Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Government Issue Orchestra

Old Time music has been making a resurgence for the past few years and one of the centers of the revival is far removed from the style's Southern Appalachian home.

Portland, Oregon has got a thriving Old Time community. Regular riders on the Bus are familiar with Portland's superb Foghorn String Band. Some months ago I was searching for other string bands playing in the Portland area and stumbled across the Government Issue Orchestra. At that time I downloaded some of their live recordings and after an initial listen, promptly forgot where I had put the files. This past weekend I rediscovered the Government Issue Orchestra files. I recall reading some background info on the band, but have not been able to relocate the original article that drew my interest.

The Government Issue Orchestra is; Michael Ismerio (fiddle), Patrick Lind (washtub bass), Sophie Vitells (fiddle), Margaret Brunjes (banjo), and Caroline Oakley (guitar). I enjoy the band's twin fiddles, clawhammer banjo, and simple, but effective rhythm with guitar and washtub bass. Sophie Vitells and Margaret Brunjes dish up some fine mountain harmony on "Maggie & Sophie". The band's current website does offer a few live recordings from the 2005 Portland Old-Time Music Gathering and concert info. I have included two of the live performances below to whet your appetite.

Government Issue Orchestra - Fiddlesticks.mp3

Government Issue Orchestra - Black-Eyed Suzy.mp3

Click on over to the Government Issue Orchestra and give a listen to their other offerings. If I was planning to be in the Portland area anytime soon, I'd check the concert and club schedule and be sure to catch the Government Issue Orchestra.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ghosts on the highway

The TV and radio are full of ghosts, goblins, vampires, and politicians. It must be Halloween!

Here on the Bus we are kind of partial to ghost stories that take place on the road.
Here are two classics.

Red Sovine - Phantom 309.mp3

Country Gentlemen - Bringing Mary Home.mp3

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Easin' back to work

It was a busy weekend. Even with the extra hour we gained from the end of Daylight Savings Time I really had to work hard to get all the chores done around the house. For a change, I'm looking forward to going to work to get a little rest.

The Yellow Jackets - Huskin' Bee.mp3

Clayton McMichen & Riley Puckett - Old Molly Hare.mp3

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Greenwich Village North: Ian & Sylvia

Of all the people that have influenced my musical interests there are four that I credit (blame?) more than all others. Those four are my Uncle Bill, my childhood friend Tom, and Ian and Sylvia.

I'm sure I have mentioned before that my sister and I were raised by our grandmother. As youngsters, my sister and I were sent to spend our summers with our cousins while school was out. My Uncle Bill always had interesting music playing on his big Magnavox high fidelity stereo cabinet. The Weavers, Dubliners, and Kingston Trio were in regular rotation on his playlist. After all of us kids had been sent off to bed and the house got quiet, Uncle Bill would put on his favorite records. More often then not I drifted off to sleep with the beautiful harmonies of Ian & Sylvia drifting through the wall.

I believe my uncle drove this impressionable young teen to folk music through some sort of subliminal sleep learning techniques he learned while in the Marine Corps.

Music critic Gene Wilburn once said that "Photographs of Sylvia playing autoharp while Ian plays guitar are among the most romantic evocations of the coffeehouse era."

Ian Tyson of Vancouver, B.C. moved to Toronto in 1958 while recuperating from a rodeo injury. While looking for a career in commercial art he started playing music at clubs and coffeehouses. Within a year he was playing music full time. It was while they were both playing the Toronto coffeehouse circuit that Tyson met and formed a duet with Sylvia Fricker. In 1962 they moved to New York where they got the attention of Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman (who also managed Peter, Paul and Mary at the time). They released their first album for Vanguard that year. Their second album "Four Strong Winds" was released a year later. The title song, written by Ian Tyson in 1961, was covered by the Searchers and later recorded by Neil Young, Bobby Bare, Phish, Sarah McLachlan, and dozens of others. Ian & Sylvia were married in 1964 and released their third album entitled "Northern Journey". On this album were songs penned by Ian & Sylvia, "You Were On My Mind" and "Some Day Soon", that rivaled "Four Strong Winds" in the number of artists that covered them. The Kingston trio and many others have covered "Some Day Soon". Most recently Suzy Bogguss included the song on her 1991 "Aces" CD. "You Were On My Mind" was covered by the We Five, who took the song high on the charts.

Ian & Sylvia returned to Canada where they had a popular weekly TV program on the CBC called "Nashville North". Over the years nine more albums were recorded by Ian & Sylvia and the band, The Great Speckled Bird, that they assembled for their TV show. Like many other folk musicians of the period Ian & Sylvia moved toward a more country and country-rock sound. The Great Speckled Bird changed personnel a few times and included an impressive roster including; Amos Garrett, N.D. Smart, Buddy Cage (who later joined The New Riders of the Purple Sage), Ken Kalmusky, David Wilcox, Jeff Gutcheon, Billy Mundi (former Mothers of Invention drummer), Red Shea ( former guitarist with Gordon Lightfoot), Pee Wee Charles, Roly Salley (later of Chris Isaak's band), and Jim Colegrove.

