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Wayfaring Strangers


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About the Author

Fiona Ritchie is the founder, producer, and host of US National Public Radio's The Thistle & Shamrock; she was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2014.

Doug Orr is president emeritus of Warren Wilson College, North Carolina, where he founded the Swannanoa Gathering music workshops.


"Songs can take us on extraordinary journeys. They respect neither border nor time, and by following them, we can chart the movement of generations of people. In Wayfaring Strangers, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr take a long look at this story using Scottish songs as their compass. It's a fascinating and often surprising ride." - Cerys Matthews, Welsh folksinger, author, and broadcaster

"The story of the Scots-Irish 'carrying stream' of music that found its way to Appalachia is also the story of the Cash family. William Cash emigrated from Scotland in the mid-17th century, and the next generation drifted down to Virginia. The songs that went with them were captured, in part, a couple of centuries later by my stepmother's family, The Carter Family. My own musical DNA is bound with these songs - the narrative ballads, the melancholy rhymes, the ancient stories retold in melody again and again. Except for my family, there is nothing I love more than being a part of the 'living tradition' captured in this book." - Rosanne Cash

"[Ritchie and Orr] strike all the right chords in this pleasantly tuneful survey of the history of the evolution of Scottish music in Appalachia." - Publishers Weekly

"Non-musicians will have no trouble appreciating this work's context, and even those well versed in the subject will find new insights here." - Library Journal

"Filled with maps, woodcuts, paintings, and photographs of impossibly picturesque Scottish and Irish locales, the book is a treasure trove of imagery and information. Music lovers, prepare to be transported." - BookPage

"A readable and epic tale tracing the flow of Scottish music. . . . [Ritchie and Orr] tell a story remarkable for its breadth and depth, conveying the drama of Scottish emigration via Ulster to Appalachia, by a people who clung to the music and song they held dear, and bequeathed it to America." - Scottish Life Magazine

"Exploring the historic ties between Scotland, Ireland, and Appalachia through music, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr weave together the story of migration through the lyrics of ballads and other music that reflects on this history. Wayfaring Strangers will touch a powerful chord in the lives of readers who appreciate the music of Scotland and Appalachia, as well as those whose families have ties to this rich historical journey." - William Ferris, author of The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

"In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and suggest that it should be on an essential read list for anyone with an interest in songs and traditions. It will inform and resonate with them and add colour to their enjoyment when singing or listening to these songs. It is deep enough for the serious scholar yet light enough to be absorbed by anyone and guaranteed to fill gaps in the average person's knowledge. It breathes life in the subject; a solid read yet particularly easy to pick up and explore in parts. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout and for around the price of a couple of CDs, it is remarkable value for a lavish book with over 330 pages and a 20 track CD. This book couldn't have been written by anyone without a lifetime of experience and love of the subject and has set a new standard for projects of this nature." - Pete Heywood, Living Tradition

"Represents an extraordinary feat of research, together with copious interview material. . . . a joy to read from cover to cover, it also rewards just dipping in and out." - fRoots

"[Doug] Orr, along with friend Fiona Ritchie, host of the "Thistle & Shamrock" radio show, has set out the history and lore of the music that came with the Scots-Irish immigrants in a landmark book Wayfaring Strangers." - Asheville Citizen-Times

"This handsome volume is both a story of a musical evolution and a time capsule that preserves a nearly forgotten era of mountain life." - WNC Magazine

"A must to any fan of folk or bluegrass." - Wilmington Star-News

"Who better to write this book than Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr? They have each spent a lifetime intensely interested in the same thread of music from opposite sides of the ocean. The music connected them with each other, I suspect, long before they ever met, just as it connects all of us across miles and time, through generations and immigrations, anchoring us to the story of our ancestors and, ultimately, ourselves. These two are the perfect authors to trace the journey this music has made and to paint the picture of the living, breathing stream that it is." - Kathy Mattea, singer-songwriter and teacher

"Wayfaring Strangers will touch a powerful chord in lives of readers who appreciate the music of Scotland and Appalachia." - William Ferris, author of The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists and Give My Poor Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

"In telling the story of the Scottish diaspora in Appalachia through music, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr have captured a process of adaptation and change that has created a traditional culture that continues to flourish." - Ron Pen, author of I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles

"History's a strange beast. In the absence of illumination by the lives of real men and women, it can on occasion be reduced to the prosaic. When that happens, often the gaps are filled with kitsch, with a sentimental mire of misunderstanding that does more harm than good. This book isn't like that. It's full of hard fact that's been turned into the best kind of history by even harder poetry and honest melody. Nothing more is needed. To tie several centuries of peoples' lives together, across oceans and mountains, to make sense of their experiences and aspirations by the tenacious strands of their own music and song-that is a real achievement." - Brian McNeill, Scottish singer-songwriter, producer, and novelist

"Wayfaring Strangers is a wonderful book. Everything about it, from its beautiful production and lavish illustration, to the 20-track CD that comes with it, to the foreword by none other than Dolly Parton and the testimonials by such luminaries as Cerys Matthews and Roseanne Cash, say that this is both a work of scholarship and a highly entertaining read. For anyone interested in how music crosses continents and shapes identities, Wayfaring Strangers is a treasury of stories and information, not to mention a treasure to own." - Jamie Jauncey, writer, musician

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