The Arkansas Traveler
Little House on the Prairie
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE ARKANSAS TRAVELER
This stuff is SOOOO great!, December 26, 2006
According to their website, they're going to do ten discs in the "Little House" series, which will be a truly wonderful thing, if they can keep the quality as high as it is on the first two CDs in the set.
I set up a reading circle with my daughter, my granddaughter and a couple of their friends, keep the discs cued up to the songs (if they're on the two discs I currently own), and it has truly enriched our experience.
As a music historian, I'm thrilled to death to see these songs coming back to life.
LOVE this CD! Was leery about having "fiddle tunes" constantly blaring through the house (my 8-yr-old is non stop when she loves a song), but the music is VERY enjoyable for the whole family.
Two tracks (The Blue Juniata, Happy Land) on this second album, "The Arkansas Traveler" were previously released on the first, "Happy Land," that title cut which appears more often in Wilder's books than any other hymn and came to epitomize family strength and opposition to unruly outside influences. Different interpretations of The Devil's Dream, The Arkansas Traveler, and Oh! Susanna appear on both albums. Rather than just instrumental, this CD has narrator Ranger Doug providing dialogue from 19th century sources with "The Arkansas Traveler." And Wilder referred to an undocumented "Devil's Hornpipe" in the book so Butch Baldassari and David Schnaufer play "Devil's Dream" at hornpipe tempo in a spare setting with only octave mandolin and dulcimer. In a similar manner, Oh! Susanna features only Alison Brown (banjo, guitar) and Andrea Zonn (vocal, violin, viola).
In a sense, the concept albums are the books' soundtrack. Fans of the "Little House" books will especially thrill in being able to hear the music that was an integral part of pioneer life on the prairie. Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music Professor Dale Cockrell recruited well-known mandolinist Butch Baldassari to co-produce the project. Top Nashville musicians enlisted to participate include Elizabeth Cook, Riders in the Sky, Dave Olney, John Cowan, Buddy Greene, Andrea Zonn, Alison Brown, Deborah Packard, Pat Enright, Doug Green, Keith Little, Mike Eldred, Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, Judith Edelman, David Schnaufer, Mike Bub, Pat Flynn, Bob Carlin, John Mock, Butch Baldassari, Peggy Duncan Singers, Mac Wiseman, Byron House, Blair String Quartet, Jeff Black and Jeffrey Taylor. Lyrics for the songs are available at www.pasfiddle.com
The result is a set of contemporary renditions of American folk music, a melting pot of hymns, minstrel show songs, spirituals and fiddle tunes. A 12-page CD booklet provides background about the songs and a few nice 1870s Currier & Ives print reproductions. One should imagine the days before radio and TV when music-making was a family activity pursued for fun, entertainment and education. For that same reason, families today will obtain plenty of enjoyment together with the rediscovery of classics, as well as new discoveries like "The Gum Tree Canoe," "Daisy Deane," "Roll On Silver Moon," "The Gypsy King," and "Bye Baby Bunting." 19th- century disc jockeys might've had program playlists that looked like these albums' repertoire. And in Wilder's books, it was always Pa's fiddle at the end of the day that helped the family get through tough times. A bonus track closes the album with a contemporary composition (by Stan Link) that brings an old singing/clapping rhyme song, "Pease Porridge Hot," back to life in our century as a perfect example of how the folklore tradition works to pass information, usually verbally, from generation to generation.
Wilder's eight children books inspired two television series - one that ran from 1974-1983, and the other which had a limited airing in 2005. With the CDs already issued and forthcoming in this 10-album series, we can all work hand-in-hand to help kids discover a rich part of American's musical heritage and legacy. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)
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I bought this soundtrack so I could learn all the songs from the book (I'm a performer/purist about reading to my kids). The music and production quality was far above what I expected. It's worth the price just for the fiddled "Irish Washer Woman". And the "Old Dan Tucker" was the best I've ever heard. Even better than the Bruce Springsteen version.* * * * *
Arkansas Traveler CD- not quite Little House, December 28, 2008
By Dee Hall (San Bern, CA)
The CD is good. Interesting sound. Some of the songs are what we expected, a melody that Pa would have sang. Yet, other songs are a bit mixed and more modern. Overall, we're happy.
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