Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Over the River

Dorsey and Beatrice Dixon - Shining City Over The River.mp3

Bill Carlisle's Kentucky Boys - Unclouded Sky.mp3

In memory of my brother-in-law, Tom Richards, whose journey was too short.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Got My Mojo Working

Most of the riders on the Bus are familiar with the story of the crossroads as it relates to the blues. It is said that Robert Johnson made a deal with the Devil at a dark, lonely crossroads. The “devil” that Johnson met that night was most likely not the Devil of the Christian Bible, but one of the African deities of the African-American Hoodoo tradition. Hoodoo (not to be confused with the Voodoo of the West Indies) is the result of the blending of cultural beliefs brought by slaves from West Africa and the Christian, Jewish, and Native American folklore.

Natural healing and the use of herbs, roots, and amulets were commonplace with all the inhabitants of North America. White, Christian society frowned on natural healers and witches, but among the Native American and African-American societies the Root Doctor or Shaman was a respected member of the community. In the Hoodoo culture that developed in the southern United States some Hoodoo practitioners became nationally known and people traveled many miles to consult with them. Some of the best known conjurers were Doctor Jim Jordan of Murfreesboro, North Carolina; Doctor Buzzard of Beaufort, South Carolina; Aunt Caroline Dye of Newport, Arkansas; and the Seven Sisters of New Orleans. You may recognize some of these Hoodoo doctors from the songs that have been sung about them.

If one was to consult a Hoodoo man (or woman) seeking a spell for good luck or fortune, the root-worker would most likely make up a Mojo Bag. A Mojo Bag is usually a small flannel bag filled with whatever herbs, roots, bones, or charms required for the spell to work. The Mojo Bag, sometimes called a Mojo Hand, conjure bag, jomo, or gris-gris, is worn under the clothes or carried in a pocket hidden from view. If seen or touched by someone else the magic could be lost or transferred to the other person.

Charley Lincoln - Mojoe Blues.mp3

Johnnie Temple - Hoodo Women.mp3

J.T. Smith - Seven Sisters Blues.mp3

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - Hoodoo Lady Blues.mp3

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fat Tuesday!

It's that time of year again!
Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras!

This is the second Mardi Gras in New Orleans since Katrina. The reconstruction has been painfully slow.
I am sure that New Orleans will survive, but I am having doubts that it will ever be the same as before the storm.
There is no city in the world like New Orleans, and no better time than Fat Tuesday.

I have posted the same picture that I posted last year, our friend Joey enjoying himself along the parade route on St. Charles Ave. The picture is from 1982 or ’83. The Old Blue Bus never missed a Mardi Gras in those days. I’ve grown a little older and moved farther away, but the spirit of New Orleans is still celebrated on the Bus.

Can’t be there? Watch the revelry on live webcams at NOLA.com.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Lawrence (Black) Ardoin – My Baby Don’t Wear No Clothes.mp3

Fernest Arceneaux – Going Back To Big Mamou.mp3

Boozoo Chavis – Went To New Orleans.mp3

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pirogues, Crawfish, and Dixie Beer

For a few years, in the early 1980s, the Old Blue Bus was parked on a plot of land off highway 90 in Boutte, Louisiana.

Boutte is not really a town, just a loose scattering of homes in the middle of Saint Charles Parish. New Orleans is about 25 miles to the east on Highway 90; just close enough to drive in for a visit, and just far enough not to affect daily life.

Then, as now, I preferred to spend my leisure time on the water. I was fortunate that nearby Bayou Gauche and Bayou des Allemands were such wonderful places to explore by canoe or pirogue. Our paddling trips on the bayous were a peaceful way to unwind after a long week at work. There was that time that my good friend Jim Bob’s pirogue sank from beneath us on Bayou des Allemands. We managed to get the small craft back to the surface and emptied of water just in time to notice a pretty good size ‘gator slide into the water from his sunning spot on the bank.

The only way to top off a day spent paddling on the bayou is to have a few beers and dance to some good music by a local band down at one of the little bars along the waterfront. After entering and making our way to the bar, we are greeted with a hearty “How y’all are?” A couple of cold, long neck Dixies are just the ticket to cool the throat and limber the legs.