By 1974 Ian & Sylvia had stopped performing and were divorced shortly thereafter. Ian Tyson moved back to western Canada and returned to ranching. He began producing records in Canada’s country music scene and has enjoyed a long solo career. Sylvia Tyson has recorded occasionally, written a book about songwriting, and performs a one woman show entitled "River Road and other Stories"

Kat, over at Keep The Coffee Coming has pointed out that it was other performers that had the most success with Ian & Sylvia songs. I'm not sure of the reason for this but I do know that Ian & Sylvia had a strong influence on the music of North America beyond their songwriting. They introduced the work of fellow Canadian songwriters and performers Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell through recording their songs "Early Morning Rain", "For Loving Me" and "The Circle Game". Ian & Sylvia's beautiful male/lead female/harmony vocal blend were an influence on other early folk-rockers such as the Jefferson Airplane, the We Five, the Mamas and the Papas, and Fairport Convention.

Ian & Sylvia were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 1994 were made members of the Order of Canada (Canada's highest civilian honor). "Four Strong Winds has been sung to close the Edmonton Folk Music Festival every year since its inception in 1980 and was determined through extensive polling by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to be “the most essential" piece of Canadian music.

Ian & Sylvia - Four Rode By.mp3

Ian & Sylvia - Some Day Soon.mp3

Ian & Sylvia - You Were On My Mind.mp3

Ian & Sylvia - Four Strong Winds

Thanks, Uncle Bill.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Swing and turn, Jubilee

Autumn has fully taken hold here in Virginia. The morning drive in to work is made much more enjoyable with the colorful tapestry of the leaves shrouded in the early morning fog along the river.

I really enjoy the change of seasons. The hot, sticky days of summer are past for another year replaced with the crisp autumn mornings and their blanket of fog. I drive the back roads to work. The road I drive winds along as it follows the Appomattox River to it's confluence with the James. Just me in my antique sports car, a winding road, and Mother Nature's beauty dressed in a coat of many colors. It's a pleasant way to start each day and to renew one's spirit.

Bonnie Phipps - Streetsinger's Heaven.mp3
from her 1982 Autoharpin' LP on Kicking Mule Records (out-of-print)

Guy Carawan - Jubilee.mp3
from his 1979 Jubilee LP on June Appal Records

Bob Devlin - Applepicker's Reel.mp3
from his self-produced 1976 LP Live at 18th & M recorded on the streets of Greorgetown (out-of-print)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Folk music still has a voice

Modern (by "modern" I mean post-WWII) folk music has helped to bring various causes to the attention of listeners. From the Dust Bowl ballads of Woody Guthrie and workers rights songs of Joe Hill to the social justice songs of many in the 1960s, folk music has been used to raise the collective consciousness and to rally sympathizers.
That tradition continues today.

"(The) plan calls for 698 miles of fence at five locations along the 1,940-mile border. The barrier would be modeled from the San Diego fence, a two-layered reinforced fence with roads, surveillance cameras and sensors. Cost estimates run from $1.5 million to $2 million per mile."
- The Washington Times

"All over America, in the very same communities where food is raised, Americans have to turn to food banks and church pantries for their meals." - "Over 9 million children are estimated to be served by the America's Second Harvest Network,... representing nearly 13% of all children under age 18 in the United States."
- America's Second Harvest

"October (2006) is on course to surpass the October 2005 death toll of 96. Before that the deadliest months (for U.S. soldiers in Iraq) were January 2005, at 107; November 2004 at 137 and April 2004, at 135."
- Associated Press

"Scientists and engineers have a right, indeed an obligation, to enter the political debate when the nation’s leaders systematically ignore scientific evidence and analysis, put ideological interests ahead of scientific truths, suppress valid scientific evidence and harass and threaten scientists for speaking honestly about their research."
- Scientists & Engineers for America

Chris Smither - Origin Of Species.mp3
from Leave The Light On available from Signature Sounds

Brett Dennen - There Is So Much More.mp3
from So Much More available from Daultone, or Amazon.com

John McCutcheon - Our Flag Was Still There.mp3
not released - more info on John McCutcheon, including downloadable .mp3s, here

Monday, October 23, 2006

Come together: The power of folk music

The poodle skirts and white t-shirts of my parents' day gave way to the Folk Revival of the early 1960s. The rock and roll of the 1950s with songs of teen sweethearts and hot rods seemed superficial to the college kids of the late 1950s and '60s, and folk music was based in the campus culture. These young listeners were more aware of national issues and less concerned with the boy/girl obsessions of 1950s rock and roll. Folk music had a message and several now classic songs had the power to influence an entire generation. The message was subtle at first, but the seed was planted.

