Off to California | Hard Times in the Promised Land

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Folk: Traditional Folk Folk: String Band Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Hard Times in the Promised Land

by Off to California

GOLD. The shout was heard around the world, followed closely by perilous journey and often death. Off to California, based in the Sacramento valley and Sierra foothills where gold was discovered in 1848, takes you on a journey of musical emigration.
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sweet Betsy in the Parlor
2:24 $0.99
2. Promised Land
2:37 $0.99
3. The Arrival
1:31 $0.99
4. Miss Ella
2:45 $0.99
5. Tater Patch/Kitchen Girl
3:24 $0.99
6. Sweet Betsy from Pike
3:37 $0.99
7. Trudging Up the South Fork
3:11 $0.99
8. Wayfaring Stranger
3:34 $0.99
9. Few Days
3:05 $0.99
10. Alone and Lonely (Im Aonar Seal)
2:55 $0.99
11. Hard Times
3:25 $0.99
12. Ingrian Polka/Kuppari Eeva
3:24 $0.99
13. O Death
2:31 $0.99
14. Pennknivsmördaren
3:19 $0.99
15. La Llorona (The Wailing Woman)
4:05 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

It was the middle of the 19th century and the potato famine was dealing a death blow to Ireland. Who wouldn’t want to go off to California for the promise of gold discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas?

The Irish hornpipe “Off to California” gives us our name; the diversity of our musical experiences finds a home in the historically rich gold country around Sacramento where we have been presenting gold rush material together since 1991.


• on THE WEST, a Ken Burns production, which aired on PBS in 1996. We provided songs for the gold rush segment called “The Speck of the Future.”
• on the soundtrack recording released in conjunction with THE WEST.
• performing on the 1998 “Coloma” episode of Huell Howser’s popular CALIFORNIA'S GOLD series.
• on the soundtrack of LEGACY, a documentary about the 1850 Sacramento cholera epidemic produced by the California Medical Association in 2006.
• on our first CD release together HARD TIMES IN THE PROMISED LAND.


"Period music at its finest!
If you like music with 19th century flavor, get this CD! I enjoyed every cut and I can't say that about very many CDs of period music. Speaking as a guitar player, the slide work on "Trudging up the South Fork" was superb! As manager of the gift store at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento, I immediately made this CD a part of my inventory. Give it a listen. You'll be glad you did."
--Sparky Anderson, May 13, 2007
5 stars on

"...a thoroughly delightful offering...I enjoyed every song on this CD. Interspersed are tunes that might have come from the immigrants..., fascinating gems, most with a piquant edge that match perfectly the tone of the album...the illusion of a trip back in time to California’s most celebrated era–the Gold Rush."
--Carolyn Faubel, July 29, 2007
Bluegrass Breakdown, California Bluegrass Association

"...the group can really play and sing, like the best of your friends at the neighborhood jam...It's just honest and easy."
--Tom Petersen, May 2008
Victory Review


Andy Alexis developed a talent for finger picking-style guitar blues over 30 years ago, and thanks to the wide open ears of an early instructor, picked up Appalachian clawhammer banjo too. Never one to let others’ rules about accepted instrumentation deter him, Andy is quick to hear a place for banjo in a French bourrée, an Irish hornpipe or a Russian polka. Along the way he built and became an accomplished hammered dulcimer player and has developed a deep interest in shape note singing.

Dorothy Hawkinson’s music education may have started at a tender age but she credits living in the south with turning her into a fiddler. Something in the Georgia air opened up Dorothy’s ears to traditional music while she was climbing telephone poles for Southern Bell and later throwing switches and riding boxcars for Seaboard Coast Line RR in the late 1970s. She loved Appalachian, early country and bluegrass styles. Later she explored her own Scandinavian and Celtic musical roots as well as the complementary musical traditions from the center of France. It was while living in the middle of two famous routes through the Sierra Nevadas–the Pony Express Trail and the Mormon Emigrant Trail–that she began performing gold rush music with Alan.

Alan Beilharz Fuller spent some time in Spain as a young man and was later stolen by gypsies–musically, that is! He joined a troupe of Spanish Gypsy musicians who played, sang and danced Flamenco music. That early experience had a deep impact on his rhythmic sense and chord usage. Alan’s greatest love may be tunes and songs from Ireland and Scotland but he also enjoys cowboy songs, Mexican corridos and many other kinds of traditional music. He lived in Coloma, the town where gold was discovered, for more than 20 years, which is what prompted him to begin collecting music of the California Gold Rush.

Andy Alexis: lead and harmony vocals, clawhammer banjo, fretless banjo, guitar

Alan Beilharz Fuller: lead and harmony vocals, guitar, flamenco guitar

Dorothy A. Hawkinson: lead and harmony vocals, fiddle, hardingfele (Norwegian Hardanger fiddle)

Lyrics, expanded liner notes, historical background and transcriptions can be found in our companion tune and song book released 2007. Contact us for details.



to write a review

Earnest thompson

The Real California
I like this album as it shows that 'Californians' at that time really didn't exist. They really were just a bunch of nationalities from various countries who came to exploit the land and their music proves it. I don't think we get 'real' Californian music till much later after a couple of generations at least---perhaps with the Beach Boys ! That said I really do enjoy this CD.

Dorothy R

Off to California
We love this CD and the musicianship is first-rate! My daughter, who studied California history and the gold rush in 4th grade (along with every other 4th grader in the state!), fell in love with it, too. I highly recommend "Off to California."

Adolfo Martinez

Thanks so much for putting out this CD. What a journey in time! I became aware of the artist when I watched the PBS documentary The West. I was delighted to find a full CD of similar material. I highly recommends it.