Tag Archives: old time

Candid Respect for American Stringband Music

Tui – Pretty Little Mister

Tui – Pretty Little Mister (Hearth Music, 2019)

The shiny sparkly goodness whipped up on the debut recording Pretty Little Mister by the duo called Tui must be akin to the goodness that makes hummingbirds hang around the backdoor, make bad dogs go good and why some fish jump out of the water to kiss the light. Writer’s hyperbole? Perhaps, but only by inches because this is an excellent CD in the resurgence of Americana stringband music. Tight, neat instrumentation, expressive vocals and infectious energy transform Pretty Little Mister into a true delight.

The duo of Tui is fashioned out of singer and musician Jake Blount, one of the few African American banjo players on the stringband scene today and Libby Weitnauer, a sweet voiced fiddler and banjo player from Maryville, Tennessee. This unlikely duo have come to stringband music from entirely different backgrounds.

Mr. Blount found his way beyond funk and metal to American folk through his studies at Hamilton College and delved deep after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012. He says, “I remember going into my bedroom and pulling out these old spirituals, digging through the music of black people and slaves to figure out what our coping mechanism was.” Picking up the banjo seemed fitting as it was African slaves in the Chesapeake Bay area were the first to have brought the banjo to the America.

For Ms. Weitnauer the banjo and fiddle are a sort of birthright in Maryville, Tennessee. She says, “I moved to Chicago to get my degree in violin performance and I got homesick and had a reframing of my upbringing. Growing up, you’re supposed to feel shame about growing up in that area. Once I moved away, it became more a feeling of pride, so playing fiddle music was an expression of that.”

But in order to play this kind of music you have to find it first. More than just reclaiming, it’s a kind of unearthing by way of a worldwide roundabout of musicians that share old field recordings, archival material and trades of knowledge of long forgotten songs and musicians. It’s by way of this deep dive into the stringband traditions that the material for Pretty Little Mister emerges.

It’s simply apparent from the get-go that Mr. Blount and Ms. Weitnauer are masterful musicians, but it is the almost elegant interplay of this pair that makes the recording sparkle, especially on instrumental tracks like “Crazy Horse,” “Eighth of January” and “Twin Sisters.”

Equally delightful are tracks like “Sugar Babe” with Mr. Blount’s haunting vocals or the sweet vocals of Ms. Weitnauer on “Went Up on the Mountain” or the swayback slide of her vocals on “Mistreated Mama Blues.”

The duo of Tui offers up first rate performances that come across with a kind of genuine respect and love for the tradition.

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Vocal Worldly Delights from Moira Smiley


Moira Smiley – Unzip The Horizon

Moira Smiley – Unzip The Horizon (Moira Smiley Music, 2018)

Itinerant American multi-instrumentalist, composer and prodigious singer Moira Smiley has toured the world with various ensembles. Her solo album Unzip The Horizon contains a delightful set of songs where she delivers remarkable solo, overdubbed and layered vocals. Her influences include contemporary American folk music, blues, African beats, jazz, Eastern European vocal traditions, Irish music and mesmerizing electronic ambience.

Personnel: Moira Smiley on vocals, accordion, banjo, piano, prepared piano, percussion, body percussion, field organ, keyboards, string arrangements; Sola Akingbola on percussion; Laura Bohn on vocals; Charlie Campagna on guitar; Krista Detor on vocals; Pilar Diaz on ukulele; Seamus Egan on percussion; Dena El Saffar on violin, viola, josa; Merrill Garbus on vocals; Elizabeth LaPrelle on vocals; Sam Lee on vocals; Jens Linell on percussion; Vanessa Lucas-Smith on cello; Steve Mascari on bass; Joseph Phillips on bass; Rekan Ibrahimi on percussion; Chip Reardin on percussion; Anna Robertson-Gevalt on vocals; Darrell Scott on vocals, piano; Chloe & Leah Smith on vocals; Jayme Stone on banjo; Kristen Toedtman on vocals; and David Weber on percussion, keyboards.

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Artist Profiles: Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens was born February 21, 1977 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a renowned multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer-songwriter and researcher, best known as one of the founders of the country, blues and old-time music band Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she was the lead singer, violinist, and banjo player.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album Genuine Negro Jig won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

One of the essential part of Giddens’ work is her research of folk instruments and traditions of the African-American diaspora.

Rhiannon Giddens – Photo by Dan Winters

A MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient, Rhiannon has performed for the Obama’s at the White House and acted in two seasons of the hit television series Nashville.

In February 2015, Giddens released her debut solo recording
Tomorrow Is My Turn on Nonesuch Records to widespread critical acclaim. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album includes songs made famous by Patsy Cline, Odetta, Dolly Parton, and Nina Simone.