The music of rural, south Louisiana hasn’t changed much for generations. The Acadians of New France (now Nova Scotia) were driven from their lands by the British. They made their way to south Louisiana, where there was already a large French population and the Spanish government welcomed all Catholic immigrants. In Louisiana the French Acadians had contact with many other cultures, Celtic, Spanish, Native American and free African. The French called themselves "‘Cadiens", in their quick French it sounded to the locals like "Cajuns" and the name stuck. The music of the Cajuns had over two hundred years to develop before the first recording was made.

Segura Brothers - A Mosquito Ate Up My Sweetheart.mp3

Oscar Doucet & Alius Soileau - Oh Bebe.mp3

Amédé Ardoin - Two Step De Eunice.mp3

Accordionist Amédé Ardoin’s influence crossed racial barriers and has left his signature on Creole, Cajun and Zydeco music. Ardoin was one of the most popular artists in Louisiana during the 1920s. One of the first to record the music of south Louisiana’s black creoles, Ardoin crossed racial barriers by often performing and recording with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee. The sound that these two created is still one of the hallmarks that Cajun bands are measured against. While performers of all races respected Ardoin and emulated his almost crying vocal style, the racial tensions of the Jim Crow period would silence the great musician in a senseless act of violence. One night during a show, Amédé Ardoin accepted a handkerchief from a white woman to wipe away the sweat. After the show he was severely beaten by a group of white men, run over by their car and left for dead in a ditch. Although he survived the violent attack, he died of the wounds, both physical and emotional, within a year.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Solo Trip

I could have titled this series of posts "Heart and Home". To many, the two are intertwined. Others find the greatest joy encumbered by neither.

To some folks the journey itself is the reason.

Riverside Ramblers - Drifting Along.mp3

Kingston Trio - Goin' Away For To Leave You.mp3

Highwaymen - Ramblin' Boy.mp3

Bob Devlin - String Rambler.mp3

We only get to pass this way once.
Whatever way you choose to do it, enjoy the trip.
Y'all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Rougher Road

On the flip-side of Valentine’s Day are the many songs of love gone awry. Unlike those childhood fairytales, not all stories have a happy ending.
“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken -- and I'd rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.”
- Margaret Mitchell

Carter Family - Single Girl, Married Girl.mp3

Byron Parker And His Mountaineers - Married Life Blues.mp3

Kenneth Houchins - Mean Old Ball And Chain Blues.mp3

Ridgels Fountain Citians - Bald Headed End Of The Broom.mp3

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Journey Shared

For the first ten years or so after our wedding, I brought home fresh flowers for my wife every payday. I enjoy a bouquet of fresh flowers on the kitchen table as much as she does.

One Friday evening long ago, as I came through the front door after a long workday, arms clutching a fresh cut bouquet, she confessed that, although she appreciated the flowers, she wished I would stop spending money on such frivolous extras as we had three youngsters to raise.

We still have a bouquet on the kitchen table most days, but now the flowers come from our garden or are collected from the riverbanks when I am canoeing. Cut flowers from the florist are reserved for special occasions.

This summer we will celebrate twenty-two years of marriage. It’s been quite a journey, filled with the ups and downs of lives shared. Our eldest child has left home to begin his own journey and the other two will soon follow. We are looking forward to this next phase of our journey together.

Ernest & Hattie Stoneman - Mountaineer's Courtship.mp3

Swing Billies - I Can't Give You Anything But Love.mp3

Jack Pierce - Has Anybody Seen My Gal.mp3

Reno & Smiley - Where Did Our Young Years Go.mp3

Monday, February 12, 2007

Home is were the heart is

It’s been a rough winter throughout much of the country. With freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, one must have a good reason to venture outdoors.

In central, Virginia we have been spared much of the freezing temperatures until recently and have not seen much more than a dusting of snow, yet. The weather service is calling for a possibility of snow today.

Since we haven’t had any yet, I’m sort of looking forward to taking a ‘snow day’ from work. I enjoy my time at home, especially the unplanned, bonus day off.

