West Africa at the British Library – Free CD

November 26, 2015 by

The below link offers sound samples from all over West Africa.


Posted on November 20th, 2015 in Recent posts by .

West Africa British Library Bonus CDWest Africa: Word, Symbol, Song showcases music and literature from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today. It aims to demonstrate how West Africans have harnessed the power of words to build societies, sustain religious belief, drive political movements, fight injustice and express creative ideas. Recordings show living traditions, including epic narratives right through to West African rap. The tracks here loosely follow the exhibition’s storyline to highlight historic and unique unpublished recordings in the Library’s collections.

West Africa at the British Library is a free covermount CD exclusively available with the December 2015 (#113) edition of Songlines.


Chartwell Dutiro

November 26, 2015 by

Text taken from a BBC interview with Chartwell, more here:

I started playing mbira when I was four at the protected village, Kagande, about two hours drive from Harare where my family was moved by the Salvation Army missionaries. Even though the missionaries banned our traditional music, I learned to play from my brother and other village elders. My mother also encouraged me as she used to sing to me. The mbira is a traditional sacred instrument of the Shona people, one of the main tribes of Zimbabwe. We play this music in ceremonies that last the whole night long. Some people sing, some dance and others get possessed by the spirits of our ancestors who give daily guidance to the living people.

The mbira is a small instrument made out of hand-forged metal pieces which are placed on a board covered with a metal plate full of sea shells. That gives it a nice buzzing tone. When I play I stroke the metal with my thumbs and right index finger. I usually place the mbira inside a calabash which is a gourd like a pumpkin. This gives it a fuller echoey sound.

It was not easy growing up in a colonized country where the missionaries discouraged our ancestral music. For starters, I was called ‘Chartwell’ rather than ‘Shorayi’, my Shona name which means “You can underestimate me if you wish”. They were suspicious of our musical gatherings which they figured were political meetings so they condemned the music as devil’s music. Yet I more often than not missed Sunday school because I’d have been up all night playing the mbira. This music is every thing to me – you just can’t talk about Zimbabwean history without it. We carry the spirit of our ancestors through the music. During the liberation struggle our people fled to Mozambique where they had the spirit mediums guide them through the music.

We sing all the time – if it rains we sing, if we want the rain to ease off, then we sing. When a baby’s born we sing. If someone dies we sing. We sing when we’re happy and when we’re sad. I wake up in the morning with a song and start yodeling away with spontaneous lyrics about what I’ll be doing that day or maybe about what I dreamed of last night. It’s right in my soul and expresses exactly how I feel at a particular moment in time.

Marenje performed by Chartwell Dutiro from his 2006 album Chivaraidze

Camille Feruzi

November 25, 2015 by

Text from http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com

Camille Feruzi was born in Stanleyville in 1912. At a very young age he taught himself to play the accordeon, following in his father’s footsteps. When his father was at work the young Camille used to secretly practise. At the age of 15 he moved to Leopoldville, but it wasn’t until ten years later that he started his career in music. Together with a sax and clarinet player from Guadeloupe he started a musical group, with apart Camille’s accordion and the Guadeloupean’s sax & clarinet a piano and a guitar. The ensemble played in bars and at private dances.

Read more at the excellent worldservice blog: http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com/2010/06/veux-tu-danser-avec-moi.html

Siluwangi Wapi Accordeon? by Camille Feruzi with Franco & TPOK Jazz (1972)

S. E. Rogie

November 24, 2015 by

S.E. Rogie, (Sooliman Rogers) was born in the 1940s in Sierra Leone where he learned to play guitar while still a youngster. He grew up during the formative years of highlife and his palm wine style of playing fit right into the genre. He supported himself as tailor but by the 60s he was ready to go out as a musician on his own. Singing in four languages his songs, ‘Go Easy With Me’, and Koneh Pehlawo’ were big hits. But his biggest hit was the song ‘My Lovely Elizabeth’ which was covered by countless artists and is still know all along the West Coast of Africa. The song was eventually picked up by EMI and that led to a great advancement in his music and in his recordings.

In 1965 Rogie formed a band, the Morningstars, who acompanied his acoustic guitar with electric intruments and the local sounds of African percussion. In 1967 he traveled to Liberia, and in 1970 he began the first of sixteen years in the U.S. performing his African Folk and Cultural Programs in Elementary and High Schools all over California. He received awards from the United States Congress and Senate, the City of Oakland, and the City of Berkeley. In 1988 he returned to his homeland. He died in 1994, just after his release of the album, Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana.

Nyalima Nyapoi by S.E. Rogie from the 1994 album “Palm Wine Guitar Music” from Mississippi Records

Remembering Hiter Colvin – who recorded Monroe Stomp (Stamp)

November 23, 2015 by

hiter 78

from J. Michael Luster. Remembering Hiter Colvin, the Fiddle King of Oilfield and Gum Stump. In Shreveport Sounds in Black and White, by Kip Lornell, Tracey Laird.

The great Hiter Colvin was born in 1900, one of nine children, on Boardtree Creek near the community of Fellowship, northeast of Dubach, Louisiana. His father, Thomas Mayberry Colvin, both a fiddle at a pawnshop in Monroe and told the children that whichever one of them could play it best would get to keep it. Hater earned the fiddle, and the fiddle would eventually earn him the only livelihood he would ever know. Hiter used the fiddle to follow the oilfield money, moving first to the country around El Dorado, Arkansas, where in 1926 her married Eloise Torrence, and eighteen year-old girl from nearby Sandy Bend. The young couple followed the various oil booms and would have three children, including their first, Hyter Colvin Jr (so he spells it) born at Smackover in 1927, before the huge oilfield discovered at Kilgore, Texas, drew them there about 1935.

Hiter Colvin had already been to Texas once and come as close to striking it rich as he would. In October of 1929, he and his guitarist friend Herbert Sherrill traveled to Dallas and recorded six sides for Victor records. These tunes, “Indian War Whoop,” “Monroe Stomp” (spelled “Stamp” on the record), “Dixie Waltz,” “Old Lady Blues,” “Hiters Favorite Waltz,” and “Rabbit up a Gum Stump,” his evocative showpiece said to be a portrayal of the dogs pursuing rabbits down along Boardtree Creek, reveal him to be a fiddler of extraordinary skill. The records sold well for Victor and the company even ran a 2-page display ad in one of its catalogs with Jimmie Rodgers pictured on one page and Hiter Colvin on the other, but Colvin saw little money from them and refused to record again. Beyond his playing, Colvin was also a consummate showman who played the fiddle behind his back, behind his head, on the floor, and he always drew a crowd and sometimes played on the radio out of El Dorado. Jimmie Rodgers himself came to town, trying to convince Colvin to join him on the road, but the fiddler refused, opting instead to keep company with his buddy Sherrill or with a peg-legged guitarist and follow the oilfield money. Before long, Sherrill too headed for Kilgore.

In Texas, Colvin continued to play for boomtown dollars and cleaned up at local fiddle contests. His honky-tonk dances were legendary. On one occasion, he played at a highway nightspot while the celebrated Light Crust Doughboys played to a largely empty house at another across the road. At the end of the evening, the Doughboy bus pulled into the yard at the Colvin house trying to get the man they couldn’t lick to join them, but again Colvin chose to stay put to play in the clubs and sometimes even in the Pentecostal church. He remained in Kilgore for 7 or 8 years during which time his marriage broke up and his family moved back to Sandy Bend. He followed them to Arkansas and there was a reconciliation that lasted a couple of years, but they split for good in 1938.

In the years following his divorce, Hiter Colvin returned home to Louisiana, to the area which had earned the nickname, “the Pint Country” because of the availability of vernacular whisky, where he continued to play to packed dance floors backed up by his nephew Bill Bagwell or others. Back home, folks called him “Pee Wee” for his small size, but remember that the fiddle he carried in a flour sack had a sound that would carry an unusual distance. Hunters in the woods would pause to listen to Colvin playing at some far off dance. E.N. “Nig” Robertson, who used to squirrel hunt with the diminutive fiddler himself, remembers walking the five miles to Bernice to attend a Colvin dance. Times were hard and when Colvin passed the hat he got only 19 cents. “Alright, I’m going to play you nineteen cents worth of music and then we’re going to pass it again,” and Hiter cut loose with his fiddler’s tricks. Owen Perry tells that on riding home horseback from such a dance, Colvin would frequently stop and serenade a sleeping farmer named Campbell who loved a particular waltz and would be good for a generous tip. Perry also remembers well fiddling against Colvin in those years at many a regional fiddle contest, frequently coming in second to the perennial winner. “Owen’s going to beat me one of these times,” Colvin would say but Perry says he knew he couldn’t even hold the master’s bow.

Without question, all regarded Hiter Colvin as the greatest fiddler in north Louisiana and probably far beyond. His genius was singular and beyond his skill with the fiddle, the squirrel gun, and the garden hoe, he seemed to have little aptitude. His own son says he was woefully inadequate at even driving a nail. But he could play and he continued to, on into the television age, appearing on the Happiness Exchange on Monroe’s pioneering television station KNOE, a product of the oilfield success of Governor-for-a-Day James Noe. Colvin began spending time with his brother Brown Colvin down near Colfax, Louisiana, where he played for friends and in the local Pentecostal church near which he would eventually be buried.

In a sad and confusing set of circumstances, eh set his own death in motion. According to his son, Hiter Colvin had been suffering from a toothache when he decided to try and get some relief. He used a shotgun, perhaps in a less-than-expert attempt to remove the tooth. Others contend he was out to end all suffering. Whatever his intentions, he failed and instead inflicted horrible damage to his face and head which required lengthy but ultimately unsuccessful reconstructive surgery. He lived another 2 or 3 years before he was laid to rest in 1975 in a country cemetery between Colfax and Bentley.

