Blair professor issues sequel to ‘Little House‘ album

Talking to Dale Cockrell about his new CD The Arkansas Traveler, it quickly becomes clear that his days as a novice in the music industry have ended.

“I was naïve at the beginning. I thought I would put out a CD and everybody would love it,” said Cockrell, professor of musicology at Vanderbilt‘s Blair School of Music. “Now I‘ve learned about distribution and I‘ve partnered with one of the most innovative label management companies in Nashville.”

Cockrell, with co-producer Butch Baldassari (adjunct associate professor of mandolin at Blair), released Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder in 2005. The concept was simple: present modern performances of songs from Wilder‘s beloved Little House books to serve as a valuable adjunct to the books and also offer insight into America‘s musical heritage.

“Eight out of 10 projects like this never recoup the money spent to make them,” Cockrell said. “We recouped.”

The Arkansas Traveler: Music from Little House on the Prairie will be released Nov. 14 on Cockrell‘s Pa‘s Fiddle Recordings. It builds on the success of the first album and features performances of all 18 songs embedded in the most popular book in the Wilder canon, Little House on the Prairie.

“The first CD has songs from all eight of the books, but the audience seems to want CDs pegged to the individual books,” Cockrell said. “So we‘ve done that.”

This time around, Cockrell has signed a deal with Thirty Tigers, a Nashville marketing and management company that specializes in helping small record labels compete. The CD is being distributed nationally by RED (Sony) Distribution and is also available at the Pa‘s Fiddle Recordings website,

The CD will debut with help from National Public Radio, whose member stations will air an hour-long holiday special dedicated to the music of the Pa‘s Fiddle project. Momentum on the first album has continued with the National Endowment of the Humanities adding it to its “We the People” collection as a work that can help strengthen students‘ understanding of American history and culture. The NEH is distributing Happy Land to 2,000 public, school and military libraries in the United States and overseas.

“The first album helped us locate our audience,” Cockrell said. “It was a review in Family Fun, a high circulation magazine by Disney that really set things off for us. Now we know to target parent magazines with this kind of product.”

The Arkansas Traveler, like Happy Land, features an impressive array of musicians. This time around the cast includes John Cowan, Andrea Zonn, Alison Brown, Jeff Black, Riders in the Sky, the Blair String Quartet and Elizabeth Cook.

The gorgeous instrumental “The Devil‘s Dream” features Baldassari and David Schnaufer, a beloved adjunct professor of dulcimer until his death on Aug. 23. It is Schnaufer‘s last recording.

In a brief departure from the rootsy sound of the two CDs, The Arkansas Traveler offers a bonus cut by Stan Link, assistant professor of the philosophy and analysis of music. “… in the pot” is a take on the children‘s rhyme “Pease Porridge Hot,” featuring three 8-year-old girls clapping and reciting the rhyme combined with everyday sounds, then manipulated by Link with computers.

“Pease Porridge Hot‘ turns up in the chapter ‘A Scream in the Night,‘” Cockrell said. “Is it a song or just a rhyme? What exactly is it? Since it wasn‘t clear how to do it as a song, I had the idea of doing some field recordings and turning it over to Stan to see what he could do with it.

“I‘m sure kids will like it, and perhaps it will get parents to open up their ears to music that‘s a little different. We‘ll see.”
The recruitment of an avant-garde artist such as Link is part a broader aim of the Little House CDs, to foster collaboration among musicians who rarely work together.

“In this second CD we‘ve gone a bit further toward providing a dialogue space where Nashville Music Row musicians and Vanderbilt Blair School of Music musicians can meet and engage and do something different,” Cockrell said. “A little bit of success makes it easier the second time through.”

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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