Thursday, March 30, 2006

See Rock City

Many years ago I lived just outside of the town of Scottsboro. Scottsboro is the county seat of Jackson County, in the northeast corner of Alabama and is a dry county. Now, that was one little bit of information they neglected to tell me when I took the job and moved from my home in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, where, I believe, a good supply of cold beer is a county requirement to prevent dehydration. I cannot say for sure that the local Sheriff would issue a citation for not having any beer on hand; as such a calamity was never to befall me.

But a dry county was something I have never had to deal with in all my travels. I was told by a few friendly locals, that I could visit a local bootlegger and pay nearly three-times the going rate for beer in legal counties, and the bootleggers only offered that colorless, tasteless swill that has offended American palates since the demise of regional brewers (Boy, do I miss Balentine IPA and National Bohemian). My other option was to travel 60 miles to the next county and buy the same swill legally. The local law allowed one to bring a single six-pack from another Alabama county. Or to cross the border into Tennessee and bring back all the wonderful amber liquid I wished, illegally. The problem with that option was that the sheriff had deputies stationed at each road crossing into Tennessee and stopped all vehicles on the return trip.

My good friend Rex, a fellow gypsy and beer lover, devised the solution. We would drive up to Tennessee, bypassing the traps and beer halls along the border and head for Chattanooga, where we would purchase sufficient quantities for the week. Then we aimed our pick-up south for Georgia, sticking to the backroads. When we got to Rising Fawn we stopped at the feed store and bought a couple bales of hay to keep the sun and prying eyes off our cargo. Head west and up onto Sand Mountain and the Alabama line. No deputy at the crossing from Georgia, it was a dry county also! The whole trip took well over four hours, but was well worth it.

We always had plenty of good, cold beer to share and hay bales for everyone to sit on while we told our story.

The Lone Mountain Band are from Chattanooga, Tennessee and buy their beer locally.

The Lone Mountain Band - Ten Mile Tennessee.mp3

The Lone Mountain Band - Highway of Regret.mp3

The Lone Mountain Band - Oh My Little Darling.mp3

Buy some here

Have a good weekend, Ya'll!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Ozark - Appalachian connection

While there are differences in the styles, the Ozarks and the Appalachians share quite a bit in that they are both largely remote, rural areas where traditions run deep. The Dowden Sisters, Laura (Guitar), Hannah (Fiddle), and Emily (banjo and Autoharp) were raised in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. Their mother Rebecca raised the girls in a home without television and exposed them to traditional music and arts at an early age. Laura, the eldest and the band's leader, was playing along with the oldtimers at church revivals and picnics by the time she was 10 years old.

After ten years on the bluegrass and old-time festival circuit Emily, the youngest sister, left the band for pursue other interests. The two eldest sisters still live with mother Rebecca, although they did move from their native Ozarks to the area around Asheville, North Carolina at the southern end of the Blue Ridge.

Since Emily's departure last year, the sisters have added Brendan McEnnerney (Clawhammer Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar) and Devin McEnnerney (Bass). When you attend a few of the old-time music festivals and fiddler's conventions this season, make a point of being near the stage when the Downden Sisters are on.

Dowden Sisters - When The Roses Bloom In Dixieland.mp3

Dowden Sisters - Shady Grove.mp3

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The First Family of Cajun Music

One of the first Cajun bands to record, Breaux Frères was extremely popular amongst the Acadians of south Louisiana. The family band consisted of Cléoma Breaux on guitar, and her brothers, Amédé on accordion, Ophé on guitar, and Cléopha on the fiddle. They were the first known to record the now classic "Jolie Blonde" which they recorded under the title "Ma Blonde Est Partie".

