Compass Records 7 4631 2
Jean Ritchie is an amazing musician whose work has influenced artists from many genres. A native of southeastern Kentucky, she is not only known as an accomplished songwriter and performer, but she’s also hailed as a songcatcher who revived much older tunes that resonated in the Appalachian Mountains for generations. And, Ritchie made treks overseas where she connected the dots with the ancient tones that migrated to America centuries ago.
Ritchie’s story is a classic American tale. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Kentucky, she traveled to the huge urban center of New York City where her job as a social worker eventually morphed into that of a folk singer. She collaborated with artists such as Woody Guthrie and Doc Watson, and her songs have been recorded by everyone from bluegrass pickers to folk, country, and rock musicians. Some of Ritchie’s songs familiar to those in the bluegrass world include “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore,” “West Virginia Mine Disaster,” and “Black Waters,” a classic song about the destruction of the mountains due to strip mining.
Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie includes those songs and more on this two-CD collection. The all-star lineup on this recording includes the late Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Janis Ian, Kathy Mattea, John McCutcheon, and many more. The bluegrass artists include Tim O’Brien, Dale Ann Bradley, Bryn Davies, Alison Brown, Stuart Duncan, Todd Philips, Andrea Zonn, Emily Bankester, Alysha Bankester, and more. The music found here doesn’t concentrate on bluegrass, old-time, country, Celtic/British Isles or folk music one over the other. Instead, it includes all of the above, making up a set of songs that are rich and earthy, mellow and respectful, while honoring the influence of a true American legend. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)DH