Sunday, March 08, 2009

Oh that Bluegrass! Soggy Bottom Boys forever





In the appealing documentary "The Ballad of Bering Strait," a charming Russian bluegrass band travels to Nashville in pursuit of the American Dream. The high-spirited, hard-working group, Bering Strait, doesn't lack for can-do attitude, talent or sponsorship, but as the young members soon discover, it's not as easy as they'd imagined to pull yourself up by your guitar straps.

Well. My kind of movie. Or is it Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

Comes to literature, I sometimes feel like George Clooney in the movie.

I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all my days
I bid farewell to old Kentucky
The place where I was born and raised

(The place where he was born and raised)

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on Earth I found
For in this world I'm bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now

(He has no friends to help him now)

The somehow natural affinity of Slavs for Anglo Irish-German mountain music,especially its Bluegrass form.
Russians are a hard luck people. They naturally identify with
trouble, woe and lovers' suicides. Not too much into DELIVERANCE though. Like strong voman, not Americal Palooka!
I am Ukrainian, from Russia's back door, but when I hear bluegrass, it's like the angels singing.
Not in West Bank Gaza, as it is for those unfortunate others, but west bank Danube.
Fiddle, guitar and balalaike there, oh, but how I'd love to trade it all for fiddle, guitar and five-string banjo.
Yeah. I'm a frustrated hillbilly singer from the Carpathian mountains.
The movie, the Ballad of Bering Strait brought it al home to me. I've got to be an American hillbilly at once, and sing hillbilly.
Simple origins of emotion. And it waills. Music. The universal art. For anybody.

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on Earth I found
For in this world I'm bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now

(He has no friends to help him now)

G-C-D-G.
Simple pattern. But doesn' it stir your soul, expecially with that five string banjo walking in an out, and played just enough to uh, make you grunt like a pig? :)

Well, our Russian Bluegrass group, The Ballad of Bering Strait, certainly convinced me that when it comes to mountain mysic, I hadn't seen nothin'--Nyet!

I love bluegrass. Even highbrows like bluegrass.
Itself kind of blue, it is an antidote for the blues.
I would rather watch an hour of a group like Bluegrass 101
than sit through three hours of opera and pretending that I liked opera, as most snobs do. Or, for that matter, jazz.
Too damn intellectual. Simple origins of emotion for a simple guy.
And don't the Kentucky bands supply it?

Tune in PBS late Friday nights. Kentucky Music Network.

Great for anybody's soul.

Make you squeal with joy like a piggie. Heh.

...Forget the actor's name, but people are still asking, "Are you the guy who got sodomized in Deliverance?"
Ah well. There's that in mountain music too.

Reminds me of my literary career.

##

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ned Beatty got "porked" in deliverance...from thence on he was a "man in constant sorrow",almost as if it really did happen...appalachia/stringed music...has to do wonders for the heart and soul...all part of how a country is built...coal mines/pain and suffering/poverty/basic sustenance/ultimate resilience... a distant parallel to the journey blacks endured...music served as a purging agent for all...amen the human spirit and its ability to express life as it is seen by those most affected...riders on the storm...

Jo said...

Omigosh, I love bluegrass music. I have an online radio station on my computer that plays bluegrass, and I turn it up full blast and sing along.

There was a wonderful movie made a few years ago called "The Songcatcher" about a female university professor who went to the Appalachian mountains and recorded all their bluegrass music. It's a better movie than "Brother Where Art Thou" and has better music. It stars Janet McTeer and Aiden Quinn. You should check it out. It's wonderful!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Anonymous.

Yes America is a mature country, with war and bloodshed in its history. And the South was once occupied. This gave America maturity, something I think Canada never achieved...Well, yeah. Maybe Quebec.
And then a bunch of upstart neocons almost brought America right down, heritage, history and all.
The fragility of a real demcracy, with real folkways and real art--which, face it is something we lack in Canada, Group of Seven notwithstanding.
But we had Ian and Sylvia and Gordon Lightfoot. And I guess that was pretty good.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Josie

OMG.How could it miss Parton & Cash & Harris on the CD from the movie? And then there was Sogcatcher II.
And the behind- the- scenes business about the real musicologist
She had the same luck I did as a professor and sometimes musicologost. To wit:

Doctor Lily Penleric PhD, played effortlessly and convincingly by Janet McTeer (The Intended 2002) who has been turned down again for a significant position at the university for which she teaches. In answer to what she perceives as a huge injustice (before feminist’s were known) she launches a lusty and wonderful adventure. Her intent is to record (by the fragile Victrola Cylinders of the time) and hand writing each tune words, history and pen-to-paper notations in order to capture each note and musical nuance. The setting for this story is the early 1900’s, which writer/director Maggie Greenwald describes is about the time the old ballads (which the mountain folk called “Love Songs”) were being discovered here in America. To that time, the musicologist’s thought that the songs came straight from Ireland and Scotland and felt they were being lost or losing their purity. To find them in the mountains of America, perfectly preserved by the singing of one generation to another was a wondrous thing in that time. She goes on to say, that women at that time who were migrating to the mountains to teach and as missionaries, in fact mostly discovered them. It was the grand ideals of educating and saving these “heathens” that actually discovered and helped save their songs and their culture. Ms. Greenwald, herself, had gone into the mountains to research these songs also as a source of much of today’s Country and Bluegrass music

I must get more Emmylou Harris!
And I love Loretta Lynn and Sheryl Crow in the rare times they team up.

