delanceyplace.com 04/12/07 - kentucky
In today's excerpt - young English folk singer Shirley Collins joins Alan Lomax in 1959 on a quixotic journey through the American South to record indigenous folk songs. Collins writes:
"Before I left England, I was full of romantic and naive ideas about Kentucky. ... I was moved by the fact that the pioneers, leaving harsh conditions in the Old Country, searching for religious or economic freedom, had still kept their songs from home. ... But the truth was that in Kentucky I started to feel afraid. The beauty of the place was undeniable, the mountains hight and steep, heavily wooded, greeny-blue deepening to purple at dawn and sunset, when pink clouds nestled down in the hollows or haloed peakks.
"[But] amidst all the beauty was hardship and deprivation for many mountaineers. We heard of miners' bitter conflicts with mining companies and their armed guards. ... There were also feuds between families and neighbors, reports in the local newspaper of a man killed because his cow strayed into a neighbor's pasture. I lay in bed at night and could hear gun shots in the hills, and didn't know whether the prey was animal or human.
"On September 6th, a hot clear day, we went to record Old Regular Baptists at an outdoor prayer meeting on the hillside outside of Blackey. ... As we worked, [the preacher] started to preach, and turned his sermon against us. He was a Primitive Hardshell Baptist: he said my 'bobbed' hair was sinful, our [recording] machines the work of the Devil. The word 'abomination' was used too, and I felt very nervous. ... By now the preacher was well into his stride, he was sobbing and wailing, his voice breaking as he threatened eternal damnation for whoever allowed 'them 'phones' [microphones] to be brought to the meeting ground. ...
"If you think I'm exaggerating my fear, the texts reproduced on the following pages were printed on a card handed to me by the preacher ... see if it doesn't case you the same unease that I feel, even reading it at forty years' remove and many miles' distance:
"THOU SHALT BELIEVE AND KEEP IN MIND THE EARTH AND ALL FLESH AND BLOOD LIFE IS STILL CORRUPT AND MUCH WORSE THAN IN NOAH'S TIME AND THE HEAVENLY FATHER HAS REASONS TO HAVE GREAT WRATH
"THOU SHALT NOT EAT ANY FLESH NOR BLOOD LIFE
"THOU SHALT BELIEVE - TO CONCEIVE IS MARRIAGE
THOU SHALT NOT HAVE EVIL LOVE
"THOU SHALT CALL FRUITS MEAT
"THOU SHALT NOT CUT HAIR OFF HEAD ROUNDING NOR TRIM BEARD ROUNDING
"THOU SHALT NOT WEAR GARMENT OF DIVERSE COLOR
"THOU SHALT WATCH AS SAME AS PRAY AND JUDGE RIGHTEOUS, THERE ARE MANY CREATURES; BEES, SERPENTS, DRAGONS, WARRIORS"
|America Over The Water|