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I don’t know where Snoose Boulevard is or was—presumably somewhere in the vicinity of Dinkytown*—but this album caught my eye for a couple of reasons. I was curious about the woman the Minneapolis Tribune called “a one-woman cultural revival.” (A pretty good description to judge by Ms. Harvey’s cv.) And anyone raised on Yogi Yorgesson would likely be tempted by titles like “Chikago,” “Pelle’s Yankee Doodle,” and “Holy  Yumpin’ Yiminy.” And then there was the six-point caption on the back cover: “The photograph of Anne-Charlotte on the front of the jacket shows, in the background, the paddlewheel of the University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat. This boat was used in the film THE EMIGRANTS, directed by Jan Troll.”† The extreme self-justification, along with the modest-to-the-point-of-plainness cover, are such typical Scandinavian responses to so revealing and public an act as recording and releasing a record.

But today, especially today, what has my ear is this sweet and simple rendition of “Tyggarre”—a song my sister remembers singing as a child to the residents of the Swedish old people’s home (as we used to call it) and making them cry.

(Happy birthday, Mary.)

Anne-Charlotte Harvey, “Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara” from Memories of Snoose Boulevard: Songs of the Scandinvian-Americans (Olle SP-223)

 

* Future dissertation topic: the influence of Swedish-American balladry on Bob Dylan. Surely even in his brief stay in St. Paul, Dylan would have encountered some of these songs, and I want some enterprising PhD candidate to limn the influence of “Pelle’s Yankee Doodle” on “Bob Dylan’s Dream” or “Flickan på Bellmansro” on “The Girl from the North Country.”

† Ah, yes, The Emigrants. I remember being dragged as a ten-year-old boy to see the film one afternoon—an afternoon that seemed to last as long as a trip across the Atlantic on a small steamer. A right of cultural passage almost as taxing as folk dancing.

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This is the one we waited for through a month of Sundays. This song, despite a rich indigenous tradition of Swedish hymnody, was the one we looked forward to. Partly it was because it was one of those rare songs for which all the stops on the organ were pulled out. Partly it was that it always seemed to fall on a spring Sunday following a searching and memorable sermon. Mostly it was because by the second verse the pastor had climbed down from the pulpit and began to bang out quite un-Scandinavian octaves on the grand piano. It rocked. In this way some of the rousing gospel spirit of the revival meeting survived into the Me Decade. Swimming in that ocean of sound, we wondered: who wouldn’t want to march to Zion?

For Glen V. Wiberg, on his 90th birthday

Congregation of the Ridgecrest (NC) Baptist Conference Center, “Marching to Zion”
from Various artists, Brighten the Corner Where You Are: Black and White Urban Hymnody (New World NW224)

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