Cajun music was one of the last of the "folk" musics that the big Northern record companies ventured into. As I've mentioned before, the big recording companies had no interest in the music of rural communities until they discovered just how large the audience (and profits) were for, first the blues ("race" records), then stringband (old-time), and country (hillbilly) records. It wasn't until 1928 that the first Cajun recording were made. Unfortunatley, it was already too late for several legendary musicians, notably accordionists August Breaux of Rayne, Moise Cormier of Bosco, and Armand Thibodeaux of Sunset, whose music, was never recorded and has been irretrievably lost.

Cléoma left the family band after her marriage to Joe Falcon. Falcon was the most popular Cajun accordionist at the time. Their recordings sold very well in southwest Louisiana and opened the doors of the recording studios to other Cajun artists.

Breaux Freres - Ma Blonde Est Partie.mp3
Recorded April 18, 1929

Joe Falcon - Osson Two Step.mp3
Also Recorded April 18, 1929

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The pride of Surry County

Tommy Jarrell was, perhaps, one of the most influential of the early fiddlers in Old-Time music. Born in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the Round Peak area of North Carolina in 1901, Tommy Jarrell was born into a musical family. His father, Ben Jarrell played fiddle with Da Costa Woltz and his Southern Broadcasters. But it wasn't his father that taught him to play. The Jarrell family had hired Baugie Cockerham to help on the farm and it was he who taught young Tommy to play banjo. He soon started playing his dad's fiddle and at the age of 14 bought his own fiddle. That fiddle is the one he played until his death in 1985, and it is now part of the collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Tommy Jarrell married Nina Lowe and later they moved to the community of Toast, North Carolina, where Tommy got a job operating a road grader for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. He worked for the NCDOT for 41 years, beginning work in April of 1925 and retiring in 1966.

Tommy Jarrell's fiddle playing sounds deceptively simple upon first listen. Aside from unique tunings (EAEA or EADA - open key of E or D, instead of the usual EADG), his bowing is quite complex if you give a good listen.

Mount Airy, North Carolina celebrates the musical talents and influences of their native son with the Tommy Jarrell Festival.

He is joined on these tunes by another Surry County native and old family friend, Fred Cockerham on fretless banjo.

Tommy Jarrell & Fred Cockerham - John Brown's Dream.mp3

Tommy Jarrell & Fred Cockerham - Big Eyed Rabbit.mp3

County Records has a good supply of Tommy Jarrell's recordings.

Bukka's second chance

Born Booker T. Washington White in Houston, Mississippi on November 12, 1906. Bukka White was one of the few Delta blues artists to enjoy 2 periods of popularity.

He got his start in music at the age of nine, learning fiddle tunes on the guitar from his father, but White's grandmother objected to anyone playing "that Devil music" in the household; nonetheless, his father eventually bought him a guitar.

The son of a railroad worker, White was exposed to the sound of trains from an early age and was not afraid to hobo a train. He rode the rails from the Mississippi Delta to St. Louis, where he played poolrooms, barrelhouses, and parties for food and tips during the 1910s and 1920s. He continued to travel during the 1930s, working as a professional boxer in Chicago and as a Negro League pitcher with the Birmingham Black Cats. During the summer of 1937, White shot an assailant in the thigh and was sentenced to Parchman Farm, a Mississippi penitentiary farm.

After his release from prison he tried to re-start his music career, but that was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Navy during WWII. After the Navy, White played gigs occasionally, but found work as a fitter in a welding shop provided a more steady income.

He was re-discovered by John Fahey in 1963 and began playing full-time again. Although this time he was playing to a mostly white, middle class audience. His music took on a slightly different feeling. Gone were the deep, aching blues of his prison era. What did remain unchanged was his fantastic slide and slap-knock rhythm on his old National steel guitar.

Bukka White died in Memphis, Tennessee, February 26, 1977.

Here are a couple of songs from his second career.

