December 12, 2009

Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band

Some of the people I play music with have been raving about Chance McCoy for a while now. For whatever reason, I did not look into it sufficiently until now. I could struggle to write a review myself, but it wouldn't say anything different from what you can already see on his MySpace page.

Here are the essentials:
He's from eastern West Virginia, a major plus as far as I'm concerned, and has learned from many of the state's greats, including Dave Bing.

A recently recorded album with The Appalachian String Band includes Adam Hurt on the banjo, who I think is one of the best young banjo players around. I had bought Adam Hurt's solo album (Insight) a while ago and really enjoy that one as well.

If you've played much in West Virginia, the repertoire on the album will be familiar, including tunes like "Shelvin Rock," "Yew Piney Mountain," and "Jimmy Johnson."

In short, I highly recommend this, I think it's one of the best newer acts to come along in a while.

Here are some videos from what I believe is Chance McCoy's personal YouTube profile:

Dance All Night With A Bottle In Your Hand MP3

And Wild Horse of Stony Point, or just "Stony Point" as I've often heard it called:

December 10, 2009

Pokey LaFarge

Saw Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three last night based on a recommendation from my cousin-in-law (if that's a familial category). Even though I was slightly distracted by the Kentucky-UConn game that was simultaneously going on, I'm glad I went. They are a good time and have a really unique stage presence.

Not necessarily an old-time band the way I've been using it on here, but certainly rooted in music from the early 1900s. Makes me think of the music of traveling shows up and down the Mississippi River in its heyday.

Lots of music samples on the website, so definitely go check those out.

Here's a live recording:


December 05, 2009

Whiskey Bent Valley Boys

Now that the semester is over I finally have time to enjoy a guilt-free experience at Knoxville's Blue Plate Special, which is of course put on by local independent radio station WDVX.

The main reason I went yesterday was for the Fox Hunt. They were good as usual, all of them are very talented, and I had seen them in town here before.

In fact, the last time they were here was maybe May or so, whenever it was the weather was nicer and they played outside in our downtown commons kind of area called Market Square.

There it is pictured above. Just a real nice, pedestrians-only area of town. Musicians set up there for tips often, but they are not usually as talented as the Fox Hunt. WDVX overheard them playing on the square, got them in studio to go live, and later invited them for the Blue Plate...

But I started this post to talk about the Whiskey Bent Valley Boys. They were billed alongside Fox Hunt, and I didn't know what to expect. But they were actually really fun to watch and played really well. They do a lot of standards, like Old Joe Clark, and I like that about them.

Plus, like me they're from Kentucky. From what I gather, Oldham County to be precise.

The radio said they're from "backwoods Kentucky," I guess trying to play up that mythology. But if you know Kentucky, you know Oldham County has nothing to do with backwoods, it's a wealthy suburb of Louisville. But I guess it sounds better to say on the radio.

Anyway, they put on a good show. Here they are at a different Blue Plate Special.

November 11, 2009

The Foghorn Trio

I just saw the Foghorn Trio on Friday in Knoxville at a low-key show. Great time, they sounded great as always.

I didn't realize that the newest member, Nadine there on the bass, was from Quebec. That allowed them to sing en Francais and try out a few cajun tunes I'd never heard before.

This footage seems to be from the same tour that I just saw them on.

And here's a tune called Roving Gambler.


November 10, 2009

Old-Time in BoingBoing

When I was at Pickathon 2009, I stumbled across Frank Fairfield. He was interesting. I saw him playing informally outside of one of the venues and he drew me in because he looked strangely like a photo of an idealized old-time player from the 1920s. He seemed to have borrowed his wardrobe and even his haircut from a young Jimmy Stewart. I was kind of surprised he wasn't somehow walking around in black and white.

The tunes he was playing were familiar, like Barbara Allen, but his cadence and phrasing was such that only he could follow himself, if that makes sense.

Nonetheless, he seems to have created somewhat of a name for himself in the up-and-coming old-time scene of the West Coast. Proof in the pudding is a mention on BoingBoing, and a link to this video.

