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Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck

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Charley Noble 06 Jan 03 - 12:01 PM
Charley Noble 07 Jan 03 - 03:31 PM
pattyClink 08 Jan 03 - 03:33 PM
skarpi 08 Jan 03 - 03:45 PM
Nerd 09 Jan 03 - 02:38 AM
Charley Noble 09 Jan 03 - 09:04 AM
Amos 09 Jan 03 - 11:44 PM
Charley Noble 10 Jan 03 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,WPint 04 May 03 - 12:51 PM
Charley Noble 04 May 03 - 01:35 PM
GUEST,lighter 04 May 03 - 01:36 PM
Jon Bartlett 05 May 03 - 03:34 AM
Dustin Laurence 06 May 03 - 03:15 AM
Charley Noble 06 May 03 - 08:00 AM
GUEST,loftonjp@bellsouth.net 22 Oct 04 - 12:01 PM
Charley Noble 22 Oct 04 - 12:51 PM
GUEST,Rebecca Jackson 16 Oct 10 - 01:04 PM
Jon Bartlett 16 Oct 10 - 05:53 PM
open mike 09 Sep 17 - 12:56 AM
Lighter 09 Sep 17 - 08:38 AM
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Subject: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Jan 03 - 12:01 PM

One of my West Coast friends recently showed me a 1981 Folkways Recording (#FSS 38550) of the stories and shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck. I've found it fasinating in that Hjalmar lived a full and spirited life as sailor/shantyman/I.W.W. agitator/thug/co-oper/author/farmer/and tax consultant until his death in 1980; I now have a tape and photocopy of this remarkable album that I've been listening to while reviewing the extensive notes.

Hjalmar's versions of traditional shanties are generally familar, but as Stan Hugil reflects sometimes there are radical variants which either are from his shipmates or his own adaptations. I am now surfing the used books internet sites for a copy of his MAD SEA (1956).

William Pint, Mary Malloy and Mark Bridgham did many of the interviews with Hjalmar in his last years, and do a find job of singing his songs.

I'm curious what others might think of this recording, or if they ran into Hjalmar himself.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Jan 03 - 03:31 PM

A folksinger too obscure for the Mudcat Forum. What joy!

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: pattyClink
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 03:33 PM

Oh, have faith and REFRESH!


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: skarpi
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 03:45 PM

Halló , where are this Hjalmar from? Is he from Canada or some other
country??.
Hjalmar is an Icelandic name and is it very rear in other
country´s.
All the best Skarpi Iceland.


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Nerd
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 02:38 AM

I've got the HR album somewhere; problem is, I moved house a few months back and am not sure where it ended up. As I recall William Pint and Co. were great, and the interviews were fascinating.


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 09:04 AM

Skarpi-

Hjalmar was originally from Denmark, born 1889 in Copenhagen.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Amos
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 11:44 PM

Well, Chantey, it looks like you really did it this time. Here's this guy been dead all these years, a tumultuous soul finally at peace, and you have to go uincover some damn album he made and bring it out on the threads. Next thing ya know everyone on the Mudcat is goung to be asking for the books and the tape and what have you, and they'll have to reprint them and his estate will be woken out of a deep sleep to deal with the sudden surge in his posthumous renown, and lawyers will arise and go contact third cousins four generations removed and they'll sue each other and blame it all on YOU!!!. I suggest you check with Swanno about hiring Koko's services. You may well have awoken a terrible sleeping giant!


A


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Jan 03 - 06:05 PM

Amos, me Rutzebeck books are already in the mail from Bookfinder.com

This folk music thing, it just never stops turning up stuff I've never heard of but just might prove interesting.

But don't blame it on me. Blame it on William Pint, Mary Malloy and Mark Bridgham, and that jerk, Moe Ashe, at Folkways Records.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: GUEST,WPint
Date: 04 May 03 - 12:51 PM

So YOU'RE the person who bought that album!

Don't blame it on me! The real blame (or credit, if that is due) goes to Clark Branson of California who found Hjalmar, taped the interviews, and financed the project. Mary, Marc and I just recorded the songs and read sections of the books. We were very young and inexperienced at making records at the time. I think we would have done things very differently now. Clark had a strange sense of humor (note the several out-takes of Mary goofing up the passage about "sea boots filling with water").
Since the LP was on Folkways, it should be possible to have a CD made. At least, that's what I hear about the Folkways catalogue.

Glad you found it and enjoyed it though.

William Pint


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 May 03 - 01:35 PM

Thanks, for the the update on this recording. This project should be studied as required prep before any other group decides to implement a similar project, and become immensely wealth in the process.;~)

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: GUEST,lighter
Date: 04 May 03 - 01:36 PM

Smithsonian Folkways should indeed be able to produce a cassette or CD on request. The album is worth taking a look at, as Rutzebeck knew some unusual lyrics to familiar shanties; and WPint is being modest; all the performances are rousing. Also intriguing, as I recall, is the existence of an allegedly shocking version of "Santy Anna," whose lyrics Rutzebeck described but never revealed. (Or did he? Can WPint shed light on this? Or is it just another whopper of the sea?)


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 05 May 03 - 03:34 AM

William, do you know if Clark Branson is still around?

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Dustin Laurence
Date: 06 May 03 - 03:15 AM

I have that album, so at least two must have sold. :-) I have it on CD-R from Folkways, so yes you can get it that way.

