A double anthology presenting more than forty folk singers from Sydney Australia at the turn of the millenium. Produced by Miguel Heatwole
When I wrote The People Have Songs in late 1997 I celebrated a cultural practice of great importance to me - the singing session. For any who don’t know, sessions are an exhilarating do-it-yourself phenomenon found at all the best folk festivals. In this case however it was a particular weekly gathering at an inner Sydney pub called the Glengarry Castle that was my chief inspiration. Every Friday night a core group of regulars, visitors and passers-by would share (mainly folk) songs with each other, frequently filling the bistro with almost tangible layers of harmony.
The song’s enthusiastic reception led me to publish it as the title track of a compilation album that commemorates our singing tradition, its emotional power, its people and their egalitarianism. I kept the emphasis on singers who weren’t already established with albums of their own, and it was natural to include many of the Glengarry mob. The production process took nearly four years however, and during that time I kept finding more people with songs. The base of contributors widened - including visitors from Queensland and the ACT - and I struggled to limit the project to two compact disks.
The album’s content ranges from the purely traditional to contemporary folk and restyled popular songs. I was particularly excited about including several previously unpublished originals. This breadth of scope reflects the openness and inclusiveness of the folk tradition at its best. About half of the songs have come-all-ye choruses and were recorded in specially arranged sessions* that captured our spontaneity and sense of fun without the usual background of pub noise. The tracks are arranged on the album such that they often flow thematically into each other. This sometimes happens in reality: a roomful of singers might for example produce a series of songs about drinking [no, really!] or sheep-shearing, or how morally repugnant conservative politicians are.
Although every song was recorded to sound much as it would live, without special studio effects, I wouldn’t say that The People Have Songs is an exact recreation of a singing session. The speech, laughter and merriment that connect the songs in a real session like social glue was unfortunately beyond my reach. ‘The Black Hole’, a metaphysical entity the colour of Guinness which sucks lyrics from the minds of singers in mid flight is naturally nowhere to be found here. I decided against a ‘warts and all’ approach because although flaws are generally unnoticed or forgiven in a live experience, a recording can never be as good as being there, and ought to have high production values to compensate. You may however encounter the odd squawk or snigger here and there - human error, not humanity, has been edited out.
The Glengarry session has now passed into history. The NSW ALP’s venal decision in 1996 to allow hotels to have poker machines destroyed the habitat of this and quite a few other flowers of inner-city pub culture. This album is offered as a monument to that happy time and place, and in a small way as a guarantee that our tradition endures.
The People Have Songs is a double CD featuring over forty performers and songs.
The People Have Songs - Miguel Heatwole: firstname.lastname@example.org