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Showing posts from April, 2011

Lo Gordon and a Peek at Cedar Mountain Banjos

When Lo Gordon decided he wanted to learn how to play the banjo, he didn’t stop in at his local music shop and pick one off the rack. Instead, he relied on his longtime passion for woodworking and built one from a kit. Now, he builds them for a living, and he and his wife, Mary Gordon, operate their own music store in Brevard, N.C.

The Gordons moved to Brevard in 1993 after selling their wooden garage door business to start Cedar Mountain Banjos and open Celestial Mountain Music. Lo had been playing banjo for a number of years and had already built several banjos of his own.

“I knew that I'd build at least several for my own excursion into banjodom, and a kit would be a good way to start,” Gordon says of his first banjo. “In short order, I built a scratch-built fretless and one with a ‘White Layde’ tone ring. These were the instruments I learned to play on.”

Gordon had always been inclined to build things on his own. If he wanted to go kayaking, he built a kayak. If he wanted to…

Dust Busters Sweeping Though

Starting April 29, the Brooklyn-based old-time string band the Dust Busters will launch a short tour through the Midwest and South Atlantic states for their "Mud Season Tour."

Northeast Ohioans should pay close attention to the Dust Busters' May 6 stop, which will be at the Cat in the Cream coffee shop for the Oberlin Folk Festival.

The Dust Busters sound like the incarnation of old 78s from the 1930s. Their most recent album, "Prohibition Is a Failure," was produced by legendary New Lost City Rambler John Cohen. You can check out videos of the band on YouTube, specifically the pages of band members Craig Judelman and Eli Smith.

Hot Off the Press
The Dust Busters are also featured in an article from the Spring 2011 edition of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine. The article focuses on former Oberlin students who have gone on to careers in old-time and bluegrass. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are also included in the writeup.

New Carolina Chocolate Drops Lineup Plays on PBS Video

Shortly before winning a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album, the Carolina Chocolate Drops announced a new lineup and the departure of fiddler Justin Robinson. The Drops added multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and human beatboxer Adam Matta to replace Robinson, who provided much of the group's old-time vibe with his bowing and singing.

Ever since, I'd been wondering how the new makeup of the Carolina Chocolate Drops would sound. Now, I no longer have to guess, as the group was featured on the 30-Minute Music Hour on Wisconsin Public Television.

Watch the full episode. See more 30-Minute Music Hour.
As you can see from the video, it appears Matta has taken over playing the jug--albeit without the jug--from Dom Flemons, who in the video concentrates on four-string banjo and sings. Rhiannon Giddens handles the fiddle duties and adds her solid vocals. Jenkins plays bones, guitar and mandolin and sings a song.

On the program, the Drops' sound leans more toward early jazz a…

Was a Fiddle What Done it

After college, my oldest friend moved to Charlotte, N.C., for a job, while I stayed in Northeast Ohio to start my career. In 2007, my company put on a small trade show in Charlotte and sent me down to help staff the event, providing me the perfect excuse to extend my stay and visit my friend.

During that time, I had not yet begun playing banjo, but I was getting close, as I was in what I call my "anything with banjo" music listening phase. That trip proved to be my first experience listening to a live old-time string band.

My buddy picked me up from my hotel, and we started driving west to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We both like to hike, and then we planned to stay in Ashville for a little nightlife and local beer. A park area near where my grandparents used to live provided the hiking; Jack of the Wood would provide evening entertainment.

When we got to the bar, we had no idea that there was live music that night, and there wasn't much hint of what was to come when we ar…

Old Sledge Announces Midwest Tour

This week, the Floyd, Va.-based old-time group Old Sledge embarks on a Midwest tour to promote its new CD. Throughout April, the band will play shows in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, with a short detour to North Carolina for the Shakori Hills festival.

This blogger is hoping to lure Chance McCoy and Sabra Guzman, the primary members of Old Sledge, to play a little farther north in Ohio, but so far the band is only slated to play in Cincinnati and nowhere within an hour's drive of Glory-Beaming Banjo headquarters.

Old Sledge just released its new album, "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," this week. For the time being, the CD is only available at their shows, but three tracks from the album are available for free download at the band's store website, where you can also buy the self-titled EP with Anna Roberts-Gevalt on banjo.

Here's Old Sledge (with Jake Hopping on banjo) playing "Boats up the River" at the WTJU radio station i…