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Traditional songs learned orally from youtube

The Sandman 16 Mar 09 - 11:40 AM
Joe Offer 16 Mar 09 - 11:45 AM
John Routledge 16 Mar 09 - 11:48 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Mar 09 - 11:58 AM
Leadfingers 16 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM
Bryn Pugh 16 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Mar 09 - 12:20 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Mar 09 - 12:41 PM
George Papavgeris 16 Mar 09 - 12:51 PM
GUEST,Keith(Pegleg Ferret) 16 Mar 09 - 01:17 PM
The Sandman 16 Mar 09 - 01:36 PM
Bill D 16 Mar 09 - 01:42 PM
Marje 16 Mar 09 - 01:50 PM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Mar 09 - 01:54 PM
greg stephens 16 Mar 09 - 02:07 PM
JWB 16 Mar 09 - 05:56 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 16 Mar 09 - 05:58 PM
Joe Offer 18 Mar 09 - 08:45 PM
Gibb Sahib 19 Mar 09 - 12:46 AM
Sleepy Rosie 19 Mar 09 - 03:05 AM
Brian Peters 19 Mar 09 - 12:47 PM
The Sandman 19 Mar 09 - 02:25 PM
Stringsinger 19 Mar 09 - 06:36 PM
Brian Peters 19 Mar 09 - 07:02 PM
GUEST,Frug 19 Mar 09 - 07:22 PM
Willie-O 19 Mar 09 - 07:25 PM
Richard Mellish 19 Mar 09 - 07:52 PM
Brian Peters 19 Mar 09 - 09:36 PM
Seamus Kennedy 19 Mar 09 - 10:04 PM
GUEST,leeneia 19 Mar 09 - 11:17 PM
Sleepy Rosie 20 Mar 09 - 02:35 AM
Marje 20 Mar 09 - 08:11 AM
The Sandman 20 Mar 09 - 08:13 AM
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Subject: Traditional songs learned orally fromyo
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 11:40 AM

If a Traditional song has been learned orally from you tube,whether it is from a revival singer or a traditional singer,does that make the person who learned it a traditional singer.
or does it have to be learned from a traditional singer?


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 11:45 AM

Hi, Dick-
I think if you want to be pure about it, a traditional song is one that is originated and passed on completely without benefit of print or electronics. Otherwise, it's "singing in the traditional style." If you learn a song by playing a performance over and over again and don't have personal contact with the singer, you lose the magic of the "folk process."
Still, it's a good way to learn songs - it's just not "pure."
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: John Routledge
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 11:48 AM

I like the concept of someone learning traditional songs orally from youtube performances being regarded as a traditional singer.

Perhaps not yet the right time but within 25 years who knows.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 11:58 AM

That's like those traditional songs collected from Steeleye Span LPs, surely?

Personally, I reckon the whole folk world is bogus anyway; I love the trad. songs, just despise the bullshit which comes so thick & fast you need wings to stay above it*.

* Oh man, the shit piled up so fast in Vietnam you needed wings to stay above it. - Willard, Apocalypse Now. Just sourcing my quotes; maybe if a few more folk singers did that things would a lot clearer.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Leadfingers
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM

A Singer of traditional songs is not neccessarily a Traditional Singer in my opinion


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM

To take Sinister's example above : when I was still singing - many, many moons ago ; if I had learned a song from an LP or a CD, I was wont to say that I learned this song from the singing of

[whoever it might have been]

I heard in Folk Club just last week (not saying which !) a floor singer declare that the song had been collected from June Tabor.

I had to go out - I only just stopped meself from bursting out laughing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:20 PM

"That's like those traditional songs collected from Steeleye Span LPs, surely?"

Depends what you mean by 'like' I guess. Though I imagine what you are specifically refering to here is the use of the (redundant?) terminology.

As far as it being *qualititively* alike, then I'd say 'no', not for me personally. In as much as I've done both (though not with Steeleye Span specifically). It 'feels' different picking up a song from a sorta almost 'real' person singing and playing it simply, as opposed to a recording of something that may well have been heavily produced in a studio.

Qualitatively different as a listener and learner, because there feels far less 'remove' and much more 'intimacy'. I've made use of a few YouTube folk artists home recordings, certainly many more than I have of any celeb acts recordings.

In fact I've not actually thought 'why' I've done that until now...


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:41 PM

Though I imagine what you are specifically refering to here is the use of the (redundant?) terminology.

