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GUEST,Jim Carroll how important is the label traditional singer? (254* d) RE: how important is the label traditional singer? 29 Sep 07

Meanwhile - back at the ranch.
Walter Pardon did indeed have the ability to climb into a song, he spoke at length to us about how he saw the characters and locations of the songs.
He was certainly not the only singer to do so. We did the same work with several singers, notably Kerry Traveller, Mikeen McCarthy, with the same result.
Unfortunately not a lot of work appears to have been done on this; probably the best example is to be found on the Rounder, Texas Gladden CD where she talks about the ballad 'Mary Hamilton', with a description of the execution - powerful stuff:

"I have a perfect mental picture of every song I sing. I have a perfect picture of every person I learned it from, very few people I don't remember. When I sing a song, a person pops up, and it's a very beautiful story. I can see Mary Hamilton, I can see where the old Queen came down to the kitchen, can see them all gathered around, and I can hear her tell Mary Hamilton to get ready. I can see the whole story, I can see them as they pass through the gate, I can see the ladies looking over their casements, I can see her as she goes up the parliament steps, and I can see her when she goes to the gallows. I can hear her last words, and I can see all just the most beautiful picture."

For me, the clue to whether the song is working lies in the phrasing. Unlike many revival singers, a traditional singer tends not to break up words unnecessarily or to breath in inappropriate places - Clare singer Tom Lenihan told us that you should sing the song the way you would speak it, where the tune allowed you to do so. He said that singing was storytelling with tunes.
In the West of Ireland they talk about "telling a song".
Makes sense to me.
Jim Carroll

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