Traditions revived and grown

I saw the highly anticipated Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Monday Club for their Childgrove Country Dancers performance. Rhiannon Giddens did not make it due to illness. I wish I had seen her with the full band at their BB’s concerts. Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson put on a great two man show in her absence. John Hotze has videos and photographs from their visit on

They convered a variety of styles rooted in African-American traditions. The biggest were straight fiddle and banjo tunes. They adapted fife and drum music to fiddle and drum. Flemons played a “Buck Dancer’s Choice” on guitar while Robinson did a buck dance. Robinson sang us an unaccompanied ballad. Flemons played “Charming Betsy,” a Henry Thomas tune, on resonator guitar and quills.

I blogged about Henry Thomas and the quills a while back. I felt really excited when I saw them come out at the concert. After the show, I went up to buy their album Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind released on Music Maker and asked about them. Flemons found his quills through Mike Seeger whom he described as “not human” in his musical ability and knowledge. Seeger got his from Edmond Badoux and recommended him to Flemons who recommended him to me. Badoux plays in the Andean music group Chaskinakuy and also makes and sells quills. I mailed my check yesterday.

Forming a referential loop, Flemons has this YouTube video of Taj Mahal performing “Ain’t That a Lot of Love” on his MySpace page. The song is terrific Stax Memphis soul, and this version does right by it. Taj Mahal’s signature song is Henry Thomas’ “Fishing Blues.” Thomas’ original features, of course, a terrific melody on the quills.

I found the short film Gravel Springs Fife and Drum available for free download while searching for fife and drum music. William Ferris, formerly of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and then the National Endowment for the Humanities, made it. Folkstreams features has many films available including several more of Ferris’ films, but not the one I saw at cinĂ©16. Gravel Springs Fife and Drum features fife wizard Othar Turner and his Rising Star family band.

The concert left me inspired to learn the banjo. I had thought about buying a banjo or a mandolin for a while. After the show, I headed to Music Folk and bought my banjo. I used Christmas money to by a Deering Goodtime, the basic open back beginner banjo, and Clawhammer Banjo from Scratch: A Guide for the Claw-less! by Dan Levenson. Mel Bay, publisher of this and many other music instruction books, is located in Pacific, Missouri, near Saint Louis. I have been trying to frail using the book and free video lessons by Patrick Costello made in conjunction with his book The How and Tao of Old Time Banjo from Pik-Ware Publishing. In the techno-folk spirit, The How and Tao of Old Time Banjo is licensed through Creative Commons and freely available.

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Michael M. on January 18th 2007 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.