In addition to her solo recordings and her albums with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon recorded Out On the Ocean: Music of the British Isles (2004) and Northern Lights (2005) with Gaelwynd; Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (2014) as The New Basement Tapes; and Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways), a collaborative album that tells the stories of historic black womanhood and survival. Rhiannon has European American, African American and Native American background.

In 2016, Rhiannon received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

in 2019 she collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. they released an album titled

Dicography:

With Carolina Chocolate Drops:

Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker, 2006)
The Great Debaters Soundtrack, with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones and Teenie Hodges (Atlantic, 2007)
Heritage (Dixiefrog, 2008)
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson (Music Maker, 2009)
Genuine Negro Jig (Nonesuch, 2010)
Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii EP (Nonesuch, 2011)
Leaving Eden (Nonesuch, 2012)

As Rhiannon Giddens:

We Rise, EP (NC Music Love Army records, 2014)
Tomorrow Is My Turn (Nonesuch, 2015)
Factory Girl, EP (Nonesuch, 2015)
Live at Jazzfest 2016 (MunckMix, 2016)
Freedom Highway (Nonesuch, 2017)
Live at Jazzfest 2017 (MunckMix, 2017)
There Is No Other, with Francesco Turrisi (Nonesuch, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

Alex Caton grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.

Discography:

Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Riley Baugus

Riley Baugus

Riley Baugus was born November 28, 1965 in North Carolina. He was brought up in a household where recordings of old-time music were often played, Riley developed a love and appreciation for traditional southern Appalachian music as a young child. He began playing the fiddle at age 10, and soon after was playing the guitar and banjo as well. Riley learned much of his music through visits with the elder traditional musicians in and around Grayson County in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, including fiddlers Tommy Jarrell and Robert Sykes, banjo player Dix man, and guitarist Paul Sutphin.

Riley has played with numerous old-time string bands, including the Red Hots, Backstep, the Old Hollow Stringband, and the Farmer’s Daughters. He also played with Cuttin’ Loose and Polecat Creek.

He has taught banjo, guitar, and fiddle at music camps all over the United States and has toured throughout Europe with Dirk Powell and Tim O?Brien, the Konnarock Critters, and Ira Bernstein. Riley’s singing is featured on the soundtrack of the iconic film, Cold Mountain. He makes his home near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he works as a welder and blacksmith and builds old-time banjos.

Discography:

Life Of Riley (Yodel Ay Hee, 2001)
Long Steel Rail (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)

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Sake of the Sound

Front Country – Sake of the Sound

Front Country – Sake of the Sound (Front Country, 2014)

Front Country is an excellent San Francisco Americana band inspired by bluegrass, old time, blues, and classic country music. The band’s sounds is characterized by the passionate voice of Melody Walker, strong vocal harmonies, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and guitars. Although the band is rooted in tradition, they incorporate unexpected progressive elements, especially with the fiddle that make their music unique and more attractive.

The lineup includes Adam Roszkiewicz on mandolin; Jacob Groopman on guitar, vocals; Melody Walker on vocals, guitar; Jordan Klein on banjo, vocals; Leif Karlstrom on violin; Zach Sharpe on bass.

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Artist Profiles: Rick Epping

Rick Epping – Photo from New Road Live in Dublin, February 2014

American multi-instrumentalist Rick Epping plays harmonica, concertina, banjo, and jaw harp. He’s a native of California and has been moving back and forth between Ireland and the United States for over 30 years. During this time, Epping has been playing the folk music of both countries since childhood.

Epping has performed with acclaimed musicians such as Bill Monroe, Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb and Irish accordionist Joe Cooley. On his album The Unwanted he features a trio that includes Irish musicians Séamus O’Dowd (fiddle) and Cathy Jordan (Dervish’s vocalist).

Discography

Pumpkinhead (Mulligan LUN 001, 1978)
Jiggin’ the Blues, with Frankie Gavin and Tim Edey (G2CD7011)
Music from the Atlantic Fringe (Compass, 2009)

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Artist Profiles: Bruce Molsky

Bruce Molsky

Bruce Molsky is one of the most influential old time fiddlers in the United States. Molsky is also an outstanding guitarist, banjoist and singer. His music incorporates the mountain sounds of Appalachia, the energy of blues and the rhythms of traditional African music.

Bruce has performed and recorded with acclaimed musicians such as Martin Hayes, Darol Anger, Alasdair Fraser, the Waverly Consort and Mike Seeger.

His acclaimed solo recording Poor Man’s Troubles (Rounder) has become a standard for old time music enthusiasts everywhere.

