Vance Gilbert is, in his own words, "big in the music business like a barnacle is big in shipping". Performing solo with acoustic guitar, his original music (including songs about Old White Men, Gilligan and the planet Pluto) and some well-chosen covers, as well as his on-stage banter, have charmed audiences all over* for umpteen years. He has made a reply to CeeLo's infamous song, performed alongside Arlo Guthrie while having an attack of gout and in his spare time, he makes free-flying models of antique airplanes. But sadly, he has just gotten the most publicity of his career... as an unwilling participant in one airline's Security Theater. (Story picked up by The Consumerist, the Economist, and James Fallows at the Atlantic.) [more inside]
Today would have been Woody Guthrie's ...99th birthday, and the beginning of his centennial year.
This Land Is Your Land
Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done
Talking Dustbowl Blues
So long it's been good to know you
"Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit." - John SteinbeckFor fans, there's a webpage to organize events and such around his centennial. And here's something for those that don't know his work, and those that want to remember:
This Land Is Your Land
Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done
Talking Dustbowl Blues
So long it's been good to know you
Root Hog or Die has an extensive collection of links to world folk music repositories. There are over 60, with days and days of music to listen to. Some are comprised of field recordings, some are from old 78s, and some are from more contemporary sources, so you'll have to use your judgement about which you're comfortable visiting. The sites cover everything from Hmong music to Ossetian music to Northwest Fiddle Field Recordings.
Buranovskie Babushki is a charming group of grannies from the village of Buranovo in Udmurtia, Russia who came one place away from being the national entry to last year's Eurovision with their crowd-pleasing folk number. Since then, they've been covering a few western classics in their native language. Here's a few: Yesterday; Venus; and Let it Be.
Manly Wade Wellman is probably best known for his eerie tales of Silver John, stories of a traveling balladeer and the weirdness he encountered in the southern Appalachians. Wellman was also an avid student of southern folklore and mountain music. His associations with Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Obray Ramsey served as inspirations for the Silver John character. In addition to his macabre tales of the American South, Wellman was an award-winning mystery author (beating William Faulkner for the prize) and ghost wrote Will Eisner's The Spirit while Eisner was in the army. [more inside]
Sixth-grader Jackson C. Frank was horribly burned when the boiler at his Cheektowaga, New York, elementary school exploded March 31, 1954, killing fifteen of his classmates. While recovering from his injuries, Frank was introduced to the guitar, and the insurance settlement he received a decade later helped fund a trip to England, where he recorded his first and only album. [more inside]
Jimmy Dean (Aug. 28, 1928 - June 13, 2010) is best known to Mefites for his brand of sausage, although he sold the company in the '80s, and was dropped as its spokesman in 2003; its current owner is Sara Lee*. But his musical legacy is sealed by his 'country rap*' classic "Big Bad John" (performed live in 2008), often imitated, but never parodied better than with "Big Bruce"** (info). But to me, he was the guy with the variety show where he spent several minutes every week bantering with the muppet Rowlf****. Here's Jimmy in Esquire Magazine's "What I've Learned". His final resting place is music-themed, NOT sausage themed. "Here lies one hell of a man." [more inside]
Showing Off is a series of videos, audio clips and articles in which noted music journalist and Frankie Goes to Hollywood mastermind Paul Morley explores various facets of music. Each month has a theme, [warning: most links have autoplaying video] Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk, classical music, disco, The Beatles, folk music, The X Factor, the Noughties, the next big thing, UK hip hop, jazz, and dance. Here is some of what's on offer: MeFi faves Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip on hip hop, These New Puritans' Jack Barnett, Johnny Marr on folk (parts 1, 2), but isn't all just interviews, there are also a lot of performances, e.g. Michael Nyman and David McAlmont, Badly Drawn Boy, Susanna Wallumrød covers Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak, and Cornershop cover Norwegian Wood.
