Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cephas & Wiggins – Richmond Blues



“Bowling Green” John Cephas and Phil Wiggins are long-time favorites here on the Bus. The pair has been wowing audiences worldwide with their Piedmont blues since they first met up at the 1976 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

The Piedmont blues, also called the East Coast blues or fingerstyle blues, is a form of the blues unique to the Piedmont region of the Southeastern United States, roughly from Richmond, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia. The Piedmont blues benefit from influences as varied as ragtime, old time string bands, medicine shows, gospel, and popular music of the turn of the 20th century. For several decades (the 1920s – 1940s), the Piedmont blues were enjoyed nationwide as artists such as Blind Boy Fuller, Josh White, and Blind Blake were making and selling records nearly as fast as the record companies could press them. Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step It Up and Go” sold over half a million copies in 1940, impressive for any record at the time, incredible for a “race” record. The Rev. Gary Davis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Paul Geremia kept the style moving forward in the 1960s.

John Cephas and Phil Wiggins are the preeminent practitioners of the Piedmont blues. Both were born in Washington, D.C., albeit a quarter of a century apart, and both were raised on the traditional music of their families. John first learned the alternating thumb and fingerpicking guitar style that defines the Piedmont blues from his country cousins near Bowling Green in eastern Virginia when he was eight or nine years old. Today, many consider John Cephas the finest Piedmont guitarist of all time.

Together these two brilliant musicians keep the rich heritage of the Piedmont blues alive and vibrant. Their live performances, which I have been fortunate to enjoy on half a dozen occasions, are moving experiences full to the brim with wonderful music and rich history. Their just-released CD, Richmond Blues, from Smithsonian Folkways is a studio collection of their most often requested songs performed with all of the impact of a live concert.

Powerful and immensely entertaining.

Cephas & Wiggins-Key to the Highway.mp3

Cephas & Wiggins-Great Change.mp3

Artist: John Cephas & Phil Wiggins
Artist Website: www.cephasandwiggins.net
Title: Richmond Blues
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
Release Date: July 29, 2008
Available for: purchase or download from: Cephas & Wiggins, Smithsonian Folkways, Smithsonian Global Sound, Amazon.com, Plan 9 Music, or your locally owned record store.

Cephas & Wiggins – “Little School Girl” on stage at the 2007 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

6 Comments:

Anonymous easternoregon said...

Wow, those guys can play! Thanks for the post Ed, I probably would never discover musicians like this without blogs like yours.

July 30, 2008 8:40 PM  
Anonymous dan said...

These gentlemen have been faves of mine for awhile, but I had no idea of the history of their style. Thanks for the education, Ed! However, now that I know some history, what other artists of this ilk (I love that word) would you recommend?

July 31, 2008 7:29 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

easternoregon, I'm glad to widen your musical horizon. That used to be a function of radio, but since the FCC handed over our airwaves to a few corporate giants it's up to blogs like the Bus.

August 01, 2008 5:48 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Dan, some of the earliest practioners of the style were Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, and Blind Willie McTell. The Great Folk Scare brought us the Rev. Gary Davis, Josh White, and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Etta Baker and Elizabeth Cotten are two fine, but rare, female Piedmont blues artists.

Nowadays the sweet fingerpicking of the Piedmont style is practiced by few artists with the ability to record and distribute beyond their local region. I'll try to feature a few of our local Piedmont artists in a future post.

August 01, 2008 6:05 AM  
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