MUSIC

Alice Osborn is a solo neo-folk, Americana singer-songwriter based in Raleigh, North Carolina, who performs her folk originals as well as upbeat covers from the ‘80s and ‘90s along with a few classics from John Prine and Johnny Cash. She’s heavily influenced by the music she grew up listening to as a teenager and young adult and these artists’ influences find their way in her work: Natalie Merchant, Willie Nelson, Richard Marx, Rob Thomas, Phil Collins, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Skirts In The Snow CD

Skirts in the Snow: Beyond the Tragedy of the Donner Party (2022)

Four years in the making, my album, Skirts in the Snow: Beyond the Tragedy of the Donner Party, features twelve original songs from the point of view of the women of the Donner Party–sometimes using their own words. Each album comes with a twenty-page booklet filled with the stories behind the music. Alice Osborn wrote and sang these songs and had the good fortune of having these musicians perform on the album: William Woltz (guitar), Steve Howell (banjo), Stevan Jackson (harp and banjo), Alan Black (cello), Daphna Rahmil (violin), Gerry Diamond (piano), and Matt Brechbiel (producer at Bella Music, bass, guitar, and vocals).

 
The Donner Party tragedy tested the limits of human endurance. What would you do to save your family?

Many of us know about the one of the worst western migration stories in our history: the Donner Party, 29 men, 19 women, and 43 children. They were farmers, merchants, and families who ventured West to California to start a new life, but half of the party did not survive. Those who did had to do the unspeakable to see the spring again in the harsh winter of 1846-1847 in the Sierra Nevada mountains. But who were they and why does their story still fascinate us today? The songs and stories about the Donner Party from the women’s perspective on Alice Osborn’s album bring this history to life showing their grit, civility, and heroism; not only did these survivors form the first families of California, theirs is a cautionary tale about man vs. nature, Indigenous peoples, and society. Theirs is also an inspiring story of how we can better treat our neighbors and be kind even when it’s difficult to do so.

“When It Rains in the Valley” (William Eddy)
 
The Donner Party survivors quickly learned that rain in the Sacramento Valley meant snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. William Eddy, after leading the Forlorn Hope group ninety miles, thirty-three days, staggered into Johnson’s Ranch January 17, 1847. When he asked for bread, fifteen-year-old Harriet Ritchie burst into tears after seeing the severely emaciated man. His dreadful condition and persuasive letter reached Sutter’s Fort despite the flooded conditions, thus initiating the First Relief’s rescue of the Donner Party—saving many lives. Unfortunately, Eddy’s entire family died before he returned to Truckee Lake two months later, but he was able to rescue four children, including the three orphaned Donner daughters.

When It Rains In The Valley - William Eddy

by Alice Osborn

“Skirts in the Snow” (Eliza Donner)

On Saturday, March 13, 1847, the four men of Third Relief reached Truckee Lake. William Eddy and William Foster both hoped that their sons were still alive in the Murphy cabin, but this was not to be. However, the three young Donner daughters were all healthy and ready to travel over the Sierras, along with Simon Murphy, Foster’s eight-year-old brother-in-law. Tamsen Donner, the girls’ mother, arrived at the same time that Eddy and the three other rescuers did. She knew that her girls had not left with the “rescuers” Cady and Stone—instead, Cady and Stone left behind the girls and the family’s keepsakes Mrs. Donner entrusted to them, such as silver spoons and silk dresses, and pocketed Mrs. Donner’s thousand dollars meant to transport the girls to safety. Mrs. Donner left her girls in Eddy’s care, minutes after he found out his own son had died. After a day of travel, the party found the Donner bundles left behind by Cady and Stone. The Third Relief threw the girls’ old dresses into the fire, while Eddy and Thompson, another rescuer who was handy with a sewing needle, fashioned new cloaks out of the former silk dresses.

Skirts In The Snow - Eliza Donner

by Alice Osborn

“When It Rains in the Valley” (William Eddy)
 
The Donner Party survivors quickly learned that rain in the Sacramento Valley meant snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. William Eddy, after leading the Forlorn Hope group ninety miles, thirty-three days, staggered into Johnson’s Ranch January 17, 1847. When he asked for bread, fifteen-year-old Harriet Ritchie burst into tears after seeing the severely emaciated man. His dreadful condition and persuasive letter reached Sutter’s Fort despite the flooded conditions, thus initiating the First Relief’s rescue of the Donner Party—saving many lives. Unfortunately, Eddy’s entire family died before he returned to Truckee Lake two months later, but he was able to rescue four children, including the three orphaned Donner daughters.

“Are You Men From California or Do You Come From Heaven” (Mrs. Levinah Murphy and the mothers of the Donner Party)

by Alice Osborn

Alice’s superb songwriting is highlighted in the tracks below. Give them a listen.

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