Home has long been an important theme in the music of the southern Appalachians. Home is a refuge from the cold, harsh world. Home is a place where one is warmed from the inside by the love of family, no matter how cold it is on the outside.

Woody Guthrie - Stepstone.mp3

Vernon Dalhart & Carson Robinson - My Blue Ridge Mountain Home.mp3

Flatt & Scruggs - My Cabin in Caroline.mp3

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Take a Whiff

It has been a rough weekend. I’ve come down with a nasty cold and Monday is the beginning of another long stretch of overtime at the plant.

If I am to have any chance of surviving long days at work, I figured I’d need the help of modern pharmaceuticals. I know what you are thinking. Normally I would relieve my symptoms with a few homemade herbal remedies, but whatever has taken hold of me has kicked my butt, and with the overtime looming I figure I’ll need industrial strength help. I made my way to the local pharmacy and wandered the aisles searching for relief.

On the shelves that used to hold the anti-histamine, there was a card stating that the product I needed was available at the druggist’s counter. In order to purchase the item, I had to fill out a form, show my driver’s license, and sign a log book.

It all started with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 (found to be in conflict with the 5th Amendment in 1969 and replaced in 1970 with the Controlled Substances Act.) Before the successful War on Drugs, some people actually used drugs and lived to sing about it, and a grumpy old man with a cold could pick up an anti-histamine without a background check.

Memphis Jug Band - Cocaine Habit Blues.mp3

Dick Justice - Cocaine.mp3

Billy Hughes - Cocaine Blues.mp3

Thursday, February 08, 2007

In the Beer Garden

“Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.” – Thomas Jefferson

Since the beginning of civilization, people have enjoyed the effects of various intoxicants. No civilized culture throughout history has been devoid of psychoactive substances. Beer has been an essential part of many cultures for nearly 6,000 years. Wine and spirits would soon follow.

Beer is as old as civilization itself. I won’t go into the intertwined history of beer and civilization here. For a thoroughly entertaining look at beer and the music that accompanies it, see Judge Parker’s now classic series “7 Drinks of Mankind” over on Locust St..

It’s Friday, and for many hard working folks the weekend starts at quitin’ time. I’ll be watching that clock until beer:thirty, as I reckon a lot of you folks will be. Let’s kick the weekend off with a few good-time drinkin’ songs.

Tenneva Ramblers - Sweet Heaven When I Die.mp3

Andrews Sisters - Beer Barrel Polka.mp3

Stick McGhee & His Buddies - Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee.mp3

Jimmie Rodgers - Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.mp3

Hank Thompson - A Six Pack To Go.mp3

Tom T. Hall - I Like Beer.mp3

“People who drink light ‘beer’ don’t like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot.” – Capital Brewery, Middleton, Wisconsin

Y'all have a good weekend!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Broken Hearts and Bar Stools

“A woman drove me to drink, and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.” – W.C. Fields

To some, the stereotypical Country song invokes images of dark, smoke-filled honky tonks and bar stools filled with jilted lovers drowning their troubles in a glass.

I have found very few ‘cryin’ in my beer’ type songs in Old Time or early Bluegrass music. In fact, the theme doesn’t appear regularly until after those thirteen darkest years of U.S. history known as Prohibition. Through the misguided meddling of groups such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the 18th Amendment drove the social lubricant of alcohol from the picnics and family gatherings into back rooms and speakeasies. Although the 21st Amendment overturned the silliness of prohibition, alcohol is now tightly controlled in many states and still outlawed in some localities.

In my home state of Virginia there are no true bars. An establishment that serves alcohol must also serve food. In some states no one under the age of 21 is permitted to enter any establishment that serves alcohol. I believe that these ridiculous laws cause the very domestic trouble they were intended to cure.

When I visit my in-laws in Wisconsin the entire extended family walks to the local tap, where most of the village families meet to socialize. Not all come to drink. The bar is a gathering place where community bonds are strengthened. Youngsters learn important social skills under the watchful eyes of the entire village.

