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Adam Miller | The Radio's Taking Our Songs Away

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The Radio's Taking Our Songs Away

by Adam Miller

A renowned American folksinger of both traditional and contemporary folksongs, who accompanies his rich, resonant baritone voice with lively finger-picking acoustic guitar and stunningly beautiful autoharp melodies.
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Radio's Taking Our Songs Away
2:51 $0.99
2. Tell Old Bill
2:50 $0.99
3. Take Your Time
4:39 $0.99
4. Zebra Dun
3:24 $0.99
5. The Rivers of Oregon
3:18 $0.99
6. By the Dry Cardrona
4:18 $0.99
7. Summer Wages
3:45 $0.99
8. Bury Me in My Overalls
2:31 $0.99
9. The Two Sisters
4:53 $0.99
10. Billy Venero
4:10 $0.99
11. Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
1:22 $0.99
12. Damyankee Lad
2:58 $0.99
13. Admiral Benbow
2:19 $0.99
14. I Wish I Had the Shepherd's Lamb
2:00 $0.99
15. Billy in the Low Land
2:36 $0.99
16. Harry Herman
2:51 $0.99
17. Gentle Annie
2:32 $0.99
18. Cowboy's Barbara Allen
3:07 $0.99
19. Times a-Gettin' Hard
3:18 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
One of the premier autoharpists in the world, Adam Miller is a renowned American folksinger and natural-born storyteller. Miller accompanies his rich, resonant baritone voice with lively finger-picking acoustic guitar and stunningly beautiful autoharp melodies. A masterful entertainer who never fails to get his audience singing along, he has distinguished himself as one of the great interpreters of American folksongs and folktales, and as a performer who appeals to audiences of all ages.

Adam Miller began his lifelong pursuit of collecting old songs while still in grade school. Armed with an audio-graphic memory and an uncommonly good ear for melody, his childhood ambition was to learn every song he heard. An accomplished folklorist, historian, and song-collector, he has now amassed a remarkable repertoire of over 5,000 songs.

1. The Radio’s Taking Our Songs Away – Frank Hamilton and Adam Miller © 2016 Eagle’s Whistle Music
One hundred years ago, most Americans still entertained themselves and their families with music made in the home. The Carter Family, Alvin Pleasant “A. P.” (1891-1960), his wife Sara and her cousin, Maybelle, were among the first stars of the new broadcast medium called radio. In the summer of 1953, three young American folksingers, Guy Carawan (1927-2015), Jack Elliott, and Frank Hamilton, drove to southwest Virginia looking for A. P. Carter. In the Clinch Mountain town of Maces Spring they approached a man seated upon the railroad track and inquired as to Mr. Carter’s whereabouts. Much to their surprise, they had found him: it was A. P. Carter, himself.

2. Tell Old Bill – Traditional
Folksongs chronicle the overwhelming aspects of daily life, as well as the suppressed fears that are often realized. Though this song is over 100 years old, it tells a story that is still commonplace in 21st-century American society. It was first published under the title “Dis Mornin’, Dis Evenin’, So Soon” in Carl Sandburg’s landmark 500-page folksong anthology, American Songbag (1927). He collected it from Nancy Barnhart, a painter and etcher, in St. Louis, Missouri. My friend and mentor, folksinger Sam Hinton (1917-2009) owned a copy of American Songbag when he was a boy living in Crockett, Texas. As a teenager working with the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey in 1936, he heard a version of this song sung by a farmer in Walker County, Texas, and recognized it from American Songbag. Sam recorded it for the Library of Congress in March of 1947.

3. Take Your Time – Peter Mundey © Maypole Music, Ltd.
An interviewer asked the 92-year old ragtime pianist and composer Eubie Blake (1887-1983), “At what age does the sex drive peter out?” And Eubie replied, “Oh, you’ll have to ask someone older than me.” Composed in the 1960s by the late Pete Mundey of Liverpool, England, “Take Your Time,” has been absorbed into the contemporary Cornish singing tradition. Folksongs change as they’re passed on, from one person’s mouth to another person’s ear, through “the folk process.” I learned this one from San Francisco folksinger Faith Petric (1915-2013). She learned it from Roger Holdstock, who learned it from Jess Parker of Vancouver, BC.

4. Zebra Dun – Traditional
Experts in their field enjoy demonstrating their superiority by perpetrating practical jokes on “greenhorns” – those who are not experts in that field. An early version of this song, entitled “Bow-Legged Ike,” was printed in Russell Doubleday’s Cattle Ranch to College (1899). The author tells us “the song was first heard in Montana about 1875 from a horse wrangler named Curran.” Curran “was of medium height, stoop-shouldered, and rather bow-legged from long contact with a horse’s round body. He was awkward and stiff when afoot ... In the saddle ... seemingly a part of the beast he rode.” It was printed under the title “Zebra Dun,” in John A. Lomax’s Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910). A zebra dun horse has a tan or gold body, with a black mane and tail, a line down the center of its back, and zebra-like striping on its legs.

