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July 30, 2009

Where the Blues Rears its Ugly Beautiful Head

All you patient and salient country-blues-lovers, I know I've been neglecting you of late to focus on crazy fiddlers and africans and banjoizzards and such. Do not despair, I'll get back to posting more crazed, semi-intelligible git-box-banging grit-moaners before long, but if you want to get your blues fix, I suggest you head over to Hard Luck Child's Juke Joint, now in a new location. He's doing a bang-up job over there!

July 26, 2009

Richard Greene - Ramblin'

Ok, so the only person I can reasonably post to follow Scotty Stoneman is his musical successor, Richard Greene. Richard learned from Scotty, studied him until he understood Scotty's unique brand of insane magical fire. And he combined that with his classical training and a willingness to explore other kinds of music. And he emerged in the late 60s and 70s as the greatest fiddler in America. I mean, Vassar Clements was great; he had a lot of skill and was comfortable in a lot of genres. But he didn't have presence the way Richard did. The way Richard plays, by the time he's 5 notes into a tune I'm transfixed. There's something very alive and vivid about his playing: something that is too great to be captured by the mind. His penchant for daring double-stops, his wild energy, and his tactful knack for playing just the right notes at the right time (on par with Clarence White). He played for president Clinton, solo. Played right up in his face, really intense fiddling! I got to see him a few years ago, sitting about 10ft from the stage, and it was a totally electrifying and elevating experience, especially his solo rendition of "What If Mozart Played With Bill Monroe?"

I should, perhaps, mention that this is absolutely the best "New Acoustic" or "Newgrass" or whateveryouwannacallit album ever made. After all, Richard co-invented the genre with David Grisman, and he was the original 'Dawg' fiddler who would have been a part of Old & in the Way but for a prior comittment. In fact, it seems like he has always been at the inception of everything that later, lesser musicians got famous for. Vassar Clements, Darol Anger, Jean-Luc Ponty, Kronos Quartet, Turtle Island String Quartet, Alison Krauss, younameit: Richard blazed the trail and then moved on. Makes you wonder where he'd be if he'da just had a publicity agent.

Though he was never the composer that David Grisman was, he had an unsurpassed skill at reimagining and rearranging material from a wide range of sources and making it indelibly, enduringly his own. This album brings us pieces from opposite sides of the musical spectrum: Bach, Duke Ellington's 'Caravan', Stephen Foster, Bill Monroe tunes, Ornette Coleman's 'Ramblin', 'You Are My Sunshine'… and makes them not only sit side-by-side, but sound like they were never meant to go any other way. The all-time-most-haunting version of 'In the Pines' with Peter Rowan on vocals is a highlight, the perfect foil for 'You Are My Sunshine' with Maria Muldaur singing. And his response to Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin'", itself a response to American vernacular music, is probably the best examble of bluegrass/jazz fusion on record. And the whole album has this classical sensibility, where everything is arranged to full & minute detail, so there is nothing lacking sonically, and nothing wanting. But WAY more energy and drive than any classical musician could give it.

"There's not a man in the country that can do what Richard can do." - Bill Monroe

"Richard Greene has such great tone and fine musicianship, he states a melody the way Lawrence Olivier delivers Shakespeare, clearly and with command of the language and the feelings." - efolkMusic Reviews

"One of America's most influential fiddlers - certainly one of the giants of modern fiddling, with Richard Greene you get the complete Bluegrass fiddle package: great technique, daring invention, sensitivity to the music's inner soul and a fiery presentation." - Bluegrass Unlimited

"I went back to violin when I heard Richard Greene playing with a group called Seatrain that had Peter Rowan in it. I’d gone to see a group called the Youngbloods, which was a great band. By then I was living in Marin County, California, and I heard Richard Greene playing this loud, amplified violin - like, “Orange Blossom Special” and all these amazing tunes really loud. It was just great for a 13 year-old guy. Richard blew my mind, and the guy in the Youngbloods, which is why I went to see the show in the first place. I think I might have been slightly aware of Sugarcane Harris, but Richard blew it all out. I was just discovering bluegrass music. Somebody gave me a Scott Stoneman record, Richard Greene’s “mentor” as far as bluegrass went. They both had that crazy, demented, psychotic style. I thought, “Well, this is how you play fiddle. This is the way to play.” So I learned all that wild, crazy rhythmic stuff, and then started realizing that there was more to it." - Darol Anger

Richard Greene, "one of the most innovative and influential fiddle players of all time," grew up in Los Angeles and studied classical music until his encounter with the pyrotechnic fiddling of Scotty Stoneman; from then on Richard was a fiddler. Scotty, in turn, exposed Richard to the recordings of his hero, Chubby Wise, the greatest of which were made with someone named Bill Monroe. Exposed to the primal bluegrass, Richard Greene started telling anyone who would listen, "I want to play with Bill Monroe. That's the whole focus of my life."

His networking worked. In early 1966, Greene got a last-minute call from Ralph Rinzler to join Monroe in Montreal and subsequently landed a full-time job with the Blue Grass Boysas one of Monroe's first "northern" band members. Highly influenced by Stoneman's improvisational pyrotechnics, Richard mad "Orange Blossom Special" very much his own. When Monroe unleashed him on that fiddle tour de force for the first time on the Opry, he knew what the effect would be. As the avalanche of cheers crested, Monroe was already strumming rhythm, lifting Greene into an encore.

After discovering just how hard it was to make a living in Monroe's band, he jumped ship at the invitation of former Bluegrass Boy Bill Keith to join Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, in time to turn their Garden of Joy album into the greatest jug band album of all time (see the first post of this blog).

Richard then went on to found the revolutionary Folk-Rock group Seatrain, pioneering the first use of the electric violin in Rock. His advanced technique and intense yet "cool" tone shocked audiences and prefigured such players as Jean-Luc Ponty and others, influencing a generation of fiddle players including Darol Anger, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush and Stuart Duncan.

Richard's return to acoustic music occasioned the invention of "New Grass" or "New Acoustic" instrumental music, now a mainstay throughout the world's acoustic music festivals. As one of Los Angeles' premier string session players he founded the trailblazing Greene String Quartet creating the first ever amalgam of Jazz-Folk-Rock-Chamber music and producing three seminal albums. His many acclaimed releases in the folk and bluegrass world have been honored with Grammy and IBMA awards, his CD Sales Tax Toddle was Grammy nominated for Bluegrass Album of Year.

Mr. Greene currently leads seminars on all aspects of fiddling and violin playing nationwide, teaching courses at The Mancini Institute, the RockyGrass Academy, the Festival of Fiddle Tunes, the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp, the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, The Swannanoa Gathering, and dozens of ad hoc workshops throughout the year. Also last year marked the debut of Richard Greene's Piece for Bluegrass Violin and Orchestra entitled "What If Mozart Played With Bill Monroe?".

Richard Greene is a master at authentic Old Time fiddle music (much of which learned one on one from Bill Monroe, inventor of BlueGrass Music) and New Acoustic (original instrumental compositions). Richard co-invented the genre New Acoustic with David Grisman circa 1974 (The Great American Music Band).

Biography by John Bush

A session fiddler with hundreds of credits -- and dozens of bands in which he has performed -- Richard Greene's most famous period was the 1960s, when he played with both Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys and Seatrain. He was born November 9, 1942, in Los Angeles, where he studied classical violin beginning at the age of five. By the time he entered high school, though, Greene switched his focus to folk music. He entered the University of California-Berkeley in 1960, and began playing in the Coast Mountain Ramblers and later the Dry City Scat Band. After college, Greene took a job in real estate, but also played with the Pine Valley Boys in San Francisco. On a trip to New York in 1964, he met Bill Keith of the Blue Grass Boys, and the association influenced Monroe's decision to hire the youngster two years later. Greene played at the Grand Ole Opry with Monroe and appeared on his Decca album Bluegrass Time.

