For many of us, making some sort of music with our family is a happy memory. The songs may have been pop tunes sung around the piano, rounds sung to fill up long car trips, or simple lullabyes we heard as we fell asleep. Some families were lucky enough to have fiddlers or guitarists who would play for hours around the kitchen table. Church songs, Christmas carols, songs brought home from school or camp — our past is filled with songs.
Some people even made up their own songs to commemorate special occasions, family members or favorite places. Their verses often lacked complex poetry but were rich in honest emotion. These were songs that a family could treasure like an old scrapbook or photograph album.
Stan Rogers remembers his family's music, and on this album he sings their songs with loving respect — not as an exercise in personal nostalgia but as a performance meeting the high standards of his other records. Stan's extraordinary singing is majestic in its strength yet whimsical or tender when appropriate. The musical arrangements here, while kept fairly simple to suit the material, are still creative and impeccably played. And the songs — whether traditional or written by Stan's relatives — are all beauties.
I guess it's no surprise that Stan Rogers would do a record like this — and do it so well. Many of his original songs have a strong traditional flavor and a real sense of history; they are songs about people, often based on individuals Stan has met, and they tell stories in the style of old ballads. He has obviously been deeply influenced by folksongs, has mastered their themes and absorbed their values, and can sing them from the heart.
This superb album is a musical homecoming that shares with us some of Stan's roots, some of the affection and pride he feels for his family's songs. The music Stan heard at parties in his grandmother's kitchen when he was five years old — has served him well, for that environment encouraged his growth into the awesomely talented singer, songwriter. and musician that he is today.
FOLK TRADITION RECORDS was created to help artist and audience appreciate the joy of the basic acoustic approach to folk music that allows singer and song to be heard instead of just the arrangement.
Allowing artistic freedom within this context, Stan Rogers was the perfect performer to make the point. Stan not only made his "Favorite Album", but dipped deeply into the music of his family for a profound and touching musical journey. Let the editorials end and the music begin …
Where to begin? I didn't expect to be writing this. We lost Stan last week — tragically killed in an air accident. We lost him in mid-stride of a career that was seemingly just starting to take off. We thought he had so much yet to do when we recorded these tracks in October 1982.
I don't want to dwell on the loss and sadness. He did accomplish a great deal, and a project of this type was one that he wanted to do for a long time. We often discussed producing our own album, and we were intrigued with the idea of doing an album without the pressure on Stan to write new songs — an album for the fun of it.
We had to wait until we met a huge, quiet, and kind man named Tor Jonassen who provided the impetus and financing before it came to pass. He is responsible for this whole project and to him we owe our deepest thanks.
Thanks are also due to the Lanois brothers at Grant Avenue Studios, and to Greg Roberts — in many ways one of the best and most sensitive engineers with whom we've worked. Thanks too, to Diane Ariel Rogers for her valuable research. As always our parents were of enormous help and support in this project, contributing immeasurably to its completion.
As a final note I'd like to thank our uncle Prescott Rogers for the continued use of his violin, which has served me so well all these years.