Besides the six sides he recorded for Victor and the countless stories still told by the numberless Colvins and Colvin kith and kin of Lincoln Parish, there is one other monument to the great talent of Hiter Colvin. I heard it fleetingly in the tape deck of my truck, a recording made in his brother’s yard in the summer of 1966. Moving easily from breakdowns to swing standard to hymns, Hiter Colvin still conjures, with consummate skill from an assemblage of horsehair and wood, the rabbits and dogs and gum-stump of Boardtree Creek.

photo c/o J. Spence, who adamantly holds that the title of Hiter’s famous stomp was indeed Monroe Stamp, as written on the Victor 78. It should be known, however, that Jack also has the Montgomery Ward reissue (see below) which misspelled his name Hitler Colvin, and misnamed “Rabbit up the Gum Stump” as “Rabbits in the Pea Patch” – so how good are the labels? IMG_1746

Below is the relevant section from the Tony Russell discography of country music (which acknowledges the tune name as Monroe Stamp):


Below is Curly Miller RIP fiddling Monroe Stomp:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWN2HPAyYtM


Video of boys dancing Sean Nos (Irish flatfooting) and playing Bodrum drums

November 21, 2015 by

The above video link shows how appealing Irish Sean Nos dancing is, especially to anyone who enjoys Appalachian flatfoot dance. These boys alternate between hand drumming and solo dancing, making an all around compelling percussive video. Kudos to their teacher, located in western Ireland.

Why All the Firsts in Georgia Early Country Music? A view from the Georgia Crackers

November 20, 2015 by

When Country Music Comes to Town


(octogenarian clarinetist Dub Hudson performing with the Georgia Crackers and Jerron Paxton, Grocery on Home, Atlanta)

 from the liner notes of The Georgia Cracker’s 2015 CD “Brown Mule Slide” (by Mick Kinney):

Much of what has long been termed country music has ties to city life. Cotton mills, railroads and factories have always played a part in the conveyance of culture between city and country which is reflected in the arts. Even the availability of “store bought” guitars, pianos, pump organs and violins changed the sound and manner of playing.

It is certain that previously isolated rural musicians became aware of Blues, Ragtime, Classical, and Contemporary pieces by trained composers. This influence was evident in their repertoire almost immediately. Although, to this day there is some tension between traditionalists and progressives.

Georgia country artists, in particular, were eager to incorporate not only stylistic shifts but new instrumentation as well. Fiddle bands in Georgia often used “Dixieland” banjo rhythm and quite a few used clarinet. For example, fiddler Clayton McMichen hired the 16 year old clarinetist Robert Stephens Jr in his band the Home Town Band. After Stephens tragic death in an automobile wreck, McMichen continued the formula with the talented Kasper Malone, also age 16. Other notable Georgia hillbilly bands to include clarinet were Hoke Rice & his Hokey Pokey Boys, Walburn & Heathcox, The Jenkins family and Hershel Brown and his Happy Five.

Our vision for this album was to show the wide variety of Georgia music when country music went to town. We hope you enjoy our renditions of the fine artist’s material. See and sample the tracks from Brown Mule Slide here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/georgiacrackers1

Georgia Country Music Firsts:

-First country record (Fiddlin’ John Carson)

-First recorded lap guitar (Darby & Tarlton)

-First Country yodeler (Riley Puckett)

-First recorded Country brother duet (Cofer Brothers)

-First Country family band (The Jenkins family)

-First Country clarinet band (McMichen’s Hometown Band)

Here is a 11/2015 video of the Georgia Crackers featuring their octogenarian clarinetist Dub Hudson, playing Unexplained Blues:

Below is a 2012 video link to Jerron Paxton joining the Crackers with Atlanta’s Dub Hudson, again highlighting the clarinet’s role in this sub-genre of oldtime music:


photos and videos in this post c/o MoonshineV Oldtime Field Recordings  YouTube Channel

Ramona Jones RIP 1924-2015 -Fiddler, Hillbilly Country Music Entertainer (Hee Haw, Grand Ol’ Opry)

November 19, 2015 by



91 year-old oldtime fiddler Ramona Jones died this week. The below YouTube video provides a sample of her fiddling, played in 1987 with a woman clawhammer banjoist, in Nashville.

From http://bluegrasstoday.com/ramona-jones-passes/:

Born Ramona Riggins in Van Buren, Indiana in 1924, she was part of the first generation of Grand Ole Opry performers beginning shortly after she met and married “Grandpa Jones” (Louis Marshall Jones) in 1946. The two were performing together on a radio show in Cincinnati when they met, and continued working together professionally with Grandpa often taking the top billing.

In 1969, they signed on to be featured artists on the new Hee Haw television program for CBS. Though it only ran for three years on the network, Hee Haw was hugely popular in syndication for the next 20 years, bringing down home humor and traditional country music to homes across the nation.

Ramona played fiddle, guitar, and mandolin on shows with her husband, and they often sang duets.  In skits, Grandpa would joke and play the fool while Ramona maintained a dignified presence on stage.

She is remembered as a fine old-time fiddler and proponent of the mountain and hillbilly music that characterized early commercial country radio.

In this below 2013 video, embedded on the Tennessean.com (click to access), Ramona recalls her husband, Grandpa Jones, who was in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and how she learned fiddling from her dad, since she was 5 (i.e., long before she met Grandpa)


Below is a photo of David Holt with Ramona and Grandpa, who Holt regarded as a mentor. (https://www.davidholt.com/mentors/grandpa-jones/)

2014 North Georgia Folk Festival: 30th Anniversary VDO by Neil (and Art) Rosenbaum

November 18, 2015 by

Persons featured in this video include:

Art Rosenbaum

Skillet Lickers (3rd and 4th generation)

Mick Kinney, Evan Kinney (and the Stone Mountain Wobblers)

Max Godfrey

Norman Blake

Along with interviews and memories of past NGFF performers now gone. Each year, the festival celebrates the finest in folk art, crafts, and music from North Georgia and neighboring areas and is produced entirely by volunteers from the Athens Folk Music and Dance Society (athensfolk.org). The AFMDS is proud to present the 31st Annual North Georgia Folk Festival on October 10, 2015 at Sandy Creek Park, Athens, Georgia. VDO by Neil Rosenbaum

Gospel legend, Rev. Johnny L. ‘Hurricane’ Jones: 1936-2015 – Atlanta’s Singing Preacher

November 17, 2015 by

From NPR WABE http://news.wabe.org/post/remembering-atlanta-minister-known-hurricane

An Atlanta minister and musician known as “The Hurricane” has died.

Rev. Johnny L . Jones preached to small congregations in the latter part of his life, but his charismatic style and prodigious musical talents earned him wider recognition.

When people talk about Rev. Jones, often, they talk about the music. See this tribute made in 2009 by Dust to Digital’s Lance Ledbetter:

Fannie Wair, who listened to Rev. Jones’ music and preaching at Second Mount Olive Baptist Church in Atlanta for nearly six decades, explains it: “He don’t only sing. He plays the guitar, he plays the organ, and can’t nobody play no piano like him.”

Wair first met Jones in 1956, when she hired the gospel group he was singing with at the time to perform at the church she then attended. A little while later, she heard him preaching on a local radio program.

For her, that was it.

She went to see him at Second Mount Olive Baptist Church, and never looked back. “You go hear him preach or sing one time, you want to go back again,” she says.

Rev. Johnny L. Jones drew upon the influence of the gospel groups he sang with before becoming a minister, including The Jolly Four Gospel Singers and The Sensational Five.
Credit Dust to Digital Records

The Birth of “The Hurricane” and Musical Fame

Through the years, Jones had gospel programs on WAOK and WYZE in Atlanta. According to Walter Russell, a deacon at Second Mount Olive, it was WAOK’s Esmond Patterson who gave Jones the nickname he’d carry throughout his career.

“He named him ‘The Mighty Hurricane.’ Because when he preached, a lot of times he’d go into a spin like a hurricane. The Mighty Hurricane, Johnny L Jones,” Patterson says. “[A] lot of times, he’d stop playing and just start singing old time hymns that most people never did use music by. But he could sing those also.”

Rev. Jones recorded his services, and in the 1960s, Jewel Records released some 45s of his work. In 2010, Dust-to-Digital Records released several remastered CDs of his music and preaching. In a review, The New York Times called the sound of one of those sets “electrifying from start to finish.”

Rural Beginnings…and a Piano Not Meant for Boogie-Woogie

Jones grew up in a farming family in Howell Crossroad, Alabama. He sang in the choir of his Baptist church, and when he was 17 or 18, more than anything else, he wanted a piano. But, as his wife, Dorothy Jones tells it, his family was poor. So his mother devised a plan, around the family’s cotton harvest. “She said, ‘John? We’re gonna all pick this cotton. And if we have any extra money… we’re gonna buy you a piano.’”

The plan worked. They got the piano, and Jones taught himself to play by ear. But one day, his wife Dorothy Jones says, he was messing around, and played a few bars of boogie-woogie music.

His mother heard it. She was not amused. The family had not bought their son a piano on which to play boogie-woogie.

Dorothy Jones laughingly tells the story: “And she came in there with a stick, and hit him across his hands and said, ‘Don’t you ever try to play no blues!’ So from that day on, he started playing gospel. He was a pianist and he sang.”

He sang with several gospel groups before moving to Georgia in the mid-1950s where he became a minister at Second Mount Olive Baptist, drawing crowds with his captivating style.

The Fire that Burned the Sanctuary, but Not the Church

Rev. Johnny Jones would frequently tell people, “The fire burned the building, but not the church.”
Credit Dust to Digital Records

One Sunday in 1973 while Jones was preaching, a fire broke out. No one was hurt, but the West End church was completely destroyed, and many people stopped coming to the new, smaller spaces where they’d hold church. But Jones kept preaching.

“He said ‘The fire burned the building, but not the church,’” says Deacon Walter Russell, describing how, in the 42 years that followed, “he would preach and sing and play the organ, just like he did when the church was standing, and we all enjoyed and had a good time.”

Those who knew him best will remember that voice and climactic preaching. But they say they’ll also remember his unflaggingly upbeat personality, his devotion to his faith and five children, as well as, a commitment to his congregation that endured, even when times got hard.

On Nov. 8, Jones preached from the first sermon he ever wrote at Second Mount Olive. That night, he passed away. The family believes the cause to be a brain aneurysm. He was 79 years old.