After only one year with the Blue Grass Boys, Greene joined the Jim Kweskin Jug Band -- which also included Keith plus Geoff and Maria Muldaur -- and played on that band's 1968 album Garden of Joy. Not content to stay in one place, he split for California after one year and joined the Blues Project, which then evolved into Seatrain. Greene stayed for over three years, playing on the band's self-titled 1969 album for A&M, another self-titled LP for Capitol two years later, and 1972's Marblehead Messenger. With Eric Weissberg, Jim Rooney, and old friend Keith, he then formed the Blue Velvet Band, which recorded only one album, Sweet Moments. Greene spent the rest of the '70s playing with James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, Rod Stewart, Muleskinner, Taj Mahal, David Grisman, and Loggins & Messina, in addition to recording three albums as a solo act with his backing band, the Zone. The first two, Duets (1977) and Ramblin' (1979), appeared on Rounder, while 1980's Blue Rondo was released on the Sierra label. An early-'80s tour of Japan with Tony Trischka and Peter Rowan was documented on the Japanese Nippon label by Bluegrass Album and Hiroshima Mon-Amour (both 1980).

There's a superb interview with Richard Greene that you can read here:

Richard Greene - Ramblin'

Year: 1979
Label: Rounder

'Ramblin'' is groundbreaking fiddler Richard Greene's second solo album, following a couple of years after the innovative 'Duets.' As eclectic as they come, Greene was a member of Seatrain, Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band and Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys and a session player with artists ranging from Gary Burton to Con Funk Shun, Jerry Garcia and Al Kooper. In recent years, he has backed Linda Thompson, Rodney Crowell and appeared on an increasing number of soundtrack albums. His tour de force album 'Ramblin'' was cut in 1979 and features Andy Statman and Buell Neidlinger, with appearances by Maria Muldaur, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Larry McNeely and others.

1 Ramblin' 03:41
2 New Orleans 03:24
3 Caravan 03:35
4 Bach Violin Concerto in E Major 02:38
5 Limehouse Blues 01:56
6 Steven Foster Medley 04:26
7 You Are My Sunshine 02:59
8 Uncle Pen 02:43
9 In the Pines 03:21
10 The Walls of Time 04:06

sunshine through the walls of pine
vinyl, cleaned | mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover & liner notes | 45mb

oh, and definitely go to his website and get his more recent albums. worth every penny.

and if any of you have a source on any recordings of The Great American Music Band (Richard, Grisman, sometimes Jerry Garcia, Taj Mahal, etc.), let me know. They never officially recorded but there might be live tapes out there somewheres.

July 23, 2009

Scotty Stoneman with the Kentucky Colonels - Live in LA

You know, there's only one person I could post that could follow Sándor Lakatos. Yes, I do mean the other most-crazy-brilliant fiddler of the twentieth century, the other king of double-stops and tempo-changes and bird-calls and just plain country madness: Scotty Stoneman. He's absolutely the most ferocious American fiddler I've ever heard. And the only ever 5-time national fiddle champion.

Get this: when Scotty was a kid (growing up in the notorious performing Stoneman Family), he used to get up in the middle of the night, take his fiddle into the chicken coop and play until all the chickens were awake and squawking around and going nuts, and then he'd put his fiddle away and go back to bed.

But if you listen to him, you eventually realize that he must have just played fiddle like 18 hours a day when he was growing up. Like Clarence White, he had this single-sighted dedication to his instrument, and perhaps even more of a penchant for pushing (and breaking) the boundaries of the bluegrass genre and of what was considered possible on the instrument. There's moments on this album where Scotty's playing 2 different melodies on different strings. On a fiddle! Nobody does that! In fact, it's thought that it was Scotty who inspired Clarence to start being so daring with his timing and breaks. If you've listened to The Great Clarence White Bootleg Tapes that I posted back last may, then you know what I'm talking about. Incendiary. Maniacal. Provocative. Flammable. You think I'm making this up? Listen to what Jerry Garcia has to say about him:

I get my improvisational approach from Scotty Stoneman, the fiddle player. [He's] the guy who first set me on fire -- where I just stood there and I don't remember breathing. He was just an incredible fiddler. He was a total alcoholic wreck by the time I heard him, in his early thirties, playing with the Kentucky Colonels... They did a medium-tempo fiddle tune like 'Eighth of January' and it's going along, and pretty soon Scotty starts taking these longer and longer phrases -- ten bars, fourteen bars, seventeen bars -- and the guys in the band are just watching him! They're barely playing -- going ding, ding, ding -- while he's burning. The place was transfixed. They played this tune for like twenty minutes, which is unheard of in bluegrass. I'd never heard anything like it. I asked him later, 'How do you do that?' and he said, 'Man, I just play lonesome.' (Jerry Garcia, c. 1985, via Blair Jackson's Garcia: An American Life)

Scotty Stoneman has been called the Jimi Hendrix of the violin by Peter Rowan, and the "bluegrass Charlie Parker" by no less a figure than Jerry Garcia. Yet he's an elusive, mysterious figure -- in some ways even more so than Parker or Hendrix ever were -- with a career that was mostly spent working in tandem with other musicians, but without the kind of unified body of recordings left behind by, say, Hugh Farr of the Sons of the Pioneers (who was, himself, once compared to Fritz Kreisler by Leopold Stokowski).

Until he was past 30, Stoneman was best known as part of a performing family who were, in their own right, legends in the field of country music. The Stonemans, or the Stoneman Family, started in music with Ernest Van "Pop" Stoneman (1893-1968), a man who pioneered what is now known as country music before it even existed as an identifiable category of music. The son of a lay preacher and a singer, he came from a family with a rich musical life, a multi-instrumentalist who was seemingly good on every instrument he touched. Ironically, he gravitated toward the autoharp, an instrument that he couldn't afford, and so he'd built his own from pieces of an old piano. He'd worked as a farm hand, a carpenter, and a sweeper at a cotton mill, but as always throughout his life, his main interest was music. That made the union in marriage between him and Hattie Frost, the daughter of a luthier, fiddler, and banjo player, who played the banjo and fiddle herself, seem as much preordained as natural. They had 23 children, of whom 13 lived to become adults, and it was from their ranks that the six performing members of the Stonemans came.

Pop Stoneman had made his first recording privately in 1914, and his commercial recording career started a decade later with "The Sinking of the Titanic," which he'd written himself -- it sold over a million copies by some estimates, and some 200 songs followed from him over the next five years -- and from 1927 he was signed to Victor Records, then one of the largest recording concerns in the world. He brought his wife and other family members in his recording sessions, and from 1930 onward their children as well. This coincided with very hard times for the family, as the onset of the Great Depression destroyed the much of the market for country music; the family relocated to the Washington, D.C., area in 1932, and Scotty Stoneman was born that year, one of the couple's last four children of their 23. They kept playing music, trained by Pop and Hattie, but most of the family's income came from the jobs that Pop held outside of music. Matters seemed to turn around in 1947 when the Stoneman Family, as they were called then, won a talent contest at Constitution Hall, the prize from which included six months' worth of appearances on local television. It wasn't quite the boon that this exposure would have meant a decade or two later, as precious few people (and virtually no country music fans) had television sets, but it gave them something to build on.

A photograph of the Stoneman Family from the period shows Scotty in his early teens, fiddle in hand, one of 12 performing siblings (with two younger ones sitting atop the truck behind them). Scotty joined the United States Air Force in 1951 and served four years, during which his work with the family group was severely limited if not entirely halted. It was soon after his discharge, while in Washington, D.C., that he discovered guitarist/singer Jimmy Case singing at a club. He approached him about his work and the two ended up putting together a group consisting of Case and two of Scotty's siblings and a cousin by marriage, called the Bluegrass Champs, who passed an audition and got a steady gig almost immediately -- and wouldn't you have known that the club owner who hired them also proved to have some important television connections, most especially to host/impressario Arthur Godfrey. The Bluegrass Champs, with Porter Church added to the lineup and a few other shifts in personnel, won a contest on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1956. There's a great picture of the group from that period, with Scotty in the line, the tallest of them.