By demonizing alcohol a community is divided. Those that wish to partake of a drink are segregated from the rest of the community and even their own family. And so, the bar has too often become a place where indescresions are celebrated or mourned, away from the prying eyes of the community.

These anti-social laws have created a wealth of inspiration for Country songwriters that continues today.

Red Allen & the Osbourne Brothers - Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music.mp3

Osbourne Brothers - Hey Hey Bartender.mp3

Sons of The Pioneers - Cigareetes, Whusky, and Wild, Wild Women.mp3

Bob Wills - Bubbles In My Beer.mp3

Jerry Irby - Cryin' In My Beer.mp3

“Women and drink. Too much of either can drive you to the other.” – Michael Still

Monday, February 05, 2007

Upcoming Release from Cary Fridley

There is something very satisfying and comforting in an Old Time mountain ballad sung in the traditional, unadorned female voice. Cary Fridley has the quintessential mountain ballad voice. Cary first came to my attention as the guitarist and vocalist for the now disbanded Freight Hoppers.

During the 1990s, the Freight Hoppers one of the most popular of Old Time string bands, and had a lasting affect on the genre. The members may have parted ways, but their influence continues. Band leader and banjo artist, Frank Lee has released several clawhammer banjo CDs and an instructional video. Fiddler, David Bass now provides the fire for the innovative Forge Mountain Diggers. The Freight Hoppers other fiddler (but, certainly not second fiddle), Rayna Gellert has continued to wow audiences as a member of the all-female Old Time band, Uncle Earl.

Cary Fridley is originally from Covington, Kentucky, where traditional singing is highly regarded. Cary’s 2001 solo release Neighbor Girl is a wonderful collection of traditional songs and is praised for her pure, passionate treatment of classic mountain ballads.

For the past several months Cary Fridley has been in the studio working on a new CD due to be released this March. As expected the new CD will feature traditional songs and ballads of the Southern Appalachians, but will also have a few surprises. Cary has recorded a couple of modern country songs, complete with drums and electronic instruments.

Check here for up-to-date news on the new release.

Cary Fridley – Pretty Saro.mp3
rough (un-mastered) cut from the new CD.

Cary Fridley – Pretty Crowing Chicken.mp3
from Neighbor Girl

Cary Fridley – Early, Early In The Spring.mp3
from Neighbor Girl

Neighbor Girl and the two Freight Hoppers CDs are available from caryfridley.com and County Sales.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Upcoming Releases: Martha Scanlan - The West Was Burning

Martha Scanlan's hauntingly beautiful vocals and the poetic imagery of her songwriting were cornerstones of the Reeltime Travelers, one of the most popular old-time string bands in recent years, and a favorite on the Bus.

Martha’s first solo release, The West Was Burning, was produced by Dirk Powell and features Powell as well as Levon Helm and members of the band Ollabelle. A few years ago Martha Scanlan won first and second place in the Bluegrass and Country songwriting competition at MerleFest with her songs "Little Bird of Heaven" and "Hallelujah".

The West Was Burning is scheduled to be on store shelves February 13th or can be ordered from Sugar Hill Records.

Martha Scanlan - Seeds of the Pine.mp3

Martha Scanlan - Went to See the Gypsy.mp3

Martha is currently touring, check her Tour Schedule.
If you'll be in Virginia on March 4th, join us at her show in Charlottesville at Gravity Lounge.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Love, Booze and Trains

Awhile back I posted a slew of railroad songs and casually postulated that love and trains may be the most sung-about topics in all styles of music. Our long time friend, Mr. Beer N. Hockey, pointed out that inebriation belongs high on that list.

Damn! How did I miss that? Along with folk music, inebriation has been a hobby of mine for many, many years.

I’ve been working on a series of posts relating these two interests that I hope to post soon. Being Friday, I thought it a good time for a little taste.

Three Tobacco Tags - Ain't Gonna Do It No More.mp3

Cliff Carlisle - Dang My Rowdy Soul.mp3

Note: The Blatz Beer advertisement above is from the good old days when beer was considered a health food. It still is on the Bus.

Y'all have a good weekend!