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July 25, 2010

The Transfiguration of Merlin

Not only has Joski created McLuhan's Garden, in the wake of Merlin in Rags, but he's just launched a new blog:

The Return of the Dancing Master

Now that's a blogger who doesn't quit! Pay a visit, you'll be surprised, educated, and delighted.

July 23, 2010

Mystery Album #2

Well folks, it's that time again. You've had it easy for a while, with me just giving you albums and giving you reviews, and telling you what to like and how to like it. I think it's time you did a little work for your keep, eh? You know what I mean. Another guessing game.
Like the first mystery album, this is a duet album. And, like before, one of the players is among the best in the world on their instrument. And, like that one, it was given to me by the performers. It doesn't cover nearly as much stylistic terrain, but the music remains fresh and invigorating, feeling as though it was improvised even though it was carefully composed. Though traditional in some ways, it's definitely alive. That's all I'll tell you. Time for you to listen and figure a few things out for yourself.

*a few of you may have already heard this if i've shared it with you in other arenas. if so, keep mum.

July 21, 2010

Rachid Halihal - Traditional Songs of Fez, Morocco

I'd never heard of this guy before picking up the cd used a year ago. But it's pretty damn good music, I must say. It might be worth mentioning that all the guitars and fiddles in the world have evolved from things basically like what Rachid plays (oud & Moroccan fiddle), and he's quite masterful on both.

How to describe this music?
It's like a a party that's a devotion at the same time. Like your call-and-response exquisite church music got a life and became ecstatic call-and-response festival. And it has all these crazy microtones - in the singing, the oud and violin playing. It's actually quite affecting to hear someone whose voice can be gruff and guttural one moment reach scintillating heights of delicacy the next. Kinda like Blind Willie Johnson... only different.

Anyway, I don't have too much to say about this. It's just thoroughly enjoyable. So enjoy!

Artist’s biography for Rachid Halihal:
As a world-class musician, Rachid Halihal brings to the community the true character and spirit of musics from the classical Egyptian repertoire which is much loved throughout the Middle East; from the Fertile Crescent; from diverse regions of Morocco and North Africa; and also the mezmerizing music of the Arabian Gulf.

As a child, growing up in Fez, Morocco, Rachid played the nei and sang, imitating the famous singers of the time. At age fourteen he entered "Dar Aadyil" the Conservatory of Music in Fez. At first he studied Western classical and Andalus music on piano and violin. He soon expanded to include a variety of other instruments in order to better express his native music. In addition to his voice, which is best featured in the Andalus style, his strongest instruments are the oud (similar to a lute without frets) and the violin, which he plays in both the classical manner and upright resting on the knee for Moroccan folkloric music.

Until 1986, Rachid played in an Andalus orchestra in Fez, and at various occasions throughout Casablanca. Then, over a span of fourteen years, he presented his music to a more varied audience. This included an extended stay in the Ivory Coast; one year in Sweden; one year in Finland, where he and his seven piece band played at the Helsinki International Music Festival sharing the bill with Cheb Khaled; and in the coastal city of Agadir, Morocco, Rachid fully managed a night club, its musicians, and folkloric troupe for seven of those years, playing his music every night for the club’s primarily touristic and Arabian clientele. On his violin, he accompanied many of Morocco's well known singers who toured to Agadir. On many occasions he played with Mohammed Abdo, one of the Arabian Gulf's most loved singers. During two years, Rachid was invited numerous times to the Arabian Gulf as a singer and oud player in his own right.

In Summer 2004 Rachid toured the USA with The Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble playing Moroccan Andalus music with Abdelfattah Bennis, including Genesis at the Crossroads Festival in Chicago. He was presented at Columbia University in concert with visiting Israeli singer, Michel Cohen, with Moroccan singer Pinhas in New York and Miami, as well as other ethnic concerts and events throughout New York City. In 2003-4, Rachid was presented with his band at Denver's Global Groove World Music Festival, with Nawang Kechong in Aspen, in two separate Mid-East Dance concerts at the Boulder Theater, Colorado, with Souhail Kaspar in Denver, Boulder, Portland, and Los Angeles. Rachid also played at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the inaugural King Tut exhibit in the US on June 15, 05. In Summer of '05 Rachid toured the USA and Canada with Rachid Taha (Algerian/French) Rai-rock band.