5. The Rivers of Oregon – Traditional (new lyrics by Adam Miller) © 2016 Eagle’s Whistle Music
The traditional Texas folksong “The Rivers of Texas” (aka “Brazos River”) is so widespread that other states have localized versions of the song. I wrote this version about the Rivers of Oregon.

6. By the Dry Cardrona – Lyrics by James K. Baxter, Music by James McNeish
The Cardrona River is in Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand. James K. Baxter (1926-1972), a well-known New Zealand poet, joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1950. Eight years later, he wrote this lyric for a radio play called “Jack Winter’s Dream.” Sir James H. P. McNeish (1931-2016) supplied the melody. The words have changed in the folk process and Don Toms is usually credited with modifying the tune. I learned this song from the singing of Chicago folksinger Ed Trickett.

7. Summer Wages – Ian Tyson © 1967 Slick Fork Music
Canadian singer and songwriter Ian Tyson’s song of love lost has moved swiftly into the oral tradition. I learned it as a teenager, listening to David Bromberg’s recording broadcast over the airwaves of the legendary radio station KFAT 94.5 FM in Gilroy, California.

8. Bury Me in My Overalls – Malvina Reynolds © 1956 Northern Music Corporation
Malvina Reynolds (1900-1971) of Berkeley, California, wrote this for her husband, Bud. I learned this from the singing of Idaho folksinger Rosalie Sorrels. While I was in the studio recording this CD, I received the news of the death of Bob L. Redford (1938-2016), the man who co-founded and managed the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. Several decades ago, I was standing in the food vendor area at the Walnut Valley Festival, having a conversation with a local friend. I told her that I had always wanted to meet Mr. Redford, the man in charge of this popular event that drew tens of thousands fans. I imagined him in a tie and jacket, sequestered at a desk in the festival office downtown. She turned to a man in coveralls who, at that moment, was replacing the plastic liner in the trash barrel next to us and said, “Adam Miller meet Bob Redford.”

9. The Two Sisters – Traditional
In Volume One of his Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (1972), Professor Bertrand H. Bronson (1902-1986)
collected 97 different melodies for “The Two Sisters” (aka “The Barkshire Tragedy,” Child Ballad #10). The earliest known version, a broadside, was printed in England in 1656. Bronson wrote, “Folk song can be thought of as a rich deposit of our common humanity, laid down centuries deep, layer after layer, by generations of anonymous men and women, who have shared the same cultural heritage.” Sam Hinton learned this Indiana version of “The Two Sisters” from Jimmy Leighton (it’s very similar to #61 in Bronson’s book.)

10. Billy Venero – Traditional
Eban Eugene Rexford (1848-1916) was a Wisconsin poet who is best remembered for his lyric, “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” In 1881, he wrote a poem called “The Epic Ride of Paul Venerez.” In a few short decades of “the folk process,” the poem evolved into a cowboy folksong called “Billy Venero,” which John A. Lomax printed without attribution, in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910). Luther Royce of White Lake, Wisconsin, recorded a version for the Library of Congress in 1941. I learned it from my friend and mentor, the Illinois folksinger Art Thieme (1941-2015).

11. Young Man Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn – Traditional
Versions of this American folksong are sung from Texas to Maine; it’s at least 110 years old. I learned this version from the singing of Vern Smelser (1910-1974) of Paoli, Indiana. Vern learned it from his grandmother in Kansas in 1920.

12. Damyankee Lad – Jimmie Driftwood © Warden Music Company
Another one I learned from Sam Hinton. I have heard it said that a “yankee” is a northerner who comes down south, and a “damyankee” is one who stays.

13. Admiral Benbow – Traditional
In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883), the pirates congregate at a pub called The Admiral Benbow Inn, named for British Navy Admiral John Benbow (1653–1702). Benbow died of wounds incurred during a battle with French forces in the West Indies, in August 1702, as described in this song. He is buried in Kingston, Jamaica. A number of folksongs survive about Benbow. This song uses the melody from the old North American folksong “Captain Kidd.” I learned it from the singing of Paul Clayton of New Bedford, Massachusetts (1931-1967).

