Wednesday, November 30, 2005

ain't nothin' new!

We got us a song about a man who lives off what his girlfriend can steal, lays around the house doing cocaine and doesn't get upset when the furniture man comes to reposses his furniture, as long as he can get his next fix. Could this be the latest hip-hop release from someone with his pants around his knees and 10 pounds of gold around his neck? That demon mind-rot that booms from passing cars. The pounding beat that is driving our young people to drugs, sex, and utter moral decay?
This ol' world is goin' to hell in a hand basket because of stuff like this. Must put a stop to it! Warning labels! Ban it from the shelves of Wall-Mart. No skateboards! Can I get a Hallejujah?!

Oh, did I mention it's damn-near 100 years old? And sung by a coal miner from West Virginia?
Originally recorded by Luke Jordan in 1927 as "Cocaine Blues". Dick Justice recorded this debauchery on May 20, 1929. You'll recall that Dick Justice was a friend and neighbor to Frank Hutchison back there in Logan, West Virginia. Musta been one bad 'hood up thar in dem hills.

Dick Justice - Cocaine

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You look like you could use a drink, pal

Stumble on over to Locust St.
JudgeParker has served up another round of his incredible series
7 Drinks of Mankind. Be sure to sample a few from the wine list.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Riley Puckett

Yesterday's post got me to thinking about how the blues influenced country music. Surely Frank Hutchison had an influence on more than just Doc Watson. There were other white old-timey guitar players that incorporated blues licks and riffs into their songs.
Riley Puckett was one of the most popular white country blues singers of his era. His music didn't sound like the old-timey hillbilly songs of Uncle Dave Macon. Perhaps, like Hutchison, he knew the blues.

Riley Puckett was born in Alpharetta, Georgia, May 7, 1894. As a baby he had sore eyes. The prescribed treatment of the day was a mixture of sugar and lead. The treatment blinded him. In 1901 he attended the famous school for the blind in Macon, Georgia, where he learned to read Braille and started on his musical journey. Riley learned the 5 string banjo and by 1912 was playing at dances. As the guitar gained popularity, he switched to that and was gathering a reputation and winning at fiddler's conventions. He was living a hard life playing street corners in Atlanta when his break came. He was playing with Clayton McMichen’s Hometown Boys Band when they got a radio gig on Atlanta's WSB. The station could be picked up nearly nationwide and Riley had quite a following. He became a star at the station. When Columbia Records offered Gid Tanner a trip to New York for a recording session in 1924, he took Riley with him. Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett formed the core of the Skillet Lickers, and enjoyed over a decade of popularity.
Listen to Puckett's runs on these tunes, this style of run would become a staple ingredient in what would become bluegrass music.

Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers - The Farmers Daughter

Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers - Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider

Yes, there are better examples of Riley Puckett's guitar playing on record. He recorded on over 200 records before his death in 1946. To tell the truth, I just don't have any in my collection. I'll have to remedy that.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Frank Hutchison

Frank Hutchison was a white coal miner in Logan, West Virginia who could associate with the hard-luck tunes of his black coworkers. The miners, both black and white worked side by side in a dangerous, low paying job. They knew the blues as well as any share cropper in Mississippi. Hutchison learned the guitar at an early age, listening to a black railroad worker named Henry Vaughn, that he had made friends with when he was 8 years old. He played and traded licks with Bill Hunt, a crippled black guitarist who lived nearby and his neighbor, Dick Justice, both accomplished musicians also. Hutchison usually played his guitar lap style and used a pen knife as a slide. Noted author, historian, and ethnomusicologist, Charles K. Wolfe calls Hutchison the "first real white bluesman to record". His successful recording career spanned from the early '20s until pressure from his record company, Okeh, to add a fiddler and play more honky tonk tunes ended it in 1929, when he returned to Lake, West Virginia where he owned and operated a grocery store.
His song "The Train That Carried My Girl from Town" became a staple for Doc Watson, who was heavily influenced by Hutchison. His "Coney Isle" was later popularized by the New Lost City Ramblers.

Here are two fine examples of Frank Hutchison's impressive guitar work. The first, "The Chevrolet Six" is a light-hearted mountain tune extolling the virtues of the moonshiner's favorite delivery vehicle.
The second tune is a fine example of his mastery of the Piedmont style of finger-picked blues guitar. An informal instrumental, interrupted only to explain that he is "just gettin' right on good red liquor".
Both of these tracks were laid down at a recording session on July 9, 1929 in New York City.

