Norman Kennedy - vocals
This performance from Scottish folk singer Norman Kennedy was captured on July 16, 1969 at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The vocalist takes on five traditional folk songs, and introduces the audience to "Mouth Music," a style from Western Scotland sung in Gaelic. Kennedy performs the entire set unaccompanied, armed with only his powerful voice, thick accent, and classic songs he grew up listening to. After a short introduction, Kennedy breaks into his opener "The Beggar Wench." While the title may not elicit pretty images, the song is actually quite beautiful, and, without the aid of any other instruments, Kennedy is able to keep the melody strong, which is no small feat.
Kennedy is known for his storytelling, and his on-stage banter is disarming and engaging, as he explains the back story behind many of the songs that he performs. Since very few of his recordings have been released, this performance is an important document of Kennedy's prodigious talent and good nature. This recording is a must-hear for fans of Celtic, Gaelic, and English traditional music.
Norman Kennedy is a folk singer who gained popularity in the '60s for singing traditional Scottish folk songs and telling folk tales. He began singing while working on his family's farm, and many of the same songs he learned as a youngster, he performed for audiences around the world. Kennedy moved to Aberdeen and started playing small venues in Scotland.
In 1964, Norman Kennedy was invited by Mike Seeger—a folk musician with a very impressive CV of his own, who heard him sing in Aberdeen—to come to Rhode Island to perform at the Newport Folk Festival. Kennedy obliged and actually ended up moving to the States in 1966, where he continues to live. Kennedy did not do a lot of recording during his career, but he was captured on some compilations, including two tracks ("The Forester" and "Drumdelgie") on Topic Records' English & Scottish Folk Balads. He also released a solo album called Scots Songs and Ballads.
Besides music, Kennedy is known for his weaving, done entirely on traditional handlooms. In 2003, he was the recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in the USA for his work both in music and in weaving.
Written by Alan Bershaw