various | Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder

by various

Contemporary performances of 19th-century American folk, popular, and traditional music.
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
Release Date: 

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1. The Girl I Left Behind Me (Jep Bisbee)
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0:30 album only
2. The Girl I Left Behind Me (Pat Enright)
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2:49 album only
3. Sweet By and By (Andrea Zonn)
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3:28 album only
4. The Blue Juniata (Riders In The Sky)
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2:04 album only
5. Oh! Susanna (Keith Little)
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2:27 album only
6. Roll the Old Chariot Along (The Princely Players)
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4:10 album only
7. Highland Mary (Deborah Packard)
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3:18 album only
8. Arkansas Traveler/Devil's Dream (Pa's Fiddle Band)
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2:25 album only
9. Captain Jinks (Riders In The Sky)
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3:17 album only
10. Oft in the Stilly Night (Deborah Packard/John Mock)
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2:40 album only
11. The Big Sunflower (Douglas B. Green)
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2:51 album only
12. Happy Land (Peggy Duncan Singers/Pa's Fiddle Band)
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2:30 album only
13. Barbara Allen (Deborah Packard)
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5:27 album only
14. Nelly Was a Lady (Dave Olney)
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3:45 album only
15. Uncle Sam's Farm (Douglas B. Green)
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3:31 album only
16. Promised Land (Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp Singers)
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0:37 album only
17. On Jordan's Stormy Banks (Walnut Grove Church)
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2:48 album only
18. The Devil's Dream (Jep Bisbee)
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3:05 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
This recording is an effort to pay some small musical tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) for her efforts to illuminate, explain, and capture the place that music-making once occupied in the family life of ordinary Americans. Her famous series of eight books traces her own family’s history, with settings in Wisconsin, Kansas (Indian territory), Minnesota, and South Dakota (Dakota Territory) that cover a period from 1867 to 1885. The books have rightly become cornerstone classics in American children’s literature, read by millions the world over.*

Embedded in Wilder’s stories are references to 126 separate songs and tunes. By the Shores of Silver Lake alone contains mention of 37 songs. These Happy Golden Years is titled after a song, and six of the books close with music-making. The types of music Wilder employed are extensive. There are parlor songs, stage songs, minstrel show songs, patriotic songs, Scottish and Irish songs, hymns, spirituals, fiddle tunes, singing school songs, play party songs, folk songs, a Child ballad, broadside ballads, Christmas songs, catches and rounds, and references to “cowboy songs” and “Osage war dances.” Throughout, the guiding musical spirit is her father, Charles Ingalls (1835-1902), who missed few opportunities to sing and play his fiddle. And it’s “Pa’s fiddle,” carefully wrapped, stowed in its fiddle-box, and cushioned by pillows, that accompanies the Ingalls family through all its adventures and comes to symbolize the endurance of the family unit in an often wild and threatening frontier world. Indeed, Wilder wrote to her publisher that “(t)here is one thing that will always remain the same to remind people of little Laura’s days on the prairie, and that is Pa’s fiddle.”

There may be no books in American literature of comparable standing and popularity where America’s music is so central to the themes, assumes such a major narrative role, and is found in such rich abundance. If Laura Ingalls Wilder penned what have become the books that best express “The Great American Family,” then the music she referred to in those books has become an important part of that mythology too. This recording is an effort to give new voice and sound to music that has lain silent on the page for far too long. For as Wilder herself wrote, “if you want the spirit of these times, you should [hear] these old songs.”

Happy Land is the first recording ever to be selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities for inclusion in its "We the People Bookshelf" Program. It has also been featured on an NPR one-hour Holiday Special titled "The Arkansas Traveler: Music and Tales from Little House on the Prairie."


Reviews


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Joe Ross

Contemporary renditions of American folk music, a melting pot of hymns, minstrel
Playing Time – 51:42 -- Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) wrote a famous series of eight “Little House” books which trace her family’s history through the west from 1867 to 1885. The books, published between 1932-1943, have become classics in American children’s literature. Within her stories are references to 126 songs. There are songs from the parlor, stage, minstrel shows, church and school. Laura’s guiding musical spirit was her singing and fiddling father, Charles “Pa” Ingalls. On this musical tribute, we are treated to contemporary renderings of 18 of the 126 referenced songs. The set recognizes the esteemed place that music-making once held within the lives of ordinary American families and pioneers.

In a sense, this concept album is a soundtrack for the books. Fans of the “Little House” books will especially thrill in being able to hear the music that was an integral part of pioneer life on the prairie. Dale Cockrell recruited well-known mandolinist Butch Baldassari to co-produce the project, and they were backed by a grant from Blair School of Music. Top Nashville musicians were enlisted. Participants include Riders in the Sky, Dave Olney, Andrea Zonn, Deborah Packard, Pat Enright, Doug Green, Keith Little, Jep Bisbee, John Mock, Butch Baldassari, Peggy Duncan Singers, Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp Singers, and The Princely Players. “Arkansas Traveler/Devil’s Dream” and “Happy Land” are played by Pa’s Fiddle Band (including various instrumentalists).

The result is a set of contemporary renditions of American folk music, a melting pot of hymns, minstrel show songs, spirituals and fiddle tunes. A 16-page CD booklet provides background about the songs and lyrics, where applicable.
One should imagine the days before radio and television when music-making was a family endeavor, and the activity was pursued for fun, entertainment and intellectual pursuit. For that same reason, families today will obtain plenty of enjoyment together with the rediscovery of such classics as “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Oh! Susanna,” “Highland Mary,” “Barbara Allen,” and others. New discoveries are also awaiting within the 52 minutes on this disc. Songs like Captain Jinks, Oft in the Stilly Night, The Big Sunflower, Uncle Sam’s Farm, and Promised Land deserve a much wider listen. The title cut, “Happy Land,” appears more often in Wilder’s books than any other hymn and came to epitomize family strength and opposition to unruly outside influences.

Wilder’s eight children books inspired two television series – one that ran from 1974-1983, and the other which had a limited airing in 2005. With this CD in the schools, librarians and reading teachers can work hand-in-hand with music teachers to help kids discover a rich part of American’s musical heritage and legacy. (Joe Ross)