The Seekers - A World of Our Own.mp3

Scott McKenzie - San Francisco.mp3

Kingston Trio - Blowin' In The Wind.mp3

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The satisfaction of vinyl and close harmonies

I must admit to being a fan of old vinyl. Sure CDs have the advantage of a wider dynamic range and ease of use, but something just seems to be missing.

My turntable, a trusty old Denon DP-60L, has been out of commission for the past few weeks. It had developed an annoying hum. I figured that it was just a bad ground connection but haven't had the time to chase it down and fix it. Well Sunday was cool and rainy, a perfect day to get that turntable fixed. The ground (earth to our British friends) problem turned out to be a simple loose connection at the pre-amp, but since I had the turntable apart I gave it a full tune-up.

That is when I realized what was missing from listening to music the modern digital way. Each time I play one of my treasured LPs I have a ritual to perform. First the album must be removed from the liner carefully holding it with the palms against the edges. Next is the cleaning of the album to remove any dust that has settled on the surface. I then turn my attention to the stylus and give it a cleaning with a dense but gentle stylus brush. When all is clean the tone arm can be moved over the lead in and gently lowered onto the record and the platter set spinning. This ritual is repeated for each side of each album, approximately every twenty minutes.

I believe it is this ritual, performed with care and reverence, that makes one feel he has contributed to the music somehow. The science tells us that CDs offer cleaner, more complete sound, but after performing the album ritual and sitting in my listening chair, the music from an album satisfies something within.

Since my turntable is freshly tuned I spent the day performing the ritual and transferred a few things to digital to share with the riders on the Bus.

The musical style of the Highwaymen is one that has not been revived in the decades since its peak in the early 1960s. The harmonies of the collegiate folk vocal groups like the Highwaymen, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, the Serendipity Singers, Joe and Eddie,... fell out of favor as the more confrontational and politically oriented folk singers such as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs took the stage to raise our collective consciousnesses. 'Tis a shame that the beautiful harmonies of these groups have never regained the popularity they once enjoyed.

Highwaymen - Cotton Fields.mp3

Highwaymen - Big Rock Candy Mountain.mp3

Highwaymen - March On Brothers!.mp3

Highwaymen - Ramblin' Boy.mp3

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Fiddle and the Blues: Will Batts

Although the fiddle is not usually the first instrument thought of when most folks think about the Blues, some African-American fiddlers were using the fiddle to great effect playing the Blues.

One of my favorite Blues fiddlers was Will Batts. Will Batts was Born January 24, 1904 in Michigan, Mississippi. He worked as a farm hand until sometime around 1930 when he decided to make a career out of his fiddle playing. He joined up with Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band, a group formed to play at the all-white country clubs and popular in the Beale Street music scene of fish fries and juke joints. Actually, the band was called Jack Kelly's Jug Busters when they played the white country clubs and parties and as the Beale Street Sheiks when they played the street parties and fish fries of Memphis. When they traveled to New York where they recorded their first session for the American Recording Company in August of 1933, they released the records under the new name as Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band. The South Memphis Jug Band consisted of founder, guitarist and vocalist Jack Kelly, guitarist Don Sane, "Doctor" D.M. Higgs on jug, and Will Batts and his fiddle. The South Memphis Jug Band had a much bluesier sound than most jug bands of the time. One of the records from that 1933 session, "Highway No. 61 Blues" became a best seller for the band. By 1939 they had recorded a total of twenty cuts for the American, Banner and Vocalion labels.

Will Batts also backed a variety of other Memphis performers including Frank Stokes, who had been a member of Jack Kelly's Jug Busters and played with Don Sane. (Note: someone remind me to post some of the Stokes-Sane duo cuts someday. The interplay of these two guitarists is blues nirvana!)

Batts last recording was a session with harpist Big Walter Horton in 1952. Will Batts died on April 16, 1954.

Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Highway No. 61.mp3

Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Red Ripe Tomatoes.mp3


Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Doctor Medicine.mp3

Y'all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Baxter Brothers & The Georgia Yellow Hammers

More Georgia fiddlers today. The Georgia Yellow Hammers were another string band from North Georgia (Gordon County) that featured the fiddle. The band and it's members enjoyed a brief popularity recording for Brunswick, Okeh, and Victor over a five year period. The Yellow Hammers fiddler, Bud Landress, was a good, if not exceptional, fiddler. Of all of the Yellow Hammer's recordings the one that gets the most attention is one that Bud Landress sat out.

I have often discussed how music ignored the Jim Crow rules of the Old South. At a time when the South was segregated and racial boundaries were clearly defined, music was the one uniting force. Musicians, being more concerned with music than social prejudices, were generally an integrated lot. It was all about the music and the exchange of techniques, styles and riffs.

African-American fiddler Andrew Baxter and his son Jim, an African-American-Cherokee singer and guitarist, were a popular duo also from Gordon County, Georgia. The family duo were well known for the playing a wide variety of musical styles. For reasons unknown to me, the father and son team performed as The Baxter Brothers. Chances are good that the Yellow Hammers and the Baxters played the same dances and exchanged a few licks.

