sandy laprelle, elizabeth laprelle
sandy laprelle, elizabeth laprelle
Another good night of music at Willard Gayheart's gallery, the Front Porch, home of the weekly Fiddle and Plow show. Elizabeth LaPrelle has been singing the old songs with her mother, Sandy, since childhood, made her first recording at 15, a beautiful album, and has become one of the singers of the old-time songs of our region. I've been hearing her music since her first recording, which came out while I had the radio show where I've played her music quite a lot. I would have played the albums all the way through. That's what I did when I came upon something new from the region I knew my listeners would love whole-heartedly. Elizabeth's singing took me back to those days that I miss like I miss a good friend who died. To follow that thinking brings sorrow at first, then gratitude for the opportunity to play mountain music to mountain people in the last years of mountain culture in our county. Seeing mountain culture go away is cause for sorrow as well, another friend dying, while at the same time is cause for gratitude that I had the opportunity to live in mountain culture as it was in its last years, and appreciate it.
I'm happy we have Elizabeth laPrelle in this region of the mountains. She's from Rural Retreat, Virginia, not far from Wytheville, a beautiful part of the mountains. The Smokies have Sheila Kay Adams, and the Central Blue Ridge has Elizabeth laPrelle carrying the old ballads, keeping them alive, revealing their beauty at performances. She sang what I took to be the complete lyrics to the old Irish song, Matty Grove. I suppose it's Irish. It sound like it. That's the song Ralph Stanley recorded with a drone fiddle behind him. Her version was much longer than Stanley's. Ralph Stanley's is the definitive version of that song for me. It was all the more interesting to hear the lengthier version Elizabeth laPrelle sang. Her rendering of the song has its own integrity.
Elizabeth's mother, Sandy, sang with her about half the songs. They make a good duo. Sometimes I'd see Sandy beaming that her daughter is such a good singer and is so dedicated to the music. Over my lifetime I've seen two women friends raise their daughters and saw their maternal satisfaction when their girls grew up into extraordinary people. One of the girls recently got her PhD in some kind of advanced biology, and the other just got her MD. I saw in Elizabeth's mother the same relaxed feeling that her daughter is not living in a dump with a crackhead and babies, an ever-present danger mothers know well. In Elizabeth and Sandy I saw mother and daughter who are friends, like each other's best friend. It gives me a good feeling to see a happy parent/child relationship. I had a chance to talk with Sandy a few minutes during intermission and she seemed like one of my friends, somebody I've known a long time and haven't seen in awhile. During our conversation I felt respect for her as a woman, as a mother, as a singer.
Elizabeth laPrelle carries the old songs for her generation into the future. It's a powerful gift she has to know all the songs she knows already and the songs she'll learn in time. The old ballads living in somebody who performs them beats lyrics printed on paper, like good old hymns are so much better to hear sung than to read them. In the singing is their life. Elizabeth has what it takes to bring a song to life. She sings the mountain way, from the heart, tells the old stories with the emotion that is in the song. Like Sara Carter, Elizabeth doesn't emote to get the feeling of the song across. It's her singing from the heart that carries the song. I like about somebody like Elizabeth laPrelle that she is the antithesis to the common sayings that start, The kids these days.... Not all kids these days are slackers on crystal meth. The fact is, very few are. I've seen so many people in their 20s now in a spin not knowing what to do or how to get started at anything. Elizabeth is one of the kids these days who has found her completion, found, in fact, her way early in her life.