Bukka White - Bukka's Jitterbug Swing.mp3

Bukka White - Special Streamline.mp3

Thursday, March 23, 2006

John Duffey - a true Country Gentleman

I've written about the late, great John Duffey in this space before. Co-founder of two of the most influencial bands in modern bluegrass music, the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, Duffey's unmistakable voice and mandolin playing were earmarks of both bands. At a time when most bluegrass bands wore identical uniforms and cowboy hats (I never have figured that out) and stood rigid in a semi-circle around a single microphone, the flamboyant Duffey was full of infectious energy and antics on stage. His choice of music was not the standard bluegrass fare either, performing jazz, pop and rock tunes with a bluegrass zeal.

The WASHINGTON POST said of Duffey on Dec. 11, 1996, the day after his death from a heart attack, "Mr. Duffey was a large and imposing man with a precise and soulfully expressive voice, and his singing was invariably moving. But he also had an engaging, irrepressible and sometimes off-the-wall style of stage chatter and a superb sense of timing that could break up an audience with a one-liner."

In his forty years in the bluegrass music, John was unique and fortunate to have been the catalyst in forming two landmark bands.

The Country Gentlemen - Bringing Mary Home.mp3

John Duffey - Let Me Be Your Friend.mp3

John Duffey - The Boatman.mp3

John Duffey - Life Is Like A Mountain Railway.mp3

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Reeltime Travelers

Back when we produced the Barraks Coffeehouse Concert Series in Hobe Sound, Florida, my wife and I kept in close touch with other music venues throughout the Southeast. We would often visit these other coffeehouses and clubs in our travels. One of our favorite places to sit a spell and hear some good music was the Down Home in Johnson City, Tennessee.

It was at the Down Home that singer/songwriter and guitarist Martha Scanlan and mandolinist Thomas Sneed met husband and wife team Heidi Andrade (fiddler and dancer) and banjoist Roy Andrade. A little later Brandon Story joined the group on bass. The Reeltime Travelers were born. Reeltime Old-Time Stringband Music.

This group of young musicians is keeping the tradition of the Southern Appalachian Stringband alive and well.

Reeltime Travelers - Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider.mp3

Reeltime Travelers - Kiss Me Quick, Papa's Coming.mp3

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Life is like a mountain railroad

Country music and trains, the two are inseparable.
Waitin' on a train, leavin' on a train, wreck of the old 97 ...

Two classic country stars.
Two train songs.

Hey, Porter - Johnny Cash.mp3

Long Black Train - Harold Jenkins.mp3
Harold Jenkins later went by the name Conway Twitty

Keep your hand on the throttle and your eye on the rail.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Mountain philosopher

I met Mike Cross twenty-some years ago when I had traveled to Blowing Rock, North Carolina to attend a good friend's wedding. It was only a brief encounter, but his humor and unusual common sense left an impression.

Mike Cross grew up, and still lives in the Appalachian mountains around Boone, North Carolina and Johnson City, Tennessee, an area known for it's storytellers. Nearby Jonesborough, TN is home to the National Storytellers Convention. This rich heritage was not lost on Cross. A wonderful entertainer, his songs are usually about everyday life in the southern Appalachians and are often humorous, but always insightful. Buy them here

Mike Cross - Elma Turl.mp3

Mike Cross - The Lord'll Provide.mp3

Many of you may be aware that Mike Cross wrote "The Scotsman", a classic with near cult-like following as recorded by Bryan Bowers.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Greenin' up real good

Even though we've had a mild winter here in Virginia, for some reason, I am really looking forward to springtime this year.

This past weekend I turned my winter cover crop and a healthy layer of compost under in the gardens. The cold frame is set up and the wife has cole crops started underneath. We may be pushing it a bit, the weather service is calling for a cold snap later this week, but those little sprouts will be safe in their cold frame.

I even had a chance to clean out all the bugs and critters that have wintered over in our canoes and kayaks. When those spring rains get here, I'll be ready!

Now that all the outdoor stuff is taken care of, it's time to plan this years beers for summer. I'll be brewing all of my regular beers. The cream ale for early summer, a light honey wheat for those sweltering days, and of course, my famous WALSTIB herbal gruit for making music in the shade out back every weekend. Note to the local folks: I'm planning to make an extra ten gallons of WALSTIB, so we won't run out early this year.

