The Pa’s Fiddle Project, a unique series of recorded music that brings the 127 songs embedded in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books to life, celebrates the national release of “Pa’s Fiddle; Charles Ingalls, American Fiddler,” this week.
This newest album spotlights the influence of Charles “Pa” Ingalls, the old-time, 19th-century fiddler and Laura’s father. Hidden for decades in plain view, “Pa” Ingalls (1836-1902) was a central figure in the autobiographical stories told by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her Little House on the Prairie books. He was a highly regarded fiddler whose music making is captured by the 127 songs referenced in his daughter’s books. How can it be that this extraordinary musician is never included among the pantheon of American fiddlers, especially since he, his name, his stories, and accounts of his music-making are known to many millions the world over?
The recording, which draws from the instances when Pa Ingalls is chronicled playing his fiddle alone, places him among the first rank of old-time fiddlers whose music is foundational to so much in American music. It tells of the power of music to transcend the years, as the “old” music of Pa Ingalls becomes new again through exciting and dynamic performances by some of the today’s finest acoustic musicians.
Great American songs on the CD include Buffalo Gals, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Polly Put the Kettle On, Life Let Us Cherish, All the Blue Bonnets, Golden Years Are Passing By, Boatmen’s Dance, Mary of the Wild Moor, The Campbells Are Coming, Haste to the Wedding, and more.
Acoustic masters Bryan Sutton, Matt Flinner, Matt Combs, David Grier, Jeff Taylor, Dennis Crouch, and others bring these great American folk songs to life, and make them palatable for young ears of today.
These autobiographical Little House books by Wilder (1867-1957) are rich throughout in references to music. In fact, there may be no books of comparable standing that document frontier America family music-making so thoroughly. The source of most music-making was Charles “Pa” Ingalls, a born entertainer who missed few occasions to sing and play his fiddle, an instrument that accompanied the Ingalls family through times good and bad and came to symbolize the endurance of the family unit in a threatening frontier world.
Courtesy of the Little House books, Pa Ingalls is perhaps the 19th-century American fiddler about whom we know most. We know the names of many of the tunes and songs he played, where he played them, for whom, and often why he chose them.
This recording, which draws from the instances when Pa is chronicled playing his fiddle alone, aims to place him among the first rank of old-time fiddlers whose music is foundational to so much in American music.
The performances that constitute these recordings have not been dumbed-down. Some of the nation’s finest acoustic musicians have been enlisted on these projects and invited to make the music of yesterday fresh, exciting, and vital for today’s audiences, young and old.
Producer/Creator Dale Cockrell also co-produced the new PBS Special airing nationally on PBS stations starting this week. The concert based on the music written about in the Little House on the Prairie series of books by author Laura Ingalls Wilder, was filmed at the Loveless Barn in Franklin, TN before a live audience.
Artists who performed include award-winning musician and musical director Randy Scruggs and an all-star string band featuring Matt Combs, Dennis Crouch, Chad Cromwell, Hoot Hester and Shad Cobb, along with featured artists Randy Travis, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie Milsap, Ashton Shepherd, The Roys, Natalie Grant and Committed (NBC Sing Off Champions).
Dean Butler (“Almanzo” on the Little House on the Prairie TV show) teamed up with Cockrell to produce this unique show that features these top-level artists performing and giving their best interpretations of the great American songs and tunes loved by Pa and Laura Ingalls during their lifetime.
The CD is in stores today. It is also available at www.laura-ingalls-wilder.com in addition to numerous retail outlets.
The goal of The Pa’s Fiddle Project is simple but ambitious: to re-connect generations of readers with the rich musical legacy written into the Little House books.
For anyone who loves to read, the recordings from The Pa’s Fiddle Project are quickly becoming necessary companions to the Little House books. (Indeed, how can one read these books and not know the music that Wilder heard!) Beyond this, though, these are recordings of great American music by great American performers, and are deeply satisfying for all lovers of American music, from childhood on.