|Pamela Goddard, by Ted Crane|
|Pamela Goddard at home|
Pamela Goddard has been singing folk songs most of her life. But it was just this month that she released her first recording of traditional American songs - each with its own long and fascinating history. As Time Draws Near: Traditional Songs from the North and South will be celebrated with a free release concert on Dec. 18 at the Danby Town Hall.
Goddard grew up surrounded by folk music and has sung these old songs most of her life, in performance with the a cappella trio Diamonds in the Rough or simply to herself. But not until this year has she recorded her music. "I want to bring these songs to life," she says.
Words and melodies that rang through the farm kitchens, mining camps and taverns of the northern and southern United States more than 100 years ago come to life again in Goddard's recording. Some tracks she performs solo and unaccompanied, in a rich alto voice. Other tracks feature her on the lap dulcimer or harmony, fiddle or guitar from various friends.
Goddard believes that just by knowing and singing folk songs, she keeps them alive. Nevertheless, some members of the folk music community have encouraged her to record. As Time Draws Near features some tunes nearly any listener will recognize, such as "Barbara Allen," which has been recorded by Joan Baez and Art Garfunkel.
But the album also includes songs of New England and New York State that are little known and, as far as Goddard knows, never before recorded. Her passion is to let people hear these versions of the songs, to let them know these songs exist.
For instance, she discovered the love ballad "Hills of Glenshee" among hours and hours of singing by a 78-year-old man named Fuzzy Barhight of Hornell, N.Y. In 1956, a Cornell graduate student ventured into the rural areas of the Southern Tier to "collect" residents' voices singing the traditional songs they'd grown up with. Fuzzy Barhight had been a logger in New York and Pennsylvania and remembered many folk songs. His rendition of "Hills of Glenshee" is unique to the Finger Lakes, although the song was written by a shoemaker in Perth, Scotland, crossed the Atlantic with immigrants and then traveled from one logging camp to the next.
Goddard also draws on the folk song collections of Helen Hartness Flanders at Middlebury College in Vermont. Flanders and other folk song collectors, says Goddard, did the hard work of recording folk music in the field; she mines what they've done.
"Part of what catches my ear is a great story, a good tune, and I like the feeling that I'm carrying on a tradition," says Goddard, who tells the story of the average person - the logger, the housewife, the farmer, the young people in love - through her songs.
Although she grew up around folk music in the 1960s - her parents would take her to the Hudson River for Clearwater Picnics - Goddard made folk music her own in high school. When she discovered a full collection of Library of Congress field recordings in her high school library, she started cutting school to listen to folk music. The librarians thought she was doing research for a class.
During these sessions enclosed into the world of headphones, Goddard discovered several versions of the same well-traveled folk song "Barbara Allen," and it sparked her interest in not just the sound, but the history of folk songs as well.
"It was 'Barbara Allen' that really hooked me into doing these songs," she says. It captured her imagination that one song could be sung so many different ways, from different areas of the country or the world.
Goddard hopes to spread her passion for folk music through her album and upcoming presentations at schools and historical societies. She says she wants to introduce to a growing folk music audience many great songs with deep roots.
"If the song has lasted a couple hundred years," she says, "there's something really compelling about it."
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As Time Draws Near, a compact disc of folk music performed by Pamela Goddard, is available at Spirit and Kitsch on The Commons, Ludgate's, The Bookery and Small World Music. Goddard will perform from the album at a free release concert on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Danby Town Hall. For more info, visit www.pamgoddard.com.