Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder
In case you don't know, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House on the Prairie books, and in their pages she referenced some 126 songs and folk tunes, hoping to give people the flavor of the times. She included folk songs, parlor songs, fiddle tunes, minstrel show songs, play party songs, Scottish and Irish songs and more in her books. She once said about/i>
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Playing Time – 51:42 -- Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) wrote a famous series of eight “Little House” books which trace her family’s history through the west from 1867 to 1885. The books, published between 1932-1943, have become classics in American children’s literature. Within her stories are references to 126 songs. There are songs from the parlor, stage, minstrel shows, church and school. Laura’s guiding musical spirit was her singing and fiddling father, Charles “Pa” Ingalls. On this musical tribute, we are treated to contemporary renderings of 18 of the 126 referenced songs. The set recognizes the esteemed place that music-making once held within the lives of ordinary American families and pioneers. In a sense, this concept album is a soundtrack for the books. Fans of the “Little House” books will especially thrill in being able to hear the music that was an integral part of pioneer life on the prairie. Dale Cockrell recruited well-known mandolinist Butch Baldassari to co-produce the project, and they were backed by a grant from Blair School of Music. Top Nashville musicians were enlisted. Participants include Riders in the Sky, Dave Olney, Andrea Zonn, Deborah Packard, Pat Enright, Doug Green, Keith Little, Jep Bisbee, John Mock, Butch Baldassari, Peggy Duncan Singers, Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp Singers, and The Princely Players. “Arkansas Traveler/Devil’s Dream” and “Happy Land” are played by Pa’s Fiddle Band (including various instrumentalists). The result is a set of contemporary renditions of American folk music, a melting pot of hymns, minstrel show songs, spirituals and fiddle tunes. A 16-page CD booklet provides background about the songs and lyrics, where applicable. One should imagine the days before radio and television when music-making was a family endeavor, and the activity was pursued for fun, entertainment and intellectual pursuit. For that same reason, families today will obtain plenty of enjoyment together with the rediscovery of such classics as “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Oh! Susanna,” “Highland Mary,” “Barbara Allen,” and others. New discoveries are also awaiting within the 52 minutes on this disc. Songs like Captain Jinks, Oft in the Stilly Night, The Big Sunflower, Uncle Sam’s Farm, and Promised Land deserve a much wider listen. The title cut, “Happy Land,” appears more often in Wilder’s books than any other hymn and came to epitomize family strength and opposition to unruly outside influences. Wilder’s eight children books inspired two television series – one that ran from 1974-1983, and the other which had a limited airing in 2005. With this CD in the schools, librarians and reading teachers can work hand-in-hand with music teachers to help kids discover a rich part of American’s musical heritage and legacy. (Joe Ross)