Charles Gramlich said...

Even heavy metal heads like me can listen to bluegrass.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

It' effervescent, but some bluegras groups are now going into fusion, i.e, playing Beatle tunes that are sort of Anglo-Irish ditties in the first place.

the walking man said...

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/afcreed:@field(NUMBER+@band(afcreed+13034b29))::


The library of Congress has many recordings...The above address is to a list of Appalachian Fiddle music from the Henry Reed Collection but there are thousands more you just have to browse around.

ivan@creativewrting.ca said...

Thanks for citing it, Mark.

There is a particular song of love, loss and suicide of a cuckold man that I can't find because I don't remember the title.
If I remembered a complete line, I could google it, but I remember only word here and there. It's not By the Banks of the Ohio, which involves the murder of a beloved woman; it's a man saying he is ending it all after finding his wife in the emrace of another man.
Oh, that is so Appalachian!

Anonymous said...

try Tom Dooley...as for Canadian "railroad tracks"[Odetta],we got lots,in my opinion,including Neil Young,Mamas and Papas [Denny D. ],Dutch Mason,Guess Who,Steppenwulf [ John Kay ],Hank Snow,and on and on...seems there are but two themes common...betrayal/loss,and down and out/hopelessness...from all of such hurt and desolation,flows music and expression to die for...riders on the storm...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Yes, Tony.

Canadian music not only rocks, but the Long River Flows beautifully and poetically.

(Exept maybe Nickelback lately). What was that line, "Your don't look right without something in your mouth"--Saucy fellow!

Robin Konarz said...

Hi Ivan,
Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your kind comment.

I am of Anglo-Irish-German-French-Dutch (basically western European) descent, was born and raised in West Virginia, and enjoy a bit of bluegrass music. There's a festival at the Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia every Memorial Day weekend (Vandalia festival -- http://www.wvculture.org/vandalia/) where there's a lot of great local talent, if you're ever traveling south! I live in Michigan now, but I get back there when I can.

Enjoyed O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and your post, by the way.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hi, Robin,

Enjoyed your poetry. Gad. You're going to blow us all out of the water!
I think I may have seen last year's vandalia festival on PBS. I believe it was held in a park.
Would love to have gone. ...Picknicking and maye even picking. Cerainly listening to the pickin' and singin'.
We used to have a Mariposa Folk festival here in the Toronto area, to honour our "Mark Twain", Stephen Leacock, and, of course, Gordon Lightfoot who comes from the almost mythical Central Ontario town known as "Mariposa."

Anonymous said...

Straight thoughts 176
March 8th, 2009

Surprise, surprise: GLB people say that their lifestyle is unhealthy and has serious consequences.
As the ?gay? XTRA news organization put it: ?A group of six Canadian queers is taking on homophobia in Canada's healthcare system by filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.?

Gens Hellquist, one of the complainants is the executive director of the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition. The other five are representatives from major Canadian cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Saskatoon, St. John?s and Montreal.

The GLB community has a dilemma: Presenting the homosexual lifestyle as acceptable for our youth and, at the same time, complaining to the government for special healthcare services for them.

The GLB leadership now provided us with the results of their own research. We do not necessarily believe their exact figures (in some cases they are even worse), but the value of this research is that these figures cannot be easily disputed by homosexual activists.

What they claim:

Life expectancy of gay/bisexual men in Canada is 20 years less than the average; that is 55 years.

GLB people commit suicide at rates from 2 to 13.9 times more often than average.

GLB people have smoking rates 1.3 to 3 times higher than average.

GLB people have rates of alcoholism 1.4 to 7 times higher than average.

GLB people have rates of illicit drug use 1.6 to 19 times higher than average.

GLB people show rates of depression 1.8 to 3 times higher than average.

Gay and bisexual men (MSM) comprise 76.1% of AIDS cases.

Gay and bisexual men (MSM) comprise 54% of new HIV infections each year.

If one uses Statistics Canada figure of 1.7% of GLB becoming infected, that is 26 times higher than average.

GLB people are at a higher risk for some cancers as a result of their sexual orientation.

For the exact quotes, please see the highlighted areas on pages 3 and 4 of the HRC complaint.

Click here for the whole original HRC complaint document.

Giuseppe Gori
Leader, Family Coalition Party of Ontario


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ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Giuseppe,

Powered by Dada mail (last line) indeed!

Ah, my heart belongs to Dada!

ea said...

Ivan, we have plenty of bluegrass festivals in OK, even a bigtime Woodie Guthrie festival in his hometown. Even though we played lots of rock n roll, blues and jazz, on certain nights we'd go play bluegrass at Roman Nose. ~Liz

ivan@creativeewriting.ca said...

Lizzie,

Gosh, I almost forgot!

Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan's god, came from Oklahoma.

God came from Oklahoma!

My own god lives in Tulsa. He is J.J. Cale.
I would become like "anonymous"'s queer folk if only to be able to play like him.
...Eric Clapton's mentor. John Cale.
Borrow a page from your book.
Oklahoma is the cultural centre of the universe! Yay!

ivan@creativewritig.ca said...

Anonymous #1 (Tony):

Tom Dooley is damn close!