I learned from the BoingBoing article that he's even been in Rolling Stone:

"He's like 26 years old and he sounds like Mississippi John Hurt," says Robin. Fairfield plays fiddle and banjo player and strums back-porch bluegrass, complete with shaky jug-band vocals reminiscent of The Foggy Mountain Boys from way back in the '40s (think O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

"He's kinda crazy," says Robin. "He has his own radio show where he just plays these old gramophones. He just puts a mic up and plays all these field recordings from the 1900s; it's insane. He dresses like it's the early 1900s. He's born out of time, and his voice is amazing."

Buy his music: His self-titled album Frank Fairfield, and the EP I've Always Been a Rambler (Amazon MP3s).

He's playing a bunch of West Coast US tour dates from now through January: San Francisco, Eugene, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle and other ports of call.

So check him out if you like what you see there. From what I can tell, he certainly has an extensive old old-time repertoire and sound.

November 03, 2009

Foghorn Trio in Knoxville

Just found out something awesome. If you're in the area, come out for an old-time treat on Friday, the 6th.

This Week at Laurel
Newsletter of Jubilee Community Arts
Here are a few of our upcoming events. Click here to see the complete listings for November and December.

Foghorn Trio
Oldtime Stringband

Friday, November 6 at 8 P.M.

Foghorn Trio The Foghorn Trio is Caleb Klauder and Stephen "Sammy" Lind, the foundation of the internationally acclaimed Foghorn Stringband from Portland along with Nadine Landry of the band Hungry Hill. On this southern tour, they will be playing old-time and country fiddle tunes and songs, drawing on material from both Foghorn and The Caleb Klauder Country Band.

While Caleb Klauder and Stephen "Sammy" Lind continue to play with the Foghorn Stringband, they are working together on several other projects. They often play as the Foghorn Duo and continue to travel the world playing with various folks, sometimes as Dirk Powell's or Justin Townes Earle's band, sometimes as the rhythm section for Balfa Toujours, or with special projects like Going Across the Sea. Caleb and Sammy recorded Lonesome Song in the spring of 2008. It's an excellent recording of mostly traditional songs, done in one day, just the two of them trading off on instruments.

$12 JCA Members, Students, Seniors 65+
$13 General Advance
$14 General Day of Show
$7 Children 12 and under

Thanks Hunter for notifying me about this.

October 10, 2009

The Young Uns

This is a fantastic video of young kinds playing
Harvest Home - Fisher's Hornpipe - Boys of Blue Hill. Extremely well done. I only hope to be able to play like that some day.

September 27, 2009

Versions of Waterbound

One of my many, many favorite tunes is Waterbound. There are two oft-played versions of this tune. The version I like and am familiar with go something like this:


But the other version that seems to be more widespread was popularized by the incredibly talented Dirk Powell. Clearly the second version is much more of a sorrowful tune. You can tell it's related, but the mood and tempo are for a different setting entirely. Notice the Foghorn Duo playing along on this one as well:


Lonesome Road Blues

There are very few people who can play quite like Sammy Lind of Foghorn. I saw the whole band do this one at Pickathon 2009, but I like this version too.

September 25, 2009

Gray Eagle: Night Vision Style

I find this tune really interesting because it has like 10,000 versions. I mean really, nobody plays this the same way. Soldier's Joy, one of the most common tunes, has many styles as well, but each time you could recognize and say, yeah, that's Soldier's Joy. Not so with Gray Eagle.

Here's yet another version by the wonderful Larry Dent, playing in my home state, old KY, and close to my hometown no less:


September 08, 2009

Fretless Banjo

Not sure the name of this tune here, but I really like it, and I like the sound of a fretless banjo. It takes the ring out of the sound and makes it more plucky, more primitive sounding.


August 24, 2009

Clifftop 2009

Unfortunately I haven't been able to post much lately because school is back in, which cruelly takes away my time. I did want to make one quick post though because I like this video so much.

