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Tradition hardly sits still for the modern world. For music to live, it has to grow, change, keep its relevance and absorb all manner of influence and confluence. Evolve. 

SONGCATCHER (Vanguard) is a film by Maggie Greenwald that takes a fictional 1907 musicologist doing Appalachian fieldwork into the heart of a balladic tradition that sailed across the Atlantic and took root in mountain soil, becoming America's first musical seedling. Having been absorbed so deeply into our culture, it sometimes is easy to forget how immediate and moving these tunes are. Among those lending their voices to the "Songcatcher" soundtrack are Roseanne Cash ("Fair And Tender Ladies"), Emmylou Harris ("Barbara Allen"), the divine Maria McKee ("Wayfarin' Stranger"), and Deana Carter (a ghostly "The Cuckoo Bird"). But where, I wonder, is Jean Ritchie, the Queen of the Cumberlands, who helped to bring this music out of obscurity in the 1950's? 

CHERISH THE LADIES has another songcatchin' job to do, which is to take the current interest in traditional Irish music and spread its charms to a wider audience while not losing sight of where it originates. On their latest album, and debut Windham Hill release "The Girls Won't Leave The Boys At Home!", they enlist the aid of such friends as Pete Seeger, the Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, banjoist Eric Weissberg, and many other auld sod singers and players. Despite the interest this might generate among mainstream listeners, for whom Riverdance is a point of departure, the music is strong enough to retain its whimsy and heel-kickin' joy, and Cherish The Ladies' collective female energy makes sure that they are never overshadowed by their legendary guests. Think of this as a fine Gaelic party, where everyone has brought a tune to the dance floor, and the good spirits are flowing, and the goal, as founding member Joanie Madden says, "is to nurture the music" and jig to the real of reels.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 17 - September 5572
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