‘Pa’s Fiddle’ Is Musical Homage to ‘Little House’ Books
On a chilly Friday night at Nashville's famed Loveless Barn, Randy Travis, Ronnie Milsap, Rodney Atkins, Ashton Shepherd and the Roys took a step back in time musically to tape 'Pa's Fiddle: America's Music,' an upcoming PBS special featuring the classic American songs woven throughout the Laura Ingalls Wilder books that spawned the hit TV show 'Little House on the Prairie.'
Among the evening's highlights were Rodney's animated performance of 'Gypsy King' and the Roys turning in their own unique version of 'Buffalo Gals.' "When they approached us and invited us to be part of this special we were honored and very excited," Elaine Roy tells The Boot. "To be included with such incredible artists as Ronnie Milsap and Randy Travis, among others, is a dream come true for us."
Randy also expressed his delight at sharing the stage with some of his favorite artists and also had kind words for the incredible band assembled to play that evening. "It's a pleasure to be [here] tonight with these players on this platform. I sit here in awe singing with all these guys," he said of the band , which was put together by acclaimed musician/producer Randy Scruggs and featured such notables as drummer Chad Cromwell, fiddler Matt Combs and Hoot Hester on mandolin.
The idea to create a television special that paid homage to the music in Wilder's books came at an event called LauraPalooza, an annual gathering of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans. "Laura loved music and in her eight books are 127 different songs that she talks about that her Pa played on the fiddle, thus the title of our program, 'Pa's Fiddle,'" says Dean Butler, who produced the show with Dr. Dale Cockrell, director of MTSU's Center for Popular Music.
"The biggest challenge of bringing the project together was just connecting the dots and getting all the elements together," says Dean. "It's different because we aren't asking people to come and do their music so we soon realized that the right people were going to say yes to us."
Elaine says it wasn't hard to step back in time musically and embrace a couple of vintage tunes. "The arrangements that were done on these songs for us felt very natural, not very different from bluegrass arrangements so we really enjoyed singing these songs."
Her brother Lee agrees. "For us being bluegrass, the songs were not far off of what we do. We really enjoyed doing them," he says. "The songs were chosen by the producers of the show, great songs that fit us well."
"Lee did 'Gum Tree Canoe,' which is a love song," Elaine says, "And I did 'Buffalo Gals,' but we changed it to 'Buffalo Guys.' It was a blast to sing."
In addition to some of the top names in country music, 'Pa's Fiddle' also features some of Christian music's top stars including Committed, a gifted a cappella group from Alabama that won season two of NBC's 'The Sing Off' and Dove award-winning vocalist Natalie Grant. Committed earned a standing ovation with their rendition of 'Battle Cry of Freedom.'
"It was definitely exciting, but keep in mind we came behind some really tough acts, like Randy Travis and Natalie Grant," says Committed's Tommy Gervais. "It was awesome. Everybody was really nice and into the music."
"It was such a wonderful experience," Natalie says. "It was an honor to share the stage with legends such as Randy Travis and Ronnie Milsap. But mostly, I loved being part of something that was so purely American. It was beautiful to watch the audience sing along to songs they have obviously held dear for years."
Music lovers everywhere will have a chance to enjoy that special evening of music when 'Pa's Fiddle' airs on PBS in June during the network's pledge drive. The music will also be available on CD June 5 with the release of 'Pa's Fiddle: American Fiddler.'