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VARIOUS ARTISTS - A Distant Land To Roam: Anglo-American Songs And Tunes From Texas To Maine 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - A Distant Land To Roam: Anglo-American Songs And Tunes From Texas To Maine 
Musical Traditions MTCD516 

This is an anthology of “25 songs and tunes that have gone across the seas”, in original recordings drawn mainly from hard-to-find early 78s. It’s been lovingly curated by Mike Yates, author of a noted two-part Musical Traditions article, When Cecil Left The Mountains; its title comes from a Carter Family quote. Mike intends this release as an adjunct to the obscure 2015 Nehi Records box-set, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean – British Songs In The USA, in featuring many good songs and tunes omitted from that set.

The selections are typical of only a small percentage of that recorded under the catch-all generic title “old-timey”. Even so, they run a wide gamut, from rollicking dance tunes and fun songs through to country-harmony treatments and variants of folk ballads. To be sure, the collection features some immediately recognisable titles (Two Sisters, Fair Ellen, Two Babes In The Woods, Darby’s Ram), yet these are often presented in an unfamiliar context. For instance, for Six Nights Drunk read Cat Man Blues (Blind Boy Fuller); for Jack/Sam Hall read Ethan Lang (Emry Arthur); for The Streets Of Laredo read Tom Sherman’s Barroom (Dick Devall); for Oxford City read Little Glass Of Wine (the Stanley Brothers); while Dido, Bendigo is but one tale that takes from The Fox Hunter’s Song (Will Starks). A number of the cuts are all the more interesting since they’re found to be isolated or rare examples collected in either America or England. The majority of the recordings have not hitherto received wide circulation (I’d only come across a very small handful previously, including the pair of Skillet Lickers cuts on the exhaustive JSP set).

This fascinating set boasts the now-standard Musical Traditions package containing full texts, comprehensive song notes and comparative discographies.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.