Rachid Halihal - Traditional Songs of Fez, Morocco

Year: 2006

01 Allala Ylali
02 Dor Biha
03 Lemlain
04 Elazri
05 Mahani Ezin
06 Khalini Maak
07 Kaftank Mahloul
08 Jeet Nsaydou
09 Lattar
10 Ana Dene Den Allah
11 Ane Layle Moulate
12 Fen Shak Leatetk
13 Rasael Algeran

mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ scans

* though only 4 years old, this album appears to be completely unavailable - from the artist's website, amazon, younameit. how else should one get it, but here?

oh, and like always, the Pirate's on the lookout for more. if you have this album, give a shout:
Rachid Halihal - Resonances from My Soul

July 20, 2010

Bertram Levy & Peter Ostroushko - First Generation

Back to some vinyl again!
We have here another incredible out of print Flying Fish LP. There is no information on this album pretty much anywhere, and little to none about Bertram Levy. Peter Ostroushko, however, is known as one of the finest mandolin and fiddle players in America. Aside from being able to play anything from bluegrass to klezmer to classical, Ostroushko is always characterized by a sparklingly clear and beautiful tone. Like Doc Watson, he can play dazzlingly fast runs, but never puts in a note that isn't needed. If in doubt, he takes the conservative approach rather than the showy one. Let the music breathe a little, you know? Let the silence speak.

This album is the only album made by a group of musicians calling themselves First Generation. They are all first generation immigrants to the US. And that is what gives this album its most distinctive and blogworthy quality. In fact, that is what gives the USA its most distinctive and noteworthy quality. The meeting ground. The melting pot. All American music is the product of immigrants coming together, interbreeding, intersocializing, and interspersing. But sometimes people forget that, and bluegrass fans boo black musicians, and white folks get accused of ripping of jazz & blues musicians, and everyone conveniently forgets that Native Americans exist. So these first generation immigrants remind us. Fruitful births happen when different people come together. Monocultured tradition breeds sterility and hemophilia. That's what a hick is. You'll find them still in royal families... Dynamism comes from the interplay of radically different bodies. Polyculture is permaculture. To blindly follow a tradition in a rapidly changing world is to render oneself an irrelevant artifact of the past before one has even entered the present. That's why World Fusion music works. The cultures of our world are fusing anyway, faster than we can even know. May as well have a music that's relevant. Lots of folks are realizing that now. First Generation realized it 25 years ago.

And actually, the ironic thing is that they manage to keep the traditions separate and distinct even as they meld themselves together in playing them. It's less like a melting pot than a meal with a bunch of different dishes, each from a different part of the world, but all cooked by the same team of crazy chefs.

Enjoy this, because I don't often post Celtic Ukranian Polka Hoedowns.

A little info on Bertram Levy thanks to Gadaya:
He played mandolin with The Hollow Rock String Band (with Alan Jabbour on fiddle) at the end of the 1960's , recorded a superb solo banjo lp ("That old gut feeling") at the beginnig of the 1980's and became a great concertina player as well. A few years ago he became interested in Tango music and learned the bandoneon. A complete and versatile musician that's for sure..

Peter Ostroushko

Biography by Craig Harris

The musical traditions of the Ukraine are fused with an aural reflection of America's Midwest by mandolin and fiddle player Peter Ostroushko. Best known for his regular appearances on National Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, Ostroushko (pronounced: Oh-STREW-shko) has consistently achieved high standards with his solo recordings and duo albums with Minnesota-based acoustic guitarist Dean Magraw. Equally skillful on fiddle and mandolin, Ostroushko is, according to flatpicking guitar wiz Norman Blake, "the next Jethro Burns and Johnny Gimble rolled into one."

Ostroushko has been playing music most of his life. As the son of Ukrainian immigrants, Wasyl and Katerina Ostroushko, Ostroushko grew up listening to his father, a shoemaker, playing traditional songs of his homeland on guitar and mandolin.

Although he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, in 1974, the first year that the show was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, Ostroushko didn't become a full-time cast member until the show went national in 1980. During the six years in between, Ostroushko worked as a session musician in Nashville. In addition to working on albums by Jethro Burns, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, and Johnny Gimble, Ostroushko played mandolin, though uncredited, on the tune, "If You See Her, Say Hello," from Bob Dylan's album, Blood on the Tracks. Ostroushko also toured with Robin & Linda Williams and Norman & Nancy Blake.

