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The Great Banjo Obsession

Greetings Banjo Newsletter readers! Check out some excerpts from my interview with Riley Baugus that didn't make it into the article in the April issue of BNL.

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If you're reading this site, chances are you're already obsessed with the banjo. In commiseration with our affliction, our good friend Craig "Frailin" Evans wrote a piece for the Huffington Post, appropriately titled "Obsessed: The Banjo."

Evans is busy wrapping up the second volume of his banjo builder documentary, which we wrote about back in June 2011. Since then, he has finished the first volume, Banjo Builders East of the Mississippi, which is now available from the project website, Conversations with North American Banjo Builders, as well as through the Banjo Hangout. You can also watch each 20-minute episode online on a pay-per-view basis. Soon, both volumes will be available through Smithsonian Folkways. The second volume will feature Banjo Builders West of the Mississippi.

But back to Evans' Huffington Post post. In a much more succinct way than our multipart "Tracing the Banjo Addiction" series a few months ago, Frailin details how he became obsessed with our wonderful five-stringed instrument and how he came to embark on the banjo builder documentary.

My favorite passage of Evans' piece is this:
But now, I'm obsessed with another part of this banjo experience: Community. Banjo and old-time/Americana music is magic. It's a combination of European fiddle melodies and toe-tapping, banjo-provided syncopated rhythms. It draws people, makes them smile, little kids dance. There's something incredibly primal and satisfying about it. There's more mystery around my obsession the deeper I go. This new discovery is, well, enough for at least one more banjo-related adventure.
I touched on a similar theme in March, writing about the personal connections I've made through the banjo. Community was never something I thought about until recently. I realized that the happiest I've been has always stemmed from a sense of community -- a common bond -- whether it was the local music scene in high school, the strong groups of friends I've had in college and then when I moved to Akron, and now the old-time community. And like Evans, I'm lucky to have a wife who understands and to share my joy.

Evans recently compiled this "highlight reel" from his Banjo Builder Series, which should be about all the tempting you need to buy a copy of the DVDs for yourself.

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