Gardening, paddling, beer, music and good friends. Damn, I love the springtime!

Cheryl Wheeler - Spring.mp3

Dave Mallett - Greenin' Up.mp3

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unicorns and green beer

North America, the land of near monthly ethnic celebrations. Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Bastille Day... Any excuse to get snookered.
Ya gotta love ethnic diversity!
But there is something very wrong with the American habit of celebrating the patron Saint of Ireland by putting green food color in cheap beer. That is no way to celebrate a land that produces some of the best beers in the world. Green swill is still swill.

So have the barkeeper pour you a Guinness or a Harp. Can't make up your mind? Have a Black and Tan. But stay away from the green stuff, or you could be seeing unicorns and porcelain horse collars.

Irish Rovers - The Unicorn.mp3

The two largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the world are:
1. New York City
2. Savannah, Georgia (go figure)
Savannah's version is nearly as wild as Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
My eldest child was born in Georgia, in December.
Must of been the Guinness.

Ya'll have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Truckin' with Jim & Jesse

I don't know what causes the attraction to truck drivin' songs, but I sure love 'em. Perhaps it's got something to do with the perception of freedom. Life on the open road, the independance. All the same reasons I listen to hobo songs, I suppose.

Jim & Jesse McReynolds are best known for their good down-home bluegrass, but for a few years they were signed with a major label and pushed to include more of the Nashville sound in their recordings. Among other things, they recorded a few tunes of the open road that have become classics.

Jim & Jessie - Ballad Of Thunder Road.mp3

Jim & Jessie - Diesel On My Tail.mp3

Jim & Jessie - Girl on the Billboard.mp3

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Accordions and beer

Whether it's cajun, blues, zydeco, conjunto, charmame, feita, polka,... Accordion music is just plain feel-good music.

I've featured a few different accordion-driven styles on the Bus before, but it seems I've neglected Polka. What better way to lift the spirits on hump-day?

Myron Floren was "the accordion man" on the Lawrence Welk TV Show. I was raised by my grandmother, The Lawrence Welk Show was a Sunday evening staple throughout my childhood.
Myron Floren - Accordion Man Polka.mp3

Joe Stanky and The Cadets hail from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of northeastern Pennsylvania. Different take on a classic song. This has something of a Norteno sound to it.
Joe Stanky and The Cadets - Sing Me Back Home.mp3

Jimmy Sturr, "the Polka King", has won 15 out of the past 20 Grammy awards for "Best Polka Album". No accordion, more in the Chicago-Honky style, but damn it's good!
Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra - Carolina Polka.mp3

That ought to get your feet movin'!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Three miles south of cash

I worked on my tax return last night, just long enough to get myself good and rialed up. I poured myself another drink and let out a mournful sigh. All of a sudden, the sounds of Lloyd Armstrong's mandolin filled my head and I began to sing along... "Three miles south of cash in Arkansas"... Ain't it the truth Floyd?
Gave a little chuckle when I realized I still had my headphones on.

Born into a musical family in Dewitt, Arkansas, January 24, 1930, Floyd and Lloyd Armstrong were destined to become performers themselves. Their mother, Lois, played piano, ukulele, and autoharp and for a few years worked with Edna Durfee on KLRA, Little Rock, as 'The Sunshine Girls'. The twins began their professional careers in 1935 when they did a gospel number, Walking Arm in Arm with Jesus, on a kiddies' show over KARK, Little Rock, and they soon became regulars on the station's Boy's Club Saturday morning talent show.

During their school years the twins performed with several Little Rock groups including James Evans and the Dixie Mountaineers. They also won plenty of competitions, but rarely won any prize money. It was the Depression after all. Floyd recalled "We won hounds, sacks of groceries, whatever there was but we didn't win much cash in those days, because there wasn't much cash around."
In 1946 the Twins went into the music business full time. The family moved to California, there the boys worked with Merle Travis, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and other country music stars of the day.