Sluz Duz Music, Ostroushko's debut solo album, was released in 1982. The title referred to Ostroushko's description of his music, based on the Ukrainian words meaning "over the edge" or "off his rocker". Ostroushko's second effort, Down the Streets of My Neighborhood, released in 1986, included a medley of Ukrainian songs and an interpretation of Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Lookin'" sung in Ukrainian.

Ostroushko's albums have featured an illustrious list of supportive musicians. The Mando Boys, Ostroushko's third album, released in late 1986, featured a fez-wearing group that began when Ostroushko formed The Lake Woebegone Municipal Mandolin Orchestra for a tour with Garrison Keillor and the cast of A Prairie Home Companion. The same year, Ostroushko recorded First Generation with anglo concertina player Bertram Levy. Ostroushko's next album, Buddies of Swing, released in 1987, was a jazz-tinged collaboration with Jethro Burns (mandolin), Johnny Gimble (fiddle), Butch Thompson (piano), Dean Magraw (guitar), and Prudence Johnson (vocals). After recording a solo album, Blue Mesa, released in 1989, with guest appearances by Norman & Nancy Blake, Daithi Sproule, and Magraw, Ostroushko and Magraw collaborated on an album, Duo, released in 1991. Ostroushko's most successful recording, Heart of the Heartland, released in 1995, was an all-instrumental exploration of the Midwest. In addition to receiving a NAIRD award as "best independently released folk instrumental album," the album was featured on Ken Burns' PBS documentary, Lewis and Clark. The following year, Ostroushko released, Pilgrims on the Heart Road, which he described in the liner notes as "a collection of songs that are a companion piece to Heart of the Heartland." Sacred Heart followed in 2000.

Ostroushko has worked closely with the Children's Theater in Minnesota and the ACT Theater. One of his most ambitious projects was an appearance as lead ukulele player, with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra.

2nd Bio:

When they write the book on Peter Ostroushko, they may mention that he loved his family and music and cooking and baseball. But there's no doubt they'll say he was one of the most accomplished instrumentalists and gifted composers of his generation.

The die was cast early on. Growing up in the Ukrainian community of northeast Minneapolis, Peter heard mandolin, balalaika and bandura tunes played by his father and family friends at get-togethers in their home and in church. It's the music that still echoes in Peter's memory and provides the basis for many of his compositions.

The musical road that led Peter to this point has had its share of twists and turns. He was still in high school when his career as a professional musician began. Asked to compose and play the music for a one-man staging of A Christmas Carol, Peter fell in love with theater. Soon he was honing his skills at the Children's Theatre School in Minneapolis.

He began to take up instrument after instrument, finally opting to concentrate on fiddle and mandolin. During the next three decades, he made his mark as a sideman, session player, headliner and composer. His first recording session was an uncredited mandolin set on Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. He toured on a regular basis with Robin and Linda Williams, Norman Blake and the Rising Fawn Ensemble, and Chet Atkins. He also worked with the likes of Jethro Burns, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Johnny Gimble, Greg Brown, John Hartford and Taj Mahal, among a host of others.

As a solo performer, Peter has produced a number of recordings, including Down the Streets of My Old Neighborhood, Slüz Düz Music, and the three albums that make up his Heartland Trilogy: Heart of the Heartland, Pilgrims of the Heartroad and Sacred Heart. His latest is Meeting on Southern Soil, a collaboration with longtime friend Norman Blake.

Peter has spent more than 25 years as a frequent performer on A Prairie Home Companion, and for a few seasons, he did a stint as Music Director for the popular radio show. You may have caught Peter on TV, too. He's appeared on Austin City Limits, Late Night with David Letterman, even Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Peter's talents extend beyond the realm of folk and jazz. Several years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra hired him to play Mahler's Seventh Symphony. The whole piece only has about 15 minutes of mandolin – and that's not until the fourth movement. Peter figures that Mahler must have had a brother-in-law who played mandolin and needed work. You can bet if Mahler had known Peter, he would have written the mando a bigger part.

When the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's season included a mandolin concerto by 18th-century composer Giovanni Paisiello, they called – who else – Peter Ostroushko. And they did the same when they presented Vivaldi's mandolin concerto and his concerto for viola d'amore and mandola. Finally, they decided to perform one of Peter's own compositions, the exquisite Prairie Suite.