The Great Empire of China has a fantastic archive of traditional, classical and even modern Chinese music excerpts and several full musical suites, including some pieces from Chinese opera. National Geographic has a short breakdown on regional variations in traditional music in China. Chinese opera is very different than Western opera. Here are some great pictures of singers. [more inside]
Folk singer Kate McGarrigle succumbs to cancer. Perhaps best known for her work with sister Anna, Kate was also the mother of performers Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright. Kate and Anna's music was covered by more popular (in the US) performers, such as Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and others. My favorite thing they did is "The Log Drivers Waltz", available as a video from the National Film Board of Canada. It always takes me back to my mother's house in the Canada. The McGarrigle website has lots of news, information, and links on the performers.
The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
Richard and Mimi Fariña. I doubt I'll ever forget his song, Bold Marauder, or his cult novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. He and Mimi, Joan Baez's sister, made three fine albums before his tragic death. Youtube has a live version of "Bold Marauder." Also, a nice cover by Kendra Smith, and a fanvid for the pirate romance, "Frenchman's Creek," using a cover by John Kay of Steppenwolf.
Mary Travers died today, at 72, of leukemia. According to the NY Times, she provided the sex appeal to Peter, Paul and Mary, which in turn provided mainstream production values for a number of Dylan songs. However, many remember her contributions to (the creepily titled but awesome) kids' record Peter Paul and Mommy. Peter and Paul have written tributes to her.
To Hear Your Banjo Play is a documentary by Alan Lomax from 1947. It is narrated by Pete Seeger and features Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee among others.
Wade Mainer played a two-finger style of banjo, between old timey and bluegrass. Here is an interview he did with David Holt at the age of 97. Part 2. Part 3. Still playing strong!
Utah Phillips: Songwriter, singer, storyteller (May 15, 1935 – May 23, 2008). "Moose Turd Pie". "Get rid of the bum on the plush" and "Hallelujah, I'm a bum". Emmylou Harris sings "Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia". Tom Waits sings "Goodnight-Loving Trail" A tribute to Judi Bari, plus "World Turned Upside Down". Bob Neuwirth sings "Rock Salt and Nails". Amy Goodman interviews Utah Phillips: War and Non-Violence. [more inside]
A recent series of posts on the web site of First Things magazine looks at what could be described as a reactionary moment on the part of some folk and roots musicians in Québec and around the world... and we're not talking The Goldwaters (Wikipedia). [more inside]
On this date in 1949, a Canadian music legend was born. Stanley Allison "Stan" Rogers chronicled Canadian life. He wrote his own sea shanty after a song session with the Friends of Fiddler's Green , and the song he came up with, Barrett's Privateers, is still sung today by members of the Canadian navy as they march. Many of his songs were of tragedy or hard times or the loss of a way of life. On June 2nd, 1983, an in-flight fire aboard an Air Canada flight forced the plane to make an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati Airport. Survivors spoke of a large man with a booming voice who helped others to safety, only to perish himself of smoke inhalation. It was believed, though not confirmed, that Stan Rogers was the hero. His music has also saved at least one life. The song "The Mary Ellen Carter" speaks of perseverance and rising to any challenge, and is a fitting legacy to a Canadian legend who died at the age of 33. His son Nathan carries on his musical tradition, as does Stan's brother Garnet Rogers, who also performed on Stan's albums.
June Carter and Johnny Cash appear on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest. June reminisces about the Carter family and A.P. Carter. They all sing It Takes a Worried Man. Johnny sings As Long as the Grass Shall Grow. Finally, June sings I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.
The Wall of Death is a great song by venerable British folkie Richard Thompson (covered by REM among others) concerning a carnival sideshow attraction involving a large wooden cylinder and at least one motorcycle (previously on metafilter). The Wall of Death is also the latest permutation in mosh pit chaosity.