The Armstrong Twins were popular on border radio stations that could be heard over the entire North American continent, but they never really pursued much of a recording career, preferring live performances and radio. They tired of show business in 1969 and left the stage. Lloyd earning his living as a mechanic and Floyd as a carpenter.

Then, in 1979, the great ethnomusicologist Chris Strachwitz, discovered some of their old recordings and reissued them on his Arhoolie label. Floyd and Lloyd met with Strachwitz at the Folk Centre in Mount View, Arkansas and agreed to record a new album. "Just Country Boys" was released in August, 1980 and proved they had lost none of their musical abilities.

The Armstrong Twins - Three Miles South of Cash.mp3

The Armstrong Twins - Mandolin Rag.mp3

The Armstrong Twins - Sparkling Blue Eyes.mp3

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What a weekend!

Boy, oh boy, what a weekend! The temperature reached above 90F (32C) with a gentle breeze. A perfect weekend for the canoe trip I had planned. Unfortunately, my first paddling trip of the year had to be postponed when my son told me his car has been overheating. I took a quick look and proclaimed he had a sticky thermostat. Easy fix and I'd be on the river by early afternoon.

One of the advantages of owning half a dozen old Volvos is that I buy my spare parts in bulk. I've got 4 spare thermostats on the shelf. As with most automotive jobs (especially those on cars nearly 4 decades old) you get the "yaoughtas" whenever you start a job. While you've got this apart ya oughta do that. We decided to flush the cooling system and replace all the hoses while we were at it. We had her all filled and buttoned up in about two beers time. We fired her up to check for leaks and admire our work when we noticed the oil leak. That was about the same time we heard the new coolant start to boil!

Yep, blown head gasket. Sunday we tore the engine down and I'll drop the head by the machine shop Monday.

As with most things I try to plan, the weekend wasn't quite what I had laid out. But good weather and helping my son with his first engine tear-down, well, it was a pretty good weekend after all.

Rollin' in the Hay - Catfish John.mp3

Scottsville Squirel Barkers - Swamp Root.mp3

Thursday, March 09, 2006

An early taste of spring

The temperatures here in Virginia reached 80F today and are expected to stay there for the weekend. I've got a strong urge to slip a canoe into the river. The water is low, we haven't had any rain for a while now, but I know a few spots that hold enough water to float a canoe.

There is a park, just a few miles from my home, that sits on the cliffs overlooking the Appomattox River. If I put in here near home, it will take about 3 hours of leisurely paddling to get to the park. The photo above is of the signal tower used during the Civil War at Point of Rocks on the Appomattox. The spot where the tower stood is now thickly wooded and the land between the river and the road is home to a half dozen baseball diamonds. After my canoe trip, I'll sit on the cliffs where that tower could have stood and enjoy a couple of cold, well deserved beers and take in the now peaceful view of the river.

Ya'll have a good weekend!

Let's start the weekend with some bluegrass.
The Virginia Squires were a popular band during the 1980s. They were based out of Fredricksburg, Virginia and have now parted ways. Rickie Simpkins was a long time member of the "Tony Rice Unit", and has recently moved over to join the ranks of "Dave Parmley & Continental Divide". Ronnie Simpkins joined the "Seldom Scene" in 1995.