Legends of Folk: The Village Scene (PBS) documentary on the folk music revival of 1960s

November 16, 2015 by

Email subscribers need to click on the title of this post to see the YouTube thumbnail. LEGENDS OF FOLK: THE VILLAGE SCENE celebrates the folk movement in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, featuring rare and stunning performances. Books on this era have been posted previously in OTP, because Jon Bekoff was fascinated with the folk revival in the village in the 60s. e.g., https://oldtimeparty.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/folk-city/

YouTube-accessible Documentary on Dena Epstein, the Jewish librarian whose book on slave music proved Africans brought the banjo to the New World

November 15, 2015 by

This 56-minute documentary is to me something Jon Bekoff would call “made with love,” his expression for non-fictional works that are both profoundly scholarly and attentive to the human spirit. Read Jon’s 2014 post on Dena’s life and work after she died. https://wordpress.com/post/9156583/10647/

1987 Footage of Snake Chapman fiddling “Pat Him on the Back” 

November 14, 2015 by

A tune Snake learned from his father. “That’s just a tune my dad made about his hound dogs. I think there was one that would bite you if you didn’t pat him on the back. So my father just told someone to ‘pat him on the back.'” For more information on Snake, see the 2013 OTP post on him:


Malawian Ragtime Blues

November 14, 2015 by

Text from “Zambian Music Legends” by Leonard Koloko

Wilson Makawa was a Malawian born musician who worked on the Northern Rhodesian copper mines in the 1950s. He had a slick touch on the guitar and performed with Alick Nkhata and his Quartet. Wilson Makawa was a songwriter who effectively brought out Cichewa and Tumbuka traditions in his music. His songs were mostly social commentaries capturing the mood in villages and towns. Among his solo hits were tracks like ‘Bambo Siyaya’ [listen below] – a social comment condemning domestic violence; ‘Chitutuko’ – a patriotic song about freedom and economic development; and ‘Bwera Kuno wachikondi – a love song.

His music was so melodious that it went on to attract younger singers in years to come. ‘Bambo Siyaya’ was reworked by Keith Mlevhu under the title ‘Achimweme’. Another local singer Thomas Mambo did ‘Kumalembe’. Both tracks came through in the mid 70s. Later in the new millenium South Africa based Malawian musician Erik Piliani won himself a SAMA (South African Music Awards) nomination for his album title ‘Chitutuko’, the title track being a remake of the famous Wilson Makawa song. It is a piece reflecting on the migrant’s anguish at finding himself away from home and familiar people.

Wilson Makawa performing ‘Bambo Siyaya’. Audio taken from ‘Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPMS’ from Dust-to-Digital and Excavated Shellac

Fans of American music may hear a resemblance between Makawa’s playing and the rhythms employed by early ragtime and blues guitarists such as Charlie Patton.

Charlie Patton performing ‘Shake It and Break It’ recorded in 1929.

Max Hunter Biography Project (Ozark folk song collector) – by Sarah Jane Nelson

November 13, 2015 by

max hunter

For the past year I have been conducting research on the life of Ozark folk song collector Max Hunter and great progress has been made. My present goal is to have a biography written by the Spring of 2017; but the research continues, even as I write. As many of you other song chasers are undoubtedly aware, Hunter’s archive (out of Missouri State University) includes almost 1600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded between 1956 and 1976. https://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/ Several of these songs have links to “variants” (i.e., alternative versions) which makes this archive a veritable candy shop for browsers. Other songs in the collection remain, for a variety of reasons, comparatively obscure. Fortunately, for this researcher, there are vast archives of information on Max’s collecting activities. Unfortunately, Max died in 1999, so I never had the opportunity to speak with him directly. And because most of his most prolific song contributors were quite elderly, it is a challenge to find information on some of them. (OTP: here is an NYT obituary: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/15/arts/max-hunter-ozark-folklorist-of-tunes-and-tales-dies-at-78.html )

I am currently running a GoFundMe campaign to meet some of the financial challenges of doing my research long distance, and if you go to my link you can read a little more about what I’ve been up to: https://www.gofundme.com/hunterbiography Any contributions, no matter how humble, will be ever so gratefully accepted! However, I’m equally interested in hearing from anyone who:

1) Purposefully used songs in this collection for performing/recording purposes

2) Knew Max personally

3) Knew any of Max’s “informants” or was in touch with anyone who did. I’d particularly welcome further information on Kris Ann Parker (of Springfield), Arkansas singer Stephanie Isaacs who performed at Eureka Springs as a child, in addition to anyone else listed as contributors.

4) I’d also welcome stories of the Eureka Springs Festival back in the day when Max was MC’ng, or similarly, of Silver Dollar City.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Jane nelson


Patrick Jones Tells the History of Calypso in Trinidad

November 12, 2015 by

LP-CoverPatrick Jones at age 71 Image from Cook Records 5016

Text by Caldwell Taylor from http://www.spiceislandertalkshop.com

Patrick (“Chinee Patrick”) Jones (1876-1965), pyrotechnician, political gadfly, human rights campaigner, anti-colonialist, Carnival band-leader and raconteur extraordinaire, is an unsung master of calypso.

He was a leading exponent of calypso‘s oratorical style, a form that characteristically contained four eight-line stanzas sung in the minor key. The oratorical was essayistic, expository and florid and it is no wonder that it was favored by calypso’s “connoisseurs of words”, including “Executor”, “Atilla the Hun,“ Growling Tiger” and “Pretender”. Echoes of the oratorical can be heard today in “Chalkdust”, “Valentino”, “Black Wizard”,  “Scholar”, and a Barbadian-Canadian bard  named “Structure”.

“Chinee Patrick” emerged in the first decade  of the twentieth century and in his heyday he did battle against songsters like “Fijonel”, “Executor” ,and “Chieftain Douglas”. In a 1956 interview with American folklorist Emory Cook,  Chinee Patrick recounted a 1920s lyrical “war”  against Lord Executor, then regarded as the preeminent extemporizer (“extempo artist) in the land and the true successor to “the greatest extempo calypsonian of all time”, the “Senior Inventor” (Henry Forbes).

Patrick Alexander Jones was born in Port of Spain, to a Chinese shopkeeper father and mixed (Euro-African) mother. Patrick’s father was a scion of
the Chen family, whose Chinese ancestors were known for their radical nationalist politics. Indeed, Patrick’s father and his father’s brother were both sent to the West Indies as indentured laborers, exile being punishment for the brothers’ radical  politics.

The following audio excerpts are from Emory Cook’s 1956 interview of Patrick Jones, released on “Calypso Lore and Legend”

Liner Notes That Changed His Life (Anthology of American Folk Music) – Lance Ledbetter

November 11, 2015 by

From http://news.wabe.org/post/lance-ledbetter-liner-notes-changed-his-life which includes audio version of this story.

Lance Ledbetter runs the record label Dust to Digital here in Atlanta, along with his wife, April. They specialize in high-quality reissues of music from all over the world, and they are probably best-known for the 2004 box set, “Goodbye, Babylon,” which was nominated for two Grammy awards.

“To me, the design, it’s a thing of genius,” says Lance Ledbetter of the the liner note booklet that accompanies the anthology.
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

But there would have been no “Goodbye, Babylon” without Harry Smith. And that’s the story Ledbetter tells in this installment of Page-Turners.

In 1952, Smith produced three records known collectively as “The Anthology of American Folk Music.” It’s known today as one definitive collection of American roots music of the early 20th century.

Ledbetter bought the box set when it was released on CD in 1997. That night he discovered, packed alongside the discs, a booklet, which was stapled and photocopied and covered in weird collages of cut-and-pasted images. These were the liner notes for the anthology, and it was curator, Smith, himself who had originally cut and pasted all the images.

It was also Smith who had investigated and typed footnoted stories, annotations and personal commentary for each of the set’s 84 tracks. This booklet represented years of his painstaking research into the nation’s country, folk, and so-called “race” tunes, and formed one of the authoritative sources of American music for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For Ledbetter, the experience of just listening and reading along felt electrifying.

“I felt like I was going into this big, beautiful house for the first time,” he says. “I got to look out all the windows and hear all the sounds, and it was just a life-altering event.”

One of the things that struck him most was the way the liner note booklet was laid out.

“It was a thing of genius,” he says. “You can read it and get little hints of how this music is connected to this music.”

The night he bought the anthology, he stayed up all night, playing musical detective and marveling at the detail and design.

That experience was the inspiration for the idea that became Ledbetter’s own box set, “Goodbye, Babylon,” seven years later—as well as his life’s work with Dust to Digital.

Even now, “The Anthology of American Folk Music” has a hold on him.

“This is a set I recommend to everyone,” he says.

“The energy that had been distilled into this book was palpable,” says Ledbetter, “and I could feel it.” The liner note handbook accompanying the anthology includes cut-out collages from sources including (but not limited to) 78 RPM record catalogs, farmers almanacs, department store catalogs, and the covers of songbooks.
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

“I do believe this is something that can have a positive impact on anyone that’s into music. It doesn’t have to be folk music or music from the past. To me, it’s just…music.”

Web Bonuses (See link for audio)

Reality check: Are you amassing a healthy record collection, or are you just … amassing?
In this web bonus, Dust to Digital’s Lance Ledbetter talks about what he sees as the difference. He mentions Joe Bussard, a collector of 78 RPM records who lives in New Jersey.

Atlanta in the early days of folk and country
In this web bonus, Lance Ledbetter tells a story about Atlanta and the skyrocketing career of a fiddler whose work appears on “The Anthology of American Folk Music.” Also: Harry Smith’s account of how the term “race record,” once used to describe music performed by African-Americans, came to be.

Dust to Digital has recently released a collaboration with record collector Joe Bussard, titled “The Year of Jubilo: 78 RPM Recordings of Songs from the Civil War.”

A Glimpse into the Parlour – by David Bragger

November 7, 2015 by

My life has basically been an obsession with old-time music for a decade and a half. I learned at the feet of master musicians, listened to tens of thousands of recordings, decoded the bow strokes and mysterious intervals of legendary fiddlers and I woodshedded for years. I still do. Eventually I began teaching old-time music, out of the sheer love of the music itself and the desire to pass down what I’ve learned to others. Apparently, I have a knack for teaching the elusive art of bowing so I spend everyday of the week teaching just that. Throughout this obsessive time period I’ve wondered what it would be like if we had extensive footage of many of my favorite dead musicians. To see, up close, hours of playing from Fred Cockerham, Marcus Martin, Joseph Spence, John Lusk, etc. would be astounding. To see their body language, the nuances of hand movement and even their faces while performing can give great insight to the curious musician and student of old-time. As a player and teacher, I’m very interested in the physical dimension of music.

