Sharyn McCrumb,
The Songcatcher
(New English Library, 2001)

I love reading, I love folk music, I love mystery, I love social history and I love a little of the supernatural. This book must have been written with me in mind.

Sharyn McCrumb has taken a great idea and built a series of books around it. Where does our folk music come from? In the Ballad series she weaves fascinating stories -- part fact and part fiction -- around some well-known titles. This is the only book in the series that I have found so far, but I am seeking out the others with a passion.

The Songcatcher book combines the Scottish origins of the McCourry family from the abduction of a small boy on a lonely beach to folk-singing star Lark McCourry in the modern U.S., alongside tales of spirits and second sight. I loved the historical details of life in Scotland and the later life onboard ship as it sailed the oceans. The tale of McCourry and his descendants makes a book in itself.

McCrumb then incorporates the way a folksinger seeks out new material for an album and gives us another epic, complete with plane crash and search. She shows a great feeling for history in descriptions of the variations in the name of Derry and Londonderry in Ireland. Her knowledge of more recent history and music is epitomised in quoting Johnny Cash's description of war as "a slow walk in sad rain."

This book is a goldmine of information on life, history and music. It can be read as a thriller or a history book.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 21 February 2004

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