Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Locally Grown Rye

Wild Rye is defined in Wikipedia as "a term used for several grasses. They are natively found in parts of North America (as well as elsewhere) and are valuable in the control of exotic invasive plants and as a rotation crop."  A pretty boring description from a non-botanist's point of view.  Especially because the name itself connotes a certain image - full of waving tufted seed heads in a plains-y kind of land.  Wide open spaces and big skies.  The kind of place where a certain Mimsical dog would streak around with wild abandon until finally plopping down panting in the shade of a shrub.

The music that arises out of such a vision is also tinged with wildness and abandon that comes from the roots of the land, which is a reason that I think the locally grown band, Wild Rye, is aptly named.  The roots of this group's music reach into Irish and Scottish traditional fiddle music with strong influences from modern takes on the genre from the likes of Alisdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, and Hanneke Cassell (you can see a clip of Natalie and Hanneke playing at  Which isn't to say that the band's influences are entirely Celtic, because they've pulled Americana and rock songs into their unique style, including a great version of REM's "Driver 8." 

While there may be some resistance or perhaps bias in some quarters to being defined by the term "Celtic," I thought it was interesting to do a quick look at the history, Wiki-style, to find that the heartland of Celtic culture appears to have been southern France and: 
"Genetics suggests the Celts were descendants of people who originated in southwest Asia between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago.[7][8] Celtic origin legends recorded in Medieval Scotland and Ireland suggest a possible beginning in Anatolia and then to Iberia via Egypt. It has been noted [9] that the distribution of the gene for lactase persistence apparently originating near the Baltic Sea between 4,800 and 6,000 BP indicates a spread from there to both the British Isles and to Iberia."  
An interesting article, all in all, particularly given that one of the citations is entitled, "How did pygmy shrews colonize Ireland?"  But I digress from my point, which is that, given the historical spread of Celtic society and the more recent (the potato famine being recent in the grand scale of things) spread of the Celtic influence to the music and dance of southeastern states in the US, there are few cultures today that can't claim some tie to this heritage. 

And I think Wild Rye, the band, pays homage to these deep and varied roots by blending traditional musical elements with modern texts and tunes.  Take a quick listen.  Imagine those gently waving tufted seed heads...imagine that touch of wildness and abandon....

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