Thursday, November 30, 2006

Preview: John Starling - Slidin' Home

Many of the riders on the Bus know John Starling as a founding member and official front man of the Seldom Scene. Starling left the Scene in 1977 to concentrate on his career as a surgeon.

Dr. Starling's debut solo release in 1979 Waitin' on a Southern Train was a departure from the progressive bluegrass that the Seldom Scene pioneered. John's music was a wonderful mix of bluegrass, honky tonk, and pre-CMA country. He expanded this mix in 1987 when he teamed up with Carl Jackson for the critically-acclaimed album Spring Training.

His next trip to the studio was the appropriately titled Long Time Gone, in 1990. I have featured cuts off of all three of these releases in the past. All three remain favorites over the years.

For the past year or so John Starling and his band Carolina Star have been touring and recording a new CD. It's been a decade and a half since we've heard the superb, real, country music of John Starling. The new CD, Slidin' Home, is scheduled for release February 20, 2007 on Rebel Records. I am thrilled to hear that John Starling has returned to the studio and equally pleased to see that he has returned to the great Rebel label. I don't have any more information on the new CD besides these two cuts. I do hear the beautiful voice of Emmylou Harris (on second listen, that could be the beautiful voice of Fayssoux McLean, formerly Fayssoux Starling) and the unmistakable Dobro of Mike Auldridge, and I would expect a wonderful assortment of other guest artists as well.

John Starling may not be the most prolific recording artist, but once again John has made the wait worthwhile.


John Starling and Carolina Star - Cold Hard Business.mp3

John Starling and Carolina Star - In My Hour of Darkness.mp3

Slidin' Home will be in stores February 20, 2007.
Watch for more information at Rebel Records.

Bill Monroe

He's called the "Father of Bluegrass". Bill Monroe was born September 13, 1911 in Rosine, Kentucky. His father was a well-off gentleman farmer. Bill and his older brothers, Birch and Charlie, learned to play music from their mother Malissa and her brother, Pendleton Vandiver. Uncle Pen made his living traveling the barn dance circuit as an Old Time fiddler.

In the early 1930s the three brothers moved to Hammond, Indiana where they found work in an oil refinery. The Monroe Brothers began playing locally and landed a spot on the radio in nearby South Bend. After a few years Birch left the band for other pursuits. Bill and Charlie continued to perform and gain a large audience. They were so successful that they recorded 60 songs for Bluebird over a two year period. In 1939 the brothers parted ways and Bill formed the Blue Grass Boys.

Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys became regulars on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. They played Old Time music, as did most of the Opry regulars. What made them stand out from the crowd was Bill’s virtuosity with the mandolin.

Although the Blue Grass Boys went through many personnel changes (over 150 musicians have been members of the Blue Grass Boys over the years), I like to break it down to four distinct periods. The early Blue Grass Boys changed in 1945 when Monroe hired a young musician who had done for the banjo what he had done for the mandolin. Earl Scruggs was joined by singer and guitarist Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise on fiddle, and Howard Watts on bass. With this line up the seeds of Bluegrass music were sown.

When Flatt and Scruggs left to form The Foggy Mountain Boys, Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys changed again. Some may disagree, but I feel that this third period of the Blue Grass Boys set the definition of the true “High Lonesome” Bluegrass sound. The powerful vocals of West Virginian Jimmy Martin were complimented by Rudy Lyle’s banjo, Charlie Cline’s fine fiddle and, of course, Bill Monroe’s signature mandolin. It was this version of the band that recorded many of the songs now considered Bluegrass standards.

The band took another direction in the 1960s when Bill assembled what is known as the “Northern” version of the Blue Grass Boys. I believe Monroe was trying to appeal to the new converts to Bluegrass music from the folk movement in the cities and universities of the North. This version of the Blue Grass Boys included singer and guitarist Peter Rowan, Richard Greene on fiddle, and Bill Keith on banjo.

Bill Monroe died September 9, 1996 and is buried in his childhood home town of Rosine, Kentucky as are his parents, brothers Birch and Charlie, and Uncle Pen.

