Jean Ritchie

Songs from Kentucky

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Originally released on a 10" LP in 1955, Songs From Kentucky is a strictly traditional collection of Appalachian mountain songs from Jean Ritchie's native Kentucky, sung to her own dulcimer accompaniment in her stunningly beautiful, clear voice. The 17 brief tracks were all collected from the state's rural areas by Ritchie or her fellow historians, and they're presented exactly as learned, making for some fascinating cross-referencing. ("Barbry Ellen" is particularly interesting for the ways it deviates from its source, the English ballad "Barbara Allen.") However, unlike many records of this type, Songs From Kentucky is not a dry exercise in musicology or ethnography, but a most enjoyable album of traditional folk music with wit and heart. Particular highlights include the two dulcimer tunes, a particularly sprightly rendition of the square dance standard "Old Joe Clark" and the less familiar "Sourwood Mountain," as well as an odd variant of the familiar lullaby "Hush Little Baby" taken at an unusually speedy tempo.