Guitarist and banjo player Erik Darling died last Sunday at age 74. His arrangements of traditional songs played a significant role in the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. [more inside]
Pansori (aka P'ansori) is a genre of Korean folk music produced by travelling musicians, a singer accompanied by a lone drummer. Rooted in seventeenth century folk tales, by the 1960's, Pansori was in danger of dying out completely, when the director Im Kwon-taek made the film Sopyonje. [more inside]
Tom Dula was a real person. Who knew? The Kingston Trio's version of Tom Dooley is the most famous. It says here that Doc Watson's great-grandparents were the Dooley's neighbors. They say Ann Melton confessed before she died... "Folk music is serious business."
Casual fans of Irish folk-punk bands like The Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys rarely take the time to investigate the sources of their inspiration. Those who do, cannot avoid coming across the The Dubliners. [more inside]
Stan Kelly-Bootle began his career as a member of the earliest wave of computer programmers, who wrote prolifically about a wide range of computing issues. Back in his home town though, he's probably best known for his contributions to a lexicon of local slang, Lern Yerself Scouse, and for his canonical and not-so-canonical contributions to the British folk repertoire. [more inside]
Streaming audio of traditional music from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. This is some of the strangest, most haunting and blissed-out singing you can hear on this planet. (And check out those swell outfits, fellas!) [more inside]
By the time Russian folksinger Venya Drkin (Веня Д’ркин) died of cancer in 1999, he had written over three hundred songs. Love songs, happy songs, angry songs, sad songs. He also sketched pictures: strange, lonely, menacing, redemptive. And wrote folktales. He was only 29.
The pleasant but hagiographical Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (production company website w/ trailer) is playing in New York and Los Angeles. The movie is entirely uncritical... prompting this response by Ron Radosh who is interviewed in the film, but whose critical comments were left out. But most interesting is this followup article by Radosh describing Seeger's response and a new song against Stalin. The filmmaker comes out worst in Radosh's account... [more inside]
Tonight's tribute concert for Red House Records was a glimpse of heaven for lovers of roots and folk music. More than fifteen recording artists of Red House Records put on an amazing show on September 9th at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul in tribute to Bob Feldman, founder of the label who died last year. Each musician sang or played two songs. They all appeared gratis, with the proceeds going to benefit the redwood forests. The vibe was by turns friendly, poignant and joyous. Eliza Gilkyson nearly stopped my heart - I couldn't breathe until I heard 'My love s/he's like some raven at my window with a broken wing.' [more inside]
You've got just over two weeks to make it to the John Henry celebration in Leeds, Alabama, where some folks believe the legendary steel driving contest actually took place. Maybe you already made it to John Henry Days in Talcott, West Virginia (or read a fictionalized account), where some more folks claim the same. John Garst, Scott Nelson, and other folklorists weigh in here, supplemented by a wealth of links and resources on the subject. While you think on it let Mississippi Fred McDowell, The Boss, Ralph Stanley, John Jackson, Merle Travis, and Jason Isbell tell their own versions. John Garst and his research mentioned previously.
Isaac Guillory was widely regarded as probably the best acoustic guitarist in Britain. These three clips from a Berkeley performance in 1989 show why he is still much missed.
The Florida Memory Project has a great audio section. In addition to podcasts and lots of individual files, they've compiled three mix cds of their offerings (Music from the Florida Folklife Collection, More Music, and Shall We Gather at the River). The real gem of the collection, though, may be the WPA recordings Zora Neale Hurston made while she was collecting folk tales in Florida. (Previous y2karl omnibus folklife post)
On November 25th, 2006, Valentin Elizalde was killed in the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Elizalde, a singer of a style of song known as the narcocorrido, was warned not to step foot in Tamaulipas because of a video for his song “A mis Enemigos," which showed footage of (WaPo article) the deaths of drug traffickers from the Gulf Cartel. In December of 2006, Javier Morales Gómez was killed in Huetamo, Michoacán while talking on his cell phone. Morales Gómez was the singer for Los Implacables del Norte, another group closely associated with narcocorridos. The most famous death of a narcocorrido writer/singer has to be Chalino Sanchez, killed in 1992, and spawning several imitators known as Los Chalinillos that are still prevalent 15 years after Sanchez's death. (previously) [more inside]
I used to wonder where all the protest songs had gone. Now I’ve found where over 17,000 (and counting) of them have gone. Audio conditionally NSFW. via
Uyghur goes pop! Fully downloadable album (with samples to try before you don't have to buy) of pop music from Xinjiang, aka East Turkestan, home to the Uyghur.