In August 1927 the Georgia Yellow Hammers and the Baxter Brothers traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for recording sessions with Victor. Because of the Jim Crow laws, the Baxters had to ride several cars behind the Yellow Hammers on the train ride to Charlotte. In Charlotte, each group recorded their individual sessions, with one exception. On one song, "G Rag", recorded by the Yellow Hammers, Andrew Baxter sat in for Bud Landress on fiddle. While it was common for Black and White musicians to play together in different settings, this integrated recording session was extremely rare in the 1920s.

Ah, the power of music!

Andrew And Jim Baxter - Forty Drops.mp3

Andrew And Jim Baxter - The Moore Girl.mp3

Georgia Yellow Hammers - White Lightning.mp3

Georgia Yellow Hammers (with Andrew Baxter) - G Rag.mp3

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The North Georgia Wildcat: Clayton McMichen

Yesterday's post got me to thinking about those wild Georgia fiddlers of the 1920s and '30s. Everyone should be familiar with Gid Tanner but he wasn't the only one creating a breeze in the hot Georgia nights with some frantic bow work.

From 1913 to 1935 the old Atlanta City Auditorium at the corner of Courtland and Gilmer streets was home to the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention and the competition there was hot. The list of winners at these competitions reads like a history of Old Time music. Fiddlin' John Carson, A. A. Gray, Gid Tanner, Shorty Harper, and Clayton McMichen are a few of the names that would change American music. Some might say that the influence of the early Georgia fiddlers can be attributed to the fact that Atlanta was one of the first Southern cities to build a radio station and one of the first major recording centers in the Southeast. That may be true, but it is hard to discount the frantic fiddling style that was prevalent and the fierce competition in Georgia compared to the styles popular in North Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia.

Clayton McMichen was born on January 26, 1900, at Allatoona, in Cobb County, Georgia. As is usually the case, McMichen was born into a musical family. His father played fiddle and his grandfather played banjo. By the time Clayton McMichen was eleven years old he was learning to play the old tunes on his own fiddle.

In 1922, after Atlanta's first radio station, WSB, went on the air, McMichen and a group of his musician friends, calling themselves the Home Town Boys, made their broadcast debut. They soon became one of the most frequently appearing acts on the station, and their programs provided entertainment for WSB listeners over the next four years.

McMichen took first place at the fiddler's convention at Macon in 1923 and a newspaper reporter dubbed him "The North Georgia Wildcat". The nickname stuck and McMichen's bands from that time forward were known as the Georgia Wildcats. The photo above is one version of the Wildcats, with Clayton McMichen in the center and Merle Travis sitting at his left shoulder. Between 1926 and 1930 McMichen played with Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers. More than a few modern critics credit McMichen's more polished fiddle style as a major reason for the popularity of the Skillet Lickers.

Clayton McMichen was "rediscovered" during the Folk Revival of the 1960s and toured college campuses, folk and bluegrass festivals. Although he was known mostly for his fiddle playing, McMichen was a talented songwriter also. A few of the songs he penned, "My Carolina Home," "Dear Old Dixie Land," "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia" have become standards. Clayton McMichen died in Battletown, Kentucky, on January 3, 1970.

Joining Clayton McMichen on these recordings is the unmistakable guitar of fellow Skillet Licker, Riley Puckett.

Clayton McMichen & Riley Puckett - Old Molly Hare.mp3

Clayton McMichen & Riley Puckett - Fire On Mountain.mp3

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gone to the cider mill: The Skillet Lickers

Autumn has finally arrived here in Viginia. The days have cooled off enough that you can stand still outside without breaking a sweat and the nights are downright chilly. This time of year brings back memories of my younger days when we would all head up the hill to the apple orchard on the outskirts of town. After having our fill of fresh-picked beauties we would fill a few bushels to take to the cider press in the barn.

Oh, the aroma in that old barn! That is the smell I associate most with autumn. My friends and I would help the farmer's wife fill jugs of cider all afternoon. In exchange for our work she would let us have a jug or two that she had set aside to go hard. Once we had loaded the truck with our bounty we'd crack open one of those jugs of hard cider for the trip into town. When we got all of those jugs safely home, we'd loosen the corks on a few to put aside and put the rest in the cellar, to bring up later and replace the ones we'd emptied.

Nowadays it's getting more difficult to find a jug of cider that hasn't been pasturised and rendered nothing more than cloudy apple juice.

Them ol' Georgia boys, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, knew the joys of apple-pickin' time.

Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers - Paddy Wont You Drink Some Cider.mp3

Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers - Sals Gone To The Cider Mill.mp3

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hobos, Bums, & Wobblies: Harry McClintock

Most Monday mornings find me staring in the bathroom mirror wishing I was someplace else. Just about anyplace else will do. This past month marked my thirtieth year of doing the same thing for a living. Oh, I've worked all around the country, met lots of good folks, and had good times I wouldn't trade for anything. But after thirty years I'm just getting tired of the daily routine.

