My newest radio story is a non-narrated piece about the 25-year-old, old time musicians Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt. It aired on The Story with Dick Gordon on April 30, and on May 9 it aired on WMMT mountain community radio. How I heard about these women is a long story, and I've written it below. You can listen to the piece here:
Williams Island is on the right. Photo taken from a canoe in the (Tennessee) River.
Two or three summers ago there was a potluck dinner on Williams Island Farm. It began in the afternoon, a fire in the stone-circled ring with a dutch oven shoved in the coals, cooking some part of somebody's animal. There were a couple fiddles and a banjo. Later on, after whiskey, beer, moonshine, I'm sure, and a good meal, it was dark and the fire was still burning and sending up embers and I sang a ballad or two and there was more fiddle music. The night ended when we canoed back across the Tennessee River, Charlie Hunter's fiddle serenading us, the music bouncing off the rock face beneath the Baylor side. It was a lovely night, and that evening someone first told me about Elizabeth LaPrelle, the ballad singer.
I didn't know who she was then, but somehow I acquired her cd and I was blown away instantly. I won't describe her voice, you'll just have to listen. It's powerful. So when I heard she was coming to town a few months ago, a immediately got a ticket to see her. She was playing with Anna Roberts-Gevalt, whom I didn't know much about, but soon came to.
Anna is also a musician and a story-teller. It was Anna who first introduced Elizabeth to crankies, these hand-sewn strips of fabric embroidered and appliquéd with scenes from ballads. They use them when they sing sometimes. Anna plays fiddle, among other things, and she has also spent a great deal of time with other musicians, learning, recording, playing.
She put together a CD last year called the New Young Fogies, a remake of the original Young Fogies release in 1994. It's an album of young musicians playing old time music. Actually, that's how she met Elizabeth -- she wanted her to sing for the album. Also on that album is Brett Ratliff, who directs WMMT mountain community radio station in Whitesburg, Kentucky . (I visited WMMT for the first time last year with a friend whose grandmother lives nearby and whose sister was working at Appalshop then.) And a whole lot of other great young musicians like Joe Decosimo, who put out a nice album of fiddle music called Sequatchie Valley last year as well. Here's a photo of the road into Whitesburg:
It's a beautiful place. Anyway, when Anna and Elizabeth came to town (Durham, where I am now), I asked them if they'd like to come to WUNC for an interview, and that's how I made this radio story. We spoke for a good hour and a half, and they were nice enough to answer all my questions and it was even better hearing them sing and play music in the living room of somebody's house the night before. They showed their handmade crankies and told lots of stories. It was a magical evening. That's what this radio story is about. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for listening.