Appalachian balladeer and folklorist Jean Ritchie possessed a high lonesome sound ornamented with trills and quivers in the “good old way” of her Kentucky forbearers. A member of one of the great Cumberland Mountain ballad-singing families, she was able to learn hundreds of Appalachian ballads and folk songs as part of an oral tradition that stretched back to the British Isles. Often accompanying herself on the lap dulcimer, she brought her repertoire to New York City in the late 1940s, influencing many artists in the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene. In spite of the fact that she preferred singing unaccompanied, the delicate sound of the dulcimer became one of her signatures, leading to a surge in the use of the instrument among folk music enthusiasts worldwide. Ms. Ritchie also published protest songs about conditions in the mines of Kentucky, and traveled to Britain and Ireland on a Fulbright Scholarship to collect ballads and trace the origins of the Appalachian tunes she knew so well. “The Mother of Folk,” as she was often called, brought ballads and work songs to folk festivals across the country in an effort to preserve and promote the traditional music of her native Appalachia.
Floridiana Article: Jean Ritchie Dies at 92