Singing Family of the Cumberlands
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 09/13/1988
The "singing family" of which Jean Ritchie writes is that of her parents, Balis and Abigail Ritchie, and their fourteen children, all born and reared in Viper, Kentucky, deep in the Cumberland Mountains. Jean, the youngest of the clan, grew up to be a world renowned folksinger. But she was hardly unique in the family. All the Ritchies sang—when they worked, when they prayed, when they rejoiced, even when tragedy struck.
Singing Family of the Cumberlands is both an appealing account of family life and a treasury of American folklore and folksong. In the deceptively simple but picturesque language of rural Kentucky, Jean Ritchie tells of a way of life now nearly vanished and of a gentle, upright people shielded from the outside world by forbidding mountain ranges, preserving the traditions of their forebears.
Foremost among those traditions were the British folksongs brought from England by James Ritchie in 1768. Even in a region noted for its wealth of folksongs, the Ritchies' inheritance was exceptional. Forty-two of the family's beloved songs are woven through Jean Ritchie's narrative, complete with words and often musical scores. Each song evokes a memory for Jean—hoeing corn, stirring off molasses, telling ghost stories, singing a dying baby to its eternal rest. Songs lightened the burden of poverty for the Ritchies and brought them joy and solace.
Illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Singing Family of the Cumberlands will delight readers in all walks of life.
Recollections at my birth, and some early memories of my own
Summer twilights on the front porch, and early episodes in my life which taught me that real life is a very hard thing
More childhood troubles. Of my Dad and his hard ways with us
Getting to know my father
Of my parents, their courting and marrying
Of our working together, and of Dad's schemes for making money
Memories of Graddad Aught and Granny Katty
Uncle Jason and seven generations of Ritchies
How some of our songs first came into the family
The Ritchies take Christmas
Of fall days and harvesting, and falling in love
Marriage, birth, and death within the family
The ways of the world
Ritchie writes as she sings—naturally and with an instinctive sense for rhythms. Her story of her rearing in the hill-circled town of Viper is simple, vivid, and moving.... A beautiful story of American living.~New York Herald Tribune
The Ritchies are rare peope, of sturdy poineer stock. Jean Ritchie sees them fondly, and the reader is likely to share her warmth.~New York Times Book Review
The remarkably gentle nature of the book seems even more remarkable when on considers its locale—the stern, rugged Cumberland Mountains, a stratified rock escarpment in the Appalachian Range. Seen through the gracious prose of Jean Ritchie, however, the cruel, forbidding mountains become kindly shields against the bustling outside work.~Saturday Review of Literature
The rich headnotes and photographs speak to the regional culture, the history of the songs and the family's life of simple, enduring values.~Come-All-Ye
What a pleasure it is to have this book back in print... each time I open it and re-read the lyrics, I can hear, in my mind's ear, Jean Ritchie's voice, as so many have heard it, clear, calm, and strong.~Paintsville Herald
Singing Family of the Cumberlands, her memoir about growing up in Perry County, is considered a gem of Appalachian literature.~Jason Howard, Kentucky Living
Birth, death, marrying, first love, going to the settlement schools—the full round of living is here. Jean writes with such tenderness at times that one murmures an apology for intruding on the family circle.~Chicago Tribune
"Ritchie writes as she sings—naturally and with an instinctive sense for rhythms. Her story of her rearing in the hill-circled town of Viper is simple, vivid, and moving.... A beautiful story of American living."~New York Herald Tribune
"The Ritchies are rare peope, of sturdy poineer stock. Jean Ritchie sees them fondly, and the reader is likely to share her warmth."~New York Times Book Review
"Her memoire about growing up in Perry County is considered a gem of Appalachian literature."~Kentucky Living