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Showing posts from January, 2012

Tracing the Banjo Addiction: All Banjo All the Time

As I continue my navel gazing, here's another installment of how I got addicted to the banjo ...

Some time around 2006, I eschewed all music without a banjo. My collegiate and post-graduate years seemed to have pointed toward this path, from developing more eclectic tastes to delving into the alt-country scene, but then I reached my tipping point toward full banjo addiction.

From 2006 on, I would be immersed in an in-depth exploration of banjo music and styles that would eventually lead to me buying my first banjo in 2008. 

You could pretty much bet on hearing six albums that were on steady repeat on my CD player during this time. There was Old Crow Medicine Show's debut "O.C.M.S." (released in 2004), Avett Bros.' "Mignonette" (2004), Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind" (2006), Chatham County Line's "Speed of the Whippoorwill" (2006), Great Lake Swimmers' "Ongiara" (2007), and Gillian Welch…

Tracing the Banjo Addiction: The Alt-Country Years

My musical tastes started to flounder in my latter college years. I had always dived into each musical curiosity with great enthusiasm prior to then, but nothing caught my ear during the mid-2000s as I was going through a number of personal changes.

I quit my college job of driving buses after five years for an internship at a local weekly newspaper that I hoped would become my first "career," but my final semester stood in the way of that plan and I was unemployed for a short period. I moved three times in less than a year. By the time I graduated in 2005, I was living with a roommate I hardly knew and working two part-time jobs, one of which was at a new and used record store.

While working at the store, we always had music playing. The choices in what we played were as diverse as the people who worked there, from indie rock and old-school rock and roll to rap and country, all playing together on the store's five-disc CD player.

This was the time period when Modest Mou…

Tracing the Banjo Addiction: Waits, Cash and 'O Brother'

Music has taken me on a long and winding journey through many dissonant sounds and varying genres. My pursuit of learning how to play the five-string banjo began in 2008, but my obsession with the instrument started much earlier.

The first time I can remember liking any music that resembled old-time was in 2000 with the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" The album, which was re-released last year with additional tracks, featured a mix of old country, traditional folk, and gospel songs. The soundtrack was so popular that it won five Grammy Awards that year.

My ears had recently opened to country-flavored music after becoming a fan of Johnny Cash, particularly his more stripped-down albums on the American label. Prior to that point, I had mostly listened to independent punk bands, like Nation of Ulysses, Universal Order of Armageddon, and Jawbreaker. My high school social life revolved around going to local bands, as my hometown (Kent, Ohi…