Composer Peter Ostroushko has undeniably come into his own. His works have been performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Sinfonia, the Rochester (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestra, the Des Moines Symphony and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, among others. Twin Cities Public Television commissioned Peter to provide music for their nationally distributed programs, The Dakota Conflict and Grant Wood's America. Ken Burns used music from Heart of the Heartland for his PBS documentary Lewis & Clarke, and Peter's haunting arrangement of Sweet Betsy from Pike was underscore for Burns' Mark Twain.
And remember the Children's Theatre Company, where a teenage Peter Ostroushko first developed his interest in performance? Decades later, they commissioned their one-time student to write the music for a production of Little Women.

In 2001, Peter was the recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship for Music Composition. And, along the way, he has picked up a N.A.I.R.D. Indie Award, and a couple of Minnesota Music Awards. His music has made its way around the world. Wherever it's heard, there's another bunch of fans eager for more.

Peter, with his wife and daughter, still makes his home in Minneapolis. He continues to compose and perform. He can still whomp up a first-rate batch of borscht. And he still roots for the Twins. Some things never change.

Bertram Levy & Peter Ostroushko - First Generation

Year: 1986
Label: Flying Fish

01 Paddy-rocker
02 Shifting Sands {Klezmer frailach}
03 Swallow's Tail and High Reels {Irish}
04 Hommage a Dorothee {Quebec waltz}
05 Jig Medley: Fiddle Hill/Fair Jenny/Always Able {New England}
06 Reb Dovidls Nign {Klezmer}
07 Ukranian Polka {Ukraine}
08 Medley: Doc Kammerer's {Utah}/Flowers of Edinburh {Revolutionary dance tune}
09 Les Amantes Infideles {Parisian cafe waltz}
10 Southern Sonata: Howdown - Old Molly Hare / Gospel - My Sorrows Encompass Me Round / Moonshine - Boatin' Up Sandy / Hospitality - Rock the Cradle Joe

waltz the frailach jig (new link Jan 19-2012)
vinyl, cleaned, mp3 >256kbps
* out-of-print

and in the spirit of Spirits & Spices, here are some Musical Recipes by Peter

and of course, if you're feeling like being nice to this pirate, he's looking for a few albums:
Peter Ostroushko - Down the Streets of My Old Neighborhood
Peter Ostroushko - Postcards
Peter Ostroushko - Bluegrass (or other albums from Lifescapes, if they're any good)
Peter Ostroushko - Coming Down from Red Lodge
Peter Ostroushko - When the Last Morning Glory Blooms
Peter Ostroushko - Peter Joins the Circus
Peter Ostroushko presents the Mando Boys
The Mando Boys Live - Holstein Lust

thank'ee kindly!!

The Decemberists - Mariner's Revenge Song [video]

Because Pirates and vintage film are cool...

July 19, 2010

John Jackson - Rappahannock Blues

I haven't really posted much of anything lately, owing to the fact that I now have two jobs and little time for philanthropiracy... so I also neglected to post this news which is now a month late, about a newly-released album by folk-blues troubador John Jackson, which was sent to me by Smithsonian Folkways. Without further ado:

John Jackson represented, if anything, the crossroads. No, not the silly Robert Johnson devil-styled crossroads. I mean the place where different traditions meet. Blues, Folk, Minstrel/Medicine-Show Tunes and Appalachian banjo styles all came together in a single man with a warm Virginia country voice. John Jackson is the place where Blind Blake meets Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, Brownie McGhee, the Delmore Brothers, Blind Boy Fuller, and Hobart Smith. John Jackson is the place where they all sit down on a shady southern mountain house porch and pick some guitars after they've done all the picking of cotton & corn. There is nothing about this music that is not raw. Like fresh-picked wheatgrass, it will wake you up. Like a fresh-dug grave, it will lay you to rest in a deep, warm, earthy bed. And you'll be dreaming of candy on a stick, rocks and gravel, and a long Cadillac car with a little bump in the back-left wheel.

Biography by Barry Lee Pearson
For much of his life, John Jackson played for country house parties in Virginia, or around the house for his own amusement. Then in the '60s he encountered the folk revival, becoming the Washington, D.C. area's best-loved blues artist. Undoubtedly one of the finest of traditional Piedmont guitarists, Jackson exemplified the songster tradition at its best. His eclectic repertoire embraced the music of his guitar heroes Willie Walker (who once visited his father's house), Blind Boy Fuller, and -- most notably -- Blind Blake. Besides the blues, rags, and dance tunes associated with these masters, Jackson played ballads, country songs, and what he termed "old folk songs," such as "The Midnight Special." His confident fingerpicking, down-home Virginia accent, and contagious good humor marked his performances, live or on record, as something special. A world-class storyteller and party-thrower as well as a National Heritage Award-winning musician, Jackson recorded a half-dozen albums and toured the world as often as he wanted to. He died of liver cancer on January 20, 2002.

