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Album cover: Clothesline Revival's Long Gone

Clothesline Revival {format} {format} 6:52 Barrett Golding

Old archive Americana mixed with modern music.

Broadcast: Jul 4 2006 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Music, Interviews, Americana, Historical

Clothesline Revival's 'Long Gone'

July 4, 2006 from Day to Day

MADELEINE BRAND, host: And on this Fourth of July, we bring you some American roots music from the group Clothesline Revival. The group's composer is Conrad Pretzel. He's a former archeologist. He put some of those skills to use unearthing material for there latest CD, Long Gone. Instead of using contemporary singers, all the vocals on the album are from amateur singers recorded more than 50 years ago. Here is Clothesline Revival in their own words.

Unidentified Man #1 (Clothesline Revival): The new CD by Clothesline Revival is called Long Gone, and it's based entirely upon archival field recordings collected by folks like John Lomax(ph) and his son Alan(ph) during the early and middle part of the last century.

(Soundbite of field recording)

Unidentified Man #2: These recordings are made in a little room under the ramp of a storage closet in Houston, Texas, about 8 o'clock at night. On April 13, 1939 in the presence of Mr. John A. Lomax.

Unidentified Man #1: The Library of Congress has a large collection of field recordings on line that you can listen to. And I spend just days and days listening to anything I could find that had a cappella vocals in it, work songs, field hollers, and old scared songs, and children's songs.

(Soundbite of song "Shortenin' Bread")

Unidentified Man #1: Shortenin' Bread was recorded way back in 1940, and it features Oradel Graham and a group of girls singing to their grammar school class, in Mississippi.

(Soundbite of song "Shortenin' Bread")

Unidentified Man #1: There is this hypnotic chant kind of vibe about the piece. It's I guess what you would call a playground rhymer, a skipping rhyme song, and a key element that I wanted to work with was the rhythm. The clapping part is real infectious and the children's energy and drive, just these kids having fun creating this recording.

(Soundbite of song "Shortenin' Bread")

Unidentified Man #1: My partner, Robert Powell, was over one day, and I played him this version of Shortenin' Bread I was working on. It definitely needed something, and he's a master at so many instruments. So he ended up pulling a lap steel out of his bag of musical tricks and basically two takes he had nailed an introduction and came up with these great chord changes.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: There are a couple songs on Long Gone that are both work songs, both recorded in Florida in the late '30s, and one was sung by an elder, retired railroad worker and the other by a younger man that was still working in the turpentine industry. By some coincidence, they were not only both in the same key, they were in the same tempo, so it gave me this wonderful opportunity to weave elements of one song into the other.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man #1: There's a very intimate quality to Uncle Eberhard Weber's(ph) voice that gets across even with the poor recording quality. In fact, it almost seems to enhance it. It's surreal when he sings, If I'd known my captain was mean, I never would've left St. Augustine.

(Soundbite of song)

UNCLE EBERHARD WEBER (Singer): (Singing) If I'd known my captain was mean, I never would've left St. Augustine.

Unidentified Man #1: And Fred Fox Lee(ph), who was still working in the turpentine camp at the time, he sings, It may rain or it may snow. When your captain calls you, you've got to go.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. FRED FOX LEE (Singer): (Singing): It may rain, or it may snow. When your captain calls you, you've got to go.

Unidentified Man #1: These old recordings have this quality about them that they're very strange, just kind of other-worldliness to it, and beautiful, all at the same time. And I was hoping with whatever I did with them that I would keep that strange beauty and hopefully find something new.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: I like songs that take you on a musical journey of some sort or, you know, they don't start and end in the same place, and you feel like you've traveled somewhere.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. NEIL MORRIS (Musician): (Singing/Talking) ... that music had no end, that you could learn all the other guy learns, and after you got that done, then something else would crop up. Well they said that if music grew like the grapevine that is never pruned, that each year that it put on a little bit more.

Unidentified Man #1: The last song on the CD is called Music Has No End. A fellow named Neil Morris recalls his father saying that music was a like a grapevine that is never pruned, that every year it puts on a little bit more.

I love the sentiment behind that story and, in a way, I'd like to think that Long Gone is just part of last year's growth.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Out profile of the group Clothesline Revival and their CD, Long Gone, was produced by Barrett Golding of the Hearing Voices radio project.