Tuesdays are “new music” days at Apple’s iTunes Music store, so when I finished writing today, I took a look. There’s a lot of new stuff this week, and I do mean a lot. It looks like Apple’s managed to license pretty much the complete catalog of indie label Rounder Records. That’s pretty good news, from where I stand, since Rounder’s catalog includes lots of historic jazz, folk, and international traditional music, including the Alan Lomax Collection (available from Apple) and the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture, which includes people like Lead Belly and Jelly Roll Morton. Rounder owns and produces the Philo Records folkmusic label, so I was pretty happy to see them.
The name of one of the new Rounder bands caught my eye—”Blinky and the Roadmasters,” so I clicked the album title “Crucian Scratch Band Music.” The songs were rather pleasant reggae-influenced Caribbean. I listened to a couple samples from the album, then noticed the track “Matty Gru.”
The name, as well as the lyrics, (the short sample includes the refrain “It is time to rise and go home, Rise up little Matty Gru and go home”) reminded me of Child Ballad 81 (sorry about the midi) “Matty Groves,” (you might know it as Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard”) and with good reason. According to the Library of Congress, “Matty Gru” entered Blinky and the Roadmaster’s play list via the local St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands folk drama, “The King George Play.” After a bit more research I’ve learned that another St. Croix band is featured on Zoop Zoop Zoop, which includes not only Matty Gru, but The King George Play, which seems to be a local variant of the British mummer’s tradition.
You can download free legal MP3s of two songs from Blinky and the Roadmasters, “Ay Ay Ay” and “Cigar Win the Race” from Amazon, if you’re curious and don’t have access to Apple’s store.