John Jackson
By Greg Johnson

For over 36 years, John Jackson was arguably the purest exponent of Piedmont Blues working the festival circuit. An artist in possession of a wealth of musical knowledge, along with his strong baritone vocals, he kept the sound of the traditional southeastern United States alive. Passing on the songs of artists such as Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller to younger generations, as well as introducing his own finely-crafted material. His recent death has left a void that'll surely be hard to replace.

John Jackson was born in Woodville, Virginia, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Rappahannock County on February 25, 1924, the seventh of fourteen children. His parents were farmers by trade, but they also were working musicians who played for parties on holidays and weekends. This exposure captured young John's attention early and he began teaching himself to play his father's guitar by the age of four. It was evident to his family that there was something magical in the child's desire and an older sister purchased a guitar for him when he was just five.

Along with his family's participation as active performers, John also loved to listen to the collection of records his parents owned. They consisted of early Country and Blues artists; people such as Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, and especially Blind Blake. John studied the 78s passionately, learning the chord progressions as closely as he could. Another individual that the youngster found as a teacher came from the unlikely source of a water boy on a chain gang who went by the name of Happy. While working on the construction of I-29-211, Happy found the time to offer lessons to young Jackson.

Jackson never truly had a formal education. He was forced to leave school after only attending a few short months in the first grade to assist his family on the farm. Because of this, Jackson never learned to read or write.

By the time he was in his early teens, he had joined his parents working the local house-parties. He continued to play with them throughout the 1930s and well into the 1940s. But, by the end of the `40s, he became disenchanted with music, feeling that it led to violent behavior and walked away from it altogether.

In 1950, John Jackson moved to Fairfax County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Now a family man himself, with his wife Cora and their children, Jackson took work on a dairy farm. In 1954, he took on the occupation of a grave digger at the Oakwood Cemetery in Falls Church, Virginia. It was a job that he enjoyed and would hold onto throughout his life, even well after he became a recognized musician. Music came back into Jackson's life around this same time. A friend in need of money sold his guitar to Jackson and soon he was playing for family friends and local children in his spare time.

While driving through Fairfax County in 1964, folklorist Chuck Perdue stopped at an Amoco gas station. What he didn't expect to find was Jackson, teaching guitar to a mailman. Stunned by the brilliant playing of Jackson, he introduced himself and soon had the guitarist performing in coffee houses in the greater Washington area. It was at the height of the age of "Rediscovery" for Blues and Folk artists and Jackson's knowledge of the Piedmont style was a natural fit.

John Jackson recorded his first album for the Arhoolie label in 1965. Titled, "Blues And Country Dance Songs From Virginia" it was a fine example of his deep repertoire, containing Reels, Rags, Gospel, Hillbilly tunes and Blues. It was the first of eight albums that Jackson would release for Arhoolie during his lifetime and it opened the door for his demand at festivals around the world.

Despite that demand, Jackson very rarely liked to travel far from his home in Falls Church. Over his career, he would play in more than 60 countries, at venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. He would play for royalty and also was a featured performer at the White House for the annual Labor Day Picnic during Jimmy Carter's term as president. In 1986, Jackson was also honored with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. But, it wasn't until 1999 that he actually played formally for his own hometown when he appeared at the annual Falls Church Watch Night held to celebrate New Year's Eve, an event he would repeat for the remaining two years of his life.

Nineteen ninety-nine also saw the release of Jackson's final recording, "Front Porch Blues" on the Alligator label. The album would recap three W.C. Handy nominations that year, including one for the "Acoustic Album of the Year".

Shortly after Christmas 2001, John Jackson was diagnosed with liver cancer. It was unfortunately in such an advanced state that surgery was not an option. Despite his condition, Jackson appeared at the Falls Church Watch Night celebration a few days later, which would be his final performance. On the afternoon of January 20, 2002, he died while at home of kidney failure. It was reported that he was comfortable and not in pain. He was 77.