It's Monday mornings that I often find myself singing a Harry McClintock song to myself as I drive the backroads to the plant. I was first introduced to the music of Harry McClintock more than twenty-five years ago and several of his songs seem to come to mind often.

Harry McClintock (October 8, 1882 - April 24, 1957), was a songwriter and union organizer. A lifelong Wobblie, as the Industrial Workers of the World were known, Harry is credited as the first person to record fellow Wobblie and folk hero, Joe Hill's "The Preacher and the Slave". McClintock's radio and recording career took off when he moved to The San Fransisco Bay Area where he hosted a daily children's program on KFRC called "Mac and his Gang" calling himself "Haywire Mac". He also had a novelty cowboy band called Mac and his Haywire Orchestry.

Harry McClintock worked all of his life in a variety of occupations. At various times he was a seamen, muleskinner, railroader, cowboy, sheep herder, and union organiser. It's ironic that he is most often remebered for his songs about folks who do not work. Perhaps, like me, he looks upon these folks with a bit of envy. His best known song, "Big Rock Candy Mountain", is often mistaken for a children's folk song but is far from a song for the little tikes.

Let's start this work week off with a couple of tunes dedicated to those who's Monday mornings aren't interupted by an alarm clock.

Harry McClintock - Hallejujah! I'm a Bum.mp3

Harry McClintock - The Bum Song.mp3

Harry McClintock - Big Rock Candy Mountain.mp3

Thursday, October 12, 2006

National Folk Festival: Lost Bayou Ramblers

I'll be heading to the Richmond Riverfront right after work this evening. First stop will be the beer and wine tent. With full cups in hand it's off to one of the seven stages.

Rinse and repeat.

This is the last in our weeklong look at a few of the artists of the 68th National Folk Festival Oct 13-15, Richmond, Virginia. The festival starts this evening and runs through Sunday. Admission is free and parking is plentiful throughout downtown Richmond for $4/day. Free shuttle buses run continuously. See ya there!

Louis Michot (fiddle and vocals) and his brother Andre (accordion) were born into a musical family. Their father and uncles have been playing traditional cajun "bal de maison" (house dance) music since 1968 and formed the well known traditional all-brothers band, Les Freres Michot.

Louis and Andre Michot trained on triangle, guitar, and bass before moving on to the traditional cajun lead instruments of fiddle and accordion. The young brothers teamed up with Chris "Oscar" Courville, who contributes heavy bass-stomp drumming, Alan LeFleur and his hard-thumping upright bass, and Jon Bertrand's driving rhythm guitar, and the deep swamp beat of the Lost Bayou Ramblers was born.

The Lost Bayou Ramblers have added original tunes to their vast repertoire of traditional Cajun dancehall tunes, fiddle tunes and Cajun swing, all of which they have shifted into overdrive to suit a younger generation.

Lost Bayou Ramblers - Louisiana Breakdown

Lost Bayou Ramblers - Mello Joy Boogie

The Lost Bayou Ramblers will be on stage at the Richmond Times-Dispatch Dance Pavilion, at 8:00pm, Friday. See the 68th National Folk Festival schedule for other appearances during the weekend.

Click on over to www.lostbayouramblers.com for more info, free downloads, and to order their CDs or a bottle of Lost Bayou Ramblers Hot Sauce.

Y'all have a great weekend.
See ya at the festival!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Folk Festival: Santiago Jiménez Jr

One more day until the festival starts. Work is progressing on the stages on Brown's Island and on the hill above Tredegar.

Let's continue our look at a few of the artists of the 68th National Folk Festival Oct 13-15, Richmond, Virginia

Conjunto music was born along the Rio Grande river and is a mix of the styles of music found along the border between Mexico and Texas. A truely American style, Conjunto (literally “group” in Spanish) is a lively dance music that began to develop in the late 19th century when German, Czech, and Polish immigrants introduced the button accordion into Mexican working class communities in southern Texas. By the early 1930s, the modern conjunto style emerged as a boisterous and distinctive Tex-Mex fusion that revolved around the sounds of the accordion and the bajo sexto, a 12-stringed guitar-like instrument that added a bass rhythm. Bass and drums were added later. Santiago Jiménez Sr. was one of the founders of the style. His sons, Leonardo "Flaco" Jiménez and Santiago Jiménez Jr. have followed in their fahter's footsteps. In fact, the tradition goes back even further, their grandfather, Patricio Jiménez, played the accordion also.

While his brother Flaco has become one of the seminal figures in the tejano style (a crossover of conjunto, country, jazz, rock and rhythm & blues), Santiago Jiménez Jr. has kept the more tradional conjunto alive. The songs, in Spanish, are lively and direct and deal with real-life situations -- work, love and dance. But Santiago is more than just a revivalist, his songs address the current lives of the Tex-Mex community. His ballad "El Corrido de Esequiel Hernandéz" recounts the tragic death of an eighteen year old goat herder shot by US Marines, who were patrolling the Texas-Mexico border as part of the Federal government's 'war on drugs'.