Bruce has been featured on the popular A Prairie Home Companion public radio show and as a guest artist on recordings with Darol Anger and the early music ensemble Hesperus, among many others. He toured the U.K. with internationally renowned fiddler Kevin Burke and others on the Fiddles of Fire tour. Bruce is also an accompanist with the percussive dance ensemble Footworks.

Influential old time musicians Tommy Jarrell and Albert Hash were two of Bruce’s mentors in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he first learned to play. Thanks in part to time spent with these old masters, Bruce has earned numerous awards at fiddle and banjo contests around the southern United States.

Bruce is a highly in demand fiddle and banjo teacher, and teaches his own intensive fiddle workshop program throughout the United States. He is a regular instructor at Augusta Heritage Center, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason’s Ashokan Music Camp, Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp and others.

To get a feel of one of Bruce Molsky’s performances, read World Music Central’s Bruce Molsky – a Show Review from Madison, Wisconsin.

Discography:

* Take Me As I Am, with Bob Carlin (1990)
* Lost Boy (Rounder Records CDROUN0361, 1996)
* Bruce Molsky & Big Hoedown (Rounder Records, 1997)
* Poor Man’s Troubles (Rounder Records CDROUN0470, 2000)
* Fiddlers 4, with Michael Doucet, Darol Anger and Rushad Eggleston (Compass Records, 2002)
* Contented Must Be (Rounder Records CDROUN0534, 2004)
* Soon Be Time (Compass Records, 2006)
* It Ain’t Here When I Get Back ‎(Tree Frog Music TF 1301, 2013)
* 1865 – Songs of the Civil War , with Anonymous 4 ‎(Harmonia Mundi, 2015)
* Can’t Stay Here This A-Way ‎(Old Time Tiki Parlour Recordings 006, 2016)
* Rauland Rambles, with Arto Järvelä and Ånon Egeland (Taragot, 2016)

Web Site www.brucemolsky.com

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Artist Profiles: Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn
Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn’s soulful singing was one of the signature sounds of Uncle Earl since she joined in May 2003. Signed to Nettwerk Records as a solo recording artist, her album Song of the Traveling Daughter was released in August, 2005. The album features original songs in English and Mandarin Chinese, which she speaks. Actually, Abby was headed down a career path in Sino-American relations when she heard an LP of Doc Watson and decided to take up old-time banjo.

She met KC Groves at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in Louisville, Kentucky and joined the band that summer. Combining her love of traditional American music, Chinese language and classical Chinese poetry, she began writing songs, some of which happen to be in Chinese. Her writing earned her a second place award in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2004.

In 2012, after attending Doc Watson’s funeral, Abigail began performing “And Am I Born to Die,” a sacred harp piece recorded by Watson. “Doc is one of the main reasons I play the banjo and sing American old-time music,” says Washburn.

Along with 24 innovative and creative thinkers from across the world, Abigail Washburn was named a TED Fellow and presented at the 2012 Ted Convention about building United States-China relations through music. Her efforts to share American music in China, and Chinese music in the Unied States exist within a hope that cultural understanding and the communal experience of music will lead the way to a richer existence.

In 2014, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn released their eponymous debut album October 7th on Rounder Records. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn is a front porch banjo and vocal album of new music, Appalachian murder ballads, gospel, chamber and blues; the culmination of a yearlong tour as a duo in 2013, following the birth of their son, Juno.

Discography:

She Waits for Night, with Uncle Earl (Rounder Records, 2005)

Song of the Traveling Daughter (Nettwerk Records, 2005)

The Sparrow Quartet EP (Nettwerk Records, 2006)

Waterloo, Tennessee, with Uncle Earl (Rounder Records, 2007)

Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet (Nettwerk Records, 2008)

Afterquake, with Shanghai Restoration Project (Afterquake Music, 2009)

City of Refuge (Rounder Records, 2011)

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records, 2014)

Banjo Banjo EP, with Béla Fleck (Rounder Records, 2015)

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Fiddler Trevor Stuart Dies at 47

American fiddler Trevor Stuart passed away suddenly at his home on March 2, 2016 at the age of forty-seven. Trevor Stuart was a member of the celebrated Stuart Brothers, performers of traditional Appalachian fiddle and banjo music.

Trevor Stuart was born and raised in Bethel, a rural farming community in Haywood County, in western North Carolina.

Trevor ad his brother Travis toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad, performing at major festivals and teaching workshops and master classes at music camps.

For over ten years, the Stuart Brothers led the Haywood County JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) an after-school program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Stuart brothers released two albums: Pretty Little Widow, (Yodel-Ay-Hee), and Mountaineer (Old 97 Wrecords) and appeared on numerous recordings.

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