FolkWorld #74 03/2021
© Trespass Music

Across the Western Ocean

Music that Entertains and Educates

Trespass Music is pleased to release "Commonplaces" by Rhode Island acoustic duo Partington & Sweeney. Partington & Sweeney have joined forces as a music duo devoted to folk and popular traditions in American music and the arts.

1. The Manchester Mule Spinner (Partington) recalls a young mill worker who leaves Britain’s 19th century Cottonopolis (another name for Manchester, UK) for a new life in the factories of New England where mechanized spinning tied a thread to the future and the fabric of the American dream. 2. Times Are Getting Hard, Boys is an American folksong from the Dust Bowl Era (1930-40). Severe drought and the destruction of prairie grasslands gave rise to dust storms that damaged the agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies. 3. Young but Daily A Growing is a traditional ballad that crossed the Atlantic with early settlers in America. It is sparse and spare in detail, and its musical setting casts a dark shadow over a bride’s ambitions. 4. Deer Island (Partington) is an island in Boston Harbor where thousands of Famine era Irish were quarantined. Emigrants and exiles, sick and dying, perished in great numbers only to be buried beneath wooden markers that weathered away. 5. New England's Daughter (Partington) is part historic figure and part tragic character stitched from the legacy of young mill girls: the doffers, pickers, and burlers who faced or faced down foremen and factory owners among the looms and spindles. 6. Like Bread Upon the Water (Partington) is drawn from the pages of the Blackstone River Valley autobiographical novel Three Holes In The Chimney. Young Ann May reflects on harsh treatment on a Yankee farm where she is sent after the death of her mother. 7. So Here’s To You (Alan Bell) was inspired by commonplaces of the North West of England where a parting glass is shared, friendships are long, and absence is short.

Partington & Sweeney "Commonplaces", Trespass Music, 2020

Commonplaces is inspired by the centuries-old practice of commonplacing or recording wisdom and ideas for later recollection in notebooks that bear the name "commonplaces."

Mary Lee Partington

Artist Video

Mary Lee Partington & Ed Sweeney tell stories of immigrants, farmers, and factory workers during 19th & 20th century America, where self-educated mill girls earn their own keep, an orphan endures to tell her tale, where old ballads have taken root and where migrants go farther west. These songs and tunes stand on common ground where old ballads have taken root and where the future will send folks ever further westward into the dusty testing ground of the 1930s and beyond.

Commonplaces features Mary Lee Partington on Vocals, Ed Sweeney on 6 String Guitar and 5 String Banjo. Guest Artists: Sheila Falls on Fiddle and Torrin Ryan on Uilleann Pipes, Flute, Whistle.

Mary Lee Partington is an award-winning New England-based singer, writer, and event-maker. Mary Lee was the voice, songwriter, and tunesmith for the internationally acclaimed New England-based group Pendragon for more than 25 years. In addition, Mary Lee's award-winning music was featured in the National Park Service series Along the Blackstone. She performs as part of American folk music duo Partington & Sweeney or in ensemble with All-Ireland fiddler Sheila Falls & All-Ireland piper Torrin Ryan.

Ed Sweeney honors people and their history by presenting music that entertains as well as educates. Through his musical expertise, breadth of knowledge, and wonderful sense of humor, Ed helps listeners come to understand the motivations, stories, and culture that have made us who and what we are today.

For almost 40 years, Ed has performed nationally and internationally in schools, clubs, tea houses, at festivals, house concerts, theatres — almost any venue imaginable. Ed’s concerts and recordings have earned accolades throughout the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and parts of Asia. Reviewers call him “a master of unpretentiousness” and “delightfully fresh.” Ed performs a wide-ranging repertoire (traditional, blues, old-timey, ragtime, Christmas, Beatles, Bach, O’Carolan…) on 6- and 12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, and fretless banjo. He primarily plays finger-style guitar; his style of banjo playing is known as clawhammer, frailing, or old-timey.

Ed started learning rock guitar from blind blues guitarist Paul Pena after hearing him play at his high school’s coffee house. A few months later Ed, playing pop hits (Neil Young, CS&N), opened for Andy Cohen who, after the show, took Ed aside and introduced him to a whole new genre of music – country blues and traditional songs. That meeting ignited a curiosity and passion that continues to this day. Ed became Providence College’s first music major by creating a curriculum, then finding instructors who not only taught him how to play traditional music but also where to find it.