Before you do anything else, just listen to this. That's eefing, a 100-plus-year-old vocal technique from rural Tennessee that's, well, the original hillbilly beatboxing. The undisputed master of the art was Jimmie Riddle. His unique skill landed him recording* and TV (youtube) work. Want more weird sounds from the deep south? Try Hollerin & Whoopin and Ringing the Pig. *[warning: on the "Little Eefin Annie" page, avoid the "click here to hear Rolf Harris Eeefin'!" link: it's a pesky popup.
Harry Everett Smith was a, "20th-century Renaissance man, working as an abstract film-maker, painter, musicologist, anthropologist, theoretician, self-mythologizer and connoisseur of arcana". His Anthology of American Folk Music was hugely influential on American music, while his alchemical, synæsthetic films were to have a similar impact on experimental film and animation. Enjoy his mesmerising and astonishing "Early Abstractions" on Youtube [part 1 or 4], hear Harry lecture, or listen to some tracks from The Anthology.
The Virtual Gramophone. A massive database of early Canadian 78 RPM recordings, now available in mp3 and rm format. Over 13,000 titles available, freely downloadable. Includes biographical notes on the artists, notes on the history of Canadian recording, interesting technical notes on media conversion, a few videos from the olde dayes, and podcasts. This collection is particularly strong on Quebecois and Acadien folk/fiddle music. Courtesy of the Library and Archives Services of the Government of Canada. Mentioned once before in passing, five years ago on Metafilter, but much improved since them realaudio only days.
Joanie Anderson, singer/songwriter (YouTube)
The Morris dance is common to all inhabited worlds in the multiverse. It is danced under blue skies to celebrate the quickening of the soil and under bare stars because it's springtime and with any luck the carbon dioxide will unfreeze again. It is danced innocently by raggedy-bearded young mathematicians to an inexpert accordion rendering of "Mrs Widgery's Lodger" and ruthlessly by such as the Ninja Morris Men of New Ankh, who can do strange and terrible things with a simple handkerchief and a bell.
(from page one of Terry Pratchett's "Reaper Man")
(from page one of Terry Pratchett's "Reaper Man")
Victor Jara in English. Tribute page to the Chilean folk singer.
Folk Songs For The 21st Century was recorded in the late '50s. Sheldon Allman wrote all the songs, and sings them in a strange, warped baritone voice. His tongue had to be firmly planted in his cheek when writing something like "Space Opera". Then again, maybe not... [via Buzz.]
Streaming video documentary films about American traditional music. Great American roots music films for free! Click and watch full length documentaries about the Popovich Brothers Tamburitza band of South Bend Indiana, Louisiana creole fiddler Canray Fontenot, the last Black medicine-show performer, sacred harp singing and much more. An amazing collaboration between folklorists and indie film makers.
Folk singer Adam Brodsky is planning to tour 50 states in 50 days, nonstop, striving for that American dream of a listing in the Guinness World Records. Anyone wanna lend the guy a couch to crash on?
Alan Lomax, the legendary collector of folk music who was the first to record towering figures like Leadbelly, Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, died yesterday at a nursing home in Sarasota, Fla. He was 87. Mr. Lomax was a musicologist, author, disc jockey, singer, photographer, talent scout, filmmaker, concert and recording producer and television host. He did whatever was necessary to preserve traditional music and take it to a wider audience. (NY Times- Registraion Required) And... Additionally... And this. Also...
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