Bill Monroe was rightfully the first person inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. But Bill Monroe’s influence reached much farther than Bluegrass. His affect on Country and Rock and Roll were duly honored with inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Monroe Brothers - New River Train.mp3
The Monroe Brothers (pre-Blue Grass Boys) featuring Bill's stellar mandolin.

Bill Monroe - Tennessee Blues.mp3
Early Blue Grass Boys.

Bill Monroe - Bluegrass Breakdown.mp3
The Flatt and Scruggs years.

Bill Monroe - I'm Blue And I'm Lonesome.mp3
High Lonesome period.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Leadbelly

I'm sure that all of the riders on the Bus are familiar with Huddie Ledbetter. The legend was born on January 29, 1885 on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. When he was five his parents moved to Leigh, Texas, where his interest in music began. His Uncle Terrell encouraged young Huddie and bought him his first instrument, an accordion. Many years later Leadbelly picked up a guitar and set off to make his living as a musician. Over the next ten years he made a modest living playing that guitar and working as an itinerate laborer.

From an early age, Leadbelly was prone to use violence as a means to settle his disputes, no matter how minor. In 1916 he escaped from a jail in Texas where he was serving time for an assault charge. For two years he lived under the alias of Walter Boyd until he killed a man in a fight and has sentenced to thirty years of hard labor at Texas' Shaw State Prison Farm outside Houston. After only seven years, Huddie sang a song for Governor Pat Neff begging for his freedom. Leadbelly convinced Neff he had changed his ways and was released. But by 1930 he was once again behind bars, this time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary for attempted homicide.

Long about 1933, the great ethnomusicologist, Alan Lomax was touring the South for the Library of Congress collecting folk songs when he heard Leadbelly play. Lomax had discovered that the prisons of the South were some of the best places to collect the traditional work songs, ballads, and spirituals. Lomax made hundreds of recordings on that trip and returned a few years later for a follow up session. On one trip, Leadbelly told Lomax of his pardon years earlier by Governor Neff by way of song. Lomax decided to record Leadbelly’s request for a pardon and press it on the reverse side of one of his favorite ballads, “Good Night, Irene”. Lomax took the record to Louisiana Governor Allen and on August 1, 1934 Leadbelly got his second pardon.

Lomax took Leadbelly North where he became a musical sensation, with a long string of hits. Unfortunately, Leadbelly’s violent nature, although mellowed over the years, was to play a part in his life once again. In a disagreement with Lomax, Leadbelly pulled a knife. No one was hurt, but the incident ended their long friendship. By this time Leadbelly was a well respected entertainer and the episode with Lomax had no effect on his career. He continued to tour until he fell ill during a European Tour. Huddie Ledbetter died of lateral sclerosis on December 6, 1949.


Leadbelly - Governor Pat Neff.mp3

Leadbelly - When I Was A Cowboy.mp3

Leadbelly - Midnight Special.mp3

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sonny Terry

Now that the obligatory Christmas song is out of the way I thought we’d take a look at a few musicians whose influence crossed genres and helped shape the music of today.

Only a handful of blues harmonicists had as much of a lasting influence on the genre as did Sonny Terry. Born Saunders Terrell in Greensboro, Georgia on October 24, 1911, Sonny’s father was a musician and farmer. His father played harmonica, but not the blues; he played popular rags and reels at fish fries and local parties and taught young Sonny to play.


Youtube video: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (with Willie Dixon on bass)

An accident at the age of five left him blind in one eye, another when he was eighteen left him legally blind. His blindness left him little hope for making a living as a farmer. He began playing his harmonica on the streets and juke joints of nearby Shelby, North Carolina and eventually signed on with a traveling medicine show. After his father died in an accident he moved in with a brother in Wadesboro, southeast of Charlotte. It was in Wadesboro that he met Blind Boy Fuller. Fuller convinced him to move to Durham where there was good money to be made playing the blues. Fuller, Terry, and washboard player George Washington (better known as Bull City Red) could make enough money for a weeks worth of groceries for all three in just one day playing the tobacco warehouses of Durham.