This time out, the television exposure made Scotty and company's careers suddenly take off like a rocket, and they were soon working with the likes of Patsy Cline, Grandpa Jones, and Roy Clark, and got multiple regular radio gigs. By the early '60s, they'd made their way west and were based in California, where they recorded for World Pacific, which was the home of some of the new, young bluegrass players and also soon to be the launching pad for the national folk-rock boom. By the mid-'60s, he was a five-time national fiddle champion, playing with a technique that astounded musicians who were seemingly his peers. He played with the Kentucky Colonels, one of that new generation of bluegrass outfits that was getting noticed amid the folk revival and the early folk-rock boom.

By many estimates, Stoneman's career and musicianship peaked at around that same time. For reasons that psychologists could probably explain, Stoneman's private life was conducted as fiercely as the seeming abandon with which he performed on-stage. Whether it was alcohol abuse or other problems, it worsened as he reached the second half of his thirties, and his health gradually deteriorated over the final years of his life. He was playing in a group with his wife, Mary Madison Stoneman, which also included a very young Marty Stuart, during the early '70s, but by then it was clear that his work wasn't what it had been. Stoneman died in 1973 at the age of 40. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

Scotty Stoneman - Live in LA
with the Kentucky Colonels

Recorded 1965
Released 1967/1978
Label: Rural Rhythm

Personnel includes: Scotty Stoneman (vocals, fiddle); Clarence White (vocals, guitar); Billy Ray Lathum (vocals, banjo); Roland While (vocals, mandolin); Roger Bush (vocals, bass); Skip Conover (dobro).

Total Playing Time - 55:47 -- Pick up this 14-track CD and relive the excitement of the Kentucky Colonels in 1965 as they play two Hollywood, Ca. venues, The Cobblestone Club and Ash Grove. While the group originally started in the early fifties (as "The Country Boys") after the four White kids (Roland, Clarence, Eric and Joann) moved from Maine to Los Angeles, it was in the early sixties that the band reached the pinnacle of its career. A 1964 trip back east found them playing at the Newport Folk Festival and Martha's Vineyard. By 1965, the Kentucky Colonels featured Clarence White (guitar), Roland White (mandolin), Bill Ray Lathum (banjo), Roger Bush (bass), and Scott Stoneman (who had just joined the band on fiddle after Bobby Slone left the group). Stoneman was a catalyst that supercharged the other pickers, like throwing dry tinder on a bluegrass wildfire. The players challenged each other to greater musical heights. The result was some of the most exciting music to be heard for quite some time. The Colonels eventually broke up in 1965 when it proved impossible to make a living as bluegrass musicians in California. An attempt to reform in 1966 as The White Brothers and Kentucky Colonels was unsuccessful.

Calvin "Scotty" Stoneman was born in Galax, Virginia on August 4, 1932, one of 23 children of Ernest "Pop" Stoneman. Scotty was a five-time national fiddle contest champion when he died, on March 4, 1973 from overuse of a medication (librium) taken to avoid alcohol. Scotty's first professional experience had been with Mac Wiseman in the early fifties, and as a member of The Blue Grass Champs after winning the fiddle category in Connie B. Gay's "National Hillbilly Music Contest" in Warrenton, Va. Scotty also helped The Stoneman Family win the 1957 Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts Show. In 1992, Everett Lilly once commented, "I've had a lot of fiddlers with me and I've played with what they call the 'best fiddlers'...but I don't know nobody [like Scotty Stoneman] that could carry his case when it come to playin' the fiddle on the stage. And I'm speaking the truth! I have never seen his match and probably never will."

Tape recordings, made under noisy and less than desirable conditions, captured the Kentucky Colonels' legendary sound for albums like this one from Rural Rhythm Records. This CD is special because of its spotlight on Scotty Stoneman, with ten instrumentals, as well as four vocal numbers sung by Stoneman. Besides some of the best fiddled novelty numbers of all time (Lee Highway Blues, Listen to the Mockingbird, Cacklin' Hen, and Orange Blossom Special), I especially enjoyed hearing Scotty sing his original "Any Damn Thing" and B. Johnson's "A Wound Time Can't Erase." Other numbers include Oklahoma Stomp, Once A Day, Eighth of January, Down Yonder, Sally Goodin, Shuckin' the Corn, Cherokee Waltz, and Goodnight Irene.

Liner notes include a conversation with Richard Greene and Peter Rowan who both knew Scotty. The Kentucky Colonels were a very influential band, and their intensity was nonpareil. The inimitable Scotty Stoneman is the featured artist on this album, a great tribute to the Colonels and their fabulous fiddler. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)

1.Oklahoma Stomp
2.Once a Day
3.Eighth of January
4.Any Damn Thing
5.Lee Highway Blues
6.Down Yonder
7.Sally Goodin
8.Wound Time Can't Erase, A
9.Shuckin' the Corn
10.Listen to the Mockingbird
11.Cherokee Waltz
12.Cacklin' Hen
13.Orange Blossom Special
14.Goodnight Irene

the track Listen to the Mockingbird has crazy digital noise halfway through so I added an equivalent version from Livin' in the Past.

vinyl | mp3 224kbps | w/ cover | 94mb

and once your head stops spinning from that ferocious music, head over to Jeremy's Saggy Record Cabinet for more!

also, if you want to see some great posts on Clarence, check out The Audios Lounge

July 21, 2009

Sándor Lakatos & His Gypsy Band - Gypsy Virtuoso

Since I didn't scan the booklet when I had this out from the library some years ago, I have absolutely no information about him, and none can be found on the interweb. So all I have to go on are my trusty ears and propensity for fraudulent concocticating. I'm pretty sure he's related to Roby Lakatos, the gypsy violinist who's wowing people nowadays, but Sándor was WAY better.

I do know one thing though, it does what it says on the label. Gypsy. Virtuoso. I have never heard anyone for whom those words are more fitting. He is certainly a virtuoso, to the full depth of the term. Quite frankly he is one of the best violin players I have ever heard. Ever. If you downloaded my fiddle mix-cd way back when, you know what I'm talking about. Even in the company of other masters, he stands out.

What makes him stand out so? Well, apart from pure technical ability (which is flawless to the point of sounding effortless), it is as though the violin itself were alive, and speaking through his deftly bowed touch. He's not playing notes; he's playing birds, and dances, and tears. He's playing the joys and sorrows of the whole history of the gypsy race every time the hair of his bow alights upon the strings. And his tone! Engorged with vigor, yet pure and salient. He plays wild, yes. But it's not an ego-based wildness - it's the wildness that is natural to the gypsy people. Have you seen the colors of their outfits. These are the hummingbirds and peacocks of humanity - what seems like showing off is in fact the full and honest expression of their culture. As travelling people, they can keep very few posessions, but they can bring their music with them everywhere, and it carries for them their histories, griefs and memories, supplanting it all with an ever present impulse to BE HERE NOW.

That, I think, is why they are so prone to suddently change tempo and mood. To wake us up. To draw tears from our eyes and then get us to dance them away, or to stop us in the middle of a frantic dance and pierce through our lowered guard and touch our heart with a whispered B-flat. And no one I've heard accomplishes this drastic dynamic shift better than Sándor Lakatos and his crack Gypsy Band. From a whisper to a wail, to a bird and a whip and a long lonely lullabye and back. Good night!

...actually, I should mention the band too. They sound like a dixieland band that's been posessed by the spirit of P.T. Barnum and has been let loose in the carnival to spread their joyful anarchy around like jelly on your sanity clause. oh, and that thing that sounds like a piano in the Gypsy Band is likely a cymbalom, the Eastern European version of a hammered dulcimer. To hear more, take a listen to Joseph Moskowitz, posted in the Last Great Post.

Sándor Lakatos & His Gypsy Band - Gypsy Virtuoso

Year: 1995
Label: Hungaroton (the national record label of Hungary!)

note: due to scratches on the cd when I got it, a couple of the tracks never imported and one skips out at the end.

