Archive for the ‘Art Rosenbaum’ Category

The Mary Lomax Ballad Book

December 29, 2014




The Mary Lomax Ballad Book: America’s Great 21st Century Traditional Singer—Collected and Annotated by Art Rosenbaum, with Bonnie Loggins, Casey Loggins, Pashie Towery, Roy Tench (fiddle), photographs by Margo Rosenbaum, 210 pages with 2 CDs, hardcover only, Loomis House Press, edited by Ed Cray, book cover Susan Archie, photo by Alix Taylor.  Foreword by Alice Gerrard; Edited by Ed Cray; Published by CAMSCO Music (dick greenhaus); 210 + xviii pp; copyright 2013 by Art Rosenbaum. $37.50 Hard Cover only. You can order from or by phone at 800/548-FOLK .



Art Rosenbaum’s interest in Mary Lomax and her sister Bonnie Loggins sprang not from music, but through a shared connection to the visual arts. In the early 2000s, Cleveland, Georgia folk art dealer Barbara C. Brogdon introduced Rosenbaum to the self-taught artist Bonnie Loggins. Rosenbaum was immediately captivated; not only by Bonnie’s visual artistry, but also intrigued by the traditional folk songs Bonnie had inherited from her father.

Bonnie dispensed these tunes and ballads, as well as her own inventive songs and poems, often and with great pleasure. It was during a visit with Bonnie in 2006 that Rosenbaum met the painter and muralist’s sister, Mary, who had taken on the responsibility of documenting her father’s folk songs and ballads.

Unlike Bonnie, whose illiteracy restricted her repertoire to childhood memory, Mary referred to typewritten texts to perform her father’s ballads. The sister’s interest in their father’s songs and tunes has resulted in one of the most comprehensive collections of music from the Southern Appalachians, which Art Rosenbaum has chronicled with care.

The Mary Lomax Ballad Book: America’s Great 21st Century Traditional Singer—collected and annotated by Art Rosenbaum—reads as a collection of transcribed ballads and fiddle tunes. The hardcover, designed by Susan Archie of World of anArchie, includes two CDs with 59 songs, plus another 20 transcriptions without accompanying audio.

The book is divided into discs A and B, with a brief introduction and explanation of the songs included. Together, the collection paints a rich portrait of an oral tradition passed down to Mary and her sister Bonnie through their late father, and the continuation of that tradition in their own music. The folk form comes to life on the lips of Mary Lomax, for example in “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” (highlighting a great sense of humor) and all-instrumental songs like “Rocky Road to My Daughter’s House” [fiddle by Roy Tench] give the feeling of a human presence long forgotten in the mountains of North Georgia.



Forty-Seven Old-Time 5-String Banjo Tunings and Picking Styles

November 2, 2014


Art Rosenbaum

Art Rosenbaum’s Old Time Banjo Book: Forty-Seven Old-Time 5-String Banjo Tunings and Picking Styles 

“As is the case with all of Rosenbaum’s recordings, you feel as though you are sharing a quiet evening with a generous master traditional musician…Rosenbaum plays banjo in many tunings and many styles, including down-picked and up-picked frailing as well as 2 and 3 finger pre-bluegrass styles.

He is adept at the more recent ‘melodic clawhammer’ style… He is one of a relatively small number of urban musicians who has developed a convincing and personal traditional Appalachian vocal style.” – Steve Senderoff /Old-Time Herald 

Art Rosenbaum is one of America’s foremost performers and teachers of traditional five-string banjo playing. He has a long-time interest in the myriad old-time tunings that give breadth and richness to mountain and old-time banjo picking, and has learned first-hand from old-timers in the South and Midwest.

Pete Seeger praised the inclusion of 23 tunings in Art’s 1968 Oak Publications book “Old-Time Mountain Banjo.” The present book and 2-DVD set doubles (plus one!) that number of tunings. Art groups the tunings into “families” and shows how they can be used, with various picking styles, in playing banjo tunes and string band music and in song accompaniment.

Experienced players will broaden their knowledge of unusual and interesting tunings and styles, and novice players can get started with “common” tunings for easy  pieces like “Cripple Creek” and “Shout Lulu” – the first tunes many old-timers learned. 