In 1937 Terry accompanied Fuller to New York for a recording session. Sonny Terry appeared on all of Blind Boy Fuller’s recordings from that time until Fuller’s death in 1940. At a concert in Washington, D.C. in 1939, Sonny Terry met Brownie McGhee, a Piedmont-style guitarist from Knoxville, Tennessee who had been struck with polio as a child. By 1950 the duo was part of the New York folk music scene with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. By the later part of the 1950s, just as their popularity started to wane, the folk revival of the 1960s brought them back to stardom and the two toured the world on their new-found fame. By the 1980s, Terry’s health kept him from touring, although he did make one more trip to the studio to record the LP Whoopin' (Alligator AL 4734) with Johnny Winter and Willie Dixon. Sonny Terry died March 11, 1986 after more than fifty years of energetic, inspiring music.


Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses.mp3

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Children, Go Where I Send Thee.mp3

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving is past and the humble celebration of grace and kinship with all mankind was followed by the frenzied masses storming the big discount stores, known as Black Friday. The Christmas shopping season has officially begun. I’ve already heard a couple of Christmas songs on the radio. I was washing the cars, enjoying a few beers and a sunny Sunday in the upper 70sF (25°C) when the man on the radio played a few Christmas songs in a row. I put on a CD and poured myself another beer.

Several blogs will be starting their annual deluge of Christmas music as well. One of my favorites is the honky tonk Christmas selections posted at Big Rock Candy Mountain, check in daily (?) from now until the big day.


    Here on the Bus I've made a few minor changes:

    I've added some neat little green "play" arrows before each .mp3 link. Clicking on the arrow will start the song in a streaming audio format within the page. When the song is streaming the green arrow will change to a red "stop" button. No need for WinMedia, Quicktime, Winamp or any external .mp3 player. This feature is Java-driven, so you must have Java enabled for it to work. I have left the song titles as regular links for those that prefer to download the regular way.

    WebJay has been having trouble for the past few months with their servers down more often than not, so I have removed the button and link.

    Also, you may have noticed that I added a Babel Fish Translater last month. The riders on the Bus are a diverse lot with close to 40% of our visitors being from non-english speaking countries.


Now, how 'bout some music?

Merry Christmas from the Trailer Park

Antsy McClain is a singer, songwriter, story-teller, novelist, visual artist, and humorist. He and his band, the Trailer Park Troubadours have an ever growing number of followers, known as "Flamingoheads". Their music is a rootsy mix of honky tonk, folk-rock, rockabilly, and down-home-trailer-park good times with hits such as "It Ain't Home ('Til You Take the Wheels Off)" and "Skinny Women Ain't Hip". A Trailer Park Troubadours show is an old fashioned variety show of music and humor, guiding the audience through everyday life at the Pine View Heights Trailer Park. But the Troubadours are much more than a novelty act. Antsy McLain's superb songwriting/storytelling is backed by equally superb and energetic musicianship by the Troubadours.

Antsy McClain released a solo album last year entitled Time-Sweetened Lies, a collection of his folk/folk-rock songs that includes an impressive list of guest artists (Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, founding member of Steppenwolf Bobby Cochran, Australian guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel, flamenco guitarists Ruben Romero and Edgar Cruz, and more). Time-Sweetened Lies has been on the playlists at many folk radio shows and several folk DJs include the CD on their “Best of 2005” list.

The long awaited Trailer Park Troubadours Christmas CD has been released (at least it was to be released; their website still lists it as available for pre-order). I’ll be adding this CD to my Christmas CD collection to counteract the NASCAR and barking dogs “Jingle Bells” we’ll all be hearing on the radio soon.


Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours -Christmas at the Trailer Park.mp3

Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours - She's Underneath the Mistletoe Again.mp3


Buy a copy of Merry Christmas from the Trailer Park here.
All of the Trailer Park Troubadours CDs, and Antsy McLain's Time-Sweetened Lies and his book "It Takes a Trailer Park: Coming of Age in Pine View Heights" are available here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Friends, family, & music

The Old Blue Bus will be parked for a few days while I enjoy some time with friends and family. I hope all of you will enjoy the holiday also.





This year I am especially thankful for the friends I have made from around the world, right here on the Bus.
I wish you all "Good friends, music, food and drink".
I've left a few tunes for your pleasure.


Mustard's Retreat - Gather the Family.mp3
Learn more about the wonderful American folk music of David Tamulevich and Michael Hough (Mustard's Retreat) here. Gather the Family is from the superb CD "The Wind And The Crickets" available at Amazon.com

Barry & Holly Tashian - Friends and Kin.mp3
Find more about the beautiful harmonies and songs of Barry & Holly Tashian here.

Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert - Music in My Mother's House.mp3
From the 1997 "This Train Still Runs" live recording available at CD Baby or Amazon.com.

Claudia Schmidt & Sally Rogers - I Had an Old Coat.mp3
I have been a fan of these two women for many a year. This cut is from their 1991 "While We Live" available at Amazon.com.

Merrie Amsterburg - Simple Gifts.mp3
A new take on the old Shaker Hymn. I first found Merrie Amsterburg on the first ground-breaking benefit CD for Respond, available at Signature Sounds. This cut is from Merrie's new CD "Clementine and Other Stories" available here.


Please lend your neighbors a hand.

Monday, November 20, 2006

How Many Biscuits Can You Eat?


This past weekend I cleared the gardens of spent stalks and vines and planted a cover crop of rye, rapeseed, and clover to protect and replenish the soil over the coming winter. My wife and daughter were busy indoors canning the last of this season’s vegetables. Our three small gardens provide enough fresh fruit, herbs and vegetables to share with our friends and neighbors.


Dr. Humphrey Bate and his Possum Hunters - How Many Biscuits Can You Eat.mp3
1928

Jackson County Barn Owls - Bake That Chicken Pie.mp3


Thanksgiving has become a time of feasting with friends and family. We still celebrate a bountiful harvest, but most of us are far removed from the sources of our food. The supermarket has replaced the farm market as the corporate farm has the family farm. My in-laws left their small family dairy farm and moved to town as they got older and none of their children was interested in continuing the family farm.

As we prepare to feast this year, remember to give thanks to the farmer that produced the bounty on your table.


Support your local farmers. Buy locally grown food when you can.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sharing the harvest

The first Thanksgiving in what is now the United States was held in the Virginia Colony on December 4, 1619 near the current site of Berkeley Plantation, although most Americans associate the holiday with a meal held in 1621 by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Even the Pilgrams did not consider that feast, provided by the Wampanoag, a Thanksgiving. Their first true harvest Thanksgiving would come with the end of a drought in the summer of 1623 and was not a feast, but a day of prayer.

The first Thanksgiving in North America was celebrated by English explorer, Martin Frobisher and his crew as they searched for a Northwest Passage. In 1578 Frobisher held a celebration somewhere in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for having survived the long journey. The Canadian celebration has not always been an annual celebration of the harvest, as Thanksgiving has been used to celebrate long journeys, the end of the Seven Years War, and even recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness. In 1957 Canada officially proclaimed the 2nd Monday in October as “A Day of General Thanksgiving… for the bountiful harvest”.

Traditions of giving thanks for the year’s harvest are universal. Thanksgiving has been officially observed in the United States every year since 1863. In the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November be set aside for Thanksgiving. Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the celebration to the next-to-last Thursday during the Great Depression (1939) to allow merchants an extra week of sales before Christmas.

We should all be thoughtful of those less fortunate, especially at this time of year. Thanksgiving has been a time of charity since the Wampanoag shared their bounty with the Pilgrams. According to the latest statistics (USDA/ERS, Household Food Security in the United States: 2004), an estimated 38 million Americans, or 12%, are food insecure, meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. America’s Second Harvest reports (Hunger in America 2006) that “more than one-third (35%) of client households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage.”


Fiddlin' John Carson - Be Kind To A Man When He's Down.mp3

Blind Alfred Reed - Always Lift Him Up And Never Knock Him Down.mp3


Learn more about how to end hunger.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rural Ragtime

The turn of the last century was the heyday of ragtime, a truly American genre that pre-dates jazz.



Ragtime is distinguished by its odd syncopation of melodic accents falling between metrical beats. Without getting technical, the style seems to “miss” the beat and add emphasis just prior to or after the metrical beat. Many folks, me included, find that this actually accentuates the beat making it nearly impossible to sit still when listening to ragtime.