In 2000 Santiago Jiménez Jr was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship Lifetime Honor from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Santiago will be appearing on the Richmond Region 2007 Stage, Saturday evening at 5:00pm. Check the 68th National Folk Festival schedule.

Santiago Jimenez Jr - La Tormenta.mp3

Santiago Jimenez Jr - La Mujer.mp3

Buy Santiago Jiménez Jr CDs at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

National Folk Festival: The Quebe Sisters Band

I am starting to get geared up about the festival. The Weather Service is calling for cool but dry conditions all weekend. The James River has crested today and will drop below flood stage overnight. It won't be long now.

Let's continue our look at some of the artists of the 68th National Folk Festival Oct 13-15, Richmond, Virginia.

The Quebe (pronounced Kway-bee) Sisters musical repertoire includes something for all you old cowhands. Sisters Grace (20), Sophia (18), & Hulda Quebe (15) have been fiddlin' Texas style since 1995. In 2000 they took their show on the road. Their shows include a little bit of everything from the Western Swing standards of Bob Wills to hot jazz and swing standards, western and cowboy songs, vintage country and bluegrass. The only thing missing is Bob Wills’ signature “A-haaaa!”.

Rounding out their band are five-time Texas State Guitar Champion and three-time World Champion Fiddler, Joey McKenzie on guitar and arrangements (Joey, along with his wife Sherry, taught all three girls to play) , and Drew Phelps, who has recorded with the Dixie Chicks, Mary Wilson, Sarah Hickman, Bernadette Peters, and a multitude of others, on upright bass. Drew replaced bass fiddle player Mark Abbott (pictured with the band above) earlier this year.

The Quebe Sisters Band is scheduled to play on the Genworth Financial Stage Friday evening (Oct. 13) at 8:00 pm. Check the Festival schedule for their other appearances during the weekend.

Quebe Sisters - San Antonio Rose.mp3

Quebe Sisters - One More Time.mp3

Visit quebesistersband.com where you can learn more, listen to a few tunes, check their tour schedule and order a copy of their CD "Texas Fiddlers"

Monday, October 09, 2006

National Folk Festival: Northern Neck Chantey Singers

Once again the National Folk Festival will be in Richmond, Virginia. This is the second post in our weeklong look at some of the artists of the 68th National Folk Festival Oct 13-15, Richmond, Virginia

Work songs are some of my favorite folksongs. Why I could watch and listen while other folks work and sing all day long.

The Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a member of the herring family and are one of the most abundant fish species in estuarine and coastal Atlantic waters. The Chesapeake Bay is an important nursery for juvenile menhaden; they occupy almost the entire Bay and its tributaries from above Baltimore to the mouth of the Bay in Virginia.

The chanteys of the menhaden fishermen are little known, due to the fact that they were sung only at sea by men working in a specialized fishing industry with only two centers of production: Reedville, Virginia and Beaufort, North Carolina. Reedville remains home to the last remaining menhaden processing plant between North Carolina and Maine, and is still the major port for landings on the Atlantic. Nowadays the processed fish are used mostly in fertilizer, pet food and as bait for more commercially viable catches.

The menhaden season usually ran from May until October and the large boats would sail along the coast from New Jersey to Florida hunting enormous schools of fish. When nets were hauled by hand, the crews from Reedville and Beaufort were primarily Africa-American, while the captain and the mates were mostly white. Crew work on a menhaden boat during those times was grueling. Working from long rowboats, as many as 40 men hauled in a purse seine net filled with thousands of pounds of fish. To accomplish this backbreaking feat, they sang chanteys to coordinate their movements. Work songs allowed black workers to gain a measure of control over the work, to turn it into a form of expression and to control the pace of the work itself.

On the Northern Neck region of Virginia, a peninsula lying between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, a group of men in their 70s and 80s has been keeping alive the unique work songs of the menhaden fishermen. As young men, the Northern Neck Chantey Singers worked aboard fishing boats where they pulled up by hand nets teeming with menhaden from the waters of the Chesapeake and Atlantic. Of course the watermen say that they had to clean up the songs a bit for public performance. They were, after all, hard working men crowded on a boat miles from shore doing backbreaking work in dangerous conditions. Their songs were often of the women they left on shore or looked forward to spending time with at the next port. Whatever the subject, the purpose of the songs was to provide a cadence for the work at hand.