Virginia Squires - Longing For The Southland.mp3

Virginia Squires - Hooked On A Feeling.mp3

Shameless self-promotion:
Longtime riders on the Bus know that my wife and I used to own a music shop and produce concerts. We still have a lot of CDs and books that were not sold when we closed shop. Once in a while I post some of our remaining stock on ebay. I try to post 20 or 30 items each week. Bid early and bid often.
See my current listings here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dr. Smith's Champion Hoss Hair Pullers

Dr. Henry Harlin Smith was a surgeon for the Missouri Pacific Railroad who lived in the Calico Rock, Arkansas area. He was tired of the backwards image that most people had of his home region. He knew of the area's natural beauty and was always looking for ways to promote tourism. He also knew the area had a plentiful supply of talented musicians. As a way to promote the area and tourism, he organized a fiddle contest in Calico Rock in January of 1926. From the winners of the contest, he formed "Dr. Smith's Champion Hoss Hair Pullers". A unique, but fitting name, don't you think? Fiddle bows being strung with horse hair. He also assembled a group of vocalists from the contest and formed the "Hill-Billy Quartet". In 1926, the groups played on the radio and a series of concerts 180 miles away in Hot Springs, to help promote the Calico Rock area. They traveled to Memphis for a recording session in 1928. Their records really only sold well in their home county and by 1930 they had gone their separate ways.

Hoss Hair Pullers - Goin' Down The River.mp3

Hoss Hair Pullers - In The Garden Where The Irish Potatos Grow.mp3

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Heaven and Hell

The gospel blues - the term sounds like a contradiction.
Many of the early blues musicians played blues on Saturday night and gospel music at church picnics on Sunday afternoon. Any mention of gospel blues brings to mind the two superstars of the genre. Tom Dorsey started his musical career as a gospel singer but was lured away to "the devil's music" when he married Ma Rainey's wardrobe mistress. Years later he repented his ways and returned to the gospel. To this day he is considered the "Father of Gospel".
In contrast to Tom Dorsey's soft commercial side of gospel, Blind Willie Johnson was the raw painful truth. Johnson's music was harsh and gripping, his voice a low growl of false bass. Born in Texas around 1902, Johnson decided he wanted to be a preacher at the age of five. He built his first guitar from a cigar box and taught himself to play. After the death of his mother, Johnson's father remarried. It is believed his step-mother purposely caused his blindness when she threw lye into 7 year old Willie's face in retaliation, after his father caught her in bed with another man and beat her. Willie's father bought him a real guitar and would take him into town on Saturdays. Young Willie Johnson would be left on a street corner to play his guitar with a tin cup on a string around his neck.
During his teenage years his popularity grew. He was playing at picnics and other church functions. His love was for gospel music, but he saw the power of the blues to get people to listen. He combined the blues with his sermons to create a powerful music. He made his first recordings for Columbia on December 3rd, 1927 in Dallas. His recordings where very popular, but as the Depression took hold sales started to drop off. He recorded his last session in 1930 and turned to preaching until his death in 1947.
Johnson is one of the most influential guitarists in music history. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Duane Allman and many more have expressed a debt to Willie Johnson. Johnson's haunting masterpiece "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" was chosen for an album placed aboard Voyager 1 in 1977 on its journey to the ends of the universe. Ry Cooder, who based his desolate soundtrack to "Paris, Texas" on "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)," described it as "The most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music."

Blind Willie Johnson - If I Had My Way I'd Tear This Building Down.mp3

Blind Willie Johnson - Praise God I'm Satisfied.mp3

Monday, March 06, 2006

Canadian Cajuns

Most of you know the story of Louisiania's cajuns. Most early Acadians originated in the Centre-Ouest region of France and had settled in what is now Nova Scotia. After their expulsion in 1755, the Acadians headed down the Atlantic coast making several stops trying to establish new settlements. Driven from these new settlements also, they wound up in the bayous of south Louisiania, which was a French territory at the time.

Dictionaries generally define Cajun as "a Louisianian who descends from French-speaking Acadians." I suppose that is roughly correct. However, many common Cajun surnames — such as, Soileau, Romero, Huval, Fontenot — are not Acadian in origin, but are Spanish, German or French Creole. The original Acadians married into other ethnic families in the region and their music became a blend also.

Whith the increased popularity of cajun and zydeco music around the world, it was inevitable that this unique music of Louisiania would make the round trip back to Canada. I recently came across two bands that have taken the music of south Louisiania and brought it back home with them.

