Fri. Dec 9th, 2022

PORTLAND, Maine — It took Matt Shipman the higher a part of two years to provide his senior thesis at Vermont School earlier than he graduated in 2003 with a self-designed diploma in conventional people music.

For his mission, Shipman discovered and recorded interviews with conventional gamers in Maine, North Carolina and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Impressed by field-recording music collectors of the previous, he wished to determine music connections between the geographically disparate East Coast musicians.

These musical threads by no means fairly materialized, nevertheless.

However Shipman did have life-changing adventures whereas interviewing and jamming with the outdated timers. They helped set the trail for the remainder of his musical life, together with his work with Celtic-tinged ensemble Josephine County and Erica Brown and the Bluegrass Connection.

Shipman obtained an excellent grade on the mission, too.

However after leaving faculty and embarking on his personal profession, Shipman forgot concerning the recordings. No one exterior his circle of pals and professors ever heard them.

That’s altering now.

Portland musician Matt Shipman stands on Congress Road on Nov. 17, 2022. Shipman simply launched an audio documentary he made 20 years in the past, that includes conventional musicians from Maine, North Carolina and Cape Breton. Credit score: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Not too long ago, Shipman discovered the outdated recordings in a field at his home. They have been nonetheless on the flash-in-the-pan mini disc media on which he’d recorded them, almost 20 years in the past. Fortunately, his mini disc participant was nonetheless working.

Now, Shipman has posted the recordings on YouTube for everybody to listen to.

They reveal the voices and music of gamers now principally lifeless and gone. What initially documented vibrant, present-day conventional songs and tales is now a historic doc of occasions and folks previous.

“I’ve all the time been into remembering and speaking to outdated folks,” Shipman, now 47, stated.

He’d generally tape his personal grandparents’ tales for posterity. Shipman additionally was a giant fan of John and Alan Lomax, who made discipline recordings of musicians all around the nation, beginning within the Thirties, for the Library of Congress.

Discovering musicians for his mission was a matter of exhibiting up at native jams and asking round.

“It was principally word-of-mouth and the phonebook,” Shipman stated. “I’d get hand-written instructions to folks’s homes. This was earlier than cellphones had GPS.”

As soon as he discovered the suitable folks, Shipman would sit down with them, ask questions and play a tune or two.

In Cape Breton, he interviewed influential fiddlers Hugh Alan “Buddy” MacMaster and Alex Francis MacKay. MacMaster was uncle to globe-trotting fiddler Natalie MacMaster.

Each males have since died.

In North Carolina, Shipman tracked down Emmit Norton, who performed a do-it-yourself “tune bow.” The one-stringed instrument resembled an enormous jaw harp, operated with one finish caught in Norton’s mouth.

In Maine, Shipman discovered Lisbon Falls button accordion participant Joe Theriault, who had served within the service provider marines throughout WWII although he was blind in a single eye. Theriault was additionally a widely known Portland avenue musician within the Nineteen Nineties, taking part in his accordion within the Previous Port and sporting a jaunty beret.

Within the interview, Theriault stated his mom all the time knew when he’d be going again to sea as a result of he’d play the tune “La Paloma” time and again in his room.

“Are you aware the lyrics,” Theriault requested Shipman, earlier than reciting them. “The day that I left my residence for the rolling sea, I went to my mom and stated, ‘pray to thy God for me.’”

The accordionist then launched right into a free-flowing model of the tune.

Theriault additionally stated he may bear in mind shopping for his first instrument, a harmonica, as a baby. It took him 5 weeks of not going to the films to save lots of the 50 cents it value him. It was for a college harmonica band his artwork instructor was beginning.

“I got here again per week later and confirmed him the best way to play it,” Theriault stated. “So, apparently, I had some aptitude.”

Theriault died in 2007, at age 82.

Shipman additionally met balladeer and storyteller Clermont “Clum” Spencer in Pittsfield.

In the course of the interview, Shipman requested Spencer why he thought younger folks weren’t as involved in conventional people music as they was once. In answering, Spencer pushed again on the notion.

“The younger folks, I don’t assume, have modified that a lot,” Spencer stated. “I believe there’s nonetheless a lot curiosity in conventional music as a result of folks really feel like they’re getting an actual story.”

Spencer stated he was all the time drawn to songs of battle, how folks obtained by in exhausting occasions.

“Whenever you take a look at historical past, you’re going to search out lies,” Spencer stated. “However if you actually look into it, this historical past, this people historical past, might be nearer to the reality.”

Spencer additionally instructed Shipman he used to gather his songs by speaking to older of us — identical to Shipman was attempting to do.

“I used to speak to a whole lot of outdated lumberjacks. I all the time did — however they’re getting tougher to search out,” he stated.

Listening again to the outdated recordings now, Shipman is glad he put within the effort looking for out his topics.

“I felt prefer it was time to take an audio snapshot of knowledge price hanging onto,” he stated.

The YouTube recordings, uploaded underneath his username mattshipman3385, add as much as about an hour, however Shipman stated he has many extra hours of unheard audio that he would possibly ultimately share on-line.

“It’s time for folks to listen to it once more,” he stated. “For individuals who didn’t know these of us however perhaps particularly for people who did.”

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