240 minutes • 112 page book • Level 2/3  

Miasma of Weirdness

August 4, 2014

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Art Rosenbaum’s “Art of Field Recording” CDs have led to inevitable comparisons with two towering figures of traditional-music collecting: field recording legend Alan Lomax and archivist Harry Smith. Indeed, Rosenbaum has an affinity for, and connections with, both men. He met and interviewed Lomax while he was a college student, and he says Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music “blew my mind” when he borrowed it from the Indianapolis public library as a 15-year-old.

Rosenbaum is a different sort of collector than Lomax, though, focusing solely on old music and working not for the Library of Congress but in service of his own particular interests. And he doesn’t entirely buy the “Old Weird America” meme that has been attached to Smith’s work since rock scribe Greil Marcus coined the term to describe the supposed strangeness of the music.

“I really like what [music archivist] Nathan Salsburg wrote in his preface to Volume 2, that our collection reveals and humanizes rather than mystifies and myth­ologizes these old traditions. I think Pat Boone is weirder than Dock Boggs,” Rosenbaum says with a laugh, referring to the eccentric old banjo player brought to renown on Smith’s anthology.

“That doesn’t take away the strength or power of some of these old tragic songs or very intense blues. I mean, there certainly is this poetic and musical intensity—but the singers and musicians are human beings. They’re not mythical characters in some miasma of weirdness.”

“Get Your Banjo in the Right Tune”

February 7, 2013
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by Art Rosenbaum

“Get Your Banjo in the Right Tune (Tuning)!”: Video by Art Rosenbaum

by Art Rosenbaum, from

This is a compilation of most of the banjo tunings I know and use. Almost all come from traditional sources. In the few instances where I have come up with a tuning without a clear traditional origin (although it sounds appropriately traditional to me), I designate it with an asterisk. I have avoided modern or newly invented tunings. The tunings are grouped in “families” or keys, to make moving from one related tuning to another easier. Although many, many tunings will be given, from the most common to some unusual ones, this compendium is not definitive or complete. It is intended to be useful to the banjo player and is not a scholarly compendium; frequently but not in every case source players will be named.

Gradually expanding the tunings you are know and use will give breadth and depth to your playing, “atmosphere”, as Wade Ward told John Cohen. Some tunings are sprightly and cheerful, others mournful, others suggest moods not easily expressed in words. I should say here that if most of your old-time playing is with other instruments, with a fiddle or in string bands, you will probably want to stick to a few tunings: open G (or two frets higher, A), standard or double C (or D if two frets higher); and sometimes the sawmill tuning. Maybe open D. Other musicians may be impatient with you while you twist your banjo into unusual tunings, and the character of these tunings generally comes through better in song accompaniments or banjo solo pieces. (more…)

Sing My Troubles By

January 25, 2013

Sing My Troubles By: Visits with Georgia Women Carrying Their Musical Traditions into the 21st Century

(A new film by Neil Rosenbaum)

 This feature-length documentary honors older Georgia women who treasure and continue to perform the gospel, blues, mountain music, and ballad traditions they grew up with.

Folklorist and artist Art Rosenbaum visits the women (and some men!) in the homes and churches where their music lives on. These visits reveal not only the music, but also the memories and life experiences of these grass-roots singers and musicians.

The four main segments of the film feature Blue Ridge Mountain ballad singers, sisters Mary Lomax and Bonnie Loggins; early African American spirituals and gospel performed by Rev. Willie Mae Eberhart and nonagenarian blind piano player and singer, Mother Fleeta Mitchell; a mountain string band and harmony singing group, the Myers family and their friends; and the acoustic guitar and singing of south Georgia country blueswoman Precious Bryant.

Most of the performers in the film can be heard on Dust-to-Digital’s box set “Art of Field Recording, Vol. I, Fifty Years of Traditional American Music Documented by Art Rosenbaum, which won the 2007 Grammy for Best Historical Recording, and its companion compilation, “Art of Field Recording, Vol. II.”

On seeing the film–in which he appears–traditional north Georgia banjo picker Ed Teague said, “Some people like to ‘jelly it up’, this [film] is more natural, this is what it ought to be…it’s telling the story…If there was something that was wrong, I’d tell you right straight out.”

