The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #18334   Message #204699
Posted By: dick greenhaus
31-Mar-00 - 03:29 PM
Thread Name: Folk-Legacy's Newest CD: Ballads & Songs of Trad
Subject: Folk-Legacy Review
Subject: A Review of Folk-Legacy's CD "Ballads and Songs of Tradition" written by Ed Cray

Ballads and Songs of Tradition
Various Artists
Folk-Legacy CD-125

Folk-Legacy CD-125
Folk-Legacy Records, Inc
Box 1148
Sharon, CT 06069

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Ed Cray
( Since he first met the Beech Mountain, North
Carolina-native Frank Proffitt at the 1961 Chicago Folk Festival, Sandy
Paton, his wife Caroline, and Lee Baker Haggerty have sought out
traditional singers to record their songs and ballads. Paton, Paton, and
Haggerty have

spent the better part of a lifetime scraping and scrimping to fund the next
trip to the Appalachians, Ozarks, or upper New York state, making time to
edit the tapes, writing and printing the unusually thoughtful notes that
marked their records and tapes, and selling the successive releases that
made Folk-Legacy a recorded resource of Anglo-American traditional songs
and singers second to none.

Proffitt and his banjo were the first because, Paton explained, "there was
no reason why we should not be able to hear Frank Proffitt himself sing his
ballads and songs, rather than hear them filtered through Frank Warner's
interpretations." (Collector-singer Warner and his wife Anne had
encountered Proffitt in 1938, and learned some of his songs, including the
American murder ballad "Tom Dooley," later lifted and popularized by the
Kingston Trio's version.)

In the years to come, Paton, Paton and Haggerty recorded literally dozens
of singers, and dozens of songs from the likes of Proffitt, Horton Barker,
Abe Trivett, Lawrence Older, and Edna Ritchie. They found Sara Cleveland
in Brant Lake, New York, who knew a staggering 900 songs, 400 of them from
oral tradition. They recorded in the Ozarks -- guided by the authoritative
Vance Randolph, his wife Mary Celestia Parler, and the recently deceased
Max Hunter. In New Brunswick, Edward "Sandy" Ives (the two Sandy's are
often confused) introduced them to even more traditional singers, and once
again they mined gold. Collectively, the Patons and Haggerty may be the
most prodigious collectors of Anglo-American folksongs and balladry since
Alan Lomax put his Ampex on the shelf. In all, they have produced more
than 100 long-playing records, tapes and compact discs since that first
release 39 years ago.

It has not been easy, or very profitable. (I imagine that Haggerty, whom
Sandy Paton describes as "the guy who had a small inheritance that supplied
the capital that enabled us to get going," might dilate on this.)
Traditional singers, as you may have gathered, are not exactly big box office.

Still, they persevered. A new release might generate enough money to fund
the next. If it did not, they waited until catalogue sales and Haggerty's
inheritance paid off printer and record presser.

Still, one by one, the Folk-Legacy catalogue grew, a tribute to the two
Patons and Haggerty, their dear friend and financial angel. (As this is
written, bachelor Haggerty is hospitalized, and the concerned Patons are
shuttling between home and hospital in Connecticut.)

In all of the releases, there have been some choice recoveries of the
muckle ballads thought long-since dead: Sandy Paton lists among them Sara
Cleveland's "Queen Jane," a version of "The King's Daughter Lady Jean"
(Child 52) never previously recorded in the United States; Frank Proffitt's
"Bonny James Campbell" (Child 210); Jeannie Robertson's superb "Twa
Brothers" (Child 49); and Joe Estey's "Hind Horn" (Child 17), of which
there have been but seven other versions reported in the New World.

If nothing else, the Patons and Haggerty have proven these great
song-stories are not dead at all---an oral tradition survives. In fact,
Sandy Paton notes, the songs of the parents are preserved by the singing of
the children. Frank Proffitt, Jr., sings his father's repertoire; Colleen
Cleveland sings her grandmother's. As it was, so it is; time without end.

Which brings us to "Ballads and Songs of Tradition," the first of a planned
series of anthologies of traditional songs and ballads Folk-Legacy is to
release. Here are 21 ballads by 13 singers recorded in North Carolina
living rooms and Scots croft kitchens. They have been culled from the
Paton archives. Many of them are previously unreleased---all of them are

The Patons being comparative folklorists at heart cannot resist a touch of
gentle scholarship in their choices. They provide contrasting versions of
three ballads: "Gypsy Davy" (Child 200), "The House Carpenter" (Child 243),
and a British 19th-Century broadside (?), which IS new to me, "The Old Arm

Of the 21 tracks, it is difficult to select favorites, but Scots housewife
Lizzie Higgins' "My Bonnie Boy" is a marvel of delicately ornamented
phrases. (Ms. Higgins comes by it naturally; she is the daughter of
Jeannie Robertson and Donald Higgins, a master of the Highland pipes.) Her
mother's "Twa Brothers" (Child 49) is truly gripping: six and one-half
minutes of blood-drenched drama. Similarly, Marie Hare of Strathadam, New
Brunswick, retells the grim fate of "Lost Jimmie Whalen" (Laws B 1); her
sheer artistry compels attention, no matter how familiar or inevitable the

All of which, I think, is the point of this anthology. Paton, Paton and
Haggerty are intent on demonstrating that folk singers do possess an
aesthetic sense. It is surely different from that of the classically
trained or popular singer, but nonetheless it is real -- and
underappreciated. Voice, instrument, even self are subordinated to the
words, to the narrative. That is the anything but simple artistry of the
13 traditional singers presented in this excellent first collection of a
promised series of anthologies drawn from the Folk-Legacy archives.

Edited by: David Schultz

Copyright 2000, Peterborough Folk Music Society. This review may be
reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

David N. Pyles
P. O. Box 459
Brattleboro, VT 05302-0459
(802) 257-0336 Mon-Thur