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Kathy Mattea and others celebrate Jean Ritchie

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Friday October 31, 2014

From Pop Matters

Various Artists: Dear Jean – Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie
By: Gideon Thomas

Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie acts as both a tribute to an amazing singer and person, and a reminder of the power of song, story and legacy in Ritchie’s life. Housing a total of 37 tracks over 2 CDs, the collection encompasses performances of some of Ritchie’s most famous songs, both self-written and traditional. Honouring her contribution to music both close to her Kentucky home and on an international scale, Dear Jean has performances from some of traditional folk music’s most well-known, and interesting, names.

Ritchie’s career began as a social worker, teaching the songs she had learned at home to children in New York in the 1940s. Recordings followed starting in the 1950s, when she spent time in the company of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Alan Lomax.

Ritchie has always written, always collected songs, and, through means such as the current collection, passed her music on to new generations. Her songs have been often recorded by other artists, and her message has been not only of her home, but of her concern for that home’s environment and people. Indeed, the stories in the songs on Dear Jean speak of the local impact of often outside corporations and their actions upon the land she continues to hold dear. The power of the songs, and of the legacy they create and continue is matched only by their power. Opener “Black Waters” is masterfully handled here by John McCutcheon, Tim O’Brien, Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea, Stuart Duncan and Bryn Davies. The fact that such big names are involved in the project is testament to the appeal and importance of Jean Ritchie.

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