The other night at a session I sang three of my favourite traditional songs - I was A Young Man, Hanged I Shall Be and The Poacher's Fate - which have been with me now for over 30 years. Only afterwards did I realise that I learnt all three of them off the same LP - The Battle of the Field by The Albion Country Band. A fine album, indeed the only UK Folk Rock album I've ever taken to my heart, but can you imagine anything more embarrassing for a self-respecting traddy going home thinking - oh my God - I hope no one noticed... I keep trying to relearn The Gallant Poacher after the singing of Walter Pardon (VOTP Vol 18), but all to no avail; I'm sure when I die and they dissect my brain they'll find the ACB version hard-wired in there. The joys of Cultural Ambience.

But yes, I agree with you heartily, SR - YouTube is about real folks making the best of available technology; and I listen to a lot of my 'Folk Music' there - rather like Pavane's singing of Edward that you can get on another thread. He sources it to Nic Jones, but in his hands it becomes something else entirely, which is as it should be.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:51 PM

To me "orally" means literally "by mouth", from a real warm-blooded person, live. Otherwise, "orally from youTube" does not differ in the least from "orally from any old recording". It conjures up images of someone sucking up to a screen.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: GUEST,Keith(Pegleg Ferret)
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:17 PM

Robin Dransfield used to say (tongue in cheek) "This next song is traditional. I learned it from my brother who got it out of a book"........ 'nuff said


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:36 PM

George ,but there is a difference because you can [sometimes] see the person,so it is the same as sitting in their presence,example, Rosie Stewart on you tube.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:42 PM

There's 'sorta' traditional, basically traditional, very traditional....and 'never heard outside of this one little valley where no recorder has even been seen' traditional. All that is necessary is that you have some idea where on the spectrum your version fits...if anyone asks.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Marje
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:50 PM

I'm always a bit puzzled by the criterion given by Joe Offer above - that "a traditional song is one that is originated and passed on completely without benefit of print or electronics".

Print has been around for many centuries. Even if you learn a song from a person sitting close to you, that person might have learned it from a book, or orally from their Grandad who learned it from his uncle, who in turn learned it from a printed broadsheet.

Or what if you learn from a singer in person, but use a printed source to get all the words afterwards, because you couldn't remember them? Or you have the words of a song in your head and you write them down on your computer? Does that somehow taint or interfere with the "traditional" status of the song? And are all the songs in the Mudcat database henceforth non-tradtional, because they're now recorded using an electronic medium?

It's very hard to be sure, for any given song, that the printed word has not been used at any point in time - if that's the all-important criterion. I can't see that it makes a great deal of difference.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:54 PM

And of course the other thing about a 'real' persons rendering of a tradtitional song on YouTube, is that it provides a way for people to communicate too. You can actually *chat* with the performer and say stuff like: "Hi, thanks for that! Can you give me [this] extra info? Would you do a request? What key was that in? Where'd you source that song?" and so on...


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 02:07 PM

In the end, "traditional" tends to involve trusting your own ears. Listen to Bob Copper, Leadbelly,Woody Guthrie, Maybelle Carter and May Bradley singing. Then listen to, say, Martin Carthy, Peter Bellamy, Kate Rusby, Jim Moray, Maddy Prior and Seth Lakeman. You will find it easy to distinguish the first group from the second group, unless you've got cloth ears. The first group are what people tend to call traditional singers. The second group aren't, they are people who sing tradityional songs. It doesn't matter if you hear them on youtube, an LP, or your sitting room.
    Some singers, of course, fall in the middle, straddling that awkward fence, and then the arguments can start!


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: JWB
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 05:56 PM

Learning a song solely from listening to another human sing it in person takes a fair amount of time, I'm sure. What made "pure" oral transmission possible was repetition: Fred would sing his three songs every Friday at the public house, or over the course of a three-month sea voyage every sailor learned Ginger's version of Haul Away Joe.

Nowadays, we get our repetition from electronic media. How many of us get the chance to hear a live singer sing the same song often enough that we can memorize it? Let's loosen up a little on rules, and focus on sharing wonderful songs.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 05:58 PM

I have no problem with learning a trad. arr song from You Tube


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 08:45 PM

Oh, I suppose a song can start out in print and end up being called "traditional," but there's something magic about the oral tradition that has largely been lost in our day. I think I'll stick to my initial answer: a traditional song is one that is originated and passed on completely without benefit of print or electronics.

Unfortunately, "traditional" songs are almost extinct.

The only truly traditional song I know is the Racine City Song, named for the town where I grew up:

    Oh, Racine, Racine, what a dirty rotten city;
    With your torn-up streets and your filthy-smelling river.
    Oh, I love you with my heart, and I love you with my liver,
    Oh, Racine, what a hole!

    Tune: "Turkey in the Straw," more or less

It may be true that the only truly "traditional" songs left are bawdy songs and kids' songs. I think I actually prefer the other ones, the ones that have some electronic influence.


