The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #155342 Message #3653728
Posted By: Dan Schatz
24-Aug-14 - 11:21 PM
Thread Name: Dear Jean - CD tribute to Jean Ritchie
Subject: RE: Dear Jean c.d. tribute to Jean Ritchie
You know, I've been meaning to put up a thread, but things have been so crazy. Yes, we made a CD for our beloved KYTrad. After we did the Singing Through the Hard Times CD, Jean wrote me and told me how wonderful she thought it was, and half jokingly said she hoped someone would do something like that for her one day. I filed that away in the back of my mind. A few years later, after Jean's stroke, Mick and I were talkng and he said that in one of his visits with her in Kentucky, she had said she was worried her old friends might forget about her. Together we decided it was that it was time to start working on that CD. We asked Charlie Pilzer to join us as the third co-producer (as well as mastering engineer), and the three of us been working on it ever since - a little over two years now. It's intense at the moment - right now I'm in Lexington, Kentucky getting ready to film a one hour a Woodsongs special about Jean and the CD.
It's been amazing and wonderful to see the CD come to fruition, and to work with artists as diverse as Janis Ian and Archie Fisher, not to mention folks like Elizabeth LaPrelle (who will be joining us tomorrow night), Kim and Reggie Harris, Kathy Mattea, John McCutcheon and of course Pete Seeger, not to mention Susie Glaze, mentioned above - we went for and I think achieved a real diversity. And it's also amazing to work with the folks at Appalachian Voices, and add our voices to Jean's in the campaign against mountaintop removal.
But of all the things that have happened as we've brought the CD out, the most amazing by far was the Berea concert. Jean has been mostly at home in her small house in Berea since George died, living a happy enough but very quiet life. When they wheeled her in, there was a standing ovation for about a minute. She normally goes to sleep around 7:30, but she stayed for the entire show, front row and center, singing with every one of her old songs. I swear I started crying just watching her during my verse of "Black Waters." When Mick gave her the very first copy of the CD - we'd only gotten them in that day - he said, "Can you feel all this love, Jean?" And she could - apparently she's been talkng about it ever since.
I cannot begin to describe the spirit in the room that night - Kathy Mattea said that twenty years from now, we'll all be saying we were there - but I'll try to post a few pictures on the Dear Jean Facebook page, over the next couple weeks. I can give you this video of "Brightest and Best", which I took on my cell phone - you mostly see a potted plant, but you can also see Jean, singing along with her son Jon Pickow, Susie Glaze and Susie's husband Steve Rankin, as they sang Jean's very favorite song. Listen with headphones if you can, and just feel the beauty in the room. And note the number of folks wiping their eyes.
At the end of the show, Kathy got Susie, John McCutcheon and the rest of us back to sing a great version of "Jubilee" (similar to what's on the CD), and then we all stepped down from the stage. I went to Jean and said, "Would you like to sing with us?" She said yes, so we turned her around to face the packed audience. Then Jon led us all in "Peace Round." When people started getting off rhythm, Jean conducted us. After that the performers backed away and we invited all the Ritchie Family members in the audience - and there were a bunch, from all over the country - to close the night with their traditional goodnight song, "Twilight A-Stealing," led by Jean's nieces. They ranged in age from 4 to 94, but even the four year old knew the whole song by heart.
It was a magical, wonderful night, because we got to show Jean in person the love that went into every track on this CD, and we knew she felt it. The nicest thing is that she still had the CD - which she listens to all the time - and she will always know how loved she is. As a bonus, the rest of us get the CD too, and I can tell you without bias that there's a lot of first rate music on there, including some real earth-shatteringly amazing gems.
Official release on Compass Records is September 2, but you can pre-order copies right now at the Compass website, on sale for $14.99 - a significant discount and a great deal for a 2 CD set. (Or, if you're near Lexington, come to the Lyric Theater tomorrow night.) And thanks, Open Mike and Maeve, for posting. I'm glad you like it!