Keith McKenry - Australia's Lost Folk Songs

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Keith McKenry Australia’s Lost Folk Songs: the treasures that slipped through Percy Jones’ fingers

Review by Chris Spencer

A scholarly work of serious note. This book detailing about 50 Australian folk songs and fragments of many others is published by the Rams Skull Press, and produced under McKenry’s own Fanged Wombat productions. It’s # 25 of a series of papers known as Australian Folklore Occasional Papers, published by Rams Skull Press. McKenry’s aim was to present a range of folk songs that seemed to have slipped under the guard of contemporary Australian folk singers. He used fragments of songs published in the Sun News-Pictorial in 1940, where readers provided verses of songs they had heard or sung themselves. McKenry then sourced many of them putting them in context, detailing the history of each song, each fully referenced with words, music and guitar chords. The book is illustrated by, and dedicated to, the late Ron Edwards. There is a comprehensive bibliography, references used, cross references and annotated remarks. In his introduction, McKenry asserts that many early collectors of Australian folk songs, or bush songs, ignored songs that originated in urban areas. McKenry also notes that many songs from states other than the 3 main Eastern were not collected either. However in the early 40’s an appeal was put in the Sun News-Pictorial for readers to send in Australian folk songs they knew. Unfortunately the requestor did not follow up many of the leads which leads McKenry research to piece together scraps or fragments of songs. [This also leads to the book’s title, and not the Carlton footballer of the same name who may have dropped a few ditties during his illustrious career.] As a person who is interested in documenting and archiving Australian music, I welcome this book. It would be of interest to those of you who have an interest in learning new songs or learning about where folk songs originated.

This product was added to our catalog on Sunday 08 February, 2009.


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