Skip to main content

Posts

Olitsky and Moskovitz Hit the Road

Two banjoists took center stage Friday night at the historic G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula, Ohio. They were angled toward each other, although this was no dueling banjos, but rather DUETING banjos. Mark Olitsky and Cary Moskovitz presented music from their 2017 album, Duets, to a packed crowd, seated at tables inside the 167-year-old building.

Olitsky & Moskovitz paired their seemingly disparate styles with equally contrasting instruments through dazzling interplay of melody, rhythm and harmony. Their playing intertwined and darted off in magical ways throughout the night. Moments when the sound of the two banjos landed upon unison notes, before twisting off again, were especially exciting.

A handful of standouts for the evening were their presentation of “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom,” “Falls of Richmond” and “Farewell Trion.” The G.A.R. Hall’s pristine acoustics were a perfect complement to the banjo duo. 
Each appeared to be playing two banjos. Olitsky provided the bassier tones, as…
Recent posts

The Ongoing Search for Ohio's Old-Time Fiddle Repertoire

Since the beginning of my journey into old-time music, I have sought to find a connection to my home state. After studying the recorded repertoire of a dozen old-time fiddlers who spent a majority of their lives in Ohio, I have compiled a master list of more than 250 tunes. By cross-referencing this list, there were 12 tunes that I identified as “common,” based on their appearance in the repertoire of at least three fiddlers. The results of my findings follow.

This is far from a scientific method or academic study. I do not claim to be a musicologist or folklore scholar. I welcome any feedback.

Common Tunes:
Arkansas Traveler BirdieCumberland GapDurang’s HornpipeForked DeerGrey EagleJune AppleLeather BritchesMississippi SawyerRaggedy AnnTurkey in the StrawWild Horse At some point I would like to put together a list of tunes that are unique to Ohio or have a particular connection to an Ohio locale, such as Lonnie Seymour’s “Chillicothe Two-Step” or Arnold Sharp’s “Anna Hayes.” However,…

Review: Anna & Elizabeth, The Invisible Comes to Us

Warning: The music on this album may take you by surprise. Don’t panic. Anna & Elizabeth will guide you on the journey.

The Invisible Comes to Us opens with the duo of Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle singing “Jeano” unaccompanied in an echo chamber. As the song moves on, their voices are joined by synthesizers and the sound of chirping birds on a loop. You might think, maybe this is an aberration, as the electronic aural environment falls away and it’s just the voice and guitar of “Black Eyed Susan.” But once again, the plunges into a strange ethereal soundscape.

By the time you get to the end of “Irish Patriot,” you’ve been led into a sonic maze built on layers of keyboards, Moog bass, vocoder, mellotron, pump organ and added sound samples from field recordings.

Anna & Elizabeth built their reputation on haunting harmonies and illustrating their music and stories with “crankies,” an old storytelling art form where drawings on long scrolls and spools create a pri…

Reviews: New Banjo Book and Clarence Ashley Record in The Old-Time Herald

The latest issue of The Old-Time Herald is out now, and my writing appears in the form of two reviews in the magazine. They are for the LP Clarence Ashley, Live and In Person: Greenwich Village 1963 and for the book, Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World, by Richard Jones-Bamman.

You may have noticed I've written more reviews on this site over the last year, and I wanted to expand my writing portfolio a bit more. Last fall, I answered a general Facebook request by editor Sarah Bryan to recruit new reviewers, and these are my first to appear in the quarterly magazine. The spring issue also includes the annual festival guide, so you can plan your summer.

Clarence Ashley, Live and In Person  was released by Jalopy Records in April 2017. This is a vinyl-only release, compiled from two concerts at Gerdes Folk City in Greenwich Village in October 1963. He is accompanied by Tex Isley on guitar and autoharp. The LP includes an essay on the backcover by John Cohen and a 16-page booklet…

Belated Quarterly Report: Moving on from "Three Forks of Reedy"

Considering my goal was to learn four more Ward Jarvis tunes this year, a quarterly update on my progress seems like a good idea. However, if that were the case, this post should have appeared a month ago. Apologies for the tardiness of something you didn't know was coming. I'll strive to do better next time.

For this Second Year of Ward Jarvis, I started with "Three Forks of Reedy," which was a holdover from last year's overzealous attempt to learn six tunes. I actually started working on it in November, but got stuck. Since then I've noodled with how I play it several times. I think I've finally gotten close, but feel like I'm still missing something.

In the attempt to figure out my shortcoming, I consulted The Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes. "Three Forks of Reedy" is not included, but I had read on the Fiddle Hangout that Jarvis' tune had come from Ed Haley's "Three Forks of Sandy," which is in the bo…

Vinyl Hunter: The Origins

My old-time music on vinyl collection has grown exponentially over the past two years. As I mentioned last time, this aspect of my collection has been one of the primary targets in my own resurgent interest in buying records.

I started buying vinyl in high school. Having grown up in the 1980s, my music consumption started with cassettes and then moved to CDs. Vinyl was the media of my parents' generation, and they played plenty of it in the house. I was raised on the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Mamas & The Papas and others from the 1960s and '70s.

My first piece of vinyl was the 1993 split seven-inch of Velocipede and Kill City Babies. My mind had just been blown after seeing Velocipede play at an Amnesty International benefit concert at my high school. I went to check out the merch table, and the only recording they had were the three songs on one side of this dual album.

These were both local bands active in Northeast Ohio in the 1990s. An upperclassma…

Banjo Playing Timeline: Revisiting an Unfinished Post

This post began six years ago. After writing about my 10-year banjoversary, I discovered an unfinished draft from 2012. Started as a follow-up to a reflection on my music listening journey, the post was an attempt to trace my personal banjo playing history. It's about time I finished it.

1994 / Prelude to a Picker: A high school friend who played bass was convinced I had perfect hands to be a guitarist. My long fingers being perfectly suited for intricate fretting. I got an acoustic guitar for Christmas and began taking lessons. However, I lost interest because I wanted it all now, and I quit after a couple years because I had no patience to learn.

2007 / The Tipping Point: After becoming obsessed with banjo music, I started researching how to play one and what instrument to buy.

March 2008 / Give Me the Banjo: With my tax return, I bought a Recording King "Songster" and began my journey. I started with Scruggs three-finger style, but started to lose interest after few mont…