Ragtime originated in the late 1880s amongst the African-American musicians of the Northern cities and became popular throughout North America. In 1899 Scott Joplin took the American musical scene by storm with the “Maple Leaf Rag”. Unfortunately, the popularity of ragtime was before the invention of modern recording. In a twist of fate, ragtime's popularity coincided with the popularity of sheet music and player pianos, both of which have preserved this uniquely American musical style for future generations. Actually, ragtime has remained popular and has enjoyed a few revivals over the years.

The end of the 19th century may have been the "Gay Nineties" that gave birth to the bouncing sounds of ragtime in Boston and New York, but while the North was celebrating a booming stock market and good times, the rural South was going through a recession, increasing industrialization, and depressed prices for farm goods. But hard times are nothing new to the folks in rural Southern communities and it didn't stop the folks from kicking up their heels for a good rag on a Friday night.


Rev. Gary Davis - Maple Leaf Rag.mp3
1964

Roy Harvey & Jess Johnson - Guitar Rag.mp3
1934

Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers - Hawkins Rag.mp3
1934

Pull the cork on that bottle and roll back the rug.
Y'all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bluegrass Train

The railroad played an important role in the lives of the Southern Appalachians. A good part of the Appalachian Mountains remain remote, rural communities nestled in the hills far from highways and shopping malls. Before LBJ's "War on Poverty" in the 1960s brought highways and paved roads to the remote towns of the mountains the railroad was a link to the world.

The railroads brought factory-made goods from the city and hauled out the coal. They brought jobs and they took the young folks to better jobs in the city. The railroad had a major impact on many people of the Appalachians. It also had an impact on their music.


The New Lost City Ramblers - Train 45.mp3

The Virginia Mountain Boys - Lost Train Blues.mp3

Oxford American Annual Music Issue

A few months ago I posted a tribute to Arkansas' Armstrong Twins. I almost didn't post the piece I had written because of the difficult time I was having finding information about Floyd and Lloyd Armstrong. I decided to post what little I could find (original post here) because I knew that the riders on the Bus would enjoy the music of the Armstrong Twins.

Several weeks after the post I received an email from music writer and reviewer Amanda Petrusich (Seattle Weekly, Paste Magazine). She was working on an article about the Armstrong Twins for the annual music issue of Oxford American and wondered if I had any additional information. We exchanged a few emails and I wished her better luck than I had.

The 2006 Music Issue of Oxford American is now on the shelves of better newsstands. Amanda's article is worth the price of the magazine alone, but to sweeten the deal it comes with a CD of 24 fine examples of Southern music and articles about each of the artists.

I want to congratulate Amanda on her superb article and thank her for referring to the Old Blue Bus as a "wonderful Americana blog" (pg. 74).

Pick up a copy or subscribe. If you are entertained by my humble ramblings, you'll love the way the pros do it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

That lonesome whistle


Trains have been the subject of story and song ever since the first steel rails were laid. In an earlier time, when travel was limited to how far and at what speed a horse could take you, the train represented freedom and far off places.

To the prisoner, hobo, and traveler the train represents freedom, to the heartbroken, a departing lover. There are dozens of songs relating the tragic death of an engineer racing to make up for lost time. There are songs sung in praise of famous luxury liners of the rails. The symbolism of the train inspires visions of freedom, power, lost love, new life, strong men, and tragic accidents. I would be willing to venture that only songs about love and relationships out number the songs about trains.

Big and powerful, the image of a locomotive is inspiring.
And then there’s that lonesome whistle.

Crowder Brothers - Depot Blues.mp3

Joe "Cannonball" Lewis - Train Whistle Nightmare.mp3

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cotton Mills & Southern Music


The town were I grew up was founded as a company town when a large cotton mill was built along the Patuxent River. The mill was closed in the 1880s and its ruins stretched along the river where I paddled my kayak on the rapids that once powered its great wheel.

The industrial revolution had a huge impact on the people of the South and their music. The Southern United States was largely an agrarian landscape with large plantation holdings blanketing the Piedmont and subsistence farms clinging to the hills and hollows of the Appalachian Mountains. The cotton and tobacco grown on the plantations was loaded on ships and sent to England to be made into salable goods.

The first cotton mills in the New World were built in New England in the late 1780s. With the end of the Civil War the Industrial Revolution invaded the South. Cheap land, unexploited rivers, and cheap labor were all available closer to the fields where the cotton was grown. Many a family that had worked the land for generations now had several generations working the machinery in the mills or mining the coal to power them.