Frank Hutchison - The Chevrolet Six

Frank Hutchison - K.C. Blues

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

The 'Bus will be parked for a few days while I enjoy plenty of food, drink, and good times with my family.

Y'all have a good Thanksgiving.

As some of you know, I actively support several organizations that make real differences in the lives of people. At this time of year we should all remember those that are less fortunate. Having been without a home, living in a tent in the park with a wife and three young children, I am very grateful for the services that these organizations provide. Please help them to help others.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Drink, beer in particular, is a subject near to my heart. It ranks right up there with music as one of the major forces that has shaped my life.
I know the same is true for several regular readers (you know who you are). If you have a passion for good music and have spent any time at all on a barstool, you need to hop off the 'Bus and stumble on over to Locust St. where the good Judge Parker has posted the first installment of an incredible series entitled 7 Drinks of Mankind.
So lift your glass high and toast Judge Parker for an outstanding work!

Alex Bevan - Skinny

Sunday, November 20, 2005

So Long, Rumble

I have just learned that Link Wray has died.
Head on over to Spread the Good Word for the good Reverend Frost's excellent obituary and some mp3s.
Then get on over to PCL LinkDump for lots of good Link Wray tributes and links.

Rumble on.
Link Wray & The Raymen - Rumble

Get Up, Mule!

The great canal period in American history is a short, but important one. Nearly all of the major cities in North America east of the mighty Mississippi River were established along navigable waterways. The rivers and lakes were the major mode of transportation for the original inhabitats and also for the explorers and settlers who displaced them.
Many of these cities were built at the head of navigation, where further passage upstream was blocked by treacherous rapids and falls. Two of these cities that I am very familliar with are Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. Both were built where ships could sail up the Chesapeake Bay, and up either the James River to Richmond or the Potomac to Washington. Both of these cities built canals around the rapids so that canal boats would bring local goods to the ports and return upstream with wonders from foriegn lands.
Unfortunate, for the people who made their living on the canals, the development of railroads was just underway. Within a few years the new-fangled and more efficient railways replaced most canals as the major means of moving goods long distances.
As a lifelong paddler of canoes and kayaks, I have explored many of the waterways that most people only glimpse as they cross bridges on the highway. Call me a romantic, but as I paddle these canals I can imagine the tow rope pulling taut as the muleskinner guides his team along the tow path and another barge leaves the locks loaded with hogsheads of tobacco and whiskey.

The Seldom Scene - C&O Canal

The Boarding Party - Coming Down The C&O

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Seldom Heard Seldom Scene

In the hills of Washington D.C., 1957, Charlie Waller, Bill Emerson, and John Duffy formed the Country Gentlemen. They broke all the rules for a bluegrass band at the time. They weren't from the Appalachian region, they didn't dress in little uniforms, and they didn't play traditional songs from the mountains. What they did do was love bluegrass music, adapt modern songs to fit the style and they took the music world by storm. It was the era of the folk music revival and for nearly ten years, the Country Gentlemen rode the wave of popularity, disbanding in the late 1960's.
1971, and John Duffy is working in an instrument repair shop in Arlington when he gathers together an unlikely crew of part-time musicians who all share a love of bluegrass, but also like to play a variety of music, giving it their own unique sound. This odd-ball crew consisted of Tom Gray, who worked for National Geographic; Ben Eldridge, a mathematician and computer expert; Mike Auldridge, a graphic artist with the Washington Star; and John Starling, a physician and ear, nose and throat specialist. They only intended to play occasionally, hence the name - The Seldom Scene. They played every Thursday night at the Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, Maryland like other men play poker or go bowling weekly. Except they were playing to sell-out crowds at the tiny Red Fox. I'm glad that I was working just down the street from the Red Fox Inn at that time, and spent many an evening standing at the packed bar.
The Seldom Scene moved on to the Birchmere restaurant in Arlington, Virginia where they still perform weekly.
John Duffy died Dec. 10, 1996 and is sorely missed. The make up of the Scene has changed several times over the years but their core has always remained fine bluegrass instrumentation, tight harmonies, and an out of the ordinary playlist.

I chose to post some seldom heard cuts for your pleasure today.

