Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) was the youngest of fourteen, ten of whom were girls who all slept in one room in the family's Cumberland Mountains, Kentucky, farmhouse.  The Ritchies were a musical family, steeped in the traditional songs of the area.  Two of her older sisters, Una and Mae, provided many songs for folk music collector Cecil Sharp, and her father had printed a book of old songs.  Music was a vital part of the Ritchie family and young Jean first learned folksongs and hymns through the oral tradition by way of her family members and neighbors. 

After graduating college with a degree in social work, she got a job in a social services agency in New York's Lower East Side.  She met and became friends with Alan Lomax, who recorded her for the Library of Congress.  Ritchie soon became an important part of the New York folksinging scene.  She preferred to sing without musical accompaniment but would occasionally play the guitar, autoharp, and Appalachian dulcimer.  The dulcimer became an intergral part of her music and by 1949, she decided to produce them with the help of her uncle-in-law and another relative, beginning the dulcimer revolution in American folk music. 

She received the 2002 National Heritage Fellowship (the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts) and was inducted into the Long Island music Hall of Fame.

Her pure, clear voice and love for traditional music will live on.

"Barbry Allen"


"L and N Don't Stop Here Any More"

"Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender"

"One I Love"

"Shady Grove"

"Nottanum Town"

"Black Is the Color"

"Hunt the Cows"

"See That Rainbow Shine"

"The Cherry Tree Carol"

"Blue Diamond Mines"

"The House Carpenter" (with Doc Watson)


"Wild Mountain Thyme" (with Tommy Makem)

"Christ Church Bells"

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