1 Virtuoso Csárdás - Lakatos - 1:27
2 Venetian Carnival - Enrst - 3:52
3 Serenade in a Major - Kreisler - 2:24
4 The Sheperd's Hora - Lakatos - 1:48
5 The Nightingale - Lakatos - 3:24
6 I Do Not Owe a Thing to Anybody - Feldolgozia - :39
7 Abandoned - Boulanger - 4:19
8 Caprice No. 24 - Paganini - 6:11
9 Stately Palotás Dance - Csermák - 3:07 *scratched
10 Song Medley Fantasy - Lakatos - 4:57 *missing
11 Dreamy Violin - Lakatos - 2:17 *missing
12 Madocsa Verbunkos and Quick Dance - Feldolgozia - 3:06
13 Rolling Balaton - Feldolgozia, Lakatos - 3:46
14 Fly, My Swallow - Feldolgozia - 5:11
15 Birdie on a Branch - Várady - 1:13
16 Laci Ráciz's Tunes - Feldolgozia - 4:29
17 Memory - Lakatos - 1:53
18 Lujza Csárdás - Feldolgozia - 1:08
19 Memory and Quick Dance - Feldolgozia - 3:33
20 Hóra/Hora - Boulanger - 2:23
21 Variation Fantasy - Lakatos - 2:22
22 For Six Days Now the Band Has Played - Adorjan, Angyal, Feldolgozia - 1:23
23 Medley of Old Songs and Csárdás - Feldolgozia - 7:05

the devil's music.
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover? | 91mb

looks like there's another Sándor album over at Rebel Sounds, if you can navigate the Russian downloader.

and get a taste of Roby Lakatos over at Zenekucko's site and Na Bula Bula,

July 20, 2009

Slim Richey - JazzGrass

Not much to say about this that I haven't said about previous bluegrass/jazz meetings, except that it's fantastic! Apparently this Texan is still in the music business, making good sounds. Keep an eye out for his excellent beard!

As one might gather from this LP's title, the music is a mixture of swinging jazz and bluegrass as played by a string group. Guitarist Slim Richey is joined by Joe Carr on mandolin, banjoist Alan Munde, Jerry Case or Sumter Bruton on guitar, Sam Bush, Richard Greene or Ricky Skaggs on fiddle and bassist Kerby Stewart; in addition Dan Huckabee adds his dobro to four of the dozen selections. Nine of the twelve numbers are jazz standards (including "Indiana," "The Preacher" and "Stompin' at the Savoy") and even the originals (which are titled "To Linda," "Boppin' at the Bluebird" and "Jazz Grass Waltz") are jazz-oriented. However country and bluegrass collectors will also be interested in searching for this out-of-print LP for Slim Richey and his sidemen constantly display their roots in bluegrass music. The type of "fusion" heard on this set proves to be quite successful. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Slim Richey - JazzGrass

Year: 1978
Label: Ridge Runner 0009 vinyl

Slim Richey - solo guitar
Joe Carr - Mandolin
Kerby Stewart
Alan Munde - Banjo (Bill Keith on Nights in Tunesia)
Jerry Case - Rythm guitar (also Sumter Bruton)
Sam Bush - Fiddle (also Ricky Skaggs and Richard Greene)
Dan Huckabee - Dobro

Voice choir on Stompin' at the Savoy : Linda Richey, Ann Munde, Dave Ferguson, Joe Carr,
Gerald Jones, Dan Huckabee, Slim Richey.

01 - Gravy Waltz
02 - Back Home Again in Indiana
03 - To Linda
04 - There'll Never Be Another You
05 - Boppin' at the Bluebird
06 - Angel Eyes

07 - Jazz Grass Waltz
08 - Rose Room
09 - Summer Time
10 - The Preacher
11 - Stompin' at the Savoy
12 - Night in Tunisia

mp3 320kbps | w/ cover | 110mb

July 19, 2009

We have a winner!

The Ola Belle Reed cds have been won! All three of the discs I was giving away are going to a reader named Kilby from North Carolina. Why all three to one person, you may ask? Very simple: he was the only one who sent me an email and entered the contest. But his story, reprinted below, was very good and I think you'll agree that he fully deserves this music.


Hey there,

Ola Belle was a cousin on my father's side of the family, though she left the Grayson County,VA/Ashe County/NC area at an early age. Her family was extremely liberal for the times and in her father's will, it was specified that all his families had to take in any "wanderers" in the area and feed and house them. As a result, ___ pounds of flour,etc had to be kept in the house at all times. I've heard a lot of great stories about her family and how unusual and great they were, though they are relatives:) Anyhow, I used to, and need to get back to, visiting an older fellow who played fiddle for her for many years named Johnny Miller. He is on her finest (to my ears) LP, one that has never been reissued on Rounder, containing High on the Mountain. He told me about a set of 78s they cut for the Security label in Washington,DC in the late 40s. Ola Belle on vocals/banjo, Johnny on steel, his cousin Slick on fiddle, and Alec Campbell on guitar/vocals. I was able to hunt down a friend with copies who put them on CD. Definitely her earliest commercial recordings, which I'd be glad to upload and share with you if you'd like. Anyhow, that's my connection and a little info about her.


July 18, 2009

Boubacar Traoré - Kar Kar

One of the coolest things about Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotten is how their guitar would mimic their voice, playing the same notes at the same time as they sang them. Now, imagine that same approach as applied to the high, lilting, rapidfire vocals of West African music. A feeling very close to the blues, though perhaps in an even more hypnotic scale and cyclical nature, like oud music perhaps. Wrap into that a sense of polyrhythm like the kora music but applied to the solo acoustic 'dry' guitar, and you'd be approaching the unique brilliance of Boubacar Traoré. Need I say more? Oh, yes - though I don't have a clue what the words he sings are, I know what he means: the blues is a feeling, afterall, and with every song he buries over some mournful regret under the clear night sky of his parched and stirring voice.

Boubacar Traoré

Biography by Chris Nickson

Boubacar Traoré has gone from being the voice of Mali to obscurity, and bounced back to become an internationally respected singer, guitarist, and songwriter -- all in all, not a bad career arc. Born in Kayes, in the sandy west of Mali, his passion as a boy was soccer, and his skills won him the nickname he still carries, 'Kar Kar' - 'the one who dribbles too much' in Bambara, a reference to his soccer playing: "a nickname I got from playing soccer when I was young. People would yell 'Kari, Kari' - dribble, dribble - the name stuck with me"..

But music caught his attention, and the round ball faded into the background. He had taught himself to play guitar and developed a unique style that blended American Blues music, Arab music, and pentatonic structures found in West Africa's Mande cultural region. He began sitting in with orchestras around Kayes (including the Orchestra Regional de Kayes), playing his guitar and singing, before moving to the country's capital, Bamako, to try his luck. In the '60s, following Mali's independence from France, it seemed as though he'd made the big time. Every morning Traoré would be on national radio, greeting the country with his song "Mali Twist," a love letter to the new nation. Everyone knew Kar Kar and his voice, although he never recorded, simply from from his appearances on the radio and in person. That didn't pay the bills, though, and Traoré had a family to feed. So music moved onto the back burner as he became a tailor, a shopkeeper, a farmer, a schoolteacher, and even an agricultural agent away from Bamako to keep food on the table. He played music occasionally, but there were more urgent priorities in his life. During the 1970s Traoré's popularity faded.

Everything changed, however, in 1987, when his wife Pierrette died. With most of his children grown, Traoré began playing gigs again, being "rediscovered" in Mali. But now the place held bad memories for him and, he said, "I didn't want to be there any more." Instead, he traveled to France, where he worked construction jobs with other Malians, sharing the rough-and-ready boarding house system, making money to send home to support the rest of his family. He had his guitar, but rarely touched it until a British producer managed to track him down, taking him to England to record his first CD, Mariama. Two years later he returned to Mali, making his home once again in Bamako and playing regularly. His reappearance came as a shock to many Malians, who assumed his silence meant he'd died. Instead, he was more active than ever, writing songs in the pentatonic style of his native Kayes, not unlike the northern Mali style of his friend Ali Farka Toure. Mariama traveled well in world music circles, and even prompted Ry Cooder and David Lindley to suggest a collaboration, which never happened. Instead, Traoré returned to Europe in 1992, recording Kar Kar, whose songs often touched on lost love, before undertaking another tour. He began dividing his time between Bamako, where he slowly built a house with his own hands, and Europe, where he toured frequently. But it wasn't until 1996 that he issued Sa Golo, his third album, in France (released 2000 U.S.), where his voice and guitar were accompanied by Baba Dramé on calabash. Three years later, Indigo in France put out Maciré, Traoré's fourth release (2000 U.S.), named for his brother, which saw his songs receive much fuller arrangements, thanks to help from rising Malian star Habib Koité and his band Bamada. The record included a song that had been big for Traoré in the '60s -- "Kar Kar Madison," his own take on the American dance craze, the Madison. In the early fall of 2000, Traoré undertook an extensive and well-received U.S. tour.

