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GUEST,Jim Carroll how important is the label traditional singer? (254* d) RE: how important is the label traditional singer? 28 Sep 07

To my mind, one of the finest revival singers in Ireland today is Len Graham of Antrim.
I believe he gained this position through his contact with traditional singers, his collecting work and his teaming up, first with Joe Holmes, then with singer/storyteller John Campbell.
More often than not traditional singers, no matter what stage in life they have reached, will have retained the nuances of singing, the ability to climb inside a song and make it their own, to re-live it every time they sing it. Listen to Sam Larner or Phil Tanner to hear this at its best. For me, each time they perform (on disc) it is like hearing the song for the first time. What comes across is the complete and utter commitment to the song and the singer's belief in it.
This also can happen for me with singers who are not as skillful as those above. I am re-listening to the Folk Songs of Britain series at present and again and again I am impressed with the singers' ability to move me, to make me become emotionally involved in the song. This can happen when the singers breath control has gone, when the voice is cracked, when much of the technique is reduced.
It is, more often than not, (except in a handful of cases) what I miss from revival singers.
Quite often I am impressed by a revival singer's technical ability, skill at decoration, breath control, but I come away without knowing what they FEEL about the song. This, for me, is the essence of traditional song - take that away and you have musical wallpaper.
There's a wonderful example of this aspect of music in the jazz film 'Round Midnight' when the young musician tries to impress the veteran with his ability and is told "Your notes are fine, but where's your story?"
It was this aspect that was central to the work MacColl did with The Critics group - the primary question at the workshops was always "did the song move you".
MacColl's whole approach to his singing was based on this. His ability to move his audience wasn't "handed down from his ancestors", but was worked for; as I said, it worked for me in his singing.
Jim Carroll
PS For those interested in the 'Around The Hills of Clare' dispute, I am more than happy that people should go back to the Musical Traditions correspondence which, for me, is a prime example of the abuse and denigration of a group of traditional singers, but please read all of it, including the relevant threads on Mudcat, and remember that the editor chose to censor the discussion when his reviewers were coming off worst.
Bring it up in this thread was, I thought, a somewhat nasty way of tryng to score points, but it takes all sorts......

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