Monday, July 31, 2017

Carter Family 90th Anniversary

Tomorrow, Aug. 1, is the 90th anniversary of the Carter Family's first recording session, what Johnny Cash called "The Big Bang of country music". I learned to play guitar in the style that Maybelle Carter pioneered, not knowing in my youth the source of that alternating bass pattern I loved. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and was imitating his style, later learning he was Maybelle's son-in-law. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter_Family.

John B. McClintick

This is my great-grandfather John B. "Brit" McClintick, holding the guitar in the quartet and the banjo in the trio. In the quartet, the man at right is holding a mandocello, second from right is a mandolin, and at left is either a mandolin or mandola. Mandolin groups were the rage in the late 1800s and early 1900s, later supplanted by ukuleles and banjos.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bluesman John Jackson

This is a good article about the late John Jackson, an Appalachian acoustic bluesman: http://www.folkways.si.edu/magazine-summer-2010-rappahannock-blues-john-jackson/african-american-music/article/smithsonian.
I saw him perform at the 22nd Kent State Folk Festival on Feb. 24, 1990, and was moved by his music. The blues touches me in a deep soulful way, and I need it as much as I need Celtic and Appalachian music. I bought his album "Step It Up And Go" (Rounder Records 2019) on vinyl that evening, and I recently rediscovered it; he even plays banjo on "Boil 'Em Cabbage Down". I found that he has more albums on CD, which are available at Amazon and through Smithsonian Folkways.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Crash Course in Appalachian Fiddling

I am taking a self-taught, or autodidactic, course in Appalachian fiddling. I was enlisted by Great Trail Festival to play for the Cedar Valley Cloggers this year, and Celtic tunes won't necessarily work well at the tempos required by cloggers, so I'm learning Appalachian tunes, which can more readily stand up to higher speeds. I've long loved Appalachian fiddling but at best enjoyed an uneasy truce with it, to paraphrase a late friend describing my difficulties with Irish and Scottish reels. I have long played reels and Appalachian breakdowns well on mandolin but never understood the nuances of bowing that made the tunes sound like traditional tunes. In the last couple years I suddenly grasped the subtleties of these tunes, a result of years of listening and study, and when I began practicing Appalachian tunes last weekend they felt like first cousins rather than strangers from the next hollow. I have compiled a tune list, I ordered a book about fiddling and fiddlers, and I found an online file of an old book called the Hamblen Collection on the website of my friend Christian Wig, chriswig.com. I am practicing like mad and excited about playing onstage at Great Trail. The festival takes place on the weekend before and weekend of Labor Day, and the website is greattrailfestival.com. The cloggers are at http://cedarvalleycloggers.webs.com/.

Blue Ridge Music Center

The Blue Ridge Music Center, on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the border of Virginia and North Carolina, includes a museum of Appalachian museum, a performance hall, and a breezeway where we saw locals jamming when we visited in October 2012. I loved the museum's collection of instruments and recording paraphernalia. The website is blueridgemusiccenter.org. Click "read more" for more photos.