Boubacar Traoré - Kar Kar

Year: 1992/1994
Label: Sterns

Review by John Storm Roberts, Original Music

Traoré sings his own songs to a solo acoustic guitar backing that stylistically and emotionally echoes traditional koras without actually imitating them, rather as the early Congo guitarists picked up on finger-piano patterns.

1. Adieu Pierrette
2. Secheresse
3. Santa Mariya
4. Kavana
5. Kevalle
6. Kar Kar
7. Badialo
8. Narena
9. Farafina
10. Sougourouny

the thrill is here.
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover | 80mb

he has many albums in print. find them. buy them. support the man. he's worked hard, y'know.

and don't miss all the great African guitar music Nauma's been posting over at Freedom Blues.

Amadu Bansang Jobarteh - Tabara: Gambian Kora Music

Ok guys, you've gotta get this one. No joke. This guy is the elder statesman of the kora. Great uncle of Toumani Diabate. And he knows his stuff. Even if you pass up all the other kora albums, get this one. It's so mind-boggling what he does, and yet so elegant and modest. I only wish I understood the words, I'm sure he's recounting tales of fetching heroes and wretching wenches. This music will lift your spirit. Clean out of your body.

Amadu Bansang Jobarteh

Biography by Craig Harris

The musical traditions and historical recollections of West Africa are expressed through the music of kora player and vocalist Amadu Bansang Jobarteh. Although not as well known as younger musicians in his family -- Toumani Diabate and Sidiki Diabate -- Jobarteh continues to expand on the musical traditions of his homeland. According to Rootsworld, Jobarteh's "music is at once ancient and new, praising the heroes and benefactors of his home and family, telling the history of his people, and doing it within a series of structures that leave room for individual expression through improvisation." The son of a griot father, Jobarteh moved with his family to Bansang, Gambia, where he was taught to play the kora. Jobarteh's album, Tabara, showcases his talents as a solo performer.

Amadu Bansang Jobarteh (kora, voice) is a jali: an oral historian and hereditary praise singer from among the Mandinka people of Gambia, West Africa. Amadu's family background clearly illustrates the hereditary nature of jalis in West African society. In the late 1800s, and at the request of a Gambian chief, Amadu's father Jali Fili Jobarteh emigrated from Mali and settled with his family in the town of Bansang. Although the father played koni, his children learned the kora, which was the favored instrument in that area of Gambia.

Amadu first learned kora from his elder brother Bala, whose son Sidiki Diabate is now considered one of the most accomplished jalis in all of Mali. Sidiki's son, Toumani Diabate, is well known in the West, and has numerous recordings to his credit. Now is his late seventies, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh embodies the wisdom and maturity of a grand master, and is one of the oldest and most respected kora players of our time. Despite his age, his musical mind is sharp and his fingers are incredibly nimble. He has performed around the world and has taught in Europe and the United States.

Amadu Jobarteh passed away in April of 2001.

Amadu Bansang Jobarteh - Tabara: Gambian Kora Music

Recorded: 1987
Released: 1993
Label: Music of the World

Review by Jason Ankeny

The expertly recorded Tabara is a showcase for Amadu Bansang Jobarteh's mastery of the kora, the 21-string West African harp made of wood, calabash gourd, cowhide and nylon strings. Sweet and serene, his playing adheres strongly to tradition yet remains fresh and exciting, equally at home on instrumentals and vocal tracks.

1 Tabara 8:31
2 Jula Faso 11:52
3 Lamban 7:18
4 Kelefaba 11:03
5 Fode Kaba 9:42
6 Hama Ba Jata 3:00
7 Jula Jegere 10:51
8 Alfa Yaya 8:39

mp3 256kbps | w/ cover | 113mb

Djeli Keba Kouate/Fodé Drame & Bana Sissoko - Air Mail Music: Senegal

Djeli Keba Kouate/Fodé Drame & Bana Sissoko - Air Mail Music: Sénégal

Year: 1998
Label: Playasound

"Sénégal" is the perfect recording for some one who is just getting started with the kora. Featuring two long tracks of traditional Manding kora music. This CD starts with a 20 minute solo performance by Dejli Keba Kouate followed by a 31 minute kora duet performed by Fodé Drame and Bana Sissoko. This is a very clear recording without vocals, making it perfect for learning kora music. It also makes for great background music.

*It's WAY better than background music, guys!

01 Djeli Keba Kouate: Improvisation Sur Des Themes Malinkés 20:11
02 Fodé Drame & Bana Sissoko: Suite De Themes Pour Deux Kora 30:23

sweeter than icing on a spaceship.
mp3 256kbps | w/ small cover | 85mb

pick up some more kora at WeLove-Music

and if you'd like to purchase some, I'd recommend or

Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh - Kairaba Jabi

More kora music. This time, a traditional kora duet with singing. Sweet. Pure. Heavenly and gorgeous.

"The kora is sounding, the drums are sounding, Saliya is lying dead. The people of Niomi Juffure are weeping... I am afraid of death-the loneliness of being left behind." - from the song "Saliya"

Since 1987, Gambia's Dembo Konte and Senegal's Kausu Kuyateh have toured worldwide as the best international ambassadors of the kora, West Africa's multi-stringed harp-lute. Their duo albums have been acclaimed as the most accessible from this fabulous tradition: here's a 76+ minute selection of the best, including lots on CD for the first time.

Kausu Kuyateh is one of first jelis or hereditary musicians to add extra bass strings to the kora. Born in Guinea-Bissau, which was part of the ancient Kabou empire, Kausu with his 24 string kora, is renowned for his masterful version of the musical style, called Yeyengo. This style is played in a kora tuning know as Tomora Ba. The tuning has a bluesy minor sound, similar to the western dorian mode.

On "Kairaba Jabi" jeli Kausu Kuyateh and Dembo Konte, play and sing with a passion that is unmatched! This compact disc includes all the tracks from their 1987 release. "Simbomba--The Great Hunter", (now out of print).

"The interplay of the two is fascinating, as they twist and turn around the melody, fighting against each other and then suddenly forming a unison that shimmers up and down a scale before parting ways again." - Cliff Furnald, Dirty Linen (1990)

"Nothing is ever quite the same after the first time you hear a kora played live in a West African setting. Dembo Konte was the musician who opened my ears, and he made these recordings with Kausu Kuyateh soon afterwards. They still sound powerful and raw, evocative and timeless." Charlie Gillett, 1998.

Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh - Kairaba Jabi

Year: 1987/1994
Label: Weekend Beatnik

1 Kairaba Jabi 4:26
2 Simbomba 4:11
3 Ngaleng Sonko 8:27
4 Saliya 6:37
5 Mamma Maneh 4:58
6 Mammadu Sanyang 4:14
7 Demba Hajada 3:37
8 Banta Toure 7:15
9 Yeyengo 6:19
10 Tiramakhan 6:33
11 Fayinkunko 8:53
12 Sunkariba 6:01
13 Solo 3:52

it takes two to solo.
mp3 256kbps | w/ cover | 122mb

and get some more kora music over at Freedom Blues!