Dust-to-Digital and Art Rosenbaum

November 25, 2012


A couple of times a year, Lance Ledbetter and his wife, April, gather friends at their Atlanta home to assemble a few thousand small wooden boxes and stuff them with raw Georgia cotton, a 200-page book of liner notes, and a collection of rare American gospel recordings. Then they head to the post office.
Ledbetter spent years picking through the record shelves of eccentric collectors all over the country, rescuing what he calls “cultural artifacts” from obscurity.

After releasing the Goodbye, Babylon box set in 2003, he figured on selling 100 copies or so. To say he underestimated his project’s potential would be an understatement. Bob Dylan bought a box for himself and gave one as a birthday gift to Neil Young, who gushed over the collection on National Public Radio. Then, in 2004, the set received Grammy nominations for Best Historical Album and Best Boxed Package.

Ledbetter treated the success as a mandate and made his label, Dust-to-Digital, a full-time affair. He’s been resurrecting 78s and re­releasing the work of unheralded American folk, blues, and jazz musicians ever since. In the process, he has introduced listeners to musicians from Laos, Burma, and Syria. Once too shy to call musicologists to get information for his exhaustively researched books and liner notes, he’s now getting calls from scholars who ask about rare recordings they’ve been sitting on or simply say thanks.

An Atlanta news station produced a delightful two-part documentary [see above] on Dust-to-Digital that takes you into Lance and April Ledbetter’s home and base of operations. The documentary also focuses on the work of folklorist Art Rosenbaum, whose decades of recordings have been released as two Art of Field Recording box sets.  In a 2005 interview with the website Gospel Flava, Ledbetter talked about his base motivations for risking massive debt to release Goodbye, Babylon and start his own business: “People probably thought I was crazy or that it would never sell, or whatever. But I didn’t care. The music moved me so strongly that I wanted it to be out there for others. And I wanted there to be a book that explained what this music was and where it came from.”

Art Rosenbaum’s “Black and White”

December 23, 2011



Henry Grady Terrell, Chancey Brothers, Mose Parker, Silver Light Gospel Singers, Gordon Tanner & Smokey Joe Miller, Yank Rachel & Shirley Griffith, Lawrence & Vaughn Eller, Golden River Grass, Jake Staggers, Brady Doc & Lucy Barnes, Ben Entreken & Uncle John Patterson, Cecil Barfield, Lawrence McIver & The McIntosh County Shouters, Mary Lomax, Balfa Brothers & Nathan Abshire, The Eller Brothers & Ross Brown, Guitar Pete Franklin, Albert Hash, Eddie Bowles, George Childers, Scrapper Blackwell, Fletta & Reverend Nathaniel Mitchell, Tony Bryant, Juanita & Oscar Shorty Shehan.

Art Rosenbaum is a musician, muralist and writer who searches out and records musicians hidden away in the mountains, hollers, swamps and backwaters of the rural South of America. For over fifty years he’s been capturing on tape some sensational cajun, gospel, country, blues, mountain ballads and rural bluegrass.

I love this kind of CD. Right from the start, it’s a joyous experience to listen to these folks doing what they enjoy best. The tracks are taken from Art Rosenbaum’s two boxed sets The Art Of Field Recording Vols 1 and 2 on Dust To Digital so you could regard it as a sampler from those releases or, like me, you can accept it for what it is – an inspired collection of the best traditional music America has to offer.

The Chancey Brothers are an old-time country band from Georgia who present Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground at a stately pace and some whooping encouragement for the banjo picker. Gordon Tanner (Gid’s son) and Smokey Joe Miller duet in the classic guitar/fiddle style of the Skillet Lickers on their loping Anglo-American Devilish Mary while Golden River Grass really let loose on the old warhorse Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad with tons of reckless banjo, manic fiddle and that marvellous squeaking harmonica. The Balfa Brothers play their classic Cajun song When I Passed By Your Door with fabulous twin fiddle ramblings held down by the strong rhythm guitar and the heartfelt racket of Nathan Abshire’s accordion. (more…)