Resisting the Gentrification of Old Time Music


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As Sheesham Crow explains it, there is no utility in resisting a euphonium or trumpet in an old timey band. “If I walked across the holler, and I happen to bring an accordion, (my friend) wouldn’t say, ‘Wow, I’m playing old time. You can’t play that accordion.’”

“The thing that bugs me is the gentrification of old time music. You can lose some of that crusty, wild energy that comes from the real old time music.  Our job as traditional musicians is to keep singing other people’s songs because they’re important and they’re dead. So they can’t sing them. It’s a huge responsibility to maintain this, and, yes, you can listen to it on a record, and sure, you can go to the Smithsonian and listen to the archives or the Library of Congress or whatever, but 80%, 90% of the population up here has never ever heard of the Smithsonian or the Library of Congress.”

So, if you said, ‘Oh, the Lomax Collection,’ some people know, but they’re not going to find the stuff. It’s still a total mystery, and people think that half the stuff we sing is our own in spite of the fact we say, ‘This is from 1933.’

The honesty is in music now again. Honesty in the new meeting the old, and an honest take on the music they love to hear and make and the genuine honest reactions that we get from our music. When we play on the street, everybody reacts in usually a positive way. We get everybody – rockers, punk rockers, total emo, whatever they’re called. No matter who, everybody stops and goes, ‘You guys, that’s really something I’ve never heard.’ So often people come to the shows, and they say, ‘You know, if somebody had told me we’re gonna go see this old timey band, I probably wouldn’t have come.’ Or they see us and say, ‘I didn’t realize I love this music so much.’ “


One Response to “Resisting the Gentrification of Old Time Music”

  1. Wayne Crouch Says:

    Sheesham & Lotus & Son will be playing a house concert this Thursday Nov 13 in Amherst, MA, at the Pioneer Valley CoHousing Community’s Common House, 120 Pulpit Hill Road. Donation at the door; $15-$20 suggested. For information call 413-549-5388.

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