The family homestead was abandoned for the identical little houses in the neat rows of the company town. Instead of growing or bartering for the essentials of life, everything a mill family wanted could be had for script at the company store. The mills changed the landscape, community, and music of the people that worked them. As the minstrels and medicine shows had done, the mill towns brought together people from different areas and with different musical styles. These styles were shared at Saturday dances and Sunday picnics.

Industry would bring another change to the music of the South with the build up to WWII and the migration from the rural South to the big city factories of the North, but that’s another story for another time.

David McCarn - Poor Man, Rich Man.mp3

Jim & Jesse - Cotton Mill Man.mp3

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The resonator guitar

The acoustic guitar we know today really only gained popularity in the past century. As recently as the turn of the last century the guitar (or more properly, Spanish Guitar) was used primarily as a rhythm instrument, used to keep the musicians in beat, much as drums or bass are used today.

As the guitar became more readily available and gained in popularity it made the transition from rhythm to playing the melody. Now, the guitar is a quiet instrument without amplification and this posed a problem for guitarists sharing the stage with other, more vocal instruments. Imagine the poor guitar player in an early jazz band, struggling to be heard over the brass and reed instruments.

Even the lone busker playing and singing on the street corner knew that in order for his hat to fill with coins he had to be heard above the sounds of the city.

An inventive musician from Los Angeles by the name of George Beauchamp is credited with coming up with the basic idea of making the guitar louder. Beauchamp hooked up with John and Rudy Dopyera who had already made improvements to the banjo by adding a resonator to the back.

The resulting design included a set of three metal cones connected at their apex to a “T” shaped metal bridge, an arrangement that would later be known as the Tricone design. This assembly was suspended inside a guitar body made of metal and formed a resonating chamber sort of like a modern speaker cabinet. Strumming the strings caused the metal cones to vibrate and mechanically amplify the sound.

In 1927 Beauchamp and John Dopyera incorporated their business as the National Stringed Instrument Corporation and sold their instruments under the National brand. In 1928 John Dopyera left National and along with four of his brothers formed a competing business. The brothers named their new business the Dobro Manufacturing Company. The name is a contraction of Dopyera Brothers and had the side benefit of meaning “good” in their native Slovak language.

The Dobro differed from the National in that it used a single inverted cone as a resonator as opposed to the tricone design. The single cone design produced a much louder sound than the tricone and was much cheaper to produce. National soon came out with their own single cone guitar, although the National design was attached opposite of the Dobro cone with a small wooden “biscuit” at the apex attached to the bridge. John Dopyera, who still owned a controlling interest in National, claimed to have designed the single cone while still at National. In 1932, after a long legal battle, the Dopyera brothers gained control of both companies and merged them as the National Dobro Corporation.

During WWII all production of resonator guitars was halted due to the shortage of the steel and aluminum.

The round necked National with its steel body became popular with blues musicians who preferred to play it with a bottleneck slide. Hawaiian musicians preferred the square necked, steel body played lap style (laid flat with the strings up). Bluegrass musicians took to the square necked and wood bodied Dobro, most often playing it lap style.

Pictured here is a 1933 National Duolian just like the one I bought at an estate auction many years ago. When my eldest son was but a baby and having trouble sleeping at night, I would rock his cradle with my foot and play some soft bottleneck blues on that old National until he drifted off to sleep again. Today my son is a DJ and cohosts a local radio show, but has no interest in the blues. I didn’t think I played that badly.


Sylvester Weaver - Guitar Rag.mp3

Bukka White - The Panama Limited.mp3

Kanui & Lula - My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua.mp3

Friday, November 10, 2006

Back in the saddle

I know that some of you were wondering if I was off on a three day drunk, celebrating Tuesday's landmark. While I have been doing my share of celebrating, that doesn't account for the lack of posts.

I transferred the Old Blue Bus to the new Blogger Dashboard and have had trouble ever since. I realize now that I should have waited until the weekend to make the move. It appears that the new Blogger software has some issues with my preferred web browser. I have used Opera for many years and refuse to switch browsers now. I have figured out a few work-arounds and have got the Bus back on the road.

