to speak, grandstanding, making a spectacle of yourself, like some might say in the country, is necessary, then the country way of singing will not satisfy the audience who wants a spectacle performer.

JOELLEN: Putting on a show.

SUSIE: Yes. Putting on a show and drawing attention to yourself is not something that those country people would do, and/or appreciate.

JOELLEN: Well, they didn’t need to. They’re just sitting at home.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: They weren’t trying to bring in other people into their house.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: To pay ten dollars or twenty dollars.

SUSIE: But they were also shy and gentle people, not used to speaking or performing “for people” as opposed to just doing so for themselves and their families. Their culture was a modest one, and they believed that you sang a song for its sake and not to draw attention to the singer. This is what Jean said: it’s not about the singer, it’s about the song. And that’s why you don’t act it out. You don’t act the song. You’re not the characters in the song. You are just telling the story. And from an actor’s point of view, I’m an actor, what that translates for actors in our technique is that you don’t act out the emotions of the characters for the audience in order to indicate what the audience should be feeling from moment to moment. That effectually shuts down their imagination. They can’t be free to imagine for themselves. The listener should be free to spin their own visuals and their own emotional reality to a story you’re telling. And I respect this tradition and this process.

JOELLEN: Yes. That’s interesting because I think we all get nervous. I think it’s just part of it and part of producing the adrenaline. It gives you a little extra energy, but the way I’ve learned how to overcome that is it’s almost an opposite technique. I think giving this music is giving service. It’s something that I have to give. I’m not thinking about what the audience is going to feel like you do, so that helps me be less self-conscious.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: But there’s a special experience when you’re playing the music by yourself, too.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: It’s just like a great experience.

SUSIE: Yes, I mean, you bring the interior out to others and that’s a great gift. That’s the greatest gift because you’re transmitting an experience, an understanding you have of something that they may not have.

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: So it’s sharing at a very intimate level. I talk to vocal students this way: What’s the reason you’re telling a story? What’s your emotional attachment to it yourself? How do you identify with that story? Can you place yourself at that location and the environment of that circumstance? Can you see the faces of the people you’re describing? You know, so it’s an interior, deeply interior exercise. That’s why singing “West Virginia Mine Disaster” is always a completely slaying experience for me.

JOELLEN: It’s so raw.

SUSIE: . . . yes, to be the wife, the new widow who’s realizing as she’s saying these words that her husband is gone, that he’s been killed, and she doesn’t understand it until the very end of the song because she’s describing the situation of the event.

JOELLEN: Right.

SUSIE: She’s telling in the song about the kids and her in-laws and what she hopes for her own children’s future and she’s describing all the things that are surrounding the event and at the very end, the bottom line is that he is gone.

JOELLEN: Hm.

SUSIE: It’s devastating. So I go there because I don’t think that the impact of that story can be transmitted any other way.

JOELLEN: Do you feel like you tap into another dimension?

SUSIE: That’s a good way of putting it.

JOELLEN: It’s like Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst of the early 20th century, talked about, and now I can’t remember the phrase, it’s kind of like a communal consciousness. I forget the phrase he used. It’s kind of a universal consciousness.

SUSIE: A collective unconscious?

JOELLEN: Yes, I guess that was his phrase, collective unconscious, but I feel sometimes I dip into another dimension.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: And when you dip into a deep emotion like that kind of grief and loss, which is universal, I just think there’s a well of it. That’s the part of the community spirituality. It’s like – it’s just there and it’s so funny – yeah, I feel like when you sing that song, it’s just like you’re just like the dipper – you take the water out of the bucket and you just dip into it and give everybody a drink. And all the loss they have felt and can’t articulate all of a sudden, they’re able to feel it.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: I’ve had the opposite experience is the – no matter how sad I was growing up and I was very distraught most of my early years, my music always came out happy. I couldn’t write an unhappy song if you kicked me or paid me.

SUSIE: Wow.

JOELLEN: And it’s really only in the last maybe 15 years that I’ve been able to write something that has that kind of a different kind of depth to it.

SUSIE: Yes.

JOELLEN: It’s kind of funny.

SUSIE: You found your happiness inside the songs, which is so cool.

JOELLEN: I just always had that. I’ve always had this enthusiasm that comes out in the music no matter how.