So I started thinking about my favorite musicians of today. Even in the digital smartphone age, there is a serious dearth of beautiful, archival quality footage of today’s living masters. Even today’s touring musicians quite often have only shaky smartphone footage on YouTube and maybe a couple well-produced music videos shot in Europe that were essentially performed to a pre-recorded track. In a past life I was a filmmaker and amateur folklorist recording the folktales and music of itinerant street magicians in India, the last vestige of medicine show performance. Naturally I decided to bring the documentation of folk art back into the fold and start recording the best of the best in old-time. By establishing the Old-Time Tiki Parlour, I set forth on this very path. I’ve assembled a team of artists, graphic designers and producers for my team. One requirement: the team must all be old-time musicians. That way, everything from close-up angles to the liner notes are all presented, recorded and composed by musicians that know the music inside and out.
In the last couple years, I’ve produced and recorded twelve old-time music releases on CD and DVD. So far, Dan Gellert, Rafe & Clelia Stefanini, Eric & Suzy Thompson and my solo fiddle CD “Big Fancy” are available. All releases feature music, first and foremost. These are not documentaries or hipster music videos. These releases showcase great musicians, in a room alone, doing what they do best. No fancy effects or studio tricks permitted. I’m currently editing footage and recording more musicians. I recently put together a video that highlights some of the musicians I’ve shot to give you a glimpse into the past, present and future of Tiki Parlour Recordings. Enjoy!
–David http://oldtimetikiparlour.com/

Montague Square Dance 11/7/2015

November 5, 2015 by


The Montague Square Dance is back! The first dance of the series will be Saturday November 7th, 7-10 pm. At the Montague Common Hall (montaguecommonhall.org/ FKA the Montague Grange), 34 Main Street, Montague, MA.

Will Mentor calling with music by The Farwells (http://thefarwells.band/)

$5-10 sliding scale. All are welcome, young and old, all dances will be taught.

Sub-Saharan African Country Music

November 5, 2015 by

R. Crumb’s Record Room Pt. 20

John’s Old Time Radio Show w/ Robert Crumb. “SUB SAHARAN AFRICAN COUNTRY MUSIC”. Fantastic sub-saharan African 78 records that were influenced by Western Country and or Hawaiian music… and then some that weren’t. Special Guest Robert Crumb plays 78 rpm records from his fabulous record collection from the South of France on John Heneghan’s Old Time Radio Show.

Listen here: http://www.eastriverstringband.com/radioshow/?p=1879

Jules Verne Allen

November 5, 2015 by

from http://www.rocky-52.net/

Jules Verne Allen was one of a handful of authentic and documented cowboy singers and writers — along with Carl T. Sprague — who lived the life that his songs dealt with. He also learned those songs before radio and records carried them to the world, when they were still part of an oral tradition. A cowboy from the age of ten, and a participant in cattle drives until the end of the first decade of the new century, Allen began singing as an amateur for the pleasure of his fellow cowboys.
After a stint in law enforcement, including a possible period as a Texas Ranger, and service in the army during World War I, he began working as a professional singer in the 1920s and was appearing on radio in Dallas, San Antonio, and Los Angeles by the end of the decade, sometimes under various pseudonyms, including Longhorn Luke. Allen began cutting music for Victor starting in 1928, and cut a total of a dozen sides for the company that year and the next. He cut what were among the earliest known versions of “The Cowboy’s Dream,” “Home on the Range,” and “Days of Forty-Nine.” His recording of “The Dying Cowboy,” more familiar as “Oh Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie,” is one of the more notable authentic oral tradition-derived versions of a song dating, in that form, at least since the 1830s.
Allen was also a composer and writer in his own right, and published Cowboy Lore, a collection of three dozen songs accompanied by details about cowboy life, in 1933 — it has been reprinted several times, most recently in 1971, some 26 years after his death.

“Long Side The Sante Fe Trail” by Jules Allen

Recorded April 8, 1928, Victor Records

Canute Caliste

November 4, 2015 by

A breakaway performed by Canute Caliste, violin, and group, recorded July 30, 1962 by Alan Lomax

from http://www.theguardian.com

Few internationally celebrated artists can have spent their lives working in humbler surroundings than the naive painter Canute Caliste, whose studio was a lean-to shack in the backyard of his wooden house on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou, off the coast of Grenada.

Surrounded by chickens and other farmyard animals, Caliste, who has died aged 91, produced fascinating, quirky paintings of island life that attracted a wide fan base in Europe and the United States, where art collectors embraced him as a charming and idiosyncratic painter in the primitive style.

Frequently as eccentric as the paintings he produced, Caliste had a sign at the end of his garden path in the village of L’Esterre that read: “This way to the great artist.” He may not quite have warranted that epithet, but, for many, his awkwardly painted figures and reportage style conveyed the charm and traditions of the Caribbean in much the same way that Lowry encapsulated industrial northern England. His paintings of fishing boats, cricket matches, carnival dances and domestic rows usually displayed a good deal of humour and no particular concern for accuracy – though a devout Roman Catholic, for instance, his painting of the Last Supper depicted 15 disciples.

Working mainly with acrylics on hardboard, Caliste could knock out 20 paintings in a day in his prime, and would run out of supplies almost as soon as he got hold of them. Though he had many other interests – and he was an accomplished musician – he lived to paint, and did so for most of his life.

Caliste claimed to have been inspired to begin painting seriously at the age of nine, when he was told by a vision of a mermaid that, if he followed the Bible, he could achieve anything he wanted. After that, mermaids appeared as a constant theme in his work, but his main preoccupation was the everyday scenes of Carriacou, an island 13 miles square, 23 miles north-east of Grenada.

Though he initially painted purely for his own enjoyment while making a living as a boatbuilder and fisherman, Caliste’s talent was spotted in the late 1950s by a local nun, Sister Trudy, who sold some of his works in a gift shop she ran. As tourism to the island increased in the 1960s, Caliste, by now well into his 40s, began to pick up word-of-mouth trade as visiting “yachties” trekked up the hill to his studio from the nearby harbour – or came by taxi from the island’s capital, Hillsborough – to buy souvenir paintings at a few dollars a time.

When an American, Jim Rudin, arrived in Grenada from New York in 1966 to open the Yellow Piou art gallery in St Georges, a friend of Caliste brought over a selection of his paintings from Carriacou, and Rudin liked what he saw. He exhibited Caliste’s work for the next 20 years, selling in decent quantities. Indeed, it was Rudin who suggested, in the 1970s, that Caliste write short commentaries at the bottom of his paintings to indicate what they were depicting. Caliste took to the idea, and his scribbled jottings, full of spelling mistakes and bad syntax – “Lovers coartin”, “general hurspetal in Grenada” – became one of his endearing trademarks.

Also in the early 1970s, the US-based anthropologist Donald Hill brought Caliste to further attention by including him in a doctoral thesis on Carriacou and buying up large amounts of his paintings, some of which he gave to Smith College in New York.

But Caliste’s big break came in the late 1980s, when another American, Lora Berg, who lived in Barbados and worked in the US embassy there, visited Grenada and happened to see his paintings. She asked to meet Caliste and decided to produce a coffee-table book, The Mermaid Wakes, showcasing his work. Published in 1989, the book brought Caliste to much wider attention, and almost immediately his work was in greater demand. Art lovers from the US and Europe began ringing Rudin to commission Caliste to produce works similar to those in the book, and his paintings even found their way into the collections of George Bush senior and the Queen.

As he became more renowned, Caliste was visited by foreign journalists and began appearing habitually in magazine articles and travel literature. The Grenada tourist board latched on to him as a marketing vehicle for Carriacou, and he was exhibited at venues around the world, including the Research Institute in New York, the OAS Museum in Washington DC and the Pedro De Osma Museum in Lima, Peru.

His paintings – always signed “Mr Canute Caliste” – were so unusual that they rarely failed to elicit a reaction, positive or negative. “People used to walk into my gallery and their eyes would nearly always fall on his work,” said Rudin. “Then they’d either say they were the best things I had in the gallery or ask me how I could exhibit such junk.” None the less, Caliste’s work generally met with puzzlement in the West Indies, where the general reaction was: “My child could do that”.

In terms of quality, Caliste’s golden era was probably in the 1980s, when he also painted some large works on canvas. In his latter days, the quality declined as his sight faded, and although he could still produce good work into his 80s when he put his mind to it, he fell into the habit of reproducing versions of scenes he had done before, rather than painting something new.

Relative to the average income in Carriacou, Caliste made a lot of money from his art, but most of it went on supporting his 22 children (predominantly by two women) and around 100 grandchildren. Even before the death of his wife Vonice – and well into his 80s – he was fond of keeping much younger girlfriends, and would be happy to supply them with various material needs.

As a result, he still lived in the same humble house, with its outdoor oven, that he had built for himself as a young man. He often said it was providing for his children that was the motivating factor behind his prodigious work rate.

Caliste’s lifestyle barely changed; he rarely left Carriacou, apart from a couple of funded trips to the US or to attend an occasional official function in Grenada as a VIP, and he produced many of his documentary-style paintings – such as those on the Grenadian revolution of 1979 – from television images and his imagination.

A quietly spoken but open and friendly man, he was slim and energetic throughout his life, and generous to a fault. If a visitor happened to make a personal trip to his studio, they were likely to come away with an armful of paintings bought for well below their market value. Even Caliste’s more mundane works sold for around $300-$400 and his better ones could fetch in excess of $2,500. But in person, he would happily sell at $10 a time, often throwing a second in free.

In Grenada and Carriacou, Caliste was more widely respected as a fiddle player who specialised in playing music in the endangered quadrille dance style. He performed at weddings and boat launches well into old age, and even featured as the star turn on at least two CDs of Carriacou music marketed around the world. What he lacked in technique he made up for with his dedication to retaining the old culture of Carriacou, which is known for its especially strong African tradition. As a result, the islanders called him, reverentially, “Old Head”.

· Canute Caliste, artist, born April 16 1914; died November 20 2005

Stone Mountain Wobble – Young Americans Doing Oldtime Right (Part 4) – Evan Kinney Fiddler

November 2, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find another example of young Americans playing real oldtime music, 1920s deep South style. Georgia-born Evan Kinney fiddles with ragtime rhythm section with Matt Kinman & Ali Kafka guitar, Mickey Nelligan banjolin, Chris Ryan banjo, Rachel Meirs cello. Moonshine buckdancer. 2015 Sewellfest Pikesville. Evan learned fiddle within the past 7-10 years, but  grew up hearing his dad Mick Kinney playing oldtime. Vdo recorded by MoonshineV YouTube Oldtime field recordings channel.

Bflat Rag – Young Americans Doing Ragtime Right (part 3) – Ashley Carr fiddles

October 26, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find excellent examples of young people doing the real Old-time music — Deep South style. Alabama Ashley Carr (and Rachel Meirs) on fiddle. Van Burchfield & Ali Kafka guitar, Mickey Nelligan banjolin, Evan Kinney cello, Joni Carr uke…. Pikesville, Tennessee, 2015. Key of Bflat (duh). Vdo recorded by MoonshineV YouTube Oldtime field recordings channel.