It's from Clifftop 2009, taken during a rainy day. I just like the way they play; so calm, controlled, and simple. This video makes playing the violin look easy.


August 19, 2009

Overdue for a Post

I have recently had the displeasure of doing a full system recovery, so I lost all my music and am in the process of getting it back. Bad timing too, because school started today.

I'm still on the prowl for good old-time music that surfaces on the web. Recently I came across the YouTube channel of malong1852 and was pleasantly surprised. This is one of the best home-recording channels I've come across in a long time. The sound is clear, the videos are high quality, and the music is always top notch.

Here are few entries from that channel. There are lots more, so go check them out.

Another one of my favorites from here that I've been inspired to learn is "Goodbye My Honey I'm Gone."

July 13, 2009

YPM Edition 7B: Farewell Tunes

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 7B: Farewell Tunes

Continuing with the theme of farewell tunes, this time I'm featuring James Scott Skinner's "Hector the Hero." I learned about the tune from when I went to a Four Leaf Peat concert in Knoxville, although I had heard it before.

It was the best part of the show, I thought, when they played this tune. They explained that many in the band had experienced the unexpected loss of a loved one recently, and dedicated the tune to everyone who had a similar painful experience.

When you hear the tune, it's hard not to feel the melancholy that it evokes. Skinner wrote the tune in honor of a late friend who had recently committed suicide. The lament he expresses with the music is palpable.

There are many renditions of this tune. Here is Four Leaf Peat's version:
Hector the Hero

Here's a wonderful live version by Wolfstone:

In case you haven't had enough, here's one final rendition by Breabach:

Photo from Flickr user ceiteiren
Wolfstone video from YouTuber UISTMAN59
Breabach from YouTuber HelenH96

July 08, 2009

YPM Edition 6D: Online Instruction

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 6D: Online Instruction

In my final installment of helpful (free) online old-time instruction, here's a few more standard tunes that are easy to teach yourself.

First up is a tune called Liberty:

Here's Billy in the Lowground, which I've probably featured on here before because it's such a nice tune.

Finally, here's a tune that I don't hear out, well, ever, but is easy to learn how to play and is a good practice tune. By the way, this guy, David Kaynor, has a ton of videos like this. You can search for more of his stuff on or on YouTube. This tune is West End.

Photo from Flickr user Pic-O-Fest
Videos from YouTubers ExpertVillage and

July 03, 2009

Old-Time in the NYT

Just a heads up if you're interested: the New York Times has a feature about Fiddler's Grove in North Carolina, including a audio slideshow.

They're pretty stingy with their media so I can't embed anything here, but check it if you're interested in learning more about that and other festivals.

Here's a little excerpt:
Old-time and bluegrass music festivals have become a summer ritual all around the country, but nowhere is the experience quite the same as in the Southern Appalachians, the music’s birthplace. Popular events in Galax, Va.; Mount Airy, N.C.; and Clifftop, W.Va., draw zealous fans and gifted musicians. Fiddler’s Grove may not be the largest or best known of the major festivals, but its claim to fame is that it’s the oldest continuously held one.

Image from Flickr user Rae Hartsock

Update from 7/10: Friends of Old Time Music blog has a link to buy or download recordings of the 1962 Fiddler's Convention.

June 30, 2009

Poor Benny

I'll get back to posting in the weekly theme format soon, but I wanted to write about Poor Benny before I moved on. I got their album as a gift recently and was very impressed. They have a true old-time sound; nothing flashy, no embellished solos, and not super polished. In the liner notes of the albums it says they have worked with renowned old-time player Bruce Greene, and it shows. If you get a chance to see them or buy the album, you should do it.

Here's a description of the band from their website:
Poor Benny plays old-time string band music with Clayton Schanilec, fiddle, Corey Mohan, banjo and Dave Furniss on guitar. The Poor Benny repertoire includes traditional fiddle tunes, vocal numbers from such legendary performers as Uncle Dave Macon, Charlie Poole, and Clarence Ashley, as well as traditional percussive dance.
Check out their website to hear a few tunes. Here are a few videos of them playing out.

