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05 April 2009

Free the Music Imprisoned in the Museum! Let the Past thrill the Future!

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patfromch said...

This tune (via youtube) has been haunting me for one and half days now. Usually a sign that it must be good & signifiant. Bluegrass / Folk is usually not part of my musical diet (sice I am not a melancholic person per se), but broadening your horizon is always a good thing, thanks for that. And now I know that the Hooter[s] nicked one of their song ideas from a traditional...

Sunday, 05 April, 2009


Hilfe! I have fallen into YouTube (and SeeqPod) again and I can't get out!

The problem with most performers of folk/traditional/Bluegrass etc. is that they feel obligated to be exclusively True and Faithful to the Past.

But real living people have done the most Natural thing that living people do: They have grown, and are moving forward in time. The Ramones are as much a part of their Soul as Woody Guthrie.

The biggest fistfight over this was what Wikipedia calls the Electric Dylan controversy when the crowd at the Newport (Rhode Island) Folk Festival in July 1965 booed Dylan for "going electric." Until that moment, all his performances and recordings were strictly with his signature acoustic guitar and harmonica attached to his neck.

He was writing songs about The cultural and political Immediately Now, but performing them like his idol Woody Guthrie sang his Immediately Now songs in 1935.

Meanwhile, the revolt against racism, war and conformity was being waged with Electric Guitars (Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix etc.). Dylan wanted to explore that Future of his musical expression -- and his fans hated it. They perceived it as Betrayal and Blasphemy.

Two other Giant Figures in moving Country and Bluegrass and Traditional music into the future are Emmylou Harris (here singing Jesse Winchester's "Songbird", and the late Gram Parsons, with whom she recorded the most heavenly country harmonies.

The Horse Flies -- and the UK's Steeleye Span, to name just one other group -- are determined to lovingly carry the beloved past beyond the Present and into the Musical Future. (Everybody knows I'm a Dickhead -- an obsessive fan of the UK's Richard Thompson, a heroic bridge from Past to Future.)

Here's a kickass live performance of the classic "Kill All Scabs" pro-union songs, the English coal miners strike song "Blackleg Miner."

The original song dates to the late 1800s and a ferocious coal mine strike in Northumberland (just south of the Scotland border). A "blackleg miner" is UK-ish for a scab -- a non-union guy who works while the union is out on strike.

A great but more "museumesque" treatment by Ryan's Fancy, filmed by the CBC in Newfoundland, Canada.

I imagine deutsches has a rich vocabulary for union-vs.-scabs, strikes, picket lines, etc.

This music sickens and dies, and is lost and forgotten when it's imprisoned in the Museum. (Jazz is also always struggling to move into the Future and escape its Museumesque enshrined Past.)

But the music itself always retains the power to excite, thrill and anger -- when modern musicians realize they're singing it to modern people. The Young have just as much claim to music as the Old and the Long-Dead. Kids have to work with their Venerated Ancestors to keep this music Kick-Ass. Kids have to show the world how to give Mozart a shot of Reggae in his arse.

Blackleg Miner
(Northern England, traditional)

It's in the evening after dark,
When the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner!

Well he grabs his duds and down he goes
To hew the coal that lies below,
There's not a woman in this town-row
Will look at the blackleg miner.

Oh, Delaval is a terrible place.
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face,
And around the heaps they run a foot race,
To catch the blackleg miner!

So, dinna gan near the Seghill mine.
Across the way they stretch a line,
To catch the throat and break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner.

They grab his duds and his pick as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell.
Down you go, and fare you well,
You dirty blackleg miner!

Oh, it's in the evening after dark,
When the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner!

So join the union while you may.
Don't wait till your dying day,
For that may not be far away,
You dirty blackleg miner!


duds: clothes
dinna gan near: don't go near
the heaps: mountains of dug-up waste from which coal has been extracted

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