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Showing posts from 2016

Rhiannon Giddens Awarded Steve Martin Banjo Prize

Carolina Chocolate Drops founder Rhiannon Giddens was named the 2016 recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. The $50,000 award was established in 2010 and has been presented annually by a board comprised of Martin, J.D. Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Noam Pikelny, Alison Brown, Dr. Neil Rosenberg and Béla Fleck.

Giddens is the first woman and first African American to win the award. In addition to performing with the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, she has also recorded a successful solo album that prominently features her banjo playing.

"Rhiannon Giddens occupies a unique position in the world of banjo music, bridging contemporary and traditional forms and the cultures of three continents," says the Steve Martin Prize website. "Few musicians have done more to revitalize old-time sounds in the last decade. Drawing from blues, jazz, folk, hip-hop, traditional African, Celtic, and jug band music, she has br…

Highwoods Documentary Not a Lost Cause After All

So, once upon a time, I tried to drum up support for a crowdfunded documentary project about the Highwoods Stringband. I donated money to help out, and more than a year later I provided an update on the slow progress. Last I heard, there was some old footage of the Highwoods they were trying to acquire. It's been three and a half years now that I first heard about the project, and I still haven't received my DVD.

I figured that's the risk you take with these crowdfunded, Kickstarter-type projects. I had all but given up the documentary as a lost cause. Until today. If I managed to convince any of you to help fund the project, I felt it my duty to pass along this update directly from Highwoods mainstay Walt Koken.
"After several delays and setbacks, we, the members of the Highwoods Stringband and Mudthumper Music have procured the vintage footage and photos in cooperation with the original producers and put them into the hands of another videographer, Larry Edelman, in …

Postcards: Musical Mug

Here we have a my new coffee mug from Tyson Graham Pottery, a birthday gift from my sister last month. As you can see, the mug has a banjo on one side and a fiddle on the other. It holds 12 ounces and is more tall and slender than short and squat, but overall it's very solid. I love drinking my morning cuppa'joe from this handsome vessel.

Postcards: Vinyl Hunting Tour, Part III

My final banjo/old-time music related purchase from my July 5 record hunting trip was the Cool Hand Luke soundtrack (Dot Records DLP 25833), released in 1967. The album is the original score from the movie, along with Paul Newman playing "Plastic Jesus." At $8 plus tax, it was the most expensive used album I purchased that day, but I couldn't resist.

Postcards: Vinyl Hunting Tour, Part II

Going along with last week's post, here's another couple records from my recording hunting tour on July 5. Here we have Mac Benford's "Backwoods Banjo" (Rounder 0115), released in 1979, and Josh White "Sings Ballads - Blues" (Elektra EKL 114), released in 1957. Found at my local shop, Square Records in Akron, Ohio, together they my back $8 plus tax. The Benford album had been there for a few weeks, and I finally decided to take it home. Like I said, it was a good trip.

Postcards: Vinyl Hunting Tour

Tuesday was a perfect day for a short driving tour to scour record stores for some vinyl. At my third stop, The Vinyl Groove in Bedford, Ohio, I came upon these two albums. The top one is Ed Haley, "Parkersburg Landing" (Rounder 1010), a selection of home recordings made in 1946 and released in 1976. The other is "Galax Va. Old Fiddlers' Convention" (Folkways FA 2435), released in 1964. Together they set me back $11 plus tax. It was a good day.

New Dwight Diller Biography: Interview and Excerpts

Ever since I started playing the banjo in 2008, I have heard about Dwight Diller. He is renowned as a musician, teacher and historian of West Virginia music and culture.
As a musician, Diller is known for his heavy rhythmic drive. As a teacher, his weeklong instructional camps promote full immersion into the culture and music of West Virginia. As a historian, he has documented the legendary Hammons family of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
Diller has been the subject of many discussions on the online forum Banjo Hangout, and it was through this website that I met Lew Stern and learned of his newly released biography, Dwight Diller: West Virginia Mountain Musician. Released in April by independent publisher McFarland, the book is 216 pages and will run you $35.
Stern started playing the banjo in the 1960s when he got “swept up in the enthusiasm of the folk revival.” He embraced Pete Seeger’s music and bought a long-neck banjo. He later “came under the spell” of Earl Scruggs’ bluegrass …

Fire Destroys Romero Banjos

Sad news from Horsefly, British Columbia: J. Romero Banjo Co. suffered a devastating fire that consumed Jason and Pharis Romero's banjo workshop.

The fire occurred around 3 a.m. on June 6. No one was injured, but the damage is estimated to have cost about $250,000. In addition to all of the company's instrument-building materials, including completed banjos that were due to ship out that day, the Juno award-winning Romeros also lost their personal instruments.

From the company website: "Sadly, we have had a devastating shop fire and have lost everything. We are hoping to rebuild as soon as possible, and look forward to having banjos in new hands soon. Thank you for the messages of love and well wishes, and the very appreciated support."

From Pharis Romero via Facebook: "We do have insurance, but are waiting on coverage information and claims amounts. We are looking at a minimum of 6 weeks before we can start rebuilding the shop, and then unknown months before w…

Postcards: Off to the Festival

The inaugural Lake Erie Folk Festival was Feb. 27. Here my instruments are by the door ready to go jam. My wife and I brought our two-year-old son along. He made it long enough for me to participate in the old-time jam led by Mark Olitsky, Susie Goehring and Christina Tanczos. As one friend described it, the slow jam was more like an orchestra because of the tiered seating. I'm looking forward to next year and hopefully experiencing more of the event.

Some Weekly Photo Project, Huh?

Typical. I post about how I'm going to do this weekly photo thing and then only make it as far as two weeks. Not very weekly, is it? Well, it's back for whatever that's worth. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for around here. There are a few more images posted at the Facebook page. I'll try to get back into a weekly thing.

Postcards: Up the Neck

So another thing I got for Christmas was a new lens for my camera. And as a way to get myself to actually use it, I decided I would challenge myself to a weekly photo project related to banjos, fiddles and old-time music. This is the second installment.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Happy New Year, banjo nerds!

We’re back with a few quick topics as we kick off 2016 and another exciting year of the Glory-Beaming Banjo. Let’s get right to it.

Year in Review
The New Year marked my third year playing fiddle. I’m playing with a little more confidence, but realize I have a long way to go. I accomplished a number of goals in 2015. I got out more to play with others, which has helped improve my ear, rhythm and speed. I completed the Brad Leftwich “Learn to Play Old-Time Fiddle” videos, which gave me a good foundation to build on, with a strong focus on rhythmic bowing. I also exceeded my annual practice goal.