Archive for the ‘Sheesham and Lotus’ Category

Resisting the Gentrification of Old Time Music

September 1, 2014

imagesfrom http://www.americanrootsuk.com and http://www.nippertown.com:

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.’ “

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The New Kings of Old Time

August 11, 2014

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from http://www.americanrootsuk.com and http://www.nippertown.com:

SHEESHAM, LOTUS & SON: 1929 – The New Kings of Old Time (Sepiaphone Records)

Anyone wanting to eke out a living from playing music in the U.S in the early decades of the 20th century had to diversify. Charlie Patton, known by many (including me!) as the ‘Father 0f the blues’ didn’t only play the blues, or as it was then known ‘race music,’ but also included some bawdy ‘hokum’ as well as the popular ‘hits’ of those days. Just playing the solemn old blues at a Saturday night dance on one of the plantations would very soon have led to the termination of the performance, perhaps even the performer!
This tremendous trio of Canadians consists of Sheesham Crow on fiddle, harmonica, kazoo, whistling and vocals, Lotus Wight, tenor and five string banjo, kazoo and vocals and ‘Son Sanderson on sousaphone, an instrument that goes a long way to giving this album it’s ‘jug band’ sound. All arrangements are by the trio and the whole album is recorded in mono, live off the floor through a single G7 tubular microphone. Some may argue that this is taking the ‘authenticity’ too far, but ultimately what does it matter?

Certainly many of the old timers would have liked to use the modern day recording technology, with the recording equipment used back in those days being Spartan by comparison, but it could be argued that if this band of ‘throwbacks’ feel comfortable with the equipment then why not use it? The sound is quite distinctive and other than a few of the old bands from the 1920s and 30s their sound is like no one else I can think of.

Their raw musicality creates an incredibly evocative atmosphere and because of the lyrics of some of the songs a humorous element is rarely far away. That is not to say this is a comedy album, far from it. It just seems that they are a band that can bring an authentic tongue in cheek feel to the songs that have a slice of humour, although to make an album of this quality a tremendous degree of skill and concentration is required, as well as a natural feel for these decades old songs, something there is an abundance of with their instrumental prowess and the raw untutored vocals.

Speaking of the songs, album opener and title track, Sam Allison’s ‘1929’ pretty much sets the scene for what is to follow with it’s vaudevillian bluesiness, the raw evocative harmonies, banjo, sousaphone and kazoo ensuring there is no doubt about the musical content of this hugely entertaining album. Next is Keep It Clean, an excellent version of the old blues singer/guitarist Charlie Jordan’s bawdy song, complete with authentic atmospheric sousaphone giving a heavy bassy jug backing that contrasts well with the banjo and fiddle, as well as the, as usual, atmospheric vocals.

Next we have Jackson Stomp an instrumental written by Cow Cow Davenport, the old time blues, jazz and vaudevillian musician, with hard driving fiddle and banjo, underpinned by the sousaphone. In the case of the ‘classic’ Drunken Nights, this version is probably played as the song was intended to be played, again backed up by the bassy sousaphone with sawing fiddle, banjo and what sounds very much like two drunken singers doing their best to blend their slightly discordant harmonies on this tale of an aggrieved drunk!

Daniel  Williams of the legendary East Texas Serenaders wrote the groundbreaking instrumental Mineola Rag, a tune
that blended early Texas swing with what would one day be known as ‘bluegrass.’ Naturally this trio’s version includes the sousaphone on the fiddle driven, incredibly evocative recording that thanks in part to that sousaphone, exhibits a similar originality to recordings made eighty years ago.
http://sheeshamandlotus.com