SUSIE: How dark things got?

JOELLEN: That’s a good way to put it. It’s kind of funny.

SUSIE: It’s your sunshine.

JOELLEN: So it brings up the question, do you have to have experiences to be able to express an emotion?

SUSIE: I don’t think so. I think this is the way that they’re given to us. I mean, you were given your happiness through music. The universe handed that down to you. I believe that I was no kind of artist until tragedies hit my life. Those trials brought to me a greater depth, more empathy towards the human race in general and a wiser view of the challenges in life. Just for the fact of having to get through each day and what dedication and strength it takes and how tough it is anyway. In tapping in to music and storytelling we do go to a different dimension and I think that we’re given different reasons and avenues towards what we can express, and reasons to express it. I was given a dark well of sadness and in that, luckily, I found Jean’s spiritual songs, the old regular Baptist hymns, which really served not only to just express pain, but also to remove pain. And in Jean’s day, the Old Regular Baptists believe that this was the place that they could express the pain of their lives.

JOELLEN: In church?

SUSIE: In church.

JOELLEN: Through music?

SUSIE: Through music - a cappella primarily.

JOELLEN: I don’t know if I’ve ever heard one of those songs.

SUSIE: [sings] I am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow

Cast out in this wide world to roam

I have no hope for the morrow,

I’ve started to make Heaven my home.

This is a great tradition of singing. There were song directors who would line out the hymns and the congregation would follow and sing after him. So it sounded a lot like shape note singing back then.

JOELLEN: You know when I went to college, one of the things I took was anthropology and I’d read about community singing and community ritual and community festival and it’s called tribal and primitive.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: And yet I thought, “Wow, that’s what we’re really lacking.”

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: And I never – I mean, that’s how the individuals in a community process the experiences of living.

SUSIE: Yes. That’s right.

JOELLEN: And we don’t have that. We have the TV now.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: And people don’t gather together and dance and tell stories and play music.

SUSIE: However, they’re still drawn to live music and they’re still drawn to music in general.

JOELLEN: Oh yes.

SUSIE: You know, we talk about how we don’t have certain forms of music distribution any longer, but still people need the stories and melodies. I don’t believe that that will ever change.

JOELLEN: Well, they are voracious consumers.

SUSIE: That’s right.

JOELLEN: I mean, the freer it is, the less music costs, the more people consume it. People love music.

SUSIE: That’s right. Yes, just the stories are – I mean, you could say the stories have changed, but I don’t actually think they have. I mean, look at somebody like Taylor Swift who’s so successful, and she’s telling stories about what it’s like to be a young woman and the young women out there need to have those things expressed.

JOELLEN: Right.

SUSIE: With each other, and they share it together. They always did that, you know? So I think music is a unifier still. I think it’s a great magnet.

JOELLEN: Maybe I’m just being old fashioned, like well, what I’m used to.

SUSIE: Right.

JOELLEN: Or a nostalgia for the past.

SUSIE: Yes, right. But group sings are still happening.

JOELLEN: Yes.

JOELLEN: Well, I grew up playing in bands and orchestras my whole life.

SUSIE: Oh yes?

JOELLEN: And then in New York, we have city-wide orchestras, so you had this experience of getting on the subway and at each stop, more musicians would get on. And then we’d all get off. It was really cool because sometimes you’d get on the subway platform and somebody had a flute or a saxophone out and was playing. It was a special experience. And then all get off at the same subway stop and go play in a 150-piece orchestra. That’s how I grew up playing music.

SUSIE: What was your instrument?

JOELLEN: Clarinet. Well, they wouldn’t let me in with the accordion. That was my first instrument. But there are accordion orchestras in elementary school, but once I hit junior high, at least in New York. So that’s when I took up the clarinet, which I don’t regret at all. I love the clarinet.

SUSIE: So we have to just keep carrying the flag which we’re doing. I often step in front of an audience in the West and when I say the name “Jean Ritchie” maybe one or two hands will go up or maybe none. I’ll have to start from square one, telling them who Jean was and just how important and profound her influence was. And that’s why I’m so grateful that we now have the “Dear Jean” CD.

JOELLEN: Oh, it’s so good.

SUSIE: It’s something to have left behind and such incredible talent is a part of it. What was recorded was actually just a fraction of the great, vast body of work she left behind.