Shannon Waltz – American young folks doing Oldtime right (part 2) – Kevin Martin fiddles

October 13, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find excellent examples of young people doing the real Old-time music — Deep South style. Kevin Martin on fiddle. Van Burchfield & Coleman Akins guitar, Tre On bass, Chris Ryan & Carol Anne Rose banjo,…. Pikesville, Tennessee, 2015. Key of F, recorded by East Texas Serenaders. Vdo here recorded by MoonshineV YouTube Oldtime field recordings channel.

Skyland Rag – American young folks doing oldtime right (Part I) – Rachel Meirs on fiddle

October 12, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find excellent examples of young people doing the real Old-time music — Deep South style. Rachel Meirs on fiddle. Van Burchfield & Ali Kafka guitar. Mickey Nelligan banjo mandolin. Joni Carr uke. Evan Kinney cello….. Pikesville, Tennessee, 2015. Key of F, recorded by the Rector Trio. http://slippery-hill.com/f/SkylandRag.mp3 Vdo here recorded by MoonshineV field recordings YouTube channel.

Foot Notes: Flatfooting with Charmaine Slaven (DVD or streamed)

August 30, 2015 by


Charmaine’s new flatfooting instructional DVD is now available! You can access it on digital streaming through the Roots Channel for $17 (lifetime access) or order the physical DVD for $24. Both formats available here: http://charmaineslaven.com/Charmaine_Slaven/Flatfooter.html

A review from Nic Gariess ““Charmaine Slaven is rapidly gaining renown as an invigorating presence in the West Coast old-time music & dance scene. Here, she shares her personal flatfoot style, drawing on Appalachian percussive dance combined with her own singular creativity and musicianship. Throughout this cozy instructional DVD, Charmaine leads us, woodstove-side, through the basic rudiments of freestyle old-time solo dance. Along the way, she shares helpful tips and insight, making this project an invaluable tool for anyone seeking a glimpse inside the structures and style of American mountain dance.”

– Nic Gareiss, percussive dancer and ethnochoreologist”

Below was filmed by MoonshineV (Portland Oldtime Gathering, 2012)

The Harry Smith Project Live (DVD)

August 30, 2015 by

DVD reviewed by Amanda Petrusich; November 6, 2006

From http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/9587-the-harry-smith-project/


Between 1999 and 2000, producer Hal Willner and Meltdown Festival artist-in-residence Nick Cave staged a series of epic five-hour-plus concerts in London, New York, and Los Angeles, intending to celebrate Smith’s work as an experimental filmmaker and musicologist by pairing contemporary artists with bits of Smith’s films and The Anthology‘s ancient folksongs: Beck, Beth Orton, Phillip Glass, Van Dyke Parks, Elvis Costello, Wilco, Steve Earle, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, and a mess of other artists agreed to participate. The Harry Smith Project documents the concerts, pairing two CDs of live cuts with a DVD of concert footage (some featuring the legendary camera-stylings of D.A. Pennebaker and his team) and The Old, Weird America, a documentary about the global endeavor.

Working musicians cover The Anthology‘s songs all the time, and The Harry Smith Projectisn’t the first time modern stabs have been documented in deference– Smithsonian Folkways released The Harry Smith Connection in 1997, the soundtrack to a pair of tribute concerts held in Vienna, Virginia to celebrate The Anthology‘s CD reissue (featuring tracks by Dave Van Ronk, Jeff Tweedy, The New Lost City Ramblers, and others.) Still, many of these songs are so specific to their time and place– Beale Street, dusty Delta crossroads, southern chain gangs, Appalachian cabins, Tennessee coal mines– that a contemporary re-creation, no matter how well-intentioned or well-rendered, still feels a little ridiculous, like stomping through Colonial Williamsburg eating a hot dog and wearing a baseball cap. And while plenty of the cuts on The Anthology were “covers” to begin with (most early country and folksongs were re-workings of traditional gospel songs), they were captured at a time when folk music functioned a little bit differently– when it was a vital and necessary method of documenting and lamenting the daily struggles of the poor, and not yet a political tool or floppy, coffeehouse luxury. Consequently, The Harry Smith Project works best as homage: These songs are buried treasure, beloved not only for their melody and performance, but for what they indicate about an America long obliterated. It’s always nice to hear them honored (and to appreciate their songcraft without being distracted by rudimentary production techniques), but plenty is lost in translation.

Howling the Carter Family hit “Single Girl, Married Girl”, Petra Haden never quite captures Sara Carter’s strained desperation (Sara’s husband, Carter patriarch A.P., was notoriously absent; Sara later left him for his cousin, quit the band, and moved to California), sounding weirdly jubilant instead. Wilco’s take on Richard Rabbit Brown’s “James Alley Blues” is rich and convincing, with Jeff Tweedy grumbling on point, all sad-faced and earnest: “Towns right now ain’t nothing like they used to be/ I’ll tell you all the truth/ Won’t you take my word from me/ I seen better days and I ain’t putting up with these.” Beck’s version of Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” features loads of sloppy slide and haphazard, soulful yelps, while the box’s highlight is traditional cut “Sail Away Lady”, performed by Uncle Bunt Stephens on the original Anthology, and rendered beautifully here by Van Dyke Parks and the Mondrian String Quartet.

The Harry Smith Project inadvertently asks big questions about the state of contemporary blues and folk, and works as an honest, loving tribute to the songs that informed the musical sensibilities of countless performers– and, hopefully, will lead its listeners straight back to the big, red box every American music fan should own.

African Favorites – starting point for appreciating acoustic guitar music of Mali, Guinea, and Congo

August 15, 2015 by


For those who have inquired about recommended African CDs, here is a concise starting point for appreciating the precious and startling acoustic guitar music of Mali, Guinea, and the Congo, along with brief product descriptions from the producers.  Missing are anthologies of northern Malian, South African,  and Zimbabwean guitar–I’m not aware of any relevant collections of this caliber.  A lifetime of listening here.  Enjoy.

Origins of Guitar Music: Southern Congo and Northern Zambia, 1950-’58, recordings by Hugh Tracey (Sharp Wood SWP015)

In the new urban culture that invented itself during the fifties in the copper mining towns of Katanga Province in southern Congo and on the Copperbelt in northern Zambia, the guitar became an important status symbol and quickly local styles developed. This also happened in the big southern African railway connection of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. This collection of recordings is an exciting document, the emergence of a new sound – including some famous names such as Mwenda Jean Bosco and George Sibanda, but also others like the wandering Copperbelt minstrel Stephen ‘Tsotsi’ Kasumali, the swing Zambian harmony of the Four Pals, and the raw rumba from up north in Kisangani, plus a couple of tracks from Malawi testifying further the speedy spread of the guitar in central southern Africa at this time. Total time: 72’05”. 24 page booklet.

Roots of Rumba Rock: Congo Classics 1953-1955 (2 CDs, Crammed Discs)

The origins of Congolese rumba, its strange links with traditional music, French crooners and Belgian brass bands… the spectacular reappropriation of Afro-Cuban music by Kinshasa musicians who recognized some of the old likembe (thumb piano) patterns originally brought to Cuba by deported Congolese slaves and proceeded to adapt them to the electric guitar… the social context, the lifestyle of Congolese musicians in the early Fifties… all of that and much more is extensively described in the liner notes written by Kenis and based on interviews with musicians from that era.

In the early Fifties, Kinshasa (then called Léopoldville) became a musical beehive. Being the capital of a country the size of a continent, it was a meeting point for a wide variety of ethnic groups which soon merged their traditions to create new musical styles. But the main reason why the music of Kinshasa grew so strong and conquered all Africa lies in its spectacularly successful reappropriation of Afro-Cuban music, which was instantly recognized and adopted as a prodigal son coming back home. Which of course it really was: only two generations had passed since the end of the slave trade from Congo to Cuba, and most elements in Cuban music sounded very familiar to Congolese ears.

The World Is Shaking – Cubanismo From The Congo, 1954-55 (Honest Jon’s Records)

Echoes of music exported in the slave trade came home on radios and records. Congolese musicians who strayed from the traditional realm with its plethora of lutes and likembes (thumb pianos) — all the various indigenous instruments — began to master imported guitars and horns by mimicking what they heard. The jazz of Louis Armstrong and the ballads of European torch singers like Tino Rossi captured the imagination of the rapidly expanding working class — and then the familiar-sounding music of Latin America, in the form of the shiny shellac of HMV’s GV series of 78s (G for the English Gramophone Company; V for Victor in the US).

Listen to likembe player Boniface Koufidilia as he makes the transition from traditional to modern in the first few seconds of Bino, which then hits you with a vamping violin whilst he muses about death (including that of the popular Brazzaville musician Paul Kamba). Andre Denis and Albert Bongu both echo the the sounds of palm-wine brought to the Belgian Congo by the coastmen. The sweet vocal harmonies of Vincent Kuli’s track were learned perhaps in a mission church. Rene Mbu’s nimble, likembe-like guitar plucking shines on Boma Limbala. Is Laurent Lomande using a banjo as a backdrop to Elisa? Aren’t those kazoos, buzzing along on Jean Mpia’s Tika?

Guitar Seche (Popular African Music)

This is the first release in the African guitar series, featuring this imported instrument, affordable and easy to carry around. Guitare Sèche is the French term for acoustic guitar, and the album features four of these: a new one, a fairly good one and two battered specimens. The album has been recorded in Conakry directly onto digital 8- track. Guitar music, without vocals, which you hear everywhere when travelling in Guinea is hard to find on record.

Djessou Mory Kanté, a younger brother of Kanté Manfila now living in Paris where he is one of the most requested session guitarists, came up with the idea for this album. it features: Papa Diabaté, the father of modern Guinean guitar playing. Djessou Mory’s brothers Bakary and Djekoria Mory Kanté plus Moriken Kouyaté – all three much in demand in Guinea. With comprehensive notes by Eric Charry, of Wesleyan University, an authority on Mande guitar music.

Big String Theory (Xenophile Records, Amazon mp3)

This project was instigated in 1992 by Globestyle Records’ Ben Mandelson. The idea was to make a fiery, acoustic recording of the Malian music known as “bajourou”- literally “big string” or “big tune.” This recording focusses on guitars highlighting intricate exchanges between two of this genre’s top guitar players: Djelimady Tounkara and Bouba Sacko.