Starting with a local street-singer from Washington D.C., Bob Devlin. Anyone wandering from bar to bar in Georgetown in the late 1970's has seen and heard Bob. He used to play on street corners with an amplifier powered by a car battery. He released two albums, one recorded on the street and "String Rambler" in 1979. Why am I mentioning a street musician from Georgetown? The personnel on his album includes John Duffy, Tom Gray, Mike Auldridge, and Phil Rosenthal. Sounds like the Scene to me! Besides, it's a nice kick off.

Next we have the Country Gentlemen from a later period (1972). From their self-titled release on Vanguard Records. Different personnel here; Charlie Waller, Doyle Lawson, Bill Emerson, Bill Yates with guests; Mike Auldridge, Ricky Skaggs and Al Rogers. They do "Traveling Kind", a song from the mind and pen of Steve Young. The Steve Young that wrote "Seven Bridges Road" that the Eagles took to the charts.

We'll finish this off-center tribute with a song off of one of John Starling's solo releases, "Long Time Gone" on Sugar Hill Records. Helping John out on this cut are some old friends. John Duffy, Mike Auldridge, Ben Eldridge, Tom Gray, and Scott Johnson (piano).

Sorry for the long post today, but in this humble writer's opinion, the Seldom Scene brought bluegrass out of the hills and opened it up for a little modernization, while still being true to it's roots. During their early days, they were very controversial, progressive bluegrass. Time has proved them to be legendary, one of the cornerstone bands of bluegrass music.

Enjoy the ride.

Bob Devlin - A Day In The Life Of Bluegrass Bill's America

Country Gentlemen - traveling Kind

John Starling - He Rode All The Way To Texas

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Roots and Branches

While wandering through my record collection, yes, vinyl records, I came across two bands that are were pivotal in the development of Bluegrass/Country/Country-Rock. The Dillards (also known as "the Darling Boys" on The Andy Griffith Show) and the Byrds.
Not only did these two bands set the stage for the mellow country-rock of the '70s (Eagles, Pure Prairie league, Marshal Tucker, Poco...)but they affected every bluegrass and country musician since. Especially after the Dillards landmark "Will the Circle be Unbroken" lp. Both bands helped to blur the lines between the genres. They changed and traded personnel throughout their long histories. The names are legendary; Doug and Rodney Dillard, Gram Parsons, Roger McGuin, John Hartford, Chris Hillman, Herb Pederson, David Crosby, Clarence White,...
For more info on the Byrds, check out the wealth of info here.
And for the Dillards, try here.
You can still buy many Dillards and Gram Parsons cd's and lp's at Sierra Records.

the Dillards - One A.M. from "Roots and Branches" ~1971

the Byrds - You're Still On My Mind from "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" 1968

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New Links

Greg, over at Enchilada's Blog, left a comment on the Alvin Crow song I posted last week and requested a song that was not on the same lp as "Texas Kid's Retirement Run". I had mistakenly said that Alvin Crow only recorded one album with the Pleasant Valley Boys, but I have two different albums by them! There's a lesson here somewhere, but it alludes me.
I would like to thank Greg for adding a link from his site back to the 'Bus. I recommend a click over to Enchilada's Blog for some fine wordsmithing. Greg can paint a picture in your mind so clear, you'll swear you've been there. I've added a permanent link on the sidebar, I know a few readers who will want to return regularly.
While I'm at it, last week I added a permanent link to Blueskies. Regular readers know Countrygrrl from her comments to posts here at the 'Bus. The lass posts some great Americana as well as top notch stuff from the U.K. Give her a click too. In fact, get over there now while her recent posts are still up. She's got some great Patti Smith, Ryan Adams, and a trip down memory lane with Grand Funk RR, Blue Cheer, and Zappa.

Let's get to some music!

Alvin Crow & the Pleasant Valley Boys - Nyquil Blues

Alvin Crow & the Pleasant Valley Boys - Crazy Little Mama

That's a damn nice bus you got there, Alvin.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Norman Blake

From his "Fields of November" lp

Norman Blake - Lord Won't You Help Me

Blake and Bromberg.
A tribute to sidemen.
Two of the best there ever was.

