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The Year of Ward Jarvis: Icy Mountain (UPDATED)

Three months have passed since I provided my last update on my "Year of Ward Jarvis" project. As you may recall, I targeted six tunes to learn by Athens County, Ohio, resident and West Virginia native Ward Jarvis. The first one I learned was "Head of the Creek." Next up is "Icy Mountain," another AEAE tune.

My source recordings were from Jeff Goehring via the Field Recorders' Collective and from David Brose via some kind folks at the Fiddle Hangout. I also referred to the notation from the Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes and a YouTube video by David Bragger.

I took my first crack at "Icy Mountain" back on April 22, but I didn't really focus too hard on learning it until mid-May. I struggled with it for weeks, but then my progress took a major leap on June 6. I feel like I finally have a handle on the full tune, though I’m still working out some kinks in the B parts.

A quick banjo note: I have also figured out both &quo…
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Postcards: Just the King and a Banjo

New Old-Time Music Roundup

This seems like an especially fertile time for new old-time music being released. In addition to the Mark Olitsky and Cary Moskovitz album we featured recently, here are a few other new or upcoming notable albums.

Trevor Hammons & Benjamin Davis, "The West Virginia Way"
I recently received a copy of this album as a prize for answering a trivia question on the Banjo Hangout. It's a stunner. Trevor Hammons is the great-grandson of legendary banjo player Lee Hammons. Benjamin Davis has been playing fiddle for five years and has studied under Pam Lund and Jake Krack. Both grew up in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. They're playing fits together so well that you might be shocked to learn that both Hammons and Davis were 15 years old when they were recorded for this album. Fifteen! If I had a time machine ...

The 16 tunes include rousing renditions of "Juliann Johnson," "Bonaparte Crossing the Alps," "Last Chance" and "Falls of Richmo…

Vinyl Hunter, Part 5: The Young Fogies

Today I received a new addition to my old-time vinyl collection: The Young Fogies. This double LP compilation was produced by Ray Alden and released in 1985 on Heritage Records, based in Galax, Virginia.

The album features 41 tracks by the top old-time groups performing at the time, from veterans like the New Lost City Ramblers and Highwoods String Band to up-and-comers such as the Indian Creek Delta Boys and the Horse Flies. You have household names (well, in old-time households, at least) such as Art Rosenbaum, Brad Leftwich, Pat Conte, Alan Jabbour, Mac Benford, Bruce Molsky, Doc Watson, Paul Brown, Richie Stearns and so many more.

Perhaps what excites me most about this compilation is the Ohio connection. Between the first three sides, there are four Ohio-based performers. They are:
The Hotmud Family playing "Take Me Back to My Old North Carolina Home," featuring Rick Good on banjo and vocals. The Rhythm Gorillas playing "My Eyes Grow Dimmer Each Day," with Kerr…

Review: Olitsky and Moskovitz Weave Beautiful Banjo Harmonies on "Duets"

What's better than a banjo? Two banjos! That's the case with "Duets," the new album by Mark Olitsky and Cary Moskovitz.

What makes this album soar is the very different playing styles of Olitsky and Moskovitz, as well as the distinct tonal properties of the banjos themselves.

Olitsky is playing clawhammer on a low-tuned, minstrel-style banjo that he built himself. Moskovitz brings the brighter tones, playing with a flat pick on a trio of four-string plectrum banjos: a 1922 Bacon “Orchestra A,” a 1928 Trujo and 1920 Orpheum No. 3.

Olitsky and Moskovitz got together at the 2016 Appalachian String Band Music Festival (aka Clifftop) to play some tunes. Olitsky had recently finished building his new banjo, and Moskovitz brought one of his plectrum banjos.

"We found the combination of these instruments enchanting," Moskovitz says. "Our banjo styles, each quirky in its own way, fit together in a manner that was both natural and exciting. We played banjo duets…

Banjoversary: 9 Years on 5 Strings

Nine years ago is when I dipped my toe into the warm, welcoming waters of the banjo playing world.

I had spent the past six months researching and trying to figure which banjo to buy. At some point, I had ordered a set of picks and tuner as a commitment to myself that I was going to carry through with my plan.

The seed had been planted the year before when I read a blog post about buying your first guitar. The now-defunct blog specialized in Americana music and regularly featured groups like Old Crow Medicine Show, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Avett Brothers.

I had spent the the last four years building an obsession with the banjo through the music of those very same groups. Because much of the music that blog featured included the banjo, I wrote in asking if they had advice on buying a first banjo. Two of the blog's writers happened to play the five-string. One was a bluegrass player and the other was an old-time player.

I didn't know the difference.

Those guys gave m…

The Year of Ward Jarvis: Head of the Creek

Since declaring this The Year of Ward Jarvis earlier this year, I have dedicated myself to learning some tunes from the repertoire of Ward Jarvis, a fiddler who lived in Athens County, Ohio, and was an influence on a number of old-time musicians in the state.

Over the last couple months, I managed to track down the recordings of David Brose and digital copies of the two LPs he produced, thanks to some helpful folks at the Fiddle Hangout.

The first tune on my list was "Head of the Creek," played in AEAE. My primary source was Jarvis's playing on the Field Recorder's Collective release FRC402, with a transcription from the Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes. I also have Jeff Goehring's version on FRC601.

In addition, there are some recordings available on YouTube, such as Jimmy Triplet, Kerry Blech and others. Some of those versions are played in GDGD. A few of the videos mention Lester McCumbers as the source, as in the Blech video he talks about t…