Bonaparte’s March

One of the things I love about Old Time music is that songs are passed along and revitalized over time. In the pop music “business” on the other hand, every lick has to be considered “original”. How many performers have sued one another over the years for steal each other’s tunes? It seems hard to believe when you consider that most pop tunes only have three or four chords to them. With traditional or folk music, the emphasis is on the performance instead, and if one song morphs into another, that’s fine. It’s fine because in folk music we own the songs together, something I really appreciate.

The Indian Creek Delta Boys (featuring the late Garry Harrison) were a band who explored the traditional music of Southern Illinois – a place known as Little Egypt. They went looking for their tradition, looking for old fiddlers and they learned tunes and ways of playing those tunes from primary sources and did a great job of collecting those tunes and sharing them with the rest of us.

Bonaparte’s March is a tune the Indian Creek Delta Boys learned from a fiddler named Harvey “Pappy” Taylor. I like this tune a lot. I learned to play it on clawhammer banjo from Cathy Barton and Dave Para at the Midwest Banjo Camp. Here are the Indian Creek Delta Boys.

Le Soleil est Levé

Time for a shot of creole button accordion music. I know you’ve been waiting for it….

Here’s Cedric Watson performing Le Soleil est Levé

Mr. Watson is also a fiddler and recently some videos featuring him playing gourd banjo have appeared on the YouTube. Here is Cedric Watson performing the murder ballad Little Sadie…

Tecumseh Valley

We’re always making value judgements, and we do it at lightning speed. I like this, I don’t care for that, that’s ok, oh no, not that. We do it about art and music and literature and everything else. I’m OK with that. For instance with music, I listen to a broad range of material, some of it very disparate. I don’t listen to everything though and I know there are some things I don’t give half a chance. Oh well.

I was on a roadtrip once with East Texas Red. We were out west somewhere chasing trout and at this particular moment we were having mediocre pizza with bottomless Coca Cola at some roadside joint and we were talking about music. East Texas Red asked me what made Townes van Zandt such a great song writer. Why did I admire his tunes so much? Fair question.

The first Townes van Zandt record I had was Live and Obscure. It was on vinyl. Remember vinyl? I played that record until it was scratched and it skipped. It seemed like Townes carried all the worries of the world on his shoulders. He sang terribly sad songs and he brought out every ounce of melancholy and hopelessness.  He must have been one troubled guy.

I didn’t say that to East Texas Red though. At the time I didn’t really have an answer to his question beyond, “because his songs are really good.” This was quite a few years ago. Since then I’ve listened to those Townes van Zandt tunes hundreds of times. If East Texas Red asked me the question now in the fullness of time, I’d say, “because you can listen to them over and over and over for years and years and never get tired of them. That’s saying something. I get tired of most songs I hear on the radio really quickly.

Here’s Townes van Zandt performing Tecumseh Valley with Nanci Griffith…

Serenade to a Cuckoo

These days I’ve been listening to a lot of stringband music, as regular visitors to this joint can attest. Still sometimes I need a dose of jazz, I need to hear the horns, those fantastic extensions of the human voice.

Here’s  Rahsaan Roland Kirk performing Serenade to a Cuckoo…

Down the river I go

I wonder how many river songs there are? The other day I shared a tune called Going down to the River. Today, it’s Down the River I go (Uncle Joe) performed by Cathy Barton and Dave Para.

Do you have a favourite river tune?

How about The Texas River Song?

That one is also called Down on the Brazos or the Brazos River Song, but it isn’t the only tune that mentions the Brazos. There’s also Ain’t no more Cane on the Brazos…. here’s Lyle Lovett



Another Western Canadian fiddle master (or why traditional music # 877)

I featured Calvin Vollrath the other day. Now let’s here Manitoba fiddler Patti Lamoureux (Kusturok) along with Sabin Jacques on accordion and Jeremy Rusu on guitar, performing a Quebecois medley.

The Wesley Willis Experience

I stumbled across videos about Wesley Willis after seeing a couple of his drawings in a folk art auction. I had no idea Mr. Willis was also a musician of sorts. Mr. Willis was born in 1963 and passed in 2003. I don’t know a lot of detail about his life.  Apparently he suffered from schizophrenia. He was a visual artist before he was a musician. At one point he fronted a punk bank called the Wesley Willis Fiasco. He liked to sing/shout strange, sometimes obscene lyrics of the auto-accompaniment feature of an electronic keyboard. His music has been referred to as “savant-guard”. There are some documentaries about Mr. Willis on YouTube if you’re interested.

A Dose of Hank Snow

Sometimes I just need a double-shot of Hank Snow. Here he is performing Art Scammell’s masterpiece, Squid Jiggin’ Grounds. This one’s for my Newfie friends, you know who you are.

And I did say double-shot. Here’s Music Makin’ Mama from Memphis