David Bromberg

Sideman extrordinaire, David Bromberg, from his 1975 lp "Midnight on the Water"

David Bromberg - (What a) Wonderfull World

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Seven Days or Big Bang? Just give me good four part harmony

This past week school boards and voters in several areas around the U.S. have made decisions about teaching creationism Intelligent Design in school science class.
The Kansas School Board has voted to include the new creationism in it's classrooms as an alternative to evolution. I suppose they will be offering magic as an alternative to physics also. The Onion did an excellent parody about the Gravity / Intelligent Falling controversy. In other news, Kansas may ban all births in the case of a bird flu outbreak. You can't have all those storks flying around sick, you know.
One thousand miles away in Dover, PA, the voters took a different direction.
I could have sworn this was settled 50 years ago in Tennessee.

Whatever your own personal stance is, the one thing I am sure of is that when creative people have very strong feelings about a subject, it accentuates, and amplifies their art. Gospel music is an example of that theory. Especially when it comes to the a capella quartet tradition. From the classic, Fairfield Four, to the new-found popularity of the Five Blind Boys of Alabama., the sounds of the gospel quartet can stir the soul of believers and non-believers alike.

Evolution may be good science, but it makes for lousy music.

The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet originally hailed from the halls of Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia. When the group graduated, in 1935, WBT, in Charlotte, NC offered them a three year contract to sing over the radio. That is where the scouts for RCA Victor's race record label, Bluebird first heard the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet. On August 4, 1937, the Golden Gates recorded fourteen songs for Bluebird at the Hotel Charlotte. Their first and most popular recording was:

s> The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet - Gospel Train

The Paramount Gospel Singers, founded in Austin, Texas, in 1936, and first recorded for the Library of Congress in 1941, the Paramount Gospel Singers have a long history. After the war the group re-formed in the San Francisco Bay area, and with a few personnel changes, is still performing today.

The Paramount Gospel Singers - Mother

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Long White Line

A few weeks back I posted some truck drivin' songs and I got a lot of positive responses (okay, two to be exact, but that's just about 100% of the readership, so it's significent). So, I was thinking I should post some more. Well, I sort of want to shy away from the standard Dave Dudley and Moore & Napier, everybody's heard those. I thought we'd take a look at the shadier side of truckin'.

Gary Stewart was an aircraft assembly line worker in Florida in the 1970's. He and his friend Bill Eldridge, a Ft. Pierce, FL cop were writing songs and performing at the local honky tonks. Known mostly for his drinkin' songs, he had a few hits in the 70's with "Drinkin' Thing" and "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)" before joining up with Charley Pride and his band and fading off into obscurity. His 'cryin' in your beer' songs rank right up there with the best! Remind me to post on that subject soon. This cut is from his "You're Not The Woman You Used To Be" LP.

Gary Stewart - Caffein, Nicotine, Benzedrine

Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys are familliar names to followers of Texas Swing. During the resurgence of western swing and honky tonk in the late 1960's and early '70's, two bands out of Austin led the way, Asleep at the Wheel and Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys. As far as I can tell, Crow and the boys only entered the studio to record one album. Included on that lone LP is this ode to the truck driver and to the culture of the late 60's, written by the original "King of White Trash", D. K. Little.

Alvin Crow - Texas Kid's Retirement Run

Change of season

The drive in this morning was beautiful. The sky was covered with a billowing blanket of clouds. The bright morning sun seeking out holes, piercing the cover with bright columns. A patchwork of red, yellow and brown leaves dancing in the breeze. Autumn has finally arrived.
Mornings like this are humbling. It realigns one's priorities and sets the foundation for a good day.
Music can have the same effect. Today we have two women singer/songwriters who have the ability to paint a picture in your mind with their words.

Kris Delmhorst's voice can range from sultry and almost erotic, to powerful and commanding. Her "Songs for a Hurricane" is required listening on the 'Bus. Here are two cuts from her 2001 release "Five Stories".

Kris Delmhorst - Yellow Brick Road

Kris Delmhorst - Broken White Line

Lori McKenna writes songs we all can identify with. You've either been there yourself or know someone who has. On Faith Hill's latest CD are 3 songs that stand above the rest, the title cut "Fireflies", "If You Ask", and "Stealing Kisses". All three of these songs are the work of a stay-at-home mom of five, who married her high school sweetheart and has never moved from the town where she was born. She can capture the little things in everyday life, so mundane that most of us don't even notice, and make you take a new look. Here are two cuts from her latest CD "Bittertown".