Intent on bringing these two great players together for the first time. Mandelson and Lucy Duran travelled to the Mali capital, Bamako. Djelimady Tounkara is best known as lead guitarist of the Super Rail Band–the band that launched the careers of both Salif Keita and Mory Kante. Bouba Sacko has an impressive career of accompanying top jelimoussow–female griot singers–including the great Kandia Kouyate. President of Mali’s fledgling music union and former Rail Band singer Lafia Biabate completed the team.

Big String Theory was recorded direct to DAT in Bamako on acoustic instruments, and the session was followed by a 1993 tour of the UK. Critics were immediately won over by the group’s dynamic energy. Bringing Tounkara and Sacko together was an idea that would never have happened without the input of the two English producers. While the two guitarists remain friends, they have never played together in recent years. So this recording has the added spark of two masters jostling for position in each others’ worlds.

New Millennium Jelly Rollers – September 2015 Tour Dates in Northeast USA

August 13, 2015 by


The New Millennium Jelly Rollers have been playing raucous fiddle tunes, singing low-down blues, and inspiring general hilarity all over the eastern United States for one year and counting. This foot-stompin’ duo is composed of Max Godfrey and Elias Alexander, who began making music together by trading off verses on call-and-response worksongs and spirituals. Since then, their sound has grown to encompass everything from country-blues to old-e dance tunes and Skillet-Licker-style sketch comedy. For all their performances, The New Millennium Jelly Rollers encourage attendees to come ready to cut loose and sing out!

Their self-titled debut album can be found at: https://newmillenniumjellyrollers.bandcamp.com/releases

Follow them on Facebook:


September 2015 tour dates:

Thursday, September 3rd: Boston House Concert
Doors open 7:30, Show starts 8 PM
Location: private residence in Jamaica Plain, MA. Please RSVP to winning.ashley@gmail.com for directions

Friday, September 4th: The Prairie Whale Restaurant, Great Barrington MA
6:30 PM Start.
Free music, tasty farm-to-table food, tips gladly accepted, and CDs for sale.

Saturday, September 5th: Mettabee Barn Concert and Worksong Hootennany
Featuring local worksong composer Eric Sherman
Music begins at 7 PM. Suggested donation $15.
Potluck dinner before show at 5:30 PM. Bring your favorite bowl, plate, spoon, fork, spork, and dish if you wish. Camping is available for those who wish to stay over. RSVP about camping to: sherman.box@gmail.com

Monday, September 7th: Labor Day Spectacular @ Windy Hollow
8 PM Start
66 Sunderland Rd (Rt. 47), Montague MA.
$10 admission

Thursday, September 10th: House Concert @ Takoma Park, MD.
Sponsored by the Folk Song Society of Greater Washington
Doors open at 7:30, music starts at 8 p.m.
$15 donation
Dessert, coffee and wine.
Reservations required: janiemeneely@gmail.com or 443-786-0463 for Directions.

Saturday, September 12th: The Jalopy Theatre and School of Music, Brooklyn.
With Miss Tess and the Talkbacks
9 PM
$10 in advance, $12 at door.

Monday, September 14th, Club Passim Boston MA: Monday Discovery Series with The New Millennium Jelly Rollers and The Meadows Brothers
8 PM
$10 Admission
To Purchase Tickets: https://tickets.passim.org/ordertickets.asp?p=4804&backurl=default.asp
47 Palmer Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Jonathan Bekoff – May 8, 1959 – June 15, 2015

August 12, 2015 by

Originally posted on Unquiet Thoughts:

I have stories to tell about Jonathan Bekoff.

big_img24Before we met, I had unwittingly heard Jon’s nascent fiddle-playing on a tape recorded at the Glenville, WVA festival, circa 1980. The cassette tape is a now forgotten emblem of an exciting era of discovery, camaraderie and the sharing of arcana, and this one was recorded by a long-forgotten friend of the obscure and passed from hand to hand until it reached mine via Kerry Blech. The music on the tape was something quite special—a full 45-minute side of wonderfully spontaneous fiddle duets featuring the delightful playing of Pete Sutherland and a newbie fiddler identified only as “Jonathan Oakes.”

A favorite listening tape, I loaned it to Greg Canote just as he and his brother Jere were about to embark on a cross-country trip in an inadvisable old truck; a pilgrimage to the eastern festivals by a matched set of Californians itching…

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August 2, 2015 by

> Incidentally, the family pronounces “Giggers” with a hard G — referring
> to the habit of the members of the band, who lived in the Missouri
> bootheel near the Mississippi River, going into the shallow backwaters
> in
> the spring and “gigging” with old three-pronged forks the grinnell fish
> they found. “Grinnell’s not exactly a game fish,” one of the sons
> laughed.
> “It’s considered a junk fish, but back in the Depression, when times
> were
> hard, we were glad to get them.” The term “grinnell giggers” was a local
> phrase that roughly meant the equivalent of “white trash.”

Lester McCumbers (a belated appreciation) August 15 1921 – January 26, 2015

July 30, 2015 by

Originally posted on The making of ... The Crooked Tune, An Old Time Fiddler in a Modern World:

Lester fiddling 2Lester McCumbers was more than West Virginia’s last old world, old time fiddler. A man no doubt born into the remoteness of mountains and music and soaked it up in a regional style that over decades stood as a highly cherished remainder of an archaic sound that has recently caught the modern ear.

The New York Times did a wise man and the student piece about Lester McCumbers back in the late 1990s. http://nyti.ms/1CmUBWF. And he continued to graciously host visitors from photographers to musicians committed to the old time sound and wanted to experience the exchange in person rather from a recording. Soon visitors no doubt realized there was more to Lester than the music or maybe there was more to the music.

Lester embodies the power of music, how music can more than compensate the lack of material things, how music infuses a kind of civility that draws people.  It…

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Cell Phones and Music in West Africa

July 27, 2015 by


from http://www.dailydot.com:

African musicians are increasingly turning to memory cards from mobile phones to distribute music.

With access to the Internet limited and prohibitively expensive, cell phones are a cheap alternative for storing and sharing information. Africa also has a higher rate of mobile use than either the United States or Europe, having grown 40-fold in the last decade.

Just as the Sony Walkman helped give rise to a mixtape culture—trading tapes and bootleg copies of albums or live recordings—an independent scene has emerged with microSD cards. Tracks are traded from one phone to another via Bluetooth connections or card readers.

“In much of West Africa, cell phones are are used as all purpose multimedia devices.” noted Chris Kirkley of Sahel Sounds, an independent record label, based in Portland, Ore. “In lieu of personal computers and high-speed Internet, the knockoff cellphones house portable music collections, playback songs on tinny built in speakers, and swap files in a very literal peer-to-peer Bluetooth wireless transfer.”

Kirkley has been collecting music from memory cards on mobile phones in the Sahara, including Mali and Senegal. In 2010, he released a stellar compilation LP, Music from Saharan Cellphones, that captured not only the music that was popular on “the unofficial mp3/cellphone network from Abidjan to Bamako to Algiers” and nomadic desert renegades Tinariwen.

For Kirkley, the distribution represents a cultural reclamation of the music, an independent system by and for the people.

“The ubiquity of cellphones has created a busy soundscape,” Kirkley told Motherboard. “There a furious outcry by these corporate machines who based their business on distribution and propagation, but it’s just the sound of a system in its death throes.”

For those who are skeptical about the media being the message, it’s important to note that SanDisk thumb drives were crucial in Cuba some years back. Those devoted to publishing their thoughts online would type up what they wished to say on their unconnected home computers, walk into a tourist hotel (where they were not legally allowed to be), and plug into one of the hotel’s business center computers to post from there.

In fact, in West Africa, the use of memory cards is a symptom of an explosion of musical exuberance extravagant even for the region. There is so much music that expecting only one distribution channel would be “kind of like trying to pour a bottle of Coke into a straw,” according the Wall Street Journal’s West Africa correspondent, Drew Hinshaw.

“Channels of distribution are flourishing in much of Africa,” Hinshaw told the Daily Dot. “USB sticks, cheap smart phones and the like. It feels to me that African pop music is bubbling up right now — finding a humorous, sometimes sinister electro cool voice—and maybe because the channels to circulate little hits are flourishing.”

Nic Offer took a month to travel through Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.  In West Africa, “absolutely everyone is listening to music on their phone,” he said. “The phone is everyone’s new boombox or Walkman.”

Being a musician, Offer wanted to get some of the music that was so ubiquitous on his trip. The concierge at his hotel told him to get a memory card, because “that’s how things were done, that’s how music was sold.” He walked Offer to a cell phone kiosk and the proprietor sold him 100 “hits,” which he burnt, as it were, onto an SD card, as well as a small radio that played those cards.

“Brass band coming through”

July 20, 2015 by


excerpt from “Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis,” by Ian Zack:

Reverend Gary Davis’s first memory of hearing a guitar—that it sounded like “a brass band coming through”—is no idle quip. From his earliest years, he imagined the six-stringed instrument in his hands as capable of making the fantastic cacophony of sounds he heard from those rousing brass bands. That conception would help fuel his revolutionary approach to the guitar, not as a mere vocal accompaniment but as a band in a box with cornets, trombones, tubas, clarinets, and drums all at his disposal.

Carnival, circus, wild West, and minstrel shows crisscrossed the nation at the turn of the twentieth century, featuring many of the musicians who would pioneer the new sounds of ragtime, blues, and jazz—what music publishers and the press had dubbed “coon songs.”

Traveling companies usually pitched huge canvas tents that could seat hundreds of people around a stage lit in the early years by kerosene lamps. They put on extravagant spectacles with music, theatrical comedy, minstrelsy (with both white and black performers in blackface), acrobatics, and circus freak-show acts.

Every show had at least one brass band with a dozen or more members, and some of the white-owned circuses employed a white band for the main stage and a black band for the sideshow tent. When traveling shows arrived in a town, usually by rail, they drummed up business by sending their bands parading through the streets to the town center decked out in gold braided silks, sometimes riding atop colorful horse-pulled bandwagons.

Brass bands performed at schools and in factory yards, and on the earliest 78 rpm recording they could be heard playing popular songs, Sousa marches, blues, and ragtime. Gary Davis played all those genres on guitar, and the songs he heard traveling bands play would show up later in his own repertoire.