JOELLEN: Maybe when we perform … multimedia is so possible these days, there should be a little film of Jean singing with her family. Like when I was little, I’d get up on Sunday mornings and I’d turn the TV on in the basement. They’d have these films from Africa of tribal music and this was even before I studied anthropology. That really was my first exposure of seeing like 50, 60 people singing and dancing together and playing live music and out in the bush, you know. And it was just so curious to me. It was just so different.

SUSIE: Yes. So in that case, the singing family of the Cumberlands really just carried on a tribal, if you want to use that word, tradition, and what was so fascinating and unique about knowing Jean and realizing her impact was that the isolation of the mountains, like you talked about in the show …

JOELLEN: Yes.

SUSIE: … meant that her family moved into Appalachia, into Kentucky and were surrounded by the mountains that isolated their family for generations.

JOELLEN: Right.

SUSIE: And so when you looked at Jean, you realized that she was born and raised in the traditions and the style of her ancestors who were living in America in the 1800s. And here she was in the 20th century, writing new songs and bringing us all the old songs, like something from the Mummers plays, like “Nottamun Town” that we performed. Or something from the ancient English ballads that were shared throughout Britain. In her field trip CDs, she did three versions of “Barbara Allen”. She had the Scottish, the Irish and the Appalachian version side by side on that recording. So you could see the pervasiveness of this music and how it evolved from place to place.

JOELLEN: Is that available?

SUSIE: “Field Trip” is the album name.

JOELLEN: “Field Trip”.

SUSIE: And she had reel-to-reels in storage from her field research, enough to make two more albums which were never pressed. Luckily, the Library of Congress has become the repository of her tapes as well as the work of her late husband, photographer George Pickow. Their library and backlog of historical photography has been catalogued and stored there.

JOELLEN: Wow.

SUSIE: From the folk revival and onward. And the stories that Steve and I got from George and Jean were just amazing, like the Bob Dylan story about taking the melody of “Fair Nottamun Town” to write “Masters of War.” They told us about things that happened to them with other famous characters like Alan Lomax. One story was that while traveling together, Alan Lomax’s big box reel-to-reel recorder broke down and he borrowed George Pickow’s and never gave it back. Later that same recorder went into some kind of Hall of Fame, you know, exhibit and it was engraved with “GP” for George Pickow. It was attributed to Alan Lomax. They were there when Bob Dylan had his first public performance at the Carnegie Recital Hall. They discovered Maurice Sendak doing drawings on the floor of a party at Alan Lomax’s apartment in Greenwich Village and asked him if he would do the illustrations for their new book. It was his first New York job. Maurice Sendak. So he did the illustrations for “Singing Family of the Cumberlands”. Jean was the first artist on Elektra Records. So we were always astonished and humbled at these stories.

JOELLEN: What do you think is the best way for people to learn more about Jean? Which CDs would you recommend to people to maybe purchase them?

SUSIE: I would go to the Smithsonian Folkways website first with recordings.

JOELLEN: There’s a project for you and I, create a new Jean Ritchie website.

SUSIE: Our soundtrack album for our stage play is called “Singing the Moon Up – the Voice of Jean Ritchie.” That’s a 23 song compendium. And “Dear Jean” is on Compass Records. It’s available there.

SUSIE: Thanks for your time, Joellen. It’s great to talk with you!

Now readers! Welcome “Dulcimer Jazz” to Folkworks!

Award-winning recording artist and critically-acclaimed folk and Americana powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called by BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED "an important voice on the California Bluegrass scene." Her album "Blue Eyed Darlin'" was the winner of the Just Plain Folks 2006 Music Award for Best Roots Album and FolkWorks Magazine's Pick for Best Bluegrass Album of 2005. "One of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today." (Roz Larman of FolkScene). With her Hilonesome Band, their latest release “White Swan” was critically acclaimed by No Depression, FolkWorks, Pop Matters, M Magazine for Musicians, Music News Nashville and FolkWords UK, and their new album for 2015 “Not That Kind of Girl” was produced by LA acoustic music legend Herb Pedersen. Susie is also part of the new tribute album "Dear Jean - Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie" alongside such artists as Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, and many more. Visit www.susieglaze.com

  

All Columns by Susie Glaze