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Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat’s four decades of involvement have stamped them as truly major players in the presentation and promulgation of traditional music across Canada, particularly in British Columbia. Their latest recording centers on the rich and colorful musical heritage of the Upper Similkameen River Valley in Southern B.C. Through occupational songs detailing a community’s efforts to strive and grow, it expresses the integral relationship between people, their culture, their music and their daily lives.
The sources for the songs and poems are threefold: first, songs taken from the vast collection made by the late Phil Thomas, the musical voice of B.C. for many years; second, those songs and poems contributed to the Similkameen Star, a local newspaper which printed many of them from 1900 to 1931; and third, recent compositions by Princeton residents. Subjects include mining, trucking, lumbering and railroading. The modes shift and swing from the playful and comedic (such as the “Blakeburn Song” and “The Kettle Valley Line”) to the drudgery and despondency of such pieces as “I’m Only A Broken Down Mucker,” “Hard Rock Miner,” “Wanted: A Railroad” and “The Hope Slide.”
Bartlett and Ruebsaat also show their talents with spoken word in such pieces as: “A Miner’s Candlestick,” “A Plea For Single Men” and “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.” They are ably assisted by Bob Webb, Jim Edmondson, Susan and Cameron Stewart on instruments including piano, guitar, bass and vocals. Even though this is a B.C. recording in locale, flavor and content, tunesmiths will recognize such melodies as “Old Oaken Bucket,” “Springtime in the Rockies,” “Tramps and Hawkers,” “Wait ’til the Sun Shines, Nellie” and “Wabash Cannonball.” One personal favorite is “Banks of the Similkameen,” a B.C. derivative of the American song, “Lakes of the Ponchartrain.” Oh yes, the title cut was composed by well-known Pacific Northwest song writer Zeek Hoskin.
The booklet accompanying this CD is worth the price of the recording all by itself, containing text sources, notes on the various songs and poems, and information about the late Phil Thomas and the Princeton Traditional Music Society. A fine recording by Bartlett and Ruebsaat, giving an excellent look into B.C. history, song-making and heritage.
—Robert RodriquezPat Thompson, We Need to Sing.
Remember when folk music was mostly someone with a guitar singing a song? On stage, in a kitchen; it didn’t matter. Listening to Pat Thompson’s CD gives me that “coming home” feeling and some deep relief.
As her friend Richard Scholtz comments, “Pat Thompson is a real folk singer. The songs she makes her own are those with meaning for her and the people in her life and work… Pat’s deceptively simple presentation reveals a long and subtle relationship with each song she sings.”
Songs on this CD are extremely varied, as what’s important in a life is bound to be. Backed only with herself playing quiet guitar, Pat has recorded songs by SFFMC members Van Rozay and Jane Voss, by Pete Seeger and Ewan MacColl, and ten other less well-known but top song writers such as Ken Hicks with “All The Good People”.
Join this lovely-voiced singer for one singing session, and you’ll find yourselves listening to and singing with her over and over.
—Faith PetricLynn Brown, Let’s Make a Fort
Lynn Brown of Chico, CA, made up songs for his son Shaun and daughter Amy when they were little kids. Now grown, they and others have helped him record 12 of these early songs on the CD, “Let’s Make a Fort.”
All lyrics and tunes are by Lynn, who here plays acoustic, electric and bass guitar and mandolin, as well as singing both lead and background on most of the songs. Other musicians contribute banjo, drums, harmonica and more guitars. SFFMC member Nancy Borsdorf is the fiddler. Amy Brown sings lead on the closing song “Silent and Sweet.”
The songs are definitely sing-alongs for children. My one complaint is that the instrumental accompaniments sometimes overtake and almost obscure words, which are not given for reference in the accompanying booklet. Nonetheless, songs of bees, dancing elephants, dolphins, whales, and a spider are sure to captivate both children and adults who like to sing. And besides getting materials together to build a fort, listeners will hear and be able to sing about “Huckleberry Pie,” find out in a “Harvest Song” that things you do will come back to you, and get thrown in the river if you ask politely enough.
These songs are sung with caring.