Foday Musa Suso - Hand Power

So before I get too caried away into the inexorable void of banjoism, I thought it appropriate to revisit the banjo's roots. Though mostly played by white people nowadays, the banjo was originally a 'black' instrument. It evolved in the south of the US from combining the fingerboard of the guitar with the skin/gourd structure of the African ngoni. African music also heavily influenced the strongly rhythmic, cyclical and 'odd' nature of banjo-music. The ngoni is also related to (and often accompanies) the kora, a 19-to-24-stringed gourd-lute-harp, which will be featured in several of my next posts. Incidentally, it's kinda the hip thing for banjo-players now to go and retrace their roots and play with African musicians. Look up Béla Fleck's new album and Jayme Stone with Mansa Sissoko to hear some. If you downloaded the Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate album that I posted ages ago, then you know already how dreamlike and incredible the kora sounds, given a suitably virtuosic player. If you haven't heard it yet, go listen!

Though Foday Musa Suso is renowned as a master Kora-ploayer, this album isn't strictly a kora album. Inbetween make-your-brain-explode flurries of string-plucking and cascades of liquid arpeggios there is singing, percussion, and even some traditional Gambian electric guitar (har har). But it's all so solid and natural, and when the rhythms overlap 2 and 3 times over it makes me wet as a baby and, well, stop reading just listen.

Biography by Jason Ankeny

Griot, composer, and kora master Foday Musa Suso loomed large over the worldbeat landscape both before and after the Graceland groundswell. The solo records of this relentlessly innovative performer and tireless ambassador of African culture remained rooted in the meditative folk traditions of his native Gambia, but he also collaborated with similarly omnivorous Western musicians including Bill Laswell, Herbie Hancock, and Philip Glass to fuse West African music with classical minimalism, free jazz, and avant funk. Born in 1950 into a family of Mandingo griots -- musicians, historians, and oral storytellers -- dating back about a thousand years, Suso spent his formative years on a peanut farm, studying the kora (the harplike 21-string instrument that dominates West African music) at the feet of his father, Saikou Suso. At the age of ten he was sent to a nearby village to continue his education under the tutelage of an uncle. When Suso was 18, a group of Western tourists funded his airfare to Sweden, and in exchange he spent six months playing solo in bars and restaurants throughout the Scandinavian region. While in Stockholm he befriended a French accordionist, and together they performed across Europe for the next five years, with Suso finally returning to Africa in 1974 to teach kora at the University of Ghana. While at the university Suso met Chicago-based percussionist Adam Rudolph, and in mid-1977 he relocated to the Windy City, forming the world fusion outfit Mandingo Griot Society with Rudolph, percussionist Hamid Drake, and bassist Joe Thomas. The group's first performance at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago earned significant media exposure and landed Suso a job with the Illinois Arts Council teaching African culture in area schools. Following just their second gig, the Mandingo Griot Society signed with the local Flying Fish label, in 1978 recording their self-titled debut LP with the great Don Cherry on trumpet. A follow-up, Mighty Rhythm, appeared in 1981, but after Rudolph relocated to Los Angeles and Drake began focusing his energies almost exclusively on his burgeoning collaboration with saxophonist Fred Anderson, the unit effectively dissolved, and Suso returned to his solo career. In 1983 he contacted Laswell, inspired by the producer's work on Hancock's groundbreaking Future Shock album, and Laswell invited Suso to contribute to Hancock's follow-up, Sound-System. The legendary keyboardist was so pleased with the end result that he invited Suso to join his band for a Japanese tour that yielded the live LP Village Life. Suso signed to the Celluloid label to release his 1984 solo debut, Watto Sitta, recorded with the core Mandingo Griot Society lineup with contributions from Hancock and djembe master Manu Washington. After he and Hancock jointly headlined a 1986 live record entitled Jazz Africa, Suso returned to West Africa for a month in the company of composer Philip Glass, then preparing his score for filmmaker Godfrey Reggio's Powaqqatsi, and upon coming back to the U.S. they agreed to collaborate, ultimately scoring Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater's 1989 production of The Screens, Jean Genet's stage drama about Algeria's struggle for independence from France. Glass' influence profoundly affected the minimalist aesthetic dominant on Suso's 1990 LP, Dreamtime. Glass also introduced Suso to Kronos Quartet violinist David Harrington, and in 1992 he played kora on the avant classical group's Pieces of Africa. In 1995 the original Mandingo Griot Society lineup reunited to perform at the African Festival of the Arts, and the following year Suso's contributions to the Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond collection earned widespread attention from the mainstream media. In the years to follow he collaborated with jazz legends Pharoah Sanders and Jack DeJohnette, and in June 2004 he and Glass traveled to Athens, Greece, to perform Orion, a new piece commissioned in honor of the Summer Olympic Games.

Longer Biography:
Foday Musa Suso is an internationally recognised Kora playing Mandingo griot who was born in 1950 in the Gambian village of Sarre Hamadi, a village in the Wuli District, in the Upper River Region. He is a virtuoso master kora performer and composer from a hereditary lineage of other Jalis.

After spending his childhood in Banjul, the capital, he was sent to Pasamasi Village where he was taught by Saikou Suso, his uncle, when he was nine years old. He would sometimes be under the tutelage of another of his uncles Falimada Suso. After 7 years of rigorous formal training he became an accomplished player of the kora, balaphone (African xylophone) and the tama. Such an apprenticeship is a standard feature of learning music in Manding because it is considered important for achieving proper discipline and concentration. Unlike most musicians in Manding society, Suso's talents are shared among many instruments. When he had finished his training he had now put to memory past tribal conflicts, family lineages, the epic oral histories of the Manding people and its cultural heroes from the great Sujatta onwards.

Foday Musa Suso made trips to a number of European, Asian and African countries teaching, and performing, as well as learning from others. He spent two years at the Institute of African Studies, University of Legon, Ghana, as a resident instructor of the Kora.

In 1977, Suso flew to Chicago in the US where he began his recording career as well as forming a group, Mandingo Griot Society, with the percussionist Adam Rudolph. The group have appeared at New York's Carnegie Hall and Central Park Summerstage, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Frankfurt International Jazz Festival in Germany and at the Cultural Center in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Since then, he has taught and recorded with many well known jazz artists, including the trumpeter Don Cherry, and Herbie Hancock, with whom he recorded the album, Village Life, while on their tour of Japan. The group opened new ground in what is known as World Music in numerous other collaborations, such as with Ginger Baker using Suso's skillful and heavenly playing of the West African lute in a number of pieces.

After the band broke up they Suso re-united with its members Rudolph and Hamid Drake in 1984 to create the album Watto Sitta. The album was produced by Bill Laswell, and was a milestone of modern African music, skillfully and effortlessly merging Suso's cutting-edge kora playing with an effortless equilibrium of natural and synthesised tunes.

Since the early 80's his various collaborations and work has included working with Pharoah Sanders, Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet an ensemble who commissioned him to compose five works. They collaborated at venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Center and California's Institute of the Arts to the Staatsoper Opera House in Vienna, Austria and the Royal Festival Hall in London In traditional, contemporary, minimalist, classical and avant-garde settings he's cast the kora in both lead and supporting roles where its emotive, shimmering sound finds ever new levels of beauty and boldness.

Career High Points:
Foday has also performed on several film soundtracks including Roots, Powaqqatsi, and Mountain of the Moon. Other high-lights of his career include working as a performer and consultant for a Japanese documentary film on African music and the book/CD, Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond.

Official Website:

Foday Musa Suso - Hand Power

Year: 1984
Label: Flying Fish

This is a solo album of traditional Gambian acoustic music.

