In the Pines - Liner Notes

In the Pines is, to me, the epitome of a fiddle tune/ballad/melody that started as a local legend and evolved into new variations and adaptations. American folk music comes from many sources, and it has influenced all contemporary American music forms. I chose In the Pines as a title track because it represents so well that theme -- which I wanted to explore with this record. I also saw the song as an opportunity to take a very old and well-known melody and rewrite it into a contemporary instrumental.

After researching In the Pines, I was amazed at what a great example it is of a tune that survives and evolves. It's been called Black Girl, The Longest Train, and Where Did You Sleep Last Night, but it's usually known as In the Pines. Several artists have claimed authorship of their versions, but no one knows who the original composer was. The song actually dates back to around the 1860s, most likely from the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Since that time it's been handed down from neighbor to neighbor, traveling from town to town and county to county, through many generations, until the first published version, just four lines long, appeared in 1917.

In the 1920s the first recordings of In the Pines began to appear, with many verses and variations. Those early recordings were by unknown "hillbilly" bands, and the ones that followed were by an incredible range of artists, through many generations, including Leadbelly, Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger, Dolly Parton, Clifford Jordan, Chet Atkins, Connie Francis, the Sir Douglas Quintet, Duane Eddy, to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana live on MTV in 1993.

All of the songs chosen for this recording have similar beginnings, and accompanying legends that have grown around them over the years. I think they represent a simple common thread connecting what's popular right now in America to the time when our music and culture were beginning to take shape.

This music is art out of real life, evolved through many generations by folks getting together and playing it with, or for, each other. Immigrants from other continents brought their British folk ballads, Scottish fiddle tunes and African chants to the "New World." The variety of music, and the instruments, melded and transformed into something new. This new music served many functions: there were storytelling songs, work and gospel songs; tunes to dance to and be entertained by.

In the spirit of the old-time musicians, I invited my friends together and asked what tunes they knew or wanted to contribute. We didn't plan exactly how our musical arrangements would go until we began to play the tunes. I wanted them to evolve naturally in the hands of the musicians playing them, so we worked up each one just moments before recording.

I wanted to add again to the lives of these tunes by playing, arranging, changing and recording them (and having fun doing it). We did these renditions as a way of paying respect to this tradition of music, and I hope this will help bring awareness to an earlier form of American music and culture that we are still developing.

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