Four decades later, Ed is still exploring and building new avenues and partnerships for sharing the music of many peoples. Other recordings are instrumental Americana and instrumental Christmas, including Inside Fezziwig’s, which USA Today called “the best folk Christmas release of the year.” Ed’s music also can be heard on television soundtracks, as background music in Disneyland Paris, and in the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. Ed has been featured on NPR and other radio networks.

What Lies Ahead
1. K’ang Ting Love Song/The Star of County Down - Chinese/Irish - Pipa, 5 String Banjo, Cello, Tabla, Guitar, Appalachian Dulcimer, Fiddle. 2. Veni Creator Spiritus/The Lourdes Hymn - Gregorian Chant/French - Solo Guitar. 3. Old Six Beats - Traditional Chinese - Pipa and 5 String Banjo. 4. Liu Yang River - Traditional Chinese - Solo Pipa. 5. Miss Hamilton - Irish/Scottish - Guitar & Appalachian Dulcimer. 6. Send Me a Thornless Rose - Yang Wei - Pipa and Tabla. 7. Meadowlands - Russian - 12 String Guitar - Also known as Song of the Plains going back to the 15/16th century. 8. O Come O Come Emmanuel – Gregorian Chant - Pipa and 5 String Banjo. 9. Bang Chhun-hong (Longing for a Spring Breeze) – Taiwanese - Pipa, Guitar, Cello, Fiddle, Tabla, Appalachian Dulcimer. The unofficial anthem for Taiwan written during the time of Japanese occupation. 10. Simple Gifts - American - Pipa and 5 String Banjo - A Shaker Song (The Shakers did not have hymns) written in 1848. 11. Talk About Suffering - American - Pipa & Guitar - An a capella song from a 1964 Doc Watson album. 12. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Scotland the Brave/Sourwood Mountain - Bach/Scottish/American - 5 String Banjo Medley. 13. Please Stay with Me Friend from Far Away - Chinese - Pipa. 14. Snowflake Reel - American - Pipa & 5 String Banjo. 15. Home on the Range - American - Pipa and Guitar.

Ed Sweeney & Yang Wei "What Lies Ahead", Trespass Music, 2015/2021

Trespass Music is also pleased to re-release Ed Sweeney & Yang Wei (with members of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble) album "What Lies Ahead". "What Lies Ahead" represents a musical collaboration where Eastern and Western traditions meet. The timing and the songs are uplifting and refreshing in these times.

Ed Sweeney & Yang Wei

Artist Video

Our introduction to one another was short and to the point: “Yang Wei, this is Ed. He plays banjo. Ed, this is Yang Wei. He plays pipa. You two should talk.” It was 2006 in Chicago, and talk we did ­– that night throughout dinner and for hours the following day. A few months later in Rhode Island, we picked up where we left off. This time, dinner was at my home, where we swapped stories and songs and discovered how much we enjoy one another’s music, musicianship, and company.

The following spring we presented our first concert together. Inspired by that collaboration, we headed into the recording studio to capture a few ideas. Ensuing concerts and studio sessions expanded our initial concepts – a potpourri of traditional music from China, the United States, Russia, Ireland, traditional hymns, and Gregorian chant.

Yang Wei has been celebrated worldwide, performing for and inspiring audiences throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States. His musical education began at the age of 6, and by age 18 he performed as a soloist with the National Shanghai Orchestra. In 1989 Yang Wei received the ART Trophy First Prize for the International Chinese Musical Instruments Competition in the Young Professional Pipa Section. In 1996, he moved permanently to the United States, making his home in the Chicago area.

In addition to performing as a soloist with orchestras around the world, he has toured with the acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble since 2000 performing alongside world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Also an educator, Yang Wei has been an Artist-in-Residence for the Art Institute of Chicago, received a Fellowship in Ethnic and Folk Arts from the Illinois Arts Council, and was a resident artist at the Humanity Institute of the University of Michigan. Yang Wei's artistic perspective honors the musical heritage of his homeland in China but also combines the Western influences of his new home. He is committed to sharing his music with the community around him and continues to be interested in exploring the possibilities created by blending his eastern instrument with Western influences and themes.

Today you might watch Ed in a solo concert of eclectic songs and styles. Or you might watch him perform with Yang Wei as they mix Eastern and Western Traditional music. Perhaps you’ll watch him and Mary King combine the songs of Stephen Foster with the wit of Mark Twain. Or maybe you’ll listen as Mary Lee Partington and Ed, as Partington & Sweeney, weave a musical story of immigrants and their traditions as they moved west.

Photo Credits: (1ff) Ed Sweeney, Mary Lee Partington, Yang Wei (unknown/website).

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