This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
23 f 12 shots from the fRoots Rocket Launcher a dozen leading questions to fire at Sara Grey

If you were given the funds to organise a concert bill, who would the artists be?

The remaining members of The Geor- gia Sea Island Singers who are the last descendants of the slave trade from Africa. Their music in the Gullah language is the best of the great black gospel tradition in America today. I would also include Joe Newberry, a wonderful traditional singer and musician from North Carolina and a member of the new Red Clay Ramblers, one of the best old-time groups in the south- east. Tom Gibney from NJ would be on my list if he were alive… very sadly, he died of cancer a few years ago, and it is America’s great loss. He was known amongst tradi- tional singers, and was one of the very best. His honesty and integrity in his singing and playing was a thing of sheer beauty. He made the senses come alive when he sang, and his fiddle, guitar and banjo were always understated, quirky and beautiful.

Finally, I would return to this side of the pond and add Tom Spiers, Arthur Watson and Pete Shepheard. You will not find more passionate singing and playing than these three fellows. They are truly remarkable, and I think they are the best exponents of Scottish traditional song and music today!

Which totally obscure record do you most treasure and would like more people to know about?

An old vinyl recording on Folk Legacy FS1-103 (1987) of my friend Skip Gorman’s Trail To Mexico, a fabulous record filled with brilliant fiddle tunes and songs from the Western States.

What was the best live gig you ever saw?

Most recently it was Spiers, Watson & Shepheard at Whitby, and Richard Thomp- son at Trowbridge Festival, 2008, I believe.

And what was the worst?

I can’t afford to ‘name names’, it would be far too hurtful to mention anyone. What was your own best ever gig?

The most enjoyable time I have ever had singing and making music was this past June at the Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Kentucky. I was on the staff there for a week along with fantastic traditional singers, musicians, crafts people and story- tellers. It was an experience I will never for- get – the most intimate sharing of great traditional songs and tunes I have experi- enced in a very long time. The lovely people attending the traditional music school, which Jean Ritchie started many years ago, shared in that experience. It felt like one very large family… something I haven’t experienced for a long time, having lived away from my own music for 40 years now.

And what was your worst?

Several years ago, I was asked to MC at a local Christmas concert in Strath- conon, and to open the concert before the main acts. The curtain opened on the first act: a group of primary school children in balaclavas sitting cross-legged in rows, fast asleep on each other’s shoulders due to the heat in the hall. All you could see were their little closed eyes through the eye- holes in the balaclavas. They never sang a note, and the curtain silently closed on them while they were still sleeping!

The last act I had to introduce was a maniacal German fellow and his wife who sang, in two different keys, weird diaboli- cal songs they had made up about killing small children and drinking their blood… all the parents in the hall were sitting in horror with their hands firmly clapped over their children’s ears. The woman in charge of the hall was shouting at me to close the curtains while they were still singing, and that’s what I did! It truly was one of the worst, shambolic concerts I’ve ever been part of, but also one of the funniest.

What’s the professional achievement you’re most proud of?

When I first moved to the UK 40 years ago, many people knew very little about the roots of traditional North American music and song. I have spent most of those years singing old songs from all regions of the States and Canada and I hope I have been a good and honest ambassador for them. There are so many great traditional songs, and ones written in the traditional idiom, that might never have been heard. I have a great passion for sharing them in the UK, the States and Canada. In fact, anywhere people will listen!

What’s the most embarrassing thing you ever did in public?

Several years ago I did a concert for

the Washington DC Folksong Society, and as I was only going down to Washington from NYC, I decided to take a few items of clothing in my banjo case. I walked out on stage, took the banjo out of the case and started to play and sing, and I realised that everyone in the audience was creased with laughter. When I looked at where some- one was pointing, I realised that hooked onto the banjo bracket was my bra strap, and my nightie was draped through the strap and my undies were on the stage floor next to me! Say no more!

Which song or piece of music would you most like to have written yourself?

A brilliant song from the 1940s called I’ll Be Seeing You by Sammy Fain and Irv- ing Kahal. Songs like this one made peo- ple’s lives more bearable during the Sec- ond World War and were more poignant and beautiful because of it.

Who was the first musician or singer you were inspired to emulate?

There were several traditional singers in my home state of New Hampshire who inspired me: Lena Bourne Fish from East Jaffrey, NH and John Galusha, NH, and one of the finest traditional singers in northern New England, Sadie Sykes Harvey from near Staceyville, Maine.

Who was the last-but-one musician or singer you lusted after?

John Kirkpatrick!

If you had a rocket launcher, who or what would be the target, and why?

Boy… Either I’ll have a lot of hate mail over the next few weeks, or hopefully most people will agree at least a bit with me. I wouldn’t have minded if a ‘little rocket launcher’ had been aimed at the Vatican, just enough to knock down all the walls around the Pope to prevent his trip to the UK. If I could have done that and diverted the 12 million pounds of taxpay- ers’ money to the NHS and education, then I would’ve done it in a heartbeat!

Sara will be teaching old-time banjo at

the Sore Fingers weekend (22nd-24th Oct) and touring the UK with Kieron Means in November. For more info: see news this issue and F

root salad

Photo: Ian Anderson

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100
Produced with Yudu -