And for the dancing fans out there:

Credits: Video from YouTuber eleventeentimes

June 27, 2009

YPM Edition 5D: West Virginia Festivals

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 5D: West Virginia Festivals

The final entry in my series on WV festivals is on the West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville, WV. Everyone I've heard refer to it just calls it the Glenville Folk Festival.

Anyway, this is one of the smaller festivals as well, but there are lots of great players that have played there, including Dave Bing, Joe Dobbs, Lester McCumbers, Buddy Griffin, and Dave O'Dell. I really like these smaller festivals that feature mostly people from the area. You get a real sense of the unique repertoire of central West Virginia and of how people play the tunes. Everywhere does it a little differently.

Like the Jackson's Mill Festival, it has struggled in recent years with attendance, especially when compared to Clifftop. For the sake of the towns that support these smaller festivals and for the music they preserve, I hope they recover.

Anyhow, here are a few clips from Glenville. First up is Lester McCumbers, a relatively well-known old-time player from West Virgina.

Next, the video quality is poor, but the sound is worth it. Here's Gerry Milnes playing "Give the Fiddler a Dram."

Credits: Videos from YouTubers YewPiney and 1angolier

June 25, 2009

YPM Edition 5C: West Virginia Festivals

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 5C: West Virginia Festivals
Continuing with the theme for this week of West Virginia' s music festivals (or gatherings, in some cases), let's take a look/listen at Vandalia. This event takes place in Charleston, right on the capitol grounds. There are lots of competitions for each instrument, and one thing I think is unique about it is you have to be a West Virginia resident to participate. Cuts out that riff-raff.

There is also a lie telling contest, which you can listen to here.

Goes without saying there is also lots of good music. Here's a few recent clips from the festival. I don't know the names of the tunes in this first video. I do know based on an unfortunate weekend that involved boredom, TBS, and Titanic, that when Leo takes Kate below deck to go to a real party with the Irish, they're playing this tune, just faster. Don't tell anyone about the Titanic reference.

The next video here features mountain dancing. The description of the video says, "People can say what they want about WV - this was a good time!"

Videos from YouTubers dantompkins and wrandyrice
Photo from Vandalia homepage

June 23, 2009

Quick Note

Just a procedural note here. I couldn't figure out how to make the comments dialogue show up before, but after some experimentation with my template, it looks like it's back. So feel free to leave comments any time. I check almost daily so I'm likely to get back to you quickly if you have a question or anything like that.

June 21, 2009

YPM Edition 5A: West Virginia Festivals

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 5A: West Virginia Festivals

I was out all last week so I wasn't able to move forward with new content. I'm all back to normal now.

My theme this week is kind of a follow up of my extensive post on the Jackson's Mill Jubilee in Weston, WV.

Since the news came out that the Jubilee might not happen in 2009, lots of people have mobilized to try to keep it alive. It looks like something will happen this year... it will probably just look very different.

There are lots of opinions and strong emotions about the Jubilee and its survival (for one account of recent actions, read this letter to the editor written by Dave Miller of the WVU Extension Service). To give an extremely cursory view, there is disagreement about how (and whether) the Jubilee should change to attract new people and new ideas.

