We are finalizing, at long last My Lord, What a Morning and expect to have it out by the spring. This is a collection of lovely folk hymns in mostly instrumental arrangements, recommended as a soothing balm for these troubled times.
We were happy to be able to share our music at several online shows during December, and look forward to reconnecting this spring.
We will be appearing virtually at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference in March in a performance of the ballads of Katherine Jackson French. More info on this fine organizationo and conference here: http://appalachianstudies.org/annualconference/
Liza will also be doing lectures on Katherine Jackson French at the Filson Historical Society and the Kentucky Historical Society. Stay tuned!
We also look forward to teaching and playing for virtual Common Ground on the Hill in June or July again. Check out this wonderful folk arts school here: https://www.commongroundonthehill.org/
REVIEWS OF Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky’s Forgotten Ballad Collector:
"The mountain people Jackson French “discovered” remain sources of wonder and also of bullshit, their mountain habitats a Garden of Eden for white people who wish to find their origins not in capitalism, slavery, and imperial conquest, but in a primitive simplicity. Jackson French’s own mythical land of wonder was Old England, transported seamlessly from the shires to the hollow, without any slave ships or American Indian massacres to tarnish things.
The roots of this Albion myth run deep through American politics and letters, coursing through former United States Senator Jim Webb’s Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (2004) to J. D. Vance’s claptrap Hillbilly Elegy (2016). It takes a hardy soul to wade through the bullshit. Elizabeth DiSavino is a mostly reliable (if sometimes eccentric) guide in her Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky’s Forgotten Ballad Collector.
A music professor at Kentucky’s Berea College, DiSavino ...understands is that the quest for ballads had little to do with the mountain people and a lot to do with United States cultural and intellectual life. Exhausted with other stories, white people turn to the folk for something new to say about themselves.
DiSavino’s task is one no biographer would lightly take on." - Gregory P. Downs, Los Angeles Review of Books
“According to DiSavino, French’s findings - neglected until now - offer a different view than that put forward by the later and reigning scholar of Appalachian ballads, the Englishman Cecil Sharp…The counterfactual scenario DiSavino invokes, in which mountain women and African-American string bands were granted their rightful, central place in early country music, is heartening to entertain.” - Lidija Haas, Harpers
“DiSavino’s wealth of research contributes to an understanding of the cultural and historical life of our nation, glimpsed through the window of our national song as recorded by Dr. Katherine Jackson French’s keen ear and discerning intellect.”—Ron Pen, director emeritus of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music and author of I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles
“DiSavino analyzes and compares the ballads collected by Cecil Sharp and Olive Dame Campbell with the French collection in terms of music, style, and representation of singers. French can now take her place alongside Emma Bell Miles and Campbell as a strong woman chronicling life in the Appalachian region just after the turn of the twentieth century, sometimes at odds with institutions and traditional expectations.”—Deborah J. Thompson, assistant professor and Appalachian Studies faculty at Berea College
“Meticulously researched, this fascinating unveiling of the life and work of a minor character in the early twentieth century ‘Ballad Wars’ seems like it was a true labor of love for Berea College music professor Elizabeth DiSavino….It also made me wonder if Miss Jackson’s “Fortnight of Balladry” was also a labor of love” Rick Jackofsky, Homegrown String Band, Amazon review,
Liza's book, Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky's Forgotten Ballad Collector, published through University Press of Kentucky was awarded the KENTUCKY HISTORY AWARD!!!
Liza and her work on Dr. French was featured on All Things Considered on NPR in a feature by Stephanie Wolf. You can catch it here: https://www.npr.org/2021/01/05/953653411/katherine-jackson-frenchs-ballad-collection-published-110-years-later
Other features include one on Old-Time Central: https://oldtime-central.com/katherine-jackson-french-kentuckys-forgotten-ballad-collector/ and an article in the Country Dance and Song Society Summer 2020 magazine as well: https://www.cdss.org/programs/cdss-news-publications/cdss-news/1900-cdss-news-fall-2020
Dr. French first tried to publish a collection of Kentucky ballads in 1910; the story of how this did not come to be, along with how the history of Appalachian balladry would have been different if it had, is the subject of this story of one of Kentucky music's greatest unknown women. The biography may be ordered here: https://www.kentuckypress.com/9780813178523/katherine-jackson-french/
A commemorative edition of her ballads will also be published by Berea College, fulfilling a 110-year-old project. It, along with There Was a Fair Maid Dwelling a recording of French's ballads (#55 on the Folk Chart this past summer, FAI!), is available by contacting .
The publication of the trilogy marks the culmination of a seven-year project.
A.J. too is working on a book. Entitled "Ain't It a Shame," it explores the difficult subject of abuse through photographs and poems. He has been working with Lee Francis IV and is nearing the final edit. He is also exploring avenues to utilize his many well-loved monster images in artistic mediums of various kinds.