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Ramblin' In America
By Bill Schustik

Bill on stage Bill Schustik
Photos, above and below left: © Will Alexander

"Ramblin'" seems to be a restless urge Americans have to keep moving on, from one place to another. Maybe it's because of the first great "ramble" so many of our ancestors took across the "western ocean" to these shores. "There ain't but one thing grieves my mind, to leave my wife and child behind" (Western Ocean).

So much of American folklore is shaded with this restless, ramblin' quality. Contemporary troubadours created folk classics celebrating this theme (Tom Paxton, Ramblin' Boy, Wonder Where I'm Bound); Kris Kristofferson, Me And Bobby Mcgee). Some of these songs are revered as unofficial national anthems...This Land Is Your Land, and Power and Glory. The Broadway show tune Mariah, lamenting the lonely consequences of a wandering life "crossed over" to become a folk song of the sixties. Much earlier, Woody Guthrie sang of depression, the dust bowl, and a more desperate lure to the road. (So Long, Its Been Good To Know You). This dark, brave American humor is reflected from an even earlier song, born of the same folk. But this time the folk are their grandparents in covered wagons, crossing the wide valleys and tall mountains. (Sweet Betsy from Pike [1850]). These same broad valleys are praised in perhaps the greatest of all American ramblin' folksongs, Shenandoah. ...("Oh Shenandoah, I'm bound to leave you, Far away you rolling River...")

Blending the primitive chant of an 18th century revival camp meeting with the Appalachian mountain dulcimer is just one of Bill's varied musical tributes to a nation of wanderers (Wayfaring Stranger [1800]). He also pays tribute to the American Girl Scout movement, (The Happy Wanderer) spilling forth with a chorus of Swiss mountain yodels. The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a plain good time. A Bill Performing Liveplaintive American high plains yodel in Hobo's Lullaby echoes the plaintive cry of a half mile long freight train, still 200 miles from the continental divide. The song is a study of bravery, warm feelings and quiet desperation. Bill sings these songs as he explores America's yearn to wander.

You'll also hear stories. Magically true tales spun from the fleece of frontier America. There once was a truly bizarre but, nevertheless, beloved fellow named Jonathan Chapman. He wandered through a rough and beautiful frontier inadvertently sowing a measure of grace and benevolence with his apple seeds. He is credited with saving hundreds, maybe thousands of lives during some of the early violent Indian wars. The frontier people called him Johnny Appleseed.

Bill finishes his dramatic, musical adventure with his narrative song poem The Darnman. This is a true story of a lesser known but compelling patriarch, the wandering old Darnman of the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys.


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