Northern Neck Chantey Singers - Help Me Raise Em.mp3

Northern Neck Chantey Singers - It Looked Like Rain.mp3

The Northern Neck Chantey Singers first appearance at the National Folk Festival will be on the NewMarket Stage at 4:15pm Saturday.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

National Folk Festival: Hazel Dickens

This coming weekend the 68th National Folk Festival will be held in Richmond, Virginia for the second of it's three year stay.
This week we will take a look at a few of the artists of the 68th National Folk Festival Oct 13-15, Richmond, Virginia

Hazel Dickens was born in Mercer County, West Virginia. Her banjo-picking father carried timber for the local coalmines. Great traditional Appalachian singers are getting to be rare these days. Even more rare is the great traditional singer whose songs are driven by important social issues. Hazel Dickens is just such a singer. Those of you who have witnessed the strength and conviction of Hazel's shows know what I mean.

Now in her seventh decade on this little planet, her anger, her unflinching disdain for the system and praise for the working folks that keep the world spinning, that is the energy that powers Hazel Dickens. It's an experience that is not easily forgotten. Hazel is a champion of the working class. Her repertoire is huge and consists of such varied sources as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, the Blue Sky Boys and the Louvin Brothers, Wilma Lee Cooper and Bill Monroe. Her original songs are often drawn from hard experience. Hazel has sung out against sexism and the exploitation of workers. Her values are reflected in her songs of love of family and home and respect for honest toil.

Hazel Dickens will be appearing on the NewMarket Stage, Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm. Check the 68th National Folk Festival schedule.

Hazel Dickens - Busted.mp3

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard - Hello Stranger.mp3

Buy Hazel Dickens CDs at Harmony Ridge Music or Amazon.com.

A word of thanks to my dear friend Lucy for the inspiration and encouragement to continue posting these daily ramblings.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

So Much More - Brett Dennen

Young Brett Dennen is a name you will be hearing more of if you aren't already. This towering 6'-5", baby-faced 26 year old with a thick mop of crimson hair has gained the attention of audiences and critics across the U.S. and Canada.

This young singer/songwriter claims his influences are Bob Marley (“for his melodies”), Bob Dylan (“I love his lyrical imagery and the timelessness of his songs”), and perhaps most importantly, Paul Simon (“my biggest musical inspiration”). You can clearly hear all of these influences and yet each song is uniquely his own. His self-titled debut album, available from CD Baby, was well received and earned him spots at prestigious festivals such as Bonnaroo and the High Sierra Music Festival. This past February he was invited to play on The Dave Matthews Music Cruise and has headlined at such well known clubs as Hotel Cafe (Hollywood, CA), Canal Room (NYC), and Higher Ground (Burlington VT). His fans are spreading the news by word of mouth and via the internet.

Dennen was home-schooled in the small gold rush town of Oakdale, California and taught himself to play guitar at the age of twelve. Dennen credits the time spent playing and writing songs around a campfire in the Sierra Nevada Range as very important in his musical development. Dennen co-founded The Mosaic Project, an outdoor school in California that unites racially diverse fifth grade students from different schools and income areas in a forum for peace education. He serves as one of The Mosaic Project's program directors and developed the music curriculum, writing original songs that he teaches to the students. He recently was awarded the "Earth Charter and the Arts Award" from the Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

Brett Dennen's new CD "So Much More" was drawing compliments even before its September release, and has reached the #1 folk download on iTunes. Grammy Award winner John Mayer said "He paints these gorgeous pictures musically" in Rolling Stone's "Breaking" column. This fall he will open a tour headlined by John Mayer and Sheryl Crow.

Keep your eye on Brett Dennen, you'll be hearing more from him.

Brett Dennen - Ain't No Reason.mp3
from "So Much More"

Brett Dennen - Blessed.mp3
from his self-titled CD

Buy you own copy of Brett Dennen's "So Much More" at Daultone, or Amazon.com.
Check his tour schedule and get a few free downloads at www.brettdennen.com.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Entire Combustible World In One Small Room - Don Dixon

We'll continue with our week-long look at a few of today's artists that you may not be familiar with. Don Dixon is a name many of you know from the credits on many pop albums dating from the 1980s up through today. Don Dixon has worn just about every hat available in the music business: singer and songwriter, musician and arranger, performer and producer. Dixon got his start in music as the bass player and songwriter in the band Arrogance, a regional band from North Carolina. From around 1970 through 1980 Arrogance had a strong, almost cult, following in North Carolina and released half a dozen albums. After the band went their own ways Dixon decided to try his hand at producing albums for other artists and writing the jangle pop that he has come to represent. His song "I Can Hear The River" became a gold record for Joe Cocker and co-wrote the song "Time and Time Again" with the Counting Crows. As a producer Dixon has worked with REM, James McMurtry, Hootie and the Blowfish, Kim Carnes, The Smithereens, Chris Stamey, Fetchin Bones, Marti Jones (Dixon's wife), Mike Cross, The Red Clay Ramblers, and dozens of others. As busy as that sounds, he has also released 9 albums of his own since 1985. Dixon also found the time to play bass on Mary Chapin Carpenter's #1 single "Shut Up And Kiss Me." His own recordings have had success on independent and college radio, starting with "Praying Mantis" and "Follow You All Over the World" in the 1980s.

