I don’t know anything about Southern Illinois. I drove through it once on the way to or from somewhere else and I did it too fast and I failed to pay attention (not fair I know). Only recently I’ve learned it’s known by the nickname Little Egypt. It isn’t a place I would think to look for Old Time music, and yet I’ve recently learned there is some most excellent music to be heard from that area.
At the Midwest Banjo camp, I was introduced to a bit of this music by Cathy Barton Para. Specifically, she introduced 3 tunes – Bonaparte’s March (Pappy Taylor), Dull Chisel (Garry Harrison), and Cotton-eyed Joe Too (Dave Landreth), and pointed to some musicians to check out – the late Garry Harrison, Lynn “Chirps” Smith, the stringband they played in, the Indian Creek Delta Boys, and Dave Landreth. I’m sure there are also numerous other very interesting players from that area to learn about.
I’ve been playing a lot of clawhammer banjo (thanks Tuffy P for putting up with it!), convinced that if I work at it hard enough and long enough, I might eventually become a decent player. At the same time, I’ve been listening to loads of music, particularly on YouTube which is a fabulous resource for this kind of music – I’m like a kid in a candy store gobbling this stuff up.
I’ve started listening to a CD (a lot of this music isn’t available for download that I know of) this evening called Down in Little Egypt by Lynn “Chirps” Smith. I ordered it online and it arrived in today’s post. It features Chirps Smith on fiddle, Curtis Buckhannon on mandolin, mandola, and madocello, fred Campeau on banjo, guitar, Hawaiian guitar, banjo-uke and fiddle, Dave Landreth on banjo and guitar, Jeff Miller on banjo and Jim Nelson on guitar. I’m looking forward to getting my paws on any other recordings I can find from this area as well.
I searched around on the YouTube machine for some of these guys and sure enough there is some very good material online, including some interesting videos called Listen Up Illinois. Here’s one of those, in which Chirps Smith talks about early days with the Indian Creek Delta Boys, and how they came to find some Indiana old time music, and specifically Pappy Taylor.
There are also some videos of the Indian Creek Delta Boys online. Here they are performing a great stringband tune called Waterbound. This is from 1994…