On the following Thursday, January 24, the life of John Jackson was celebrated by his friends and family. Many musicians, including the members of Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women and Cephas & Wiggins were all in attendance offering reminiscences of Jackson while his music quietly played in the background. He was later buried at Pleasant Valley Memorial Park, in Annandale, VA.

During his career, John Jackson was called the "King of the Piedmont Blues." But, he was more than just a musician; he was also a strong participant in the Civil Rights movement for Northern Virginia. Falls Church was the location of the first rural chapter of the NAACP and Jackson was a key member from its inception. He very rarely turned down any offer to perform as a benefit for this cause. He also wished to see the tradition of Piedmont's music to be remembered and to prosper as well. During the last month of his life, Jackson had began planning for a Center for Piedmont Blues in Falls Church in association with the local Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation. His musical legacy will surely carry on through this endeavor.

Obituary by John Pareles:

John Jackson, a master of the Piedmont tradition of blues, country and ragtime, died on Jan. 20 at his home in Fairfax, Va. He was 77.

The cause was kidney failure, but he had also suffered from lung and liver cancer, said his manager, Trish Byerly.

In a honey-cured Virginia drawl, backed by the gentle, spunky fingerpicking of his acoustic or steel guitar, Mr. Jackson sang a repertory that summed up rural life in the early 20th century. There were sly blues, hoedown tunes, storytelling ballads and God-fearing warnings of mortality. Mr. Jackson had only a first-grade education, and he continued to work as a gravedigger for decades after he was discovered during the 1960's blues and folk revival. In 1986 he was given the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Jackson was born Feb. 25, 1924, the seventh of 14 children in a farm family in Rappahannock County, Va. His parents, Suttie and Hattie Jackson, played at parties on weekends, and Mr. Jackson started playing guitar when he was 4.

He learned songs from his parents and from the family Victrola, listening to records by rural bluesmen like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake, as well as by country singers like Uncle Dave Macon and Jimmie Rodgers. Mr. Jackson learned slide guitar from a chain gang convict named Happy.

He dropped out of school to do farm work and learned to read and write later in life. Mr. Jackson continued performing with his parents into the 1940's, but because he felt music encouraged violent behavior, he quit by 1950.

He married and moved with his wife, Cora, to a dairy farm in Fairfax, Va., where he worked as a cook, driver and caretaker for the farmer.

In the early 60's two friends pawned him a Gibson J50 guitar for $50. Mr. Jackson started playing again, entertaining children. He kept the guitar for the rest of his career, calling it Stand By because, he said, it always stood by him.

A mailman heard Mr. Jackson playing for neighbors and asked for lessons. Mr. Jackson was instructing him at the local gas station, where the mailman had a second job, when the president of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, Chuck Perdue, pulled in for gas and stayed to listen. He encouraged Mr. Jackson to start performing at coffeehouses around Washington.

Arhoolie Records released Mr. Jackson's first album, ''Blues and Country Dance Songs From Virginia,'' in 1965, and he made his way onto the blues-festival circuit. He performed at a Labor Day picnic at the White House during the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

In 1980 he was part of the United States Information Agency's ''Southern Music U.S.A.'' tour, which went to Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans. Mr. Jackson made albums for Arhoolie (which released more material from his 1964 sessions in 1999), Rounder and Alligator Records, most recently ''Front Porch Blues,'' released by Alligator in 1999. His final show was on Dec. 31 in Falls Church, Va.

Mr. Jackson is survived by two brothers, Freddie and Thomas, and a sister, Roberta Wigington; four children, Lee Jackson, James Jackson, Timothy Jackson and Cora Beth Johnson; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Although he regularly played 100 to 125 shows a year, Mr. Jackson also continued to work as a gravedigger.

''He took pride in being a good gravedigger,'' said Joe Wilson, the executive director of the National Council for Traditional Arts, who produced ''Front Porch Blues.'' ''His holes were always exactly squared off. He was a workman.''

- from the Times

Read an essay called 'Rememberin John Jackson' here.


Smithsonian Folkways is releasing 'Rappahannock Blues,' a 20-track album by John Jackson, on June 15. Jackson (1924–2002) was the most important black Appalachian musician to come to broad public attention during the mid-1960s. The album is the latest addition to Smithsonian Folkways African American Legacy Recordings series, co-produced with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Raised in a large, musical farm family in Rappahannock County, Virginia, Jackson got his first guitar, bought by his oldest sister Mary for $3.75 from a catalog, when he was nine. He learned a wide-ranging stock of songs from his father, his aunt Etta and from 78-rpm recordings by the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, but after a fight at a house party in 1946, didn't touch an instrument for nearly 20 years.