In the fall of 1915, for instance, most of the brass bands on tour were performing the songs of William “King” Phillips, a cornetist whose composition “Florida Blues” Davis would teach to students but never record. During the same season, the brass bands were cutting their teeth on the latest sheet music hit of W. C. Handy, “Hesitating Blues,” a song Davis would make famous (as “Hesitation Blues”) for guitarists during the folk revival. Davis also would record several marches, including, most famously, “Soldier’s Drill,” which he derived in part from John Philip Sousa.

R. Crumb on American Routes

July 18, 2015 by

Music, Comics & Collecting Records: R. Crumb & Jerry Zolten

September 24th, 2014 ~ This week on American Routes we spin some shellac and wax nostalgic with the iconic cartoonist, musician and record collector Robert Crumb, who’ll share with us his love of musical times gone by. Then, we talk to educator and vinyl aficionado Jerry Zolten about the story of Paramount Records, started by a furniture manufacturer, whose recorded legacy is now contained in two swank suitcases.

Listen To Hour 1 Listen To Hour 2

Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City

July 18, 2015 by

Jeff Place – Authority on the Folkways (Asch) Archives of Smithsonian

July 14, 2015 by

Smithsonian Folkways producer and archivist Jeff Place holds one of the original glass studio recordings he would have listened to in the making of his recent project Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

from http://www.washingtonpost.com:

Over the past three decades, Jeff Place has been the central figure researching, organizing and ultimately releasing the recordings represented in one of the world’s most important collections of 20th- century music: The Rinzler archives includes the 12 record labels now collectively known as Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

On a recent weekday, Place stood in the Rinzler vault — a windowless room stacked with recordings from 19th-century wax cylinders to 8-tracks. He carefully slid a glass disc out of a paper sleeve and held it up to show the black film — the area where sound had been recorded — peeling like a bad sunburn. This Lead Belly radio recording, dating to the 1940s, could no longer be played. But there was good news. Place had copied and digitized it years ago.

“You sneeze, and they break,” he says. “The whole idea is you want to take these in and get them out to the public. We don’t want to hoard these things. We want to get this stuff out of this room.”

In 1987, the Smithsonian made a deal to buy Folkways after the death of the label’s founder, Moses Asch. Place scored an interview and got the archivist job.

“Folkways was huge,” recalls Tony Seeger, Pete’s nephew and an ethnomusicologist who worked as curator alongside Place until 2000. “Moses Asch had all this artwork very carefully stored and 2,168 LPs. For each of those there was a file. We knew we couldn’t do it in a day, but Jeff’s a fairly unstoppable person. He also brought a pretty good knowledge of American folk music. He knew what it meant when he found something special.”

Place never met Asch, who died in 1986, but he does share part of his philosophy. Asch, he learned, wasn’t desperate for hit records. In fact, a hit would disrupt the Folkways formula by putting undue pressure on the label to press and distribute albums. Asch simply wanted to record as much good music as he could and reach those who were passionate about it.

Walking through the Smithsonian offices, Place points out the activity. One person is converting fast-dissolving master recordings; another is scanning slides from a music festival into the computer system.

There’s a room where anyone can make an appointment and come in and listen to records. There’s also a disc-burning machine — “the robot,” Place calls it — through which visitors can order discs long out of print that have been digitized, such as the aforementioned “Sounds of Medicine,” a 1955 album featuring “stethoscope sounds” from a variety of ailing patients, as well as the 1982 release “Cable Car Soundscapes.”

Last fall, Place stepped down as full-time archivist to become the Rinzler curator, which is really what he has been doing the past few years. He likes to work out of his house in Mayo, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay, which he shares with his wife, Barrie, and his collection of about 20,000 records.

Still, Place remains the ultimate authority on Folkways and doesn’t sound ready to retire. A Pete Seeger box and book — the third in a trilogy that began with Guthrie in 2012 and Lead Belly this year — should be out in 2016. There’s also work to be done on the music of the banjo-playing lawyer Bascom Lamar Lunsford.

“This is the stuff,” Place says, still wide-eyed as he stands in front of rows of Lead Belly, Guthrie and Seeger masters. “You look in this room. All these tapes, these records. Every one of them has a story. Every time you take one out and copy it, you’re in for it.”

13th Harry Smith Frolic, July 10-12, 2015

July 7, 2015 by

from http://www.sacrasoft.com/HarrySmith/


(Founded in partnership with musical guru, Jon Bekoff, RIP, seen above secular river immersion and below jam pics)

On the Green River at Camp Keewanee, Greenfield, Mass.


July 10-12, 2015

Friday 5pm through Sunday 5pm
(No early birds! Day Camp in session weekdays)

$20/weekend or $10/day At Gate

Summer day camp facilities including:

  • Unfurnished cabins to play music in (no beds)
    •Bathrooms and showers
    •Picnic pavilion & basketball court
    •Camping and parking on flat ground
    •Frolicking in the Green River
    •Swimming Pool open select hours

Saturday Morning Secular River Immersions
Potluck Saturday Night &  Saturday Midnight Reenactment of Vol. 3 Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music

NEWSFLASH: NATE PAINE WILL HAVE HIS FIRST HANDMADE FIDDLE FOR SALE, constructed under the close mentorship of reknown luthier Don Paine of Pomeroy Instruments http://www.pomeroyinstruments.com/

Jon Nate Jim

Funk Banjo of Dan Gellert

July 5, 2015 by


by Frank Basile (http://donegone.net):

Dan Gellert. All you have to do is say the name to invoke awe. He was already legendary more than 30 years ago with his funky, restless playing and now represents a whole way of looking at the music. He has what seems to be an endless capacity to turn the smaller internal phrases of old-time music around and around, nudging them rhythmically and embellishing them melodically.

We’re not talking about jazz, here… the individual moves aren’t particularly revolutionary… harmony is not re-invented… the melody is never completely abandoned.. but the overall effect is damned amazing. Anyone looking to do a “tight duet” with Dan is going to be disappointed. He’s NOT going to stand still, period. No it’s not jazz.

It’s FUNK.

If you look at his banjo playing from a technical perspective, you’ll find a couple of things to note. In his clawhammer playing, Dan’s music is notably “chordless.” This gives his music a stark, linear quality. In terms of note quality, he also likes the notes ‘between the frets,’ and has a way of generating that feeling even on a fretted banjo, although he really flies on fretless banjos of all kinds.

You’ll also note that, eschewing chords in general, he doesn’t fill up rhythmic space with a bunch of clutter. Every note matters… and when I say that, the spaces BETWEEN the notes matter, too. The basic ingredients of the right (picking) hand are also pretty traditional: basic stroke, drop-thumb, occasional double thumb, galax lick – it’s the service to which these things are put.

Any one of these can be employed at any point in the tune to nudge the rhythm along or to inject syncopation. Dan likes to surprise himself – he’s not attached to perfection.. just the fun of being in the moment.

The Paine Trio – Sal’s Got Mud Between her Toes @ at Grand Canyon

July 3, 2015 by

Fiddling Nate Paine and his father and brother. Nate was a protege of Jon Bekoff, RIP, former curator of this blog.

Roots of R. Crumb

July 3, 2015 by

from http://dangerousminds.net:

This slideshow of R. Crumb’s blues-inspired works happens to be set to a Paramount record, Charley Patton’s “Down the Dirt Road Blues.”

What concerns us here are Paramount’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency.

The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb.

Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads.

It’s astonishing that these have never been collected into a coffee table art book. The illustration work is wonderful, and for historical interest, these are hard to beat. The only place I know of where they’ve been compiled is in the insane Rise and Fall of Paramount Records box sets jointly released by Jack White’s Third Man label and John Fahey’s Revenant Records.

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New Young Fogies (#2)

July 2, 2015 by

Anna & Benton Flippen. photo by erynn marshall.

edited from Anna Roberts-Gevalt (from www.hearthmusic.com):

I guess I wanted to have a CD that, when people asked me—what is this music? —I could hand it to them, in answer. It’s hard to describe traditional music sometimes, hard to explain how deep it reaches. There’s all of these young folks who are spending their time visiting people their grandparent’s age, who are obsessing over recordings and obscure fiddlers from the 20s and 30s, who are proud to be carrying on local or family traditions.

We did one session in Knott County, Kentucky, on the property of this wonderful older banjo player. It’s a rare piece of pasture in Knott County, where the hills are so close to each other. To get there, you have to literally drive your car up a creek for a hundred yards. We loaded Joe’s recording equipment into a pickup and brought it over to the house.

We set up on the back porch of this cabin that was over one hundred years old. It was a beautiful summer night, raining here and there. I remember sitting on the porch as Brett Ratliff recorded “Jubilee”—it was dark, but for the light of a lamp, and he was recording, and two of our friends sat on the porch listening—two women holding their little kids in their arms, the kids sleepy after a long day. Something about that song, that old porch, the mountains all around, and the faces of these little sleeping kids— the music seemed such a natural part of that landscape. It was beautiful.

A few months ago, I went to visit the grave of this great fiddler Isham Monday, in Monroe County Kentucky—he passed away in 1964. I had been learning a lot of the tunes he played from Bruce Greene—Bruce didn’t meet him either, but he spent a lot of time in that part of Western Kentucky, visiting with musicians. I wanted to see what the land looked like, to get a sense of it, to dig deep into trying to understand the tunes.
I spent the day in Tompkinsville—a small town with more than one abandoned storefront. Quiet. People in town, then in the library, had no idea who Isham was… They were amused, curious, that I would come so far to find a forgotten fiddler’s grave. Bruce Greene talks about this—visiting older fiddlers who felt like no one was interested in their music anymore. And so we owe a lot to the field recorders of the 70s, who were interested, and who recorded the tunes so that we could learn them.

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

July 1, 2015 by



from: http://nehirecords.com:

We are pleased to announce this 3 CD boxed set covering the UK origins of so much of American music. The emigrants sailed from Britain to America with their own music and reached the Appalachian Mountains where due to poor communications and no electricity their music became trapped and developed a life of its own. This much overlooked and historically vital area of American musical development is covered for the first time ever as the beginning of the US/UK musical love affair that continues to this day.

With the full support of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the Museum of Appalachia, with the notes being written by world-renowned Folk music scholar Steve Roud, creator of the Roud Folk Song Index.

Featuring a mixture of well-known songs by some of American music’s most celebrated stars and rare versions from some lesser known but equally relevant artists, this release covers all bases, containing 75 numbers recorded in the USA with their origins in the British Isles, encompassing Old- Timey, Blues, Cajun, Bluegrass, Gospel, and Country.