14. I Wish I Had the Shepherd’s Lamb – Traditional
This song was first printed in George Petrie’s The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland (1855). Sam Hinton found an English translation in Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909) by Patrick Weston Joyce, and I learned it from Sam. P.W. Joyce remembered, “This simple playful little ditty was a great favourite in my young days, when I picked it up from the people all around me. The words I give here are the old popular free translation of the Irish song … known all over the Munster counties, as well as in Leinster and Connaught.” The chorus translates, “And oh, I hail thee, I hail thee, / And the love of my heart without deceit thou art; / And oh, I hail thee, I hail thee. / Thou art the fair pet of thy mother.”

15. Billy in the Low Land – Traditional
I learned this Virginia fiddle tune from the pianist George Winston, who learned it from the harmonica player, Rick Epping. An early version of this melody titled “Billy in the Low Grounds: A Virginia Reel,” is printed in Virginia Reels, Selected and Arranged for Piano Forte (1839) by George P. Knauff . A fi ddler named Henry Reed (1884-1968) from Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, recorded it for the Library of Congress in 1966. I play it on the diatonic autoharp in the key of F major.

16. Harry Herman – Albert L. Baily © 1971
“Uncle Bert” Baily was a teacher and a Quaker, from Philadelphia, who spent his summers “Down East” in Phippsburg, Maine. There, probably in the late 1940s, he composed a clam-digger ballad called “Harry Herman and Mary Muggins: A Tragedy.” Sam Hinton learned the song and replaced Baily’s melody with one his own. Sam crafted his tune from portions of a Texas folksong called “Tighten’ on the Backband,” a song he learned as a teenager from his neighbor, Mr. Willard, an African-American sharecropper in Crockett, Texas. Decades later, Sam remembered that when he visited their home, Mr. Willard’s wife would serve Sam homemade salt-rising bread, and buttermilk that she kept chilled in the spring-box, outside.

17. Gentle Annie – Stephen Collins Foster
“Gentle Annie,” the only song Stephen Foster (1826-1864) published in 1856, is a quintessentially sentimental song, written in the style of Thomas Moore’s Irish balladry. It was one of the last successes of Foster’s career. Sadly, its popularity was insuffi cient to rescue Foster fi nancially. In the end, the greatest American composer of the 19th-century died penniless and alone, in Bellevue Hospital in New York City, at the age of 37.

18. Cowboy’s Barbara Allen – Traditional
In his diary entry for January 2, 1666, Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), an administrator employed by the British Navy, mentions his visit with Mrs. Knipp, an actress in London: “… and in perfect pleasure I was to hear her sing, and especially her little Scotch song of ‘Barbary Allen.’ ” Three centuries later, in 1962, in the hotel bar, across from the train station, on West 15th Street in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Art Thieme met a retired cowboy named Del Bray. Armed with a six-pack, a guitar, and a pencil and paper, Art wrote down the words to Del’s American Cowboy version of the same song - the most widely collected ballad in the English language. Today, there are more than 200 different known melodies for “Barbara Allen” (Child #84) and, in the United States alone there over 450 distinct versions of the lyric.

19. Times A-Gettin’ Hard – Traditional (new lyrics by Lee Hays) © 1950 Folkways Music Publishers, Inc.
Here’s another that fi rst appeared in print in Carl Sandburg’s American Songbag. Ninety years after its initial publication, it remains one of the best collections of American folksongs. Of the single verse he printed, Sandburg explained, “When Rebecca Taylor sang her spirituals for us in Columbia, South Carolina, she was asked if she knew other songs, not spirituals. ‘When you were a girl wasn’t there something that boys and girls would sing at each other for fun, for mischief?’ Her eyes lighted, she gave a soprano chuckle, and sang this verse out of the years when she was young. ‘Take my true love by de han’, lead her roun’ de town; when she see dat yellow boy she almos’ faint away.’ ” The verses I sing were written by the Arkansas folksinger Lee Hays (1914-1981) of the folk quartet The Weavers.

Adam Miller – Vocals, acoustic guitar, and autoharp
Brittany Bailey – Harmony vocals
Produced and arranged by Adam Miller
Recorded and mixed December 20, 2016 - January 4, 2017, by
Billy Barnett, Gung-Ho Studio, Eugene, Oregon
Mastered by Dan De La Isla, DLI Studio, San Diego, California
Graphic design by Ivan Stiles Graphic Design / Illustration, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Cover photo by Carol M. Schultz (at the Lupus General Store, Lupus, Missouri)
Tray card photo by J. J. Littlebird
Inside booklet photo by Cheryl T. Dimont



to write a review

Midwest Book Review

Highly Recommended
'The Radio's Taking Our Songs Away: The Irrepressible American Folksong in the Age of the Selfie' is a music album about how modern technology has transformed everyday life, including and especially the lives of music artists who seek to make a living in a world where their medium is digitized for distribution more than ever before. Charming, candid, and the essence of down-to-earth folk, 'The Radio's Taking Our Songs Away' is highly recommended for both personal and public library music collections."