-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 12:46 AM

I find that using the word "traditional," more often than not, is just a power-play by the speaker. They want to claim the supposed superior value of something based on some nebulous quality, which they usually set the definition of and which, mysteriously, they seem to possess more of. Another way it is (mis)used is to connect the thing (music etc.) with ones imagined ethnicity, nationality, etc, a sort of pedigree. None of this, in my view, serves any purpose of making us happier or more enlightened human beings.

"Traditional" is a valid term to be sure, but it's used with so many unwanted connotations and fantasies hanging about it that to use it well means being really careful...almost not even worth the effort most of the time.

A more meaningful distinction is between commercial and non-commercial music making, or amateur music, community music, etc. It's the approach and intent of music, not its source that makes it "traditional."

Gibb


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:05 AM

The more I think about folk artists (whether they be professional or amatuer in the sense of being involved in the music bizz) putting up trad. songs on YouTube, the more I think it's a brilliant thing. Though wading through some of the weird miscellany of playlists and channels can be a bit frustrating at times. The amount of stuff I've seen wrongly attributed as 'English' or 'Traditional' or whatever yet is nothing like, and not at some level of academic detail either, was most annoying when I first started looking for stuff to learn from.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 12:47 PM

You can pull apart the definition of 'traditional' all you like, but in the end it's still helpful to have a way of distinguishing between the kind of singers that Greg listed in his first group from those in his second. It's quite true that printed copies of songs have been around for centuries, but a printed broadside would only ever have represented a means by which a singer could learn a new song or remind him/herself of an old one - it would not have been a substitute for performance or entertainment. The arrival of electronic media is an entirely different matter: from that moment on, the possibility existed for passive, rather than active, entertainment, and what academics used to refer to as 'folk music' has been on a slow slide ever since. It hangs on in school playground songs, football chants and a small number of community events like those Lakeland hunt suppers, but the singing pubs have gone and family song sessions of the kind that Bob Copper and Walter Pardon used to describe are - I strongly suspect - all but extinct in the Western world.

It's precisely because the world in which we live has changed so precipitously over the last hundred years that we have a grey area in which singers who might merit the description 'traditional' in the sense that they learned songs orally in their own families or communities, have bolstered their repertoires by learning songs from books, records, the radio and - in the case of Fred Jordan and others - visits to folk clubs and festivals. That does not, however, mean that Fred Jordan and Martin Carthy (or whoever else you choose to name) are the same thing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 02:25 PM

Brian, it is not helpful at all, it is abloody waste of time ,the yardstick should be musicality or singing ability,labels are not necessary.
Phil Tanner was agreat singer,so is Ron Taylor,we do not need labels all we need is ears.
I wish everyone would f## off with their stupid labelling,and let every individual singer be listened to on their merits,whether they are traditional singers or singers of traditional songs who f####### cares.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 06:36 PM

The traditional singer stems from a particular folklore community that has existed for decades. If a traditional singers learn a song from You Tube, they are still traditional singers. Anyone else is not.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:02 PM

Dick, keep your hair on. It may not be helpful to you, but it is to me. No need for expletives (deleted or otherwise).


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: GUEST,Frug
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:22 PM

Hmmmmm.....well to go back to Dicks original point. My guess is that if you thoroughly educate yourself with you tube and your whole repertoire is gleaned that way, your trad status might be in question. However I learnt/remembered snatches of songs from my folks sitting round a fire in our back kitchen...........subsequently when I started to perform I had to fill in the gaps.........usually by buying a lyric book or a record ( remember them folks ?) now given that I was inspired enough to go find out about the songs and fill in the verses etc ....was/am I a trad singer, or did I jeopardise my status by partaking of the vinyl? It is an interesting point however: surely recordings (including you tube and the like)are merely extensions of the oral tradition......only a bit more electric............a bit like steeleye span. Lets remeber that the great archivists, including Lomax, Parker, Mccoll and the like all used technology without a question about their status. Now where was I?............What is Folk Music ????


Frank


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Willie-O
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:25 PM

greg said:
"Some singers, of course, fall in the middle, straddling that awkward fence,"

I bet it's awkward! Of the names I know on your list, all the first group are dead, the second group alive.

Well, what do you expect? The live ones grew up in the latter-twentieth century, not in a sod hut!

I agree with Capt Birdseye's last comment on this. Check the calendar. It's 2009! Then again, he started the thread, so I guess, (I've been looking at some old threads) I know what a wind-up is now.

For gods sake, what matters is that people keep singing songs that deserve singing, not how many purists can dance on a traditional pinhead.

