Folk music is many things to many people, but there is one constant: connection to the people who came before us. Whether an artist is writing a new song in honor of an old tradition, or whether they’re digging up an old song and singing it anew, folk music is about the way one person or event impacts another over time.
This chain of impact is not unlike the way trees impact fisheries, or the way pesticides might impact marine life, and the way these things might result in a different kind of ecosystem somewhere down along the line.
And so it is with some sort of ancestral connection to the theme of the song that master banjoist Allison de Groot and prodigious fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves tackle, a song that was written in New Brunswick, Canada, more than a century ago. They were moved by an a capella recording of Canadian singer Marie Hare performing it in 1962. De Groot notes that Hare’s recording was a few years after “the Canadian government sprayed massive amounts of DDT around the Miramichi to fight the spruce budworm that was affecting the forestry industry.”
On de Groot and Hargreaves’s recording, their tight harmonies create an assertive dissonance that both honors the ecosystemic loss while warning against such mistakes in the future. The song’s lyrics are an adoring ode to the river. But knowing these artists had in mind the loss of so many salmon casts a somber net (pardon the pun) over the whole thing.
Suddenly, the beautiful sustain of harmony on the refrain’s “rolling tide” feels as mournful as it does beautiful and loving. Indeed, in matters of folk music and ecosystems, those sentiments are often intertwined.
“The Banks of the Miramichi” is from Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves’ new album, Hurricane Clarice, available HERE on March 25, 2022.
March 17th, 2022: NEW YORK CITY, NY: Irish Arts Centre presented by The Bluegrass Situation
March 19th, 2022: NEW YORK CITY, NY: Irish Arts Centre presented by The Bluegrass Situation
April 7th & 8th, 2022: SAVANNAH, GA: Savannah Music Festival
April 10th, 2022: FORT MILL, SC: Comporium Amphitheater presented by Charlotte Folk Society