I also have some of Hjalmar's books (several collected in one volume). I bought it for Mad Sea after listening to this album, but his outrageous Alaskan epic and tenure as Alaska's most wanted man (or something) is not to be missed. Do be aware that this is about as far from _Swallows and Amazons_ as you can get; Mad Sea has the distinction of being *by far* the most explicit of any book I own about the abuse boys could suffer at sea (the book claims in that edition Hjalmar had added details he couldn't write in the earlier incarnation). My other authors were either luckier, or more circumspect, or both.

About the recording--I might as well write a review, because I think it should be more widely known than it is. So here goes.

The first thing to know is that this isn't really an album of sea shanties. It is readings from Hjalmar's autobiographical _Mad Sea_, occasionally "illustrated" with Hjalmar's own versions of his shanties (mostly performed by Morrigan, with occasional verses by a very old-sounding Hjalmar) when they match the theme of the text. I would say it is more of a dramatized audio book than anything else. This isn't a bad thing, but you should know whether it is what you want to buy. If you just want a few songs to listen to or sing down at the local songfest, *don't buy this album* (at least not yet). But if you want to know more about life at sea, and/or you want to hear very different versions (of unknown "authenticity," whatever that means) of some well-known shanties, then this is definitely something you'll want to listen to.

The readings are great, though if one tracks down and buys Mad Sea they are admittedly redundant (I only knew about the books because of the album). They cover a good fraction of the high points of the book, though. The musical illustration often works well, too--I can't think of Hjalmar becalmed in the Sargasso without hearing "Go below, my Johnnies, go below" in my head, and I rarely hear "Leave Her, Johnny" without thinking of Hjalmar being sold out of jail and onto that ship.

On the musical side, I like the Morrigan performances, and enjoy listening to the tracks of Hjalmar himself though frankly by that time his voice is quite weak. Some are more convincing than others; I have no problem believing that his version of "Fire Down Below," for example, might be completely authentic (and all the more valuable for being completely different than the other versions I've heard), but as the text notes others are perhaps not so convincing (I suspect I'm simply incapable of singing "Sally Brown, you are a vampire" with a straight face, even if I do know the word didn't always apply exclusively to the Living Dead) and one really can't know how much is memory and how much invention. But for the proper audience for this album, that's an invitation and a challenge rather than a problem.

I do think a caveat is in order about the editing and production--there isn't any. Well, that's not really true, of course, but it listens more like a work in progress than a finished product. There really isn't anything to help you figure out what the album is about (initially I didn't realize it was readings from a published book), and it is occasionally hard to follow the story. This is especially true when the readings refer to events not excerpted on the album, which isn't rare. The extensive and informative notes offer some help but present new problems of their own (especially until you start noticing that the pages are not entirely in order, at least in my copy). The track breakdown is wholly inadequate; many places you can quite clearly hear a natural breakpoint (likely as not a new reader picks up an entirely different part of Hjalmar's life) and hear the the track change, but it's all lumped together. This is presumably an artifact of the CDs being made directly from the original analog recording without remastering, but quite annoying since this is an album that invites you to come back to bits of it later. The upshot is that you have no idea where the songs are or even how many there are. I solved this by recording the location of every song or song fragment on a piece of paper, and if this is such a great problem for you then this album probably wasn't what you wanted anyway.

If after those comments you still are interested in the album, then you will probably like it very much indeed. In that case, I have only two further pieces of advice: Bookfinder and ABE Books (you'll probably be wanting to put the bibliography to good use, and AFAIK it's all out of print). If you ever find a copy of his printed shanties, let me know without delay! (William, how many beers would I have to buy you at the next Dana Point festival to earn a copy of yours?)

Dustin, who hopes William won't drive too hard a bargain


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 May 03 - 08:00 AM

Dustin-

I also found the album fascinating enough to want to read Rutzebeck's books. Your review is excellent! And I would still encourage others to listen to the recording and do the follow-up reading to get a different take on what it could be like when a young but not so innocent boy went to sea in the early 1900's. This is not your usual romantic tale.

William, Mary, Mark and the rest of the recording/production crew deserve our thanks for this window to another time.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: GUEST,loftonjp@bellsouth.net
Date: 22 Oct 04 - 12:01 PM

I am a Rutzebeck and have been searching for information on Hjalmar. Thank you for such an interesting perspective.

Penny Lofton


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Oct 04 - 12:51 PM

Penny-

You're welcome!

Could you clarify how you're related? Do you have any of his books? They are generally available on the used books websites.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: GUEST,Rebecca Jackson
Date: 16 Oct 10 - 01:04 PM

Interesting thread. Hjalmar Rutzebeck is my husband's great uncle.


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 16 Oct 10 - 05:53 PM

I've got one too (that's three!). I believe Clark Branson financed several other LP's -I know I've got his "Al Tocar Diana". I ran across him I believe in the late 70s in San Francisco at one of Bob Schwendinger's shanty festivals in Oakland. He's still active I believe - maybe Shantyranger can add info? His website is at http://www.clarkbranson.com/

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: open mike
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 12:56 AM

Oh, My! I just found out that my long-time neighbor is the daughter of Hjalmar Rutzebeck. He apparently (besides his adventures at sea, and in Alaska) was leader of an early socialist commune in Santa Barbara, CA. He was featured in a book by Upton Sinclair called "Co-op" I am very interested in finding out more about this recording.
Folkways/Smithsonian


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Subject: RE: Stories/Shanties of Hjalmar Rutzebeck
From: Lighter
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 08:38 AM

I can't help but suspect that, as a creative writer, Rutzebeck himself composed the unusual words to "Rio Grande" and perhaps others.


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