Rediscovered at a gas station by folklorist Chuck Perdue, Jackson was quickly recorded by Arhoolie in 1964, laying down 90 songs in 12 hours in his first session. For the next three decades, he enthralled audiences with his vintage style and repertoire, though he worked day jobs his entire career, including a long-stint as a gravedigger and cemetery caretaker.

Although black Appalachian music never received the attention given to the transition from Delta blues to Chicago blues and then to rock and roll, in the mountains a shared black and white string band tradition served as the basis for American roots music, ranging from bluegrass to regional rockabilly. Emphasizing that shared heritage, Jackson toured Asia in 1984 with Ricky Skaggs, Buck White and Jerry Douglas. Two years later, he was designated a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Culled from hundreds of live concert recordings in the Smithsonian Folkways archives, the twenty tracks of 'Rappahannock Blues,' which include Blind Blake's "Too Tight Rag," "West Coast Rag" and "Diddy Wah Diddy," Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man," and "Red River Blues," recorded by Josh White as “Blood Red River” and by Blind Boy Fuller as “Bye Bye Baby,” highlight John Jackson the way he said he most wanted to be remembered — as a bluesman. All but two of the tracks are previously unreleased.

The release of 'RAPPAHANNOCK BLUES' will be celebrated at the “2010 Tinner Hill Blues Festival – A Tribute to John Jackson”, June 10-13, 2010 in Falls Church, VA (Washington DC area). For more information, visit

John Jackson - Rappahannock Blues

Year: 2010
Label: Smithsonian Folkways

Review by Steve Leggett
Appalachian guitarist, banjo player, and singer John Jackson, who died in 2002, was a bona fide American treasure whose recorded work and live performances were amazingly consistent and refreshingly real and unadorned. He was a fine guitarist in several styles -- he could fingerpick in the Piedmont style, then pick up a slide and go Delta -- and his claw-hammer banjo style bubbled with joy, while his singing was strong, warm, and always appropriate to whatever song he was doing. This set is drawn from live performances Jackson did between the mid-'70s and the late '90s, and it focuses on the blues end of his repertoire with solid and refreshing versions of blues pieces like “Rocks and Gravel” and “Frankie and Johnny,” as well as a gorgeous slide guitar take on the traditional “John Henry.” He also tackles a rag with “John Jackson’s Breakdown,” and pulls out the banjo for the string band reel “Cindy,” making this a fine introduction to a remarkably gifted folk musician.

Track Listing
1. Rocks and Gravel (John Jackson) *
2. Too Tight Rag (Blind Blake) *
3. Candy Man (Mississippi John Hurt) *
4. Truckin’ Little Baby (Blind Boy Fuller)*
5. Railroad Bill (traditional)
6. Nobody’s Business (If I Do) (traditional) *
7. Don’t You Want to Go Up There (trad.; arr. John Jackson) *
8. The Year Clayton Delaney Died (Tom T. Hall) *
9. John Jackson’s Breakdown (John Jackson) *
10. Red River Blues (traditional) *
11. Brown’s Ferry Blues (The Delmore Brothers) *
12. Cindy (trad.; arr. John Jackson) *
13. You Ain’t No Woman (Bill Jackson) *
14. John Henry (traditional)
15. Diddy Wah Diddy (Blind Blake) *
16. Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Kenneth Morris) *
17. Frankie and Johnny (traditional) *
18. Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down (trad.; arr. John Jackson) *
19. Step It Up and Go (Blind Boy Fuller; arr. John Jackson) *
20. West Coast Rag (Blind Blake) *

(*denotes previously unreleased track)

Cheers to Smithsonian Folkways for continuing to release these important recordings; check out the album here, where you can listen to all the tracks, download the booklet, and get a free download Frankie and Johnny, plus the opportunity to purchase a physical or downloadable copy of the album. Remember, Folkways is a non-profit. They're good people to support!

also see their Artist Spotlight page on him, with video, text, & rare photos.

also check out the Wirz Discography

July 4, 2010

Portrait of America #1 - Allen Ginsberg


by Allen Ginsberg

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and twentyfivethousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I'm a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they're all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy.
America you don're really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.