I’ve had an interest in folk music ever since I was in high school, when I stole all of my mother’s records from the sixties and sat for hours up in my room, guitar in hand, trying to pick up Pete Seeger’s banjo rhythms, or learning old Childe Ballads from Joan Baez. My romance with the guitar has been hot and cold—I can play a passable finger style tune, played with an impromptu bluegrass band called Rabid Rooster for a while, and even spent some time studying musicology during my first grad-school foray into anthropology. But like so many other things, that music got lost somewhere down in between the cracks of my life.
A few years ago, however, I found my way back. My father had started learning to play the bagpipe in his 50s, and watching his joy at learning a new instrument inspired me to follow something that had always been a dream of my own: Scottish and Cape Breton style fiddling. I bought a cheap fiddle, took a few lessons, practiced like crazy, and spent a lot of time listening to old fiddle tunes, trying to absorb the feel of the music into my spirit. Some days, it feels like the fiddle is an extension of my body. I play the music without thinking, and it just flows from me like I am an unconscious conduit. Some days, not so much. But every time I listen to a recording of some old-timer playing the tunes in a pub somewhere in the wilds of Scotland, I get chills.
So I can understand the drive the members of The Field Recorder Collective, a network of folk music collectors, many of whom have spent years combing the backwoods of America, looking for the hidden gems of traditional music, much of which is derived from the old Celtic tunes. I’m so glad there is a movement to save these recordings and bring this music back out into the public domain, before it is forgotten.
Check out their recording of ‘The Highlander’s Farewell’, from The Renegades here.