Jean Ritchie

Field Trip

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In the early '50s, when folk singer and scholar Jean Ritchie was in college, she longed to journey to the British Isles to investigate the same musical connections that Francis James Child had explored almost 100 years earlier. Like Child, Ritchie was interested in mapping the songs she knew as a child back to their original origins, and eventually earned a Fulbright grant to visit Europe and document her findings. While Child's five-volume book English and Scottish Popular Ballads was groundbreaking in its unprecedented ability to draw connections between ancient and far-reaching folksongs, Ritchie planned to record these similarly rooted ballads and present the songs in groups so that the listener could hear the similarities themselves. In 1954, Richie and her husband George Pickow self-released the LP Field Trip, a series of songs matched together by their similar themes, some originating from Ireland, Scotland, and England, and some from her Kentucky mountain home. The LP was finally made available (again independently, this time through Richie's own Greenhays Recordings) in 2001 and the musical findings are just as relevant in the new millennium. Featuring versions of several of the folk revival's greatest "hits" ("Pretty Polly," "Barbry Ellen," "The Cuckoo"), Richie's performances are played alongside those of Elizabeth Cronin, Seamus Ennis and several other earthy folk from the British Isles. While different versions of the same songs may not appeal to casual folk fans, those who are fascinated by the growth and intertwining nature of this style of music will be overjoyed to have it available again.

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