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Showing posts from August, 2013

RIP Charlie Faurot 1935-2013

Once it became clear that it was clawhammer banjo I wanted to learn, the one resource that everyone recommended was the three-volume "Clawhammer Banjo" recordings by Charlie Faurot. For people who play this style of banjo, he was our Alan Lomax, a man who set out to record the living masters of our beloved five-stringed instrument. Faurot died Sunday at the age of 77.

Born in Chicago and educated at Yale, Faurot began recording old-time musicians in the 1950s. By the 1960s, he started publishing the recordings as a side business to his careers as a banker, math teacher, swimming and water polo coach, and computer systems consultant. A few years after retiring, Faurot founded Old Blue Records in 2003 and began publishing old-time recordings he made from the 1960s to the present, including albums he had recorded for County Records.

Looking through all the albums on the Old Blue Records website, it surprised me how many of Faurot's recordings I owned without realizing it.

Th…

Staying Local

We're nearing the end of festival season. Mount Airy, Clifftop and Galax have all come and gone. Yet another year that I've stayed home. One of these days I'll get to one of those bigger events. Meanwhile, I made a brief appearance this weekend at my favorite local festival: Raccoon County.

The Raccoon County Music Festival occurs every August at the Geauga County Century Village Museum in Burton, Ohio. There were a variety of musical acts on two stages, from polka to old-time, as well as some workshops and a square dance at the end of the day.

Throughout the grounds, people toured the historical buildings and played games, while others gathered to play music. With only a couple hours to spare, I tested out my new banjo setup among live victims (other than my wife and dog). It's hard to believe it's been more than two months since I've played my banjo with others.

My local banjo hero, Mark Olitsky, gave a workshop later in the day, but sadly I couldn't stay…

R.I.P. Grandma McD

My grandma died Sunday night. She was 91. Two weeks ago she had a stroke. We went down to see her in Columbus the next day. She showed signs of recovery and was moved to a rehabilitation facility last week, but we learned Saturday that she had pneumonia. That was that.

I'm thankful that I got to see her one last time and tell her how much I loved her, but it is not a memory I care to hold onto, seeing her weakened and struggling to talk, tubes attached to her paper-thin skin. Instead, I choose to think of her in that mountainside house in Brevard, N.C., where she and my grandfather moved to in 1984.

My grandparents were migratory. They met and married and had four children in Nebraska, moved to Illinois, moved to Kentucky, moved to Florida and then to North Carolina. We used to pack up the car, always on some bitterly cold morning during winter break, and drive the 10 hours south to visit and celebrate Christmas, leaving the frigid North Coast for the Blue Ridge Mountains. Usually…