Category Archives: music

Red Prairie Dawn

Since I started learning to play clawhammer banjo, YouTube has been an incredibly handy tool. When I want to learn a tune, I like to listen to different versions of it, and fortunately there is a ton of Old Time music available.  It’s hard to imagine a time when the only way to learn this music was from other local players. I suppose the exchange is that regional identity gets washed into the mix.

I learned about the late Garry Harrison at the Midwest Banjo Camp in June. Not only was he a gatherer of great Old Time music from Illinois, he also wrote some excellent tunes. I’ve been playing one of them quite a bit lately – a tune called Dull Chisel, and now I want to learn another of his tunes, Red Prairie Dawn. So tonight I checked out some performances online.

Here are Mike Witcher – Dobro and  Grant Gordy – Guitar…

And here’s a really fast version by the Foghorn Stringband…

And one more, with John Jewell and Andrew Lovejoy…

 

4th St.

I came across various covers of the tune 4th Street Messaround on YouTube, and I realized I know two tunes about 4th St. The first one is that old Memphis Jug Band tune. They were a great band and were very well recorded. If you don’t know their material, I highly recommend it.  The Memphis Jug Band were active from the 20s right into the 50s. Their personnel changed quite a bit along the way but no matter, it’s pretty much all excellent.

The other 4th St tune I know of is Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan. Here’s Lucinda Williams covering it…

Waterbound

I took the day off work today and spent a good part of it working on a mosaic project. I did manage to find the time for a couple practice session on the banjo though. I’ve been playing some tunes from Illinois that I learned back in June at the Midwest Banjo Camp. I like that mid-west old time music a lot.

Here’s a video I came across on YouTube featuring the late Garry Harrison and his band the Indian Creek Delta Boys performing Waterbound. Great tune and very fine band…

I’ve been learning a tune on clawhammer written by Garry Harrison. It’s called Dull Chisel.  Here’s a great driving version by Hopping Jenny…

French bagpipe polka music?

I came across this strange video tonight. It features a duet with French bagpipes and accordion doing a polka suite. OK, it’s a bit off the beaten path. What’s really strange though, is the video is full of bizarre visual distortion –  the background around the players is constantly shifting. I was starting to feel sea-sick watching it.

It would be interesting to explore some of the various bagpipe traditions around the world. For the longest time I thought the only bagpipes were the Scottish Highland pipes, but not so.  I bet trying to trace pipe traditions would also teach a lot about world history.

The Thunders

I recall the day I made the decision to give up my record collection. My cat William sat transfixed across the studio from my turntable. I was playing Old Corrals and Sagebrush by Ian Tyson on the stereo. Suddenly and without warning, William sprinted across the room and leapt upon the turntable, causing a sickening screech as the stylus scraped across the Tom Russell Mexican polka, Gallo del Cielo.

I gave my collection to my friend Stan Repar, who I figured would be the last man standing in the record department. IMG_2038 Today we had lunch with Stan and another painter friend Claude Breeze, and Stan presented me  with a bag containing a number of records. (Those of you too young to know what a record is can tune out now).  Stan was culling his collection and asked if there were any I wanted back. I had told him that if he still had a few of the special ones, some of which were signed by the artists, I’d love to play those records again.

Stan, aware that we now once again have a turntable, put a package together with those special records and a number of others he knew we’d enjoy.

The highlight of the package to me is Zydeco Thunder by Fernest and the Thunders. It must have been back in the late 80s when Fernest Arceneaux and his band came to town, and it was a fantastic show. I met the band – some of them joined us for a beer between sets – bought their album, and had the whole group sign the cover. I’m no autograph hound but this is a momento of a great night.

One of the reasons it is important to me is that I formed a vague idea in my little brain that night that I’d like to learn to play the button acccordion. It wasn’t until around a decade later that I actually bought a button accordion and learned to play, but I recall thinking, 31 buttons, how hard can it be?

Usually in a Zydeco band, the singer stands front and centre with the frattoir player at his (or her) side. In this case the frattoir player was centre stage, ,and Fernest stood off to the side where he sang and played button accordion.

Ah, this takes me back. Anybody else out there at that show? It must have been at the Horseshoe Tavern. If you were there, stop by and comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.