Here's an appropriate little diddy, suitable for Tuesday's victory or my own little victory with Blogger.


Gene Autry - Back In The Saddle Again.mp3

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Folk Heroes: Woody and Pete


The Almanac Singers: From left: Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell, Bess Hawes, Pete Seeger, Arthur Stern, Sis Cunningham circa 1941

“You know, there are different kinds of refugees. There are people who are forced to take refuge under a railroad bridge because they ain’t got noplace to go, and there are those who take refuge in public office …” - Woody Guthrie

Two of the most influential singer/songwriters in American folk music joined forces in 1940. A young Harvard drop-out by the name of Pete Seeger was working at the Archives of American Folk Music in New York and playing his banjo at political gatherings. At a benefit concert for migrant workers Pete Seeger met Woody Guthrie. Not long after that first meeting the two formed the Almanac Singers along with Millard Lampell, Bess Hawes, Arthur Stern, and Sis Cunningham.

The impression that these two heroes of the common folk have left on American music (and the American conscience) will be felt for many generations. Just this year Bruce Springsteen released a tribute to Pete Seeger entitled We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions which has sold 600,000 copies since it's release this past April.

A song from Pete and a couple tributes to these American folk heroes.

Bob Dylan - Song to Woody.mp3

Pete Seeger - All I Want.mp3

Sally Rogers - We'll Pass Them On (dedicated to Pete Seeger).mp3

Monday, November 06, 2006

Your voice, your vote

"The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower



Phil Ochs - Power And The Glory.mp3
Available here

Lucy Kaplansky - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.mp3
Buy it here or here





"Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: 'Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 05, 2006

An American Legend: Woody Guthrie

On the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections it's difficult to find anyone who truly represents the working class. Of course all politicians claim to speak for the common man while lining their own pockets with money from corporations, religious fanatics, and lobbyists. As I ponder how I'll mark the ballot tomorrow I ask myself "What would Woody Do?"

Woody Guthrie spent most of his life working for the rights of the working class. Born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie on July 14, 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma, Woody moved to Texas at the age of 19. He made a decent living as a street musician and playing small bars and clubs. With the coming of the Dust Bowl era in the early 1930s Woody left his young family to follow the "Okies" to a better life in California. The poverty and injustice he saw would change his life.

In Los Angeles Woody found fame on the radio playing hillbilly and country music and had a large following in the migrant work camps. Displaced families from Texas and Oklahoma lived in tents or shanties and followed the harvest earning a meager existence picking crops. Woody worked as a union organizer and donated some of his earnings to farm worker relief causes. He started slipping some of his protest songs into his radio show which ruffled the feathers of the show's sponsors. Woody walked away from a promising radio career rather than drop his fight for justice or compromise his beliefs.



Woody Guthrie - Talking Dust Bowl Blues.mp3

Woody Guthrie - Pastures Of Plenty.mp3

Woody Guthrie - I Ain't Got No Home.mp3

Dana Robinson - What Would Woody Do.mp3

Friday, November 03, 2006

Everybody Boogie!

Friday at last!

I'm a little late in getting this post up. I'm working overtime at the plant again and I'm just plumb tuckered out. But the weekend is in view, so kick off your shoes and roll back the rug.

The Delmore Brothers - Hillbilly Boogie.mp3

Wayne Raney - Jack & Jill Boogie.mp3

Milo Twins - Baby Buggie Boogie.mp3

A word of thanks to our friend Walt once again for sharing his collection with the riders on the Bus.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dirk Powell & Foghorn String Band

This past summer Dirk Powell invited the Foghorn String Band to join him in his studio for a liitle recording session. Two of this generations most ardent purveyors of Old Time music joining forces in the studio. The CD was originally scheduled for release in August but has yet to hit the stores. When it does I will try to get a couple cuts up here. In the mean time here a few cuts available on line.


Foghorn String Band - Faquier County Hornpipe.mp3

Foghorn String Band - Satan's Jeweled Crown.mp3

Dirk Powell & Foghorn String Band - John Henry.mp3

Dirk Powell & Foghorn String Band - Lonesome Road Blues.mp3

For more downloads, tour info, and to buy CDs visit Dirk Powell or Foghorn String Band