The quest to record and preserve the last vestiges of a fast-disappearing musical culture is vividly rendered in this account of a summer on the Bahamian island of Andros. In 1958, when Charters and his future wife, Ann Danberg, then in their early 20s, made their trek to the island, Andros was a barren, swamp-ridden backwater, with fewer than a thousand inhabitants, almost all descendants of Bahamian slaves. A budding music historian, Charters (The Roots of the Blues) had discovered a series of Alan Lomax's Library of Congress recordings of Andros folk songs from the late 1930s, and was so intrigued by the music--a fusion of 18th-century anthems and African polyphony--that he decided to seek out the musicians and their songs. Lugging a heavy, suitcase-sized tape recorder, and traveling on the tightest of budgets, he and Danberg finally made it to the tiny settlement of Fresh Creek. On the porch of their mosquito and crab-infested house there, they recorded the guitar music of Joseph Spence and the ballads and rhyming songs of John Roberts. Still, they were assured that their project wouldn't be complete until they had heard the voice of the legendary singer, Frederick McQueen. Charters's final chapters document their search for the elusive musician; he concludes with a rousing outdoor performance by McQueen. The elegiac, leisurely pace of this slim memoir evokes the moods and rhythms of a long-distant island summer. Song lyrics included. (Sept.) FYI: Smithsonian Folkways Records will issue a single CD selection of the music described in this book, under the same title.
Reviewed on: 11/01/1999 Release date: 11/01/1999 Genre: Nonfiction