Regards to all.
Bill+


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:52 PM

For a very well-considered discussion of oral and other forms of transmission, see the Introduction to Vic Gammon's "Desire, Drink and Death in English Folk and Vernacular Song, 1600?1900", particularly the section headed "Literacy and Orality" that starts on page 5. It can be read online at Introduction

I'll go along with Vic's statement: "There has been no pure oral tradition in Western countries since at least the invention of printing".

Richard


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 09:36 PM

> what matters is that people keep singing songs that deserve singing, not how many purists can dance on a traditional pinhead. <

I'm not sure, Bill, in what respect you think that discussing the meaning of a given word (as we were invited to by the OP) ever stopped anyone, anywhere, from singing exactly what they wanted to.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 10:04 PM

The late Tommy Makem's mother Sarah learned many of her songs from recordings, radio, latterly TV and movies, as well as from other singers. A lot of them were passed on to her son Tommy, and her grandchildren the Sweeney Brothers and the Makem Brothers.

She is acknowledged as being a truly great traditional or source singer.

But does the fact that she learned many of her songs from "modern" or electronic sources disqualify her?

And when a source singer is dead is it not OK to learn their songs from recordings or videos.

Here's a question I asked on an old thread a while back and it wasn't answered: when a source singer dies do revival singers with the same repertoire then become source singers?

There, that oughtta keep you busy for a while.


Seamus


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 11:17 PM

'what matters is that people keep singing songs that deserve singing'

Well said, Brian!


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:35 AM

Well, whether it ticks the correct boxes or not, I certainly think that 'experienced performers of traditional folk songs' are an extremely valuable public resource on a virtual community like YouTube.

It's probably one of the very few places that 'ordinary folk' (as opposed to 'folk music enthusiasts' - who, as we are getting into semantics, are arguably no longer 'the common people' at all, but instead a rather small and somewhat insular group) can easily gain semi-direct access to folk music by real people, and traditional English/British songs sung by err 'singers of traditional songs who play funny old instruments and seem as good as the real thing to me..'

Whatever you call it. I'd like to see lots more of it out there. Because I'm never going to get old Fred from down the way to teach me these songs, old Fred (if he ever existed) probably died thirty years ago. YouTube is as close to 'oral communication' as I'm (or anyone like me is) likely to get. It fills a big empty space between polished studio recordings by bands and (if you can't read music) pretty much nada else.


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: Marje
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:11 AM

Seamus, thanks for your example of Sarah Makem, which illustrates the points I was trying to make above.

We need to remember that the "source" singers of traditional songs are not in fact the source of the songs - the songs have a much longer history, going back to previous generations and other sources, some of which may have been printed or notated in some way, others not. These singers, who happen to have been the first ones to be recorded or publicised by song collectors, are just one link in a chain that stretches both back and forward in time. "Revival" singers are the next link in the chain, not an entirely different category.

Of course each stage in the process of transmission is characterised by differences. We're all very well aware that revival singers have access to all sorts of recorded and written material that will affect the way they sing and appreciate the songs. But the "source" singers, too, were passing on versions of the songs that were in some cases based on printed or recorded material, or written by a known composer in the recent past. The performance style, keys, modes and lyrics were very likely adapted to their voices, their audiences and the social settings in which the songs were sung - a process that is continuing today.

As for traditional singers stemming from a particular community (Stringsinger, above): it's arguable that we now have widespread "communities" linked not by locality or kinship but by interest and choice. There's a very real sense in which the "folk community" in a given area, or even a wider region, is a tribe with its own values and priorities, where folk music is shared and transmitted by any means now available, including festivals, clubs, sessions, recordings, Mudcat - and YouTube.

Now that so few "source" singers are still alive and singing, I don't see what's wrong with referring to those who sing and play traditional music and keep it alive as traditional singers/musicians. It would be sad, and a bit pointlessly pedantic, to say that by, say, 2025 there will never again be any traditional singers in Britain.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Traditional songs learned orally from youtube
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:13 AM

Here's a question I asked on an old thread a while back and it wasn't answered: when a source singer dies do revival singers with the same repertoire then become source singers?.
it depends how people interpret the word source,as far as I am concerned,whoever I learned the song from was my source,therefore the singer I learned the song from was a source singer,even if they had already been labelled a revival singer.
what is important to me ,is 1 ,the song,2,do I like the singers style.
on this basis I would learn a song from Phil Tanner and Ron Taylor,but not Gordon Hall,when I choose a song it matters little whether the singer is labelled revival or traditional,because what I am looking for is quality.
I accept that there are a few traditional singers who are not to my taste, Gordon Hall is one,unfortunately many collectors[particualarly those in the last part of the 20 century] believe that they should collect everything,and so we get second rate versions of My Carolina Moon and other dross,and are supposed to be suitably impressed because its labelled traditional.


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