1. Sir Dawda Jawara
2. Tesito
3. Fatoto Camara Kunda
4. Julla Fasso
5. Tramakang
6. Ye Goni

and how many hands can one man have?
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover | 71mb

and don't miss his duets with jazz drummer Jack de Johnette at Musical Heritage/Babeblogue and with Herbie Hancock at Guitar & the Wind and Nothing is v2.0 and with Pharaoh Sanders & Eberhard Weber at Pathway to Unknown Worlds and with trumpeter Don Cherry at Babelblogue

July 17, 2009

from Dressing the Debutantes

Hola Irate Pirate,
First let me say that I love your blog. It is part of my morning routine when I get to work (normally before I open my work inbox). I've lost count of how much great music you've introduced me to (foremost in my mind being Reverend Gary did i ever survive before hearing him??).
I've noticed several posts recently of bands who contacted you so I thought I would take a stab at telling you about my band: dressing the debutantes. For recording purposes, we (chris hutchison-jones and jesse busen) are currently a 2 man band playing whatever instruments we can put our hands on. As we live in different cities (Boston and Washington DC) I usually perform solo with guitar and banjo in the Boston area.
We have recorded 6 albums over the last 6 years, most of which were recorded in less than 2 days. I once heard that Neil Young liked to record a song just before the band was comfortable with it. We have taken this on as a mantra of necessity. What we lack in polish we make up for with spit and duct tape.
I have attached some tracks from our 2008 album "other voices, smaller bones" for your listening pleasure. The entire album, along with 3 others, are available for streaming and FREE download at The most recent of these "every tongue got to confess" was written and recorded in the February 2009 for the RPM Challenge ( And we are currently finalizing out 6th album "take up snakes" (we are nothing if not prolific).
So this was my stab in the dark. My eyesight is less than stellar so we'll see what happens. Thanks for posting great stuff and for taking the time to listen to ours.
-chris hutchison-jones

Cool. Unique sound, yet not unlike other contemporary Americana. Keep it up, boys.

Nobody Knows But Me: download it

Pennies Down the Well: download it

All We Had Were Diamonds: download it

July 16, 2009

Jug Free America

Hello Irate Pirate,

I saw that you had posted something from the Dough Rollers. They're friends of mine and great musicians and I'm also a big fan of your blog. Based on their music, I thought you might be interested in my old jug band called Jug Free America. I did a post about that band on my blog, where I posted our album. That's at . I thought you might enjoy our music, and if you want to post it up on your site that would be really cool.

Many thanks for all the awesome music!



p.s. I have a new band, with one of the same guys as is in the Dough Rollers. We're called The Dust Busters:

Really awesome music, guys! Inventive, eclectic, and solid. Some of the best jug-band music I've heard in a long time! You really understand how to mix the unlikely tones of your instruments into a sound that is both raw and clear, fully lives up to the tradition of our great jug-bearing forerunners. Jug Free America!!!

To all my readers: download their album!

PS, nice blog/radio show

July 9, 2009

The Great Grapevine Giveaway! - Ola Belle Reed

Way back in May, I received and posted this email:

Greetings from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings,

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. We are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among people through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.

From reviewing your website, we think a recent episode of “Tapestry of Times”, a new weekly radio program and podcast form WYPR public radio in Baltimore that explores the Smithsonian Folkways collection, would be of interest to your users. The episode, entitled “Ola Belle Reed: An Enduring Legacy” ( is online now and takes an in-depth look into the life and legacy of Ola Belle Reed, the influential singer/songwriter/instrumentalist, with testimonials, interviews, and original on-site recordings. It’s a must-listen for any fans of Ola Belle Reed, bluegrass, and old-time music, or compelling storytelling in general. The show is available for free stream or download, via the podcast.

Listen to the podcast: (

Watch the video: (

See Ola Belle Reed’s Albums at Smithsonian Folkways (still in print!): ('phrase')

With your blessing, we’d like to post the above note to your message board or forum. Alternatively, you can post this on our behalf. Our goal is to spread the word about this tribute to Ola Belle Reed and Tapestry of the Times ( In addition, we’d like to offer your listeners a discount code on any Ola Belle Reed recording from Smithsonian Folkways. Just enter “OlaBelleReed09” to save 20% off either CDs or Digital Downloads. Lastly, if you’d like a copy of an Ola Belle Reed CD to give away to one of your members as a contest, just let us know!

Please contact us if this interests you. Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Based on readers' interest, I replied and asked for a CD to give away. And then a couple weeks later I got this email:

This is Tanesia North, with Smithsonian Folkways. Again, we at Smithsonian Folkways would like to thank you! I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be sending the CDs out to you today. You’ll be receiving one copy each of “All In One Evening”- Ola Belle Reed, “Epitaph”-Ola Belle Reed and “Classic Mountain Songs”-Various. Although this allows for three people at most to win a CD, we’d like to encourage you and your users to take advantage of the discount code on any Ola Belle Reed recording from Smithsonian Folkways. Just enter “OlaBelleReed09” to save 20% off either CDs or digital downloads.

I got the CDs a few weeks ago and I was trying to figure out some sort of quiz to give to you suckers readers, with which to make some sort of fair-seeming method to distribute said items.
Well, I couldn't think of anything trivia-related so I'm going to do it this way:

You may all send me an email (see my profile for the address).
In this email, say which of the CDs you'd like.
You can also tell me:
  1. why you want it
  2. some story or fact about Ola Belle or other affiliated folks, that you think might interest me and that I don't already know
  3. how beautiful, strange, haunting, etc. old time mountain ballad singers are, and how desperately you need to have this one in your collection
  4. who the hell this Kevin Roth fellow is and why he gets to cheese-up the All in One Evening album with his sensitive singer-songwriting antics/aesthetics
  5. something else that will liven up my inbox and entertain me, or at least be worth the amount of time it takes to read
The "contest" ends on Friday, July 17. Please get your emails in before then. You have a week.

Oh, and if you don't know how awesome Ola Belle Reed (and Classic Mountain Songs) is, read below:

Ola Belle Reed
Biography by John Lupton

Take a stroll through the campground at just about any festival -- folk, bluegrass, old time, Celtic, or any mixture -- and at some point it's a good bet that a haunting refrain will drift into consciousness from a nearby jam or song circle: "High on a mountain, standing all alone, Wond'ring where the years of my life have gone" To some, it's a timeless line from a song that must certainly be at least a hundred years or more old. To others, it speaks of the new age mysticism and introspection of the latter-day singer/songwriter. The truth is somewhere between. "High on a Mountain," along with many other classic folk and country songs, came from the fertile mind- and soul-searching lyricism of North Carolina native Old Belle Reed. Popular among old time country and bluegrass audiences for decades, the '90s saw her music gaining currency in Nashville and points beyond as well. Ola Belle Campbell was one of thirteen children of Arthur Campbell, whose family had lived in the New River Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since colonial times. Born into a musical family in 1916, Ola Belle learned to play guitar and clawhammer banjo as a young child, coming to love not only the old traditional tunes taught to her by her parents, but also the early country music on radio and 78-rpm discs which were making their way into the mountains. In her teenage years, she first teamed with her brother Alex in an early version of the North Carolina Ridge Runners. Like many Blue Ridge residents during the Depression years, Arthur Campbell left the mountains and moved north looking for work, taking his family with him and eventually settling in the region along the Mason-Dixon Line where Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania come together. Alex Campbell saw military service in the Normandy invasion, and was later heard on Armed Forces Radio during the Occupation as part of Grandpa Jones' Munich Mountaineers. Returning home after his discharge from the service, Alex and Ola Belle teamed up for what would be a long-running radio pairing that would be heard live and in syndication over much of the country on a number of stations, including Wheeling, WV's WWVA, which for many years was a powerful rival to Nashville's WSM for the country audience. In 1949, Ola Belle married Bud Reed (himself a noted country singer), and with Alex Campbell they formed the New River Boys and opened New River Ranch near Rising Sun, MD, one of the premier country music parks of the '50s. Around 1960, they closed New River Ranch and moved a short distance up U.S. Route 1, across the Pennsylvania border to Sunset Park near West Grove, where they performed regularly for another 26 years. As interest in old time and early country music revived during the '70s, Ola Belle and her family (now including son David Reed) found enthusiastic audiences for their brand of music at events like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Brandywine Mountain Music Convention. Many of the songs she had written and performed on radio over the years also began to be recorded widely. Early in his career leading his own band, Del McCoury (a resident of nearby Gettysburg, and for many years a regular at Sunset Park) made "High on a Mountain," a bluegrass standard. Farther west, out in Minnesota, Stoney Lonesome (fronted by the Prairie Home Companion favorite, Kate MacKenzie) recorded Ola Belle's "I've Endured" in the late '80s, and the Ohio-based husband/wife duet singers Ann and Phil Case made her "The Springtime of Life" the title track of their widely acclaimed 1996 debut CD. In 1995, Ola Belle struck Nashville gold when Marty Stuart's rendition of "High on a Mountain" settled in for an extended stay on the country charts. In 1986, Ola Belle Reed received long overdue recognition for her contributions to American folk music and culture when she was named recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship. A year or so later, her career as a songwriter and performer was brought to an abrupt end when she suffered a severe stroke that left her an invalid. Still surrounded by loving family and friends (including brother Alex), though, she continued to live in Rising Sun, enjoying the occasions when she heard her own songs still being played on country radio. In February, 1999, she and Bud celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