Despite all the differing opinions, one thing is for certain: the Jubilee needs people to attend if it is going to survive. The wife (and by extension me, but really it's her) are in the process of trying to figure out what we can do to help. One thing I think we can do is beef up the Jubilee's web presence. Right now the primary website has the information you need on it, but you don't get a great sense of exactly what you're in for if you wanted to get out to the Jubilee.
The Jubilee is a celebration of the rich heritage of Appalachia through historic and contemporary events. Over 200 musicians play "old time" music throughout the four day Labor Day event. Over 200 heritage craftsman display and demonstrate their wares in the barn area of the Mill, boyhood home of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. There are historic reenactments and an encampment provided by the Appalachian Rangers Muzzleloading Club allow Jubilee visitors to catch a glimpse of central West Virginia life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are glassblowing, woodchopping, and turkey calling demonstrations. West Virginians' contemporary heritage is celebrated through both the Fine Arts Exhibition and Photo Show. Central West Virginia's finest artists and photographers exhibit their works for Jubilee visitors. More traditional shows include the ever-popular Quilt Show and Needlearts Show. The Jubilee hosts the West Virginia Pie Baking Contest, heritage dancing, children's heritage games and more.
All of these activities are indeed there, and quite worth it I might add. But there isn't any media you can consume, no discussion board, not even any photos on the website. There are a lot of things that we could do to bring in more people to the Jubilee, and increasing its web presence is one of the most important, I think. Contrast the Jubilee's webpage with that of the much more popular Clifftop Festival. There are photo galleries, CDs to purchase (and, importantly, sample online) and an invitation to join their Facebook group. That's not why one festival is attended better than the other, but it sure doesn't hurt.

The sad thing is, I had recently purchased some recording equipment and a video camera to add to the Jubilee's media cache... but you know, now this happened. Not to worry, if the Jubilee happens this year, I'll be there, and do my best to document it myself.

So, the music. I mentioned that you can see some of the best musicians in North America play at the Jubilee. One of those is fiddler Bobby Taylor. At the last Jubilee, right before he played, I remember he said, "Well, it's Jubilee time again... thank God!" To me that kind of emphasized how much the festival means to those who attend. Bobby plays with multiple ensembles throughout the day, and is usually outside playing as well.

Unfortunately, there aren't too many videos of him playing that I can find. Here a few resources that I can find.

You can purchase and/or stream free samples of his tunes here.
You can here a sample of another tune, I believe it is a live recording, here.
You can see his discography and tour info at his website here.

That's the best I can do right now. Here is kind of an old video, before the days of YouTube if you can believe it, of him standing outside the barn, playing 'Billy in the Lowground' at the 1997 Jubilee. I can't identify everyone in the video, but the banjo player is Dave O'Dell, who has quite an impressive repertoire of old-time music as well.

Credits: Video from YouTuber cartoonhepcat

June 16, 2009

Check back next week!

Hello Everybody:
Just a quick post here. I'm out doing part of my real job out in Lincoln, Nebraska. And let me just say, Lincoln is awesome. Little Brown Jug Stringband is from here but unfortunately will not be overlap with my short time here. Blast!

Anyway, I don't have much time this week because of this job, but it ends Saturday and I'll be back to posting like normal. So check back on Sunday or Monday for new content.

As always, thanks for reading.

June 11, 2009

YPM Special Edition

Hey everybody. I just got news that my favorite West Virginia music festival, the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, will be canceled for 2009. It's an understatement to say that I'm extremely disappointed/depressed about this.

On my other blog, I wrote a lengthy piece about the festival and thought it would be appropriate here.

Here's my post copied in full:

If you know me, or if you've clicked around on my profile, you know that beyond geography and education, my real passion in life is old-time music.

I come from Appalachia where music is always nearby, and my in-laws (The Samples Brothers) are pretty well-known in West Virginia.

Old-time music is a great communal experience. The tunes are public domain, the community is always eager to teach, it's social... it's just fun.

Pretty much every state has one or more old-time festivals where people get together in the early summer or fall. West Virginia is particularly good about preserving its cultural heritage through traditional music and crafts festivals. Some of the more well-known festivals are Clifftop, Vandalia, and Augusta Heritage.

One of the lesser known festivals in the state is the Jackson's Mill Jubilee (officially the Stonewall Jackson Heritage Arts and Crafts Jubilee). The connection to Stonewall is that the site is his boyhood home, back when the state was still part of Virginia. The mill and some of the structures are still there, and today it's the site of a 4-H camp.

Since 1974, my in-laws and many of West Virginia's (and North America's, quite frankly) finest traditional musicians have spent Labor Day weekend playing music and buying and selling crafts at the Jubilee. It has always been smaller than some of the other festivals, but that was part of its charm. For many families that have been with the festival since the beginning, it's kind of like Christmas in