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by Jim Bainbridge
A sense of place

— time to think local
On an early Bob Davenport EP on the Collector label, Reg Hall’s sleeve notes argued
that ‘Lily of Laguna’ sung in the public bar could be ‘much more meaningful than Child
Number whatever it was in the folk club upstairs’. That view for me, remains true in
2009. In short, it’s about integrity, and we lose that at our peril! — Jim Bainbridge
L
istening to Laurie Lewis, that excellent
country singer the other day, and her
1994 song - ‘Who will watch the home
place’ - I was struck by one verse, and in
particular the last line.
In my grandfather’s house there are hundreds of tools
I know them by feel and by name
And like parts of my body, they’ve patched this old place
When I move them they won’t be the same

It made me consider just how much we have
lost a sense of place in our traditional music,
now that all the music styles of the world are
so easily accessible wherever you are. The
material collected since the 50s all over these
islands was distinctly local. Even when listened
to in 2009, Elizabeth Cronin’s ballads still seem
to spring from the very stones of West Cork,
while Harry Cox just HAD to be from Norfolk - it
just wouldn’t make sense otherwise. The folk
revival has taken such material and often melted
it down to its lowest common denominator, and
in the process lost any real sense of where the
music is from or why it exists at all.
With some honourable exceptions mostly
through the efforts of musical veterans, what
seems to be the norm in 2009 is that the music
has been taken out of its context and thrust
into a ‘folk’ melting pot, with little regard to its
essentially local idiom. Why this is so is partly
the dreaded globalisation, I suppose, but maybe
we could think about its origins a little deeper.
Whatever your definition, traditional music has
always been central to, and often maintained
by, community events which in themselves are
naturally local rather than global. Traditional
dancing and the music which sustains it have
survived mainly because such events have
required it to. The old songs have survived
mainly in the context of social gatherings,
whether in ceilidhs, bothies or family gatherings
such as weddings etc, and often via close
communities including the travelling folk. What
has survived is for the most part the best of
it, and the rest has been rejected for good
reasons. I wouldn’t presume to say that this is
a worldwide truth, but have no reason to think
otherwise. We don’t really know how much
ete Heywood
material has been lost over the years, but there
is a natural selection process at work here, and
no doubt much of what HAS gone was rejected
Photo by P
The Living Tradition - Page 28
Issue82.indd 28 24/2/09 13:56:59
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