A Life of Music, Love and Inspiration

Ola Belle Reed was born Ola Wave Campbell on August 17, 1916, in Grassy Creek, Ashe County, North Carolina. She was one of thirteen children born to Arthur Harrison Campbell and Ella May Osborne Campbell. The Campbell family ancestors had moved to the New River Valley of Western North Carolina sometime around the 1760’s. Arthur Harrison was an educated man who spent his life as a school teacher. He also owned a general store and was a dedicated farmer during summer months on his farm. The Great Depression brought a huge economic burden on the large Campbell family, and they followed many Appalachian mountain people to Chester County, Pennsylvania and then on to Cecil County, Maryland, where there was fertile farmland and it seemed easier to secure jobs. Music was an integral part of the cultural heritage on both sides of Ola Belle’s family. Her grandfather Alexander Bolivar Campbell was a early Primitive Baptist preacher and an accomplished fiddle player. Her father played fiddle, banjo, guitar, and organ and formed a string band, The New River Boys and Girls with his brother Oliver Dockery , known as “Doc” and sister Ellen in 1910. An uncle, on her mother’s side, Herb Osborne, sang mining songs made popular in the coalmines of West Virginia. Her grandmother and mother sang ballads and topical songs in the traditional Appalachian style. In 1936, Ola Belle began performing professionally as a member of the North Carolina Ridge Runners, one of the first hillbilly bands of the Delaware-Maryland area. She played old-time banjo and guitar and sang for the Appalachian area audiences from 1936 to 1948. By the mid-1930s, scores of music parks and picnic grounds had been established throughout the region, each with a sizable audience and concession money to pay and feed the house band. "Back home in the summertime we had carnivals - they were the main thing - and little parks," Ola Belle said. "They were so little that the few times the Ridge Runners played down there, we would be the only show there. I remember one time we came back on a Monday after playing one of these parks.... We played every half-hour all day till the park closed. Up here the parks were bigger and there were more of them, especially in Pennsylvania. There weren't big music parks like that back home." In 1945, Ola Belle was offered more than $100 per week, quite a good sum in those days, to join country music legend Roy Acuff‘s band and backup group. Ola Belle declined the offer. After Ola Belle’s brother, Alex, returned from World War II in which he served in the Army and was wounded during the invasion of Normandy Beach, he joined the North Carolina Ridge Runners. In 1948, he and Ola Belle became a musical team and formed their own country music band, named The New River Boys, a name derived from the group formed earlier by Ola Belle’s father. Alex Campbell, Ola Belle and The New River Boys broadcast over the radio on WASA in Havre De Grace, Maryland. The New River Boys consisted of Alex Campbell, who sang, played guitar and some fiddle, Ola Belle, who also sang and played banjo and guitar, Deacon Brumfield on the Dobro, Ted Lundy on the 5-string Banjo, John Jackson on the fiddle and Earl Wallace on the upright string bass. The group built a strong following and they were featured on many radio programs over WCOJ in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and WBMO in Baltimore, Maryland. Alex and Ola Belle wrote over 200 songs and played hundreds more traditional songs that were featured over many other radio stations in the United States. In addition to performing, the group sponsored many musical programs at a country music park called New River Ranch, near Rising Sun, Maryland. New River Ranch was one of the most active country music parks, bringing big-named Bluegrass and Country music stars to the area, along with featuring a vast amount of local talent. In 1960, the group transferred to Sunset Park, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, where the group built quite a reputation as one of the quintessential Country Music performance parks. The group performed there for 26 years, broadcasting their own Sunday radio program live from the park. In the mid-1960’s the group was receiving national exposure on radio station WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. The group was heard throughout the entire eastern United States and even into Canada.In addition to all of the radio and personal appearances, Ola Belle and Alex operated Campbell’s Corner, a general store in Oxford, Pennsylvania which, in addition to general merchandise and groceries, sold Country and Gospel records and in the back of the store was a performance stage and a radio booth which Alex used to transmit his popular radio programs. Alex bought time from the large radio stations and broadcast remotely from the store. Alex was considered one of the best “pitchmen” in the radio industry. Alex and Ola Belle were on over 200 radio stations at one time and also made numerous appearances at local TV stations and musical festivals. Alex retired in 1984 but continued to keep himself busy transmitting his programs on radio station WGCB in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. He still spent much time at Sunset Park and in mail-order record sales.In 1949, Ola Belle married Ralph “Bud” Reed, who was also an accomplished local area musical performer.Ola Belle continued to perform music with her family, including her husband and son David, often at informal gatherings she organized for her neighbors and friends. "I remember one time we were having a gathering," she said. "Everyone was coming ... we bought a new linoleum rug for the kitchen ... and we played and they danced round and round. ... And I'll never forget, next morning - we never noticed it at the time - next morning, there was nothing left but black. They wore the whole top off." Through the years, Ola Belle wrote many, many songs about her Appalachian past and her commitment to family traditions, religious values, and social justice. In 1978, the University of Maryland awarded her with an honorary doctorate of letters for her contributions to the arts and culture of Maryland and the United States. She was also recognized for her historical and musical contributions by The Smithsonian Institute, The Library of Congress and The Country Music Association.In 1987, Ola Belle suffered a stroke and she was bed-ridden until her death on August 16, 2002. She passed away one day before her 86th birthday.In 1992, country music star Marty Stuart introduced his version of Ola Belle’s song “High On A Mountain” on his “This One‘s Gonna Hurt You“ album, which earned Stuart and Ola Belle a Gold Record. Ola Belle’s autobiographical song "I've Endured" perhaps best sums up her personal tenacity: "I've worked for the rich, I've lived with the poor; Lord, I've seen many a heartache, there'll be many more; I've lived, loved and sorrowed, been to success's door; I've endured, I've endured."

Ola Belle Reed - My Epitaph

Year: 1976
Label: Smithsonian Folkways

Banjo player and singer Ola Belle Reed created this album and its accompanying notes as an autobiography, a document that describes her childhood in the mountains, her experiences, and her opinions about modern life. Produced by Kevin Roth, one of Reed's protégés, this recording is based on a live interview conducted in 1976.

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Promo Discount Code: OlaBelleReed09

All in One Evening - Ola Belle and Bud Reed with Kevin Roth

Ola Belle and Bud Reed's Pennsylvania home was a haven for young musicians, a place where picking, singing, and good company soothed the sting of hard times. The Reeds, joined by Kevin Roth, recorded this album of traditional and original songs one evening in 1977.

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Promo Discount Code: OlaBelleReed09

Classic Mountain Songs from Smithsonian Folkways

Year: 2002

Riding the wave of the renewed interest in traditional American music, Classic Mountain Songs From Smithsonian Folkways Recordings showcases a handful of the greatest mountain ballads as performed by some of the most influential folk singers and songwriters of the 20th century. This collection features many classic performances from a wide variety of regional instrumental and song styles. These diverse styles and songs from the mountain communities of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee include old-time fiddle and banjo pieces, early bluegrass, and traditional ballads, with a special emphasis on Appalachian vocal traditions. Doc and Merle Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley, and Dock Boggs are just a few of the revered roots artists who appear on this stellar compilation. This album is essential for both old and new fans of American mountain music. Compiled and annotated by Jeff Place.

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Promo Discount Code: OlaBelleReed09