Skip to main content

5 Glory-Beaming Gift Ideas for Winter Solstice & Other Holiday Celebrations

We banjo players and old-time music fans can be a fickle bunch to buy for during the winter holiday season, but fear not! I have compiled this short list of items that are bound to tickle your pickle. If you're struggling to round out your wishlist, just add these items or share this post with your loved ones. Now, let's get to it!

Do Not Sell at Any Price
By Amanda Petrusich

The book's subtitle "The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78-rpm Records" is cemented when the author learns to scuba dive so she can search the bottom of the Milwaukee River in hopes of digging up castoff 78s from the Paramount factory in Wisconsin. Petrusich not only attempts to hunt down some choice shellac but also the reason why this community of mostly white men become so driven to search thrift stores and flea markets and go door-to-door to collect these out-of-print recordings. A fun read for anyone interested in old music and collecting.

Where Will You Be Christmas Day?
Dust-to-Digital

Sure you can find a local radio station playing Christmas music nonstop this time of year, but you probably won't hear these old numbers. A mix of old-time, blues, gospel and ethnic holiday songs, this compilation is sure to capture some of that old holiday magic and show the many sides of Christmas, from Jesus born in the manger to Leroy Carr spending the holiday in jail. Keep an ear out for some of my favorites by Fiddlin' John Carson, Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers, Norman Edmonds and Lead Belly.

Anthology of American Folk Music
Smithsonian Folkways

Also known as the Harry Smith Anthology, this is often cited as the document that launched the Folk Revival of the 1950s and '60s. Released in 1952, this collection of tunes and songs from the late 1920s and early '30s formed the foundation of the Greenwich Village music scene and inspired the likes of the New Lost City Ramblers and Bob Dylan. A must-have for old-time music fans. You could spend a lifetime exploring these tracks. And don't forget Volume 4.

Inside Llewyn Davis
By Joel and Ethan Coen

A fictional account of a folk musician set in the aforementioned Greenwich Village folk music scene at a time just before the arrival of Dylan. Like their 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coens tapped T Bone Burnett to produce this wonderful soundtrack. Title character Llewyn Davis's life is very loosely inspired by "The Mayor of MacDougal Street," the memoir of folk musician Dave Van Ronk. (Warning: Don't go in expecting an adaptation Van Ronk's life story, as I did.)

Art Rosenbaum's Old-Time Banjo Book
By Art Rosenbaum

The newest offering from the author of "Old-Time Mountain Banjo" and "Art of the Mountain Banjo," this book and two-DVD set provides 47 tunings and different picking styles for our beloved five-string. Rosenbaum groups the tunings into “families” that show how they can be used in playing solo banjo tunes, string band music and song accompaniment. Covering a wide array of downstroke and fingerpicking styles, the book is aimed at both experienced and novice players interested in broadening their banjo horizons.

Bonus Selections:

And if you're looking for something to buy your intrepid glory-beaming blogger, I'd like this Doug Unger banjo at Elderly Music. Happy holidays, readers!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
This was the most common suggestion before other companies started addressing the gap in the clawhammer pick market. Take a bluegrass pick, flatten it out and wear it backwards. The problem is that it's hard to get the fit right. While Dunlop picks are cheap and readily avai…

Erynn Marshall, Mark Olitsky, Doug Unger: An Old-Time Smorgasbord in Peninsula, Ohio, for Music on the Porches, Sept. 23

Old-time music and banjo fans alike would do well to aim their GPS units toward Peninsula, Ohio, the historic village nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron. This Saturday is Music on the Porches, which features a number of musical acts playing all around town, starting at 11 a.m. 
The showcase event is Saturday night at the G.A.R. Hall, an evening concert that will feature fiddler Erynn Marshall and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones, the married old-time duo based in Galax, Virginia; followed by Sean Watkins, formerly of the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek; and finally headliner Tim O'Brien, who has recorded with everyone from Steve Martin to Dirk Powell, including the excellent "Songs From the Mountain" album with Powell and John Herrmann (one of my all-time favorites). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with Marshall and Jones set to start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online via Eventbrite
But wait, that's not all! 
Marshall wi…