Some of the most famous songs recorded in the USA with origins in the British Isles, encompassing Old-Timey, Blues, Cajun, Bluegrass, Gospel, and Country, by some of American Folk music’s greatest artists such as Big Bill Broonzy, Bill Monroe, Blind Blake, Bradley Kincaid, Buell Kazee, Carter Family, Charlie Poole, Chubby Parker, Clarence Ashley, Cliff Carlisle, Darby & Tarlton, Jimmie Davis, Dick Justice, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Frank Hutchison, Gid Tanner, Grayson & Whitter, Kelly Harrell, Leadbelly, Riley Puckett, Roy Harvey, Sam McGhee, Stoneman Family, Tex Ritter, and Uncle Dave Macon, amongst many others. The artists and songs that feature here went on to influence many of the biggest acts of the 20th century – Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin & Nirvana, amongst many others.

These songs have passed from the old nation to the new one where they became standards.

Harry Smith’s Paper Airplanes

July 1, 2015 by
from http://blogs.getty.edu:

Treasures from the Vault: Harry Smith and Patterns in the Wind, by Jan Bender

Harry Smith liked to look for keys to the universal patterns that shape our cultures and the hidden realms of the human unconscious. He compared patterns in native American music with the eccentric rhythms of jazz; the patterns in Seminole patchwork with those on Ukrainian Easter eggs; the intricate diagrams of master occultists with the ambient rhythms of the sounds of New York street life—and somehow assembled from these a harmonic web of cosmographic ideas, employing all the investigative rigor of his early anthropological training.

His work explored many mediums, from music to film to painting to collecting, and his collections of peculiar impedimentia—seemingly unrelated objects threaded with meaning—expanded to fill his small New York hotel rooms.

One of the groups of objects Harry Smith assembled, as Nancy Perloff noted in her piece on Smith’s archives earlier this year, was a collection of over 250 paper airplanes found from 1961 through 1987 on the streets and sidewalks of Manhattan. Harry would pick up these transient paper objects, otherwise doomed to be swept away or decayed in the weather, and find meaning, value and purpose in them.

He tagged each with the time and location of their finding, acting as a meticulous field worker, freezing the moment of a stranger’s whim for later inspection and evaluation. These wound up squirreled away amidst his other collections, rarely seen by others, but enlarged by his telling into the World’s Largest Paper Airplane Collection.

Over 250 of these creations have been preserved. One of the most poignant is a connect-the-dots worksheet, printed on fragile, acidic paper, depicting a child gazing up into the air and declaring, “Oh! how I wish I could fly, There’s so much to see from the sky.”
We can only guess at what deeper meanings Harry Smith might have glimpsed in this collection. He was clearly interested in the cataloging of the types of airplanes he found as an expression of their folding methods. He kept the most unusual examples of folding, and documented on at least one slip of paper the discarding of some of the plainer examples he had found in multiples. This would have accorded with his interest in the multitudinous varieties of patterns to be found in folk craft traditions, and discovering their cross-cultural unifying principles.

Harry Smith also chronicled the meaningful but hidden patterns of New York life in an audio recording project of the 1980s, documenting entire days filled with the sounds of footsteps, the noise of crowds, the mewing of cats, the roar of traffic, and the sighing of the wind. Perhaps his paper airplanes are a visual example of this quotidian yet symbolic realm.

Every paper airplane sent into the winds of the city told stories about the weather, and the world, and which days New Yorkers were most inspired to commit small acts of defiance, or freedom, or hope, placing news of the human heart into those webs of resonance described by sound, space, light, and interval. Every time a schoolchild launched her boredom out of a classroom window, she might be sending a message into the hands of Harry Smith.

– See more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/treasures-from-the-vault-harry-smith-and-patterns-in-the-wind/?utm_source=grinews115&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=grinews115#sthash.VjvhyQsJ.dpuf

Help Wanted: Weems String Band

June 30, 2015 by


from an exchange on rec.music.country.old-time:
Granddaughter of Dick Weems: My great grandfather is Dick Weems (Dickson Augustus Weems) was his full name and he was part of the Weems String Band.  My grandfather is his youngest Son.  My uncle still has Dicks original fiddle, I don’t know that my Aunt owns all the musical rights to their music and I am sure that if a CD is being put together she would know something about it.  If I can send you any of that information please feel free to send me an email at…

Respondent:  You are descended from royalty.

Their recorded songs are, at least to many of us in this subculture, among
the most astounding and great bits of music ever.  They had a
hard-to-describe sound that’s not quite like much of the mainstream of
old-time recordings of that era — there’s something a little more scary and
less cute about their sound than many of their recording contemporaries,
probably due in substantial part to the cello.

There’s only one problem that I’m aware of: one of their two recorded songs
(Davy) requires you (at least if you hang out with the sort of folks I hang
out with) to give a short mini-dissertation about history, and how the use
of what we now call “the N word,” and the indulging of a certain racial
stereotype regarding dancing prowess, didn’t really necessarily mean, at the
time they were recording, that the user was a bad person.

At the risk of being accused as being one of those Soviet-era photo-retouchers who
airbrushed Kremlin figures out of old photos when they fell into disfavor,
maybe somebody with good digital editing technology could remix a version of
Davy with those vocals taken out???

Mexican Song

June 29, 2015 by

from www.loc.gov:

The corrido is a type of socially relevant narrative ballad that served in Mexico as the main informational and educational outlet.

Rancheras, literally “music of the ranches,” are traditional songs usually accompanied by guitar and/or horns.

The merging of European and indigenous Mexican musical traditions has long been a hallmark of Mexican American music beyond the church. Corridos gave rise to other forms of music such as Tejano (literally “Texas music”). Tejano music, the name given to several different forms of folk music developed by the Mexican American community in Texas, combines the waltz and polka stylings brought to Texas in the mid-nineteenth century by northern European immigrants with Spanish-language songs that originated south of the border and were passed down through generations of Mexicans.

Habanera music is also found among Mexican Americans. It has a meter influenced by the music of North Africa and is found throughout the Spanish speaking world today.

Conjunto music is one of the dominant dance music forms of Mexican Americans today. Related to Tejano music, its roots lie in South Texas at the end of the nineteenth Century, following the introduction of the button accordion into Mexican working-class communities along the Texas-Mexican border by Northern European immigrants. The accordion-based musical form was used to accompany celebrations of all kinds. Thanks to a strong recording history from the 1920s onwards, conjunto grew to become the most powerful musical symbol of Mexican American working-class culture.

Mariachi music is perhaps the most well-known Mexican American folk music form, having gained wide popularity throughout the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century mostly through its promotion in school bands and at mariachi festivals.

Mariachi originated in rural Mexico in the nineteenth century and, like Tejano, was eventually influenced by the polka and waltz. The typical mariachi ensemble consists of violins, accordions, trumpets and guitars. Mexican folk harps are also sometimes employed. There is generally no lead singer. All players sing choruses and take turns singing the lead. Mariachi vocalization, which emphasizes an operative quality, encompasses a romantic “bolero” sound, falsetto singing, and a more aggressive style known as son jaliscense.

Son Jarocho is another well-known Mexican music style that has gained popularity in the United States. Fusing Spanish and African elements, much of it is syncopated, combines instrumental music with improvised and fixed oral poetry along romantic or bawdy themes, and is sung in a call-and-response format. The instrumentation usually includes a large diatonic harp (arpa), a small, eight-stringed guitar (jarana) and a four-stringed guitar (requinto).

Akonting Story

June 28, 2015 by

by Chuck Levy (from http://www.banjourneys.com):

In 2006, the Center for Arts in Healthcare and Education at the University of Florida began to work with a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya to form a collaborative exchange. As part of this, hospital leaders from Kenya came to visit in Gainesville, and while they were here they visited when I played for patients.

It happened to be a good day, when children responded by smiling and dancing, and adults let down their burdens for a moment. Although I was never sure if it was my musicianship or simply the fact that I was a doctor playing for patients, my new African friends were very enthusiastic about my performance, and invited me to come to Nairobi.

I was also able get approval to use my grant to visit to The Gambia under the tutelage of Daniel Jatta, who introduced me to Ekona Diatta and Remi Diatta, master Jola akonting players. I only speak English. Neither Remi nor Ekona speak English. Yet both were patient and able teachers. It helped that while akonting technique turns out not to be identical to clawhammer, it is mighty similar. By the end of my visit I could play a few tunes.

However, when I returned home to the U.S., and tried to present what I learned, I was unsatisfied. With some reflection, it became obvious that I had not paid enough attention to the singing, which is so integral to Jola music. Therefore I returned to Gambia in 2008 for a second round of instruction, to learn to sing the Jola akonting songs. I met Greg C. Adams there, and together we traveled with our hosts to their home village, Mlonp along the southern shore of the Cassamance River.


A Language of Song

June 27, 2015 by

from http://read.dukeupress.edu:

A Language of Song: Journeys in the Musical World of the African Diaspora, b (Duke University Press):

In A Language of Song, Samuel Charters—one of the pioneering collectors of African American music—writes of a trip to West Africa where he found “a gathering of cultures and a continuing history that lay behind the flood of musical expression [he] encountered everywhere . . . from Brazil to Cuba, to Trinidad, to New Orleans, to the Bahamas, to dance halls of west Louisiana and the great churches of Harlem.”

In this book, Charters takes readers along to those and other places, including Jamaica and the Georgia Sea Islands, as he recounts experiences from a half-century spent following, documenting, recording, and writing about the Africa-influenced music of the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean.

Each of the book’s fourteen chapters is a vivid rendering of a particular location that Charters visited. While music is always his focus, the book is filled with details about individuals, history, landscape, and culture. In first-person narratives, Charters relates voyages including a trip to the St. Louis home of the legendary ragtime composer Scott Joplin and the journey to West Africa, where he met a man who performed an hours-long song about the Europeans’ first colonial conquests in Gambia.

Throughout the book, Charters traces the persistence of African musical culture despite slavery, as well as the influence of slaves’ songs on subsequent musical forms. In evocative prose, he relates a lifetime of travel and research, listening to brass bands in New Orleans; investigating the emergence of reggae, ska, and rock-steady music in Jamaica’s dancehalls; and exploring the history of Afro-Cuban music through the life of the jazz musician Bebo Valdés. A Language of Song is a unique expedition led by one of music’s most observant and well-traveled explorers.


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