San Francisco folknik

Deserves to be heard again and again
If this recording proves anything, it is that when all is said and done, the old songs, and yes, even the old stories, are the very best. The nineteen songs on this recording are part and parcel of a musical landscape whose diversity is truly widespread to say the least. From the shores of Maine to the waterways of Oregon. From Indiana and Virginia, to Texas, Arizona and Wyoming. From England, Ireland and New Zealand, just to mention a few locales.
Here there are ballads of comedy and heroic adventure, tales of unrequited love and songs of the ever constant struggle simply to survive. Miller is many things, a “roads” scholar, a modern bard and a teller of musical tales. And what this recording also tells us are the singers, musicians and musical mentors who have made Miller what he is today. These would include the likes of Faith Petric, Paul Clayton, Art Thieme, Sam Hinton, Ed Trickett, Rosalie Sorrels and Jimmy Driftwood among others.
Several songs deserve special mention: “Take Your Time”, a Pete Mundey original, may just be one of the most beautiful love songs ever written with its parallel imagery of what it is like for two people to grow old together. “The Cowboy’s Barbara Allen” shows just how hardy a ballad can be when it has ventured far beyond its familiar environment. The recording’s title piece is a stark reminder that while technology may be good in some instances, it may often take away much of what life and tradition were all about, viz. the singing of songs and the telling of tales on a personal and meaningful level. “Tell Old Bill” proves that a musical chestnut never dies, but deserves to be heard again and again.
One delightful feature of this recording that should be mentioned is the wonderful harmony Brittany Bailey adds to some of the songs, including the title piece, “Rivers of Oregon” and “By The Dry Cardrona” among others. These nineteen songs will take the listener to another time and another place, and in the end, as has been said before, the old songs and the old stories are still the very best of all.

George Winston, pianist (posted on iTunes 3/22/17)

A great new album by Adam Miller
“A great new album by Adam Miller. The songs are very timely in their topical content. It also has a wonderful
new autoharp instrumental.”

Paul Stamler, KDHX 88.1 FM, St. Louis, Missouri

Jazzed about this new CD
“This record has me jazzed, and it’s not often I can say that about a new recording.”

Tall Cedars (posted on iTunes 3/22/17)

Highly Recommended: The Irrepressible American Folksong in the Age of the Selfie
Folksinger Adam Miller’s new release, "The Radio’s Taking Our Songs Away," rises to a level of truth and
brilliance once attributed to the works of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. This keenly topical album is subtitled, "The Irrepressible American Folksong in the Age of the Selfie," and the title track ponders our zeal for misplaced idolatry in modern technology. A wonderfully irreverent diatribe on behalf of artists coping with new technologies over the last 100 years, the lyric expresses our collective longing for a shared sense of community in today’s modern world. Miller's lone voice and guitar delivers this timely message with heart and reverence. One can hardly resist singing along on the chorus.

Miller is an superb storyteller and a captivating presence. His phrasing and articulation are masterful. The nineteen traditional and contemporary folksongs on this disc feature his resonant baritone vocal and syncopated acoustic guitar. His impressive fingerpicking takes the autoharp to a level of virtuosity previously unheard – it literally shimmers and dances. On several cuts, he is accompanied by the enchanting harmony singing of Brittany Bailey.

Highlights for this reviewer begin with the title track, "The Radio’s Taking Our Songs Away," written by Miller and the legendary Frank Hamilton (The Weavers). Other standouts are the lovely and sentimental "The Rivers of Oregon," (another of Miller’s originals), Jimmie Driftwood’s "Damyankee Lad,” Malvina Reynolds’ “Bury Me In My Overalls,” and "Times A-Gettin' Hard" by Lee Hays.

Touring 70,000 miles a year, Miller performs over 200 concerts annually, from the Everglades to the Arctic Circle. This 21st-century troubadour has recorded six previous CDs. He has performed at dozens of national festivals, including the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival, the Tumbleweed Music Festival, the California Traditional Music Society’s Summer Solstice Festival, and the Kentucky Music Weekend. He’s performed in over 2,000 American public libraries in 48 states and more than 1.5 million students have attended his “Singing Through History” assembly program.

This beautiful and timely all-new recording, "The Radio’s Taking Our Songs Away," is an unmistakable labor of love, rising to the level of mastery only achieved after thousands of performances. Handsomely packaged with informative liner notes, this recording has rich and vibrant analog sound not often heard in this century. Highly recommended! 5-stars.