This past summer Don Dixon released his latest collection of songwriting gems entitled "The Entire Combustible World In One Small Room". While I am not a big fan of jangle pop or the alternative rock that it evolved into, I do appreciate good songwriting and arrangements and this album shines with wonderful examples of both.

Don Dixon - The Night That Otis Died.mp3

Don Dixon - Invisible and Free.mp3

For more info on Don Dixon visit www.dondixonmusic.com.
"The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room" is available from CD Baby and Amazon.com

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Anywhere Else - Blind Corn Licker Pickers

Lexington, Kentucky is where The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers started as a local college-town party band mixing traditional bluegrass with the high energy drive of party rock. The band consists of: Tom Fassas, on guitar and backing vocals, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music and brings his interest in progressive rock, blues, jazz and bluegrass; Joel Serdenis, on mandolin and lead vocals, is the primary composer for the band; Travis Young, on banjo and backing vocals, is a vagabond with an off-the-wall sense of humor and is responsible for many of the band's stranger lyrics; Todd Anderson, on upright bass and lead vocals, his bass slapping and on stage antics are the centerpiece of the band's live shows.

"Though the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers four Kentucky natives who play mandolin, guitar, banjo, and upright bass fleetingly give the appearance of a traditional bluegrass band, the illusion is shattered as soon as they launch into the Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime. If the name didn't do the trick."
- Jewly Hight in No Depression May/June 2006

The Blind Corn Licker Pickers have used the colorful history of their home state as inspiration for many of their original tunes. Although many of their songs are humorous, BCLP is not just another novelty band. These guys are talented musicians, and take their music seriously, even if they have a good time poking fun at themselves and the stranger side of rural American life. Currently, they are only a band on weekends and do not tour far from their Kentucky homes, as each has a regular day job to put food on the table.

Pull the cork on a fresh jug and enjoy a swig of the Blind Corn Licker Pickers spirited, good-time music.

Blind Corn Liquor Pickers - Bad Tom Smith.mp3

Blind Corn Liquor Pickers - Once In A Lifetime.mp3

Buy a copy of "Anywhere Else" here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Leave The Light On - Chris Smither

Chris Smither is a favorite on the Bus. His signature deep, grumbling voice and deft guitar playing are unmistakable. It's that voice that makes you lean forward and listen with a little more attention to make out the lyrics. That extra effort on the part of the listener draws an audience in to an intimacy with Chris Smither, his upbeat, driving guitar and the ever present tapping of his boot complete the near hypnotic experience.

Chris Smither studied anthropology at the University of the Americas in Mexico City for a year before transferring to Tulane University. It was at Tulane that he was introduced to the music of Mississippi John Hurt. For his junior year he enrolled in school in Paris. He spent the year partying and playing his guitar rather than attending classes and was kicked out of school. In 1965 he returned to his native Florida where he crossed paths with Eric von Schmidt. It was von Schmidt who convinced Smither to take his music to one of the big folk centers of the time, either New York or Cambridge, Massachusetts. Chris Smither packed his guitar and moved to Cambridge where he gained a loyal following and recorded several albums. His song "Love Me Like A Man" was recorded by Bonnie Raitt. He spent most of the 1970s at the bottom of a bottle. Fortunately, he sobered up and started recording again, producing several outstanding recordings. His latest, and in my opinion, best release to date was released just last month.

"Leave The Light On" is his first recording for one of my favorite record labels, Signature Sounds.
Buy a copy of "Leave The Light On" here or at your local record store.

Chris Smither - Leave The Light On.mp3

Chris Smither - Diplomacy.mp3

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ruthie Foster

Ruthie Foster's blend of blues, gospel, and folk and, of course, her amazing voice, have earned her a strong following in North America. Her 2002 release "Runaway Soul" broken sales records at festivals across the continent. It even took her record label, Blue Corn Music by surprise. During her tour after the release of "Runaway Soul", Ruthie was running out of CDs to sell at the shows. Blue Corn had to Fed-Ex an entire truck load ahead of her shows to keep up with demand. While touring the Canadian Folk Festival circuit in the summer of 2002, Ruthie sold 1000 CDs in one day at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, breaking a long-time record held by Ani DiFranco. She broke her own record again in 2003 and once again this past summer, she set a new record.

Ruthie Foster was raised in the small town of Gause, Texas, about 180 miles southeast of Dallas. Her music was shaped by influences including Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Sarah Vaughn, Etta James, and Lightnin' Hopkins. The energy she brings to the stage with just her voice and a guitar is just amazing. In 2004 Ruthie Foster released a live album entitled "Stages" that was a compilation of many shows throughout her career.

Ruthie Foster - Hole in My Pocket.mp3

Ruthie Foster - Runaway Soul.mp3

Ruthie Foster's CDs are available from CD Baby, or Amazon.com.