Zydeco Loco was formed in 1996 by members of two Ottawa bands , the Suicide Kings and Mumbo Jumbo Voodoo Combo to bring their love of zydeco music to the dance floors of Ottawa.

-(update) Pictured above is Tornoto-based Swamperella (I had incorrectley identified them as Zydeco Loco). Looks like they're having fun! Cold, but fun!

Way out west in British Columbia, Mojo Zydeco came into being after a few of the band's members visited New Orleans in 2001. After experiencing the Zydeco culture, they decided to bring some of it home with them, and formed Zydeco Mojo upon their return to Vancouver.

Zydeco Loco - Po' Boy Zydeco.mp3

Mojo Zydeco - Ain't No Secret.mp3

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Smooth and gentrified

Deep in the Southern Appalachians, between the Blue Ridge and the Great Smokey Mountains lies the city of Asheville, North Carolina. It's been a few years since I've visited Asheville, but I've always enjoyed my trips there. Nestled into the surrounding mountains, Asheville is an up-scale, modern city populated by middle and upper-middle class corporate workers. Downtown boasts lots of arts, food, and music festivals throughout the year. Not your normal Appalachian city.
The Peg Twisters are an old-time band based in Asheville. Like their city, they have a sound that is a little more refined and polished. Dona Cavanagh's bright, light-handed fiddle is accompanied by the super-clean banjo of Bob Gregory and the smooth rhythm guitar of Jerry Sutton.
Smooth and gentrified - like fine sippin' whiskey.

The Peg Twisters - Gold Watch and Chain.mp3

The Peg Twisters - Briarpicker Brown.mp3

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Poet laureate of the blues

Willie Dixon was one of the most prolific blues songwriters, having written over 500 songs in his lifetime. Many of his songs were written for other musicians while he was working at Chess Records.
"Hoochie Coochie Man"&"I Just Want to Make Love to You" for Muddy Waters
"Wang Dang Doodle" for Koko Taylor
"Back Door Man", "Spoonful" & "Little Red Rooster" for Howlin' Wolf
"You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover" for Bo Diddley

Born in 1915, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the seventh of fourteen children. At the age of seventeen, Dixon left Vicksburg in 1936 for Chicago to become a boxer. One year later he was named the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion, but a dispute with his manager over money, ended his boxing career early.
Dixon had sung with the Union Jubilee Singers, a gospel quartet with its own radio program, when he was a youth in Vicksburg. With his boxing career cut short, he began his musical career by forming the Five Breezes in 1940 with Leonard "Baby Doo" Caston. His new career wasn't looking too promising when, after one year with the Five Breezes, Dixon was arrested for refusing induction into the armed forces on the grounds he was a conscientious objector.
Fortunatley, he stuck with music. In 1951 he joined Chess as recording artist, session musician, in-house songwriter and staff musician. Dixon was instrumental in forming the sound that would become the Chicago Blues. Willie Dixon died January 29, 1992.
Over the years his songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and dozens of others.

My Buddy Blues - Five Breezes.mp3

Willie Dixon - Study War No More.mp3

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Folk Tradition

The daily news has always played a big part in folk music.
At the end of the War Between the States, the murder of Laura Foster and subsequent hanging of Tom Dula (pronounced "Dooley" around Wilkes County, North Carolina), drove local poet, Thomas C. Land, to pen the ballad that became an Appalachian standard. Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley was revived and brought to worldwide attention when the Kingston Trio recorded it in 1958.
In the 1960s folk music was very political. Even the Smothers Brothers television show was cancelled due to their anti-war sentiments. (Someone remind me to post something by the Smothers Bros. sometime, I loved their show.)
With so much going on here on our little planet nowadays, it was just a matter of time before the events of the day made their way into song.
It's the folk tradition.

Eliza Gilkyson - Hiway 9.mp3

John McCutcheon - Ashcroft's Army.mp3