I’m planning to attend a banjo camp this year in June. In fact it’s the Mid-west Banjo Camp, held annually in Olivet Michigan (not far from Lansing). I’m going to attend both the “pre-camp” activities and the weekend camp, meaning I’m going to be immersed in all things banjo from the Thursday evening of that week through to lunch on Sunday, packed with demonstrations, classes, jam sessions and staff concerts.
This camp teaches both Old-Time and Bluegrass banjo styles. Although I like listening to Bluegrass, I don’t have any interest in playing Scruggs-style or bluegrass style banjo. I like playing Old-Time and I like playing clawhammer. Clawhammer, or frailing, describes the way you strike the strings, hand forming a claw shape, down-picking with the fingernail of your index or middle finger and your thumb. All the classes I plan to attend will focus on playing Old-time and playing clawhammer. There are classes on other picking styles for Old-Time music, but for now I’ll stick to one approach.
Instructors on the Old-Time side include Cathy Barton Para, Riley Baugus, Bob Carlin, Adam Hurt, Chuck Levy, Bruce Molsky, Joe Newberry and Ken Perlman – some of the best players around.
There is a full schedule of classes that covers everything from specific techniques to certain songs or styles. There are many scheduled jams as well as time for un-scheduled jams late evenings plus there are two staff concerts. The pre-camp activities are more demonstration oriented, with opportunities for questions and answers.
The camp is on a college campus with basic accommodation and all meals included. It’s about a 5.5 hour drive from Toronto. I’m really looking forward to this. For me, the jams are a huge resource because I want to develop some experience playing with others. And the opportunity to meet and learn from so many top-rate players all in one place at one time should be tremendously helpful, not to mention loads of fun.
Not much to say tonight. My brain is running on empty and needs recharging. I’m tired, and I think I might just play some banjo for a short while and hit the hay early..
While I do that, why don’t you listen to some blues. Here’s one of my all-time favourite blues performances. I love the way this one builds. It’s Howlin Wolf playing Meet me at the Bottom. If the blues had to stop at some point, if there was going to be a moratorium on the blues, this would be a good place to stop.
Yes friends, we’re going to do a little time travel. I shot a video of my time machine in action. People of my generation are going to say, aw c’mon, that’s just a record player, but in fact it’s a time machine. Today I’m taking you back to 1954, when Canadian Fiddle great Ward Allen recorded three volumes of his Maple Leaf Hoedown. Tonight we’re going check out Volume 3 of the collection, and specifically, Back to the Sugar Camp.
Ward Allen was born in London Ontario, but he is known as an Ottawa Valley style fiddler. In his short life – Mr. Allen was born in 1924 and died in 1965 – he treated Canadians and the world to some fantastic fiddle music.
Here’s an except from the liner notes on the record:
Like “Old Man River”, Ward Allen’s popularity “just keeps on rollin’ along”.
Whether it be at a square dance, at a ballroom, in a cabaret, on the stage, on the radio or TV, Ward’s “Maple Leaf Hoedown” music is a listening and dancing treat to Canadian folks.
In this album you will find more of the music and fiddling that has made Ward Allen a national favourite.
Now when you jump into my time machine and take this trip with me, you might notice a little turbulence. This happens when you go back in time. You might say, hey what’s that background noise – is that your Newf Georgie goofing around with a chew toy? Trust me, it’s really time travel turbulence. Don’t worry, you’re safe with me.
By the way, the covered bridge shown on the album cover was photographed at the entrance to the Village of Alma, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick Canada. As it says on the record cover, “there is a basic charm and picturesque attraction in Canada’s covered bridges.”
Tuffy P came across Valerie June’s music recently and we’ve been giving her recording, Pushin’ Against a Stone a good listen. She sings with a lot of confidence, strums guitar and uke, and carries around enough hair for 5 or 6 performers. I think maybe she’s the real deal.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted any hurdy gurdy music here. Time to change all that. Here’s Matthias Loibner…
If it seems like a confusion and complicated instrument, that’s because it is. Here’s a great demonstration of how these beasts work..
How about a hurdy gurdy duet with a diatonic button accordion? Fantastic!
I seriously considered learning the hurdy gurdy (not to mention the French bagpipes and the garmon) but was saved from that improvisational adventure by the 5 string banjo which came along in the nick of time.
Here’s the fabulous Ampol Aires from 1991 performing the Circus Polka. I only know one person who maybe knows who these guys are and that’s my pal from Chicago Anthony Stagg, so this one goes out to him.
….and since we’re on a roll, here’s another polka blast from the past – the 80s that is – featuring Dave “Scrubby” Seweryniak and that great polka band from Buffalo, the Dynatones, performing the Helen Polka.
Here’s a taste of David Bromberg, with Larry Campbell on mandolin.
I have a serious soft spot for David Bromberg’s music. I hope you like it too.
Stephen Foster wrote Hard Times – it was first published in 1854 and first recorded in 1905. It’s still very relevant today.
While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.
Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.
Here are Leela Grace, Lisa Ornstein and Betsy Branch.
You know I’m a fool for you, friends…
Let’s start the day off right here on 27th Street with a little David Bromberg…
Just cause I’m feeling particularly Canadian today…this is Steve Earle covering Ian Tyson. My father used to sing this song to himself around the house when I was growing up. I don’t remember not knowing it. I think it’s part of my genetic code.