Lori McKenna - Girl Like Me

Lori McKenna - One Kiss Goodnight

Both of these powerful artists record on Signature Sounds. If you don't have any of their work in your collection, now would be a good time to remedy that oversight. Signature Sounds is having their annual sale, all single CD's are $9.99. There is a permanent link to their site in the sidebar to the right.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Chris Smither

Those readers that know me well, know that I have been a fan of Chris Smither for many years. Originally from New Orleans, Smither joined the vibrant Boston folk scene in the 1960's. After a long period of drinking, he settled in California and started recording again. Chris Smither is, in this humble writers opinion, one of the finest finger-picked acoustic blues guitarists there is. He is gaining a strong new following once again with the popularity of Americana worldwide.
Here's a small taste to whet your appetite.

Can't Shake These Blues

Never Needed It More

Pass the Jug

Jug band music was the 'Rock-n-Roll' of the 1920's!
Comprised of a collection of simple, homemade instruments and playing a new style of music that was a blend of Memphis blues, Hillbilly, Hokum, and Ragtime, Jug bands were the cat's meow during the 1920's and into the early 30's. Most Jug bands included washboard, washtub bass, kazoo, and perhaps a rhythm guitar or mandolin, but they had to have a jug or it just wasn't a jug band.
One of the most popular Jug bands was Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers. The Jug Stompers "Walk Right In" was so popular that it has been recorded by other's and has been popular for decades. Their "Minglewood" was a big hit in 1928 and became a standard for the Grateful Dead in the 1970's.
The popularity of Jug bands has never been the same as the Jug Band Era of the 1920's, but they never faded away. Jug bands have had periods of resurgence. They became popular again during the great Folk Scare of the 1950's. Jim Kweskin's Jug Band enjoyed the lime light during the 1970's and introduced us to Geoff and Maria Muldaur. Today there are plenty of Jug bands keeping this unique music alive and vibrant.
Here are two examples separated only by nearly half a century of time but not in spirit.

Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers - recorded in Memphis in 1927.
Pig Ankle Strut

Hogtown Stompers - recorded in the Kickapoo valley, Wisconsin in 2004.
Rag Mama

Thursday, November 03, 2005

'Home Sweet Home'

Family Music
Originally uploaded by volvoed.
After yesterday's post, I'm in the mood for some good Bluegrass.
The Lost & Found have been one of the premiere Progressive Blugrass bands for over three decades.
Southern Rail has only been at it for half as long, but are festival favorites.

Let's kick off the weekend with some Bluegrass.

The Lost & Found from their 'Accross The Blue Ridge Mountains' release.
The Lost & Found - The Man Who Wrote 'Home Sweet Home' Never Was a Married Man

Southern Rail from their 'Wastin' My Time' CD.
Southern Rail - Headin' West

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Before there was Bluegrass

The music of the 1920's and 1930's set the stage for the sounds that would evolve into Jazz, Swing, Country and Western, Bluegrass, and Rock and Roll. It was a dynamic period in American music, and one of my favorites.
Until the turn of the century (the one before this last one) most music was regional. If you wanted to hear some music at your party, wedding, or to dance to on Friday night, you hired a local band or joined the jam session at the general store in town. Music was mostly a local thing. This started to change as musicians from different areas and backgrounds started playing together and opened an exchage of ideas and techniques. One of the catalysts of this change was the traveling medicine show. The purveyors of all sorts of tonics and remedies travelled the countryside selling their cures. To attract folks to the sale, the good "Doctor" would have all sorts of entertainment. Comedians, dancers, storytellers, but they always had a band. The band most often was made up of musicians who joined the troupe as it traveled through their area. This blending of regional musical styles allowed the musicians to experiment in ways they rarely could before.

Over the next few weeks I will try to post some of this music, both in it's more "pure" form and in the "blended" styles. Last week I posted a song by Martin, Bogan, & Armstrong. An excellent example of the Black String Bands of the 1930's.

Today we have a few examples of the rural String Bands typical of the Appalachians and deep South. Both were recorded in the late 1920's.

Blue Sky Boys - Are You From Dixie

Armstrong Twins - Three Miles South of Cash in Arkansas

A few old favorites

It's one of those days of reflection. Not on anything in particular. Just sort of satisfied with my lot in life, and marking the passing of another year.

Just a few old favorites.
No background. No story.

Stan Rogers - Watching the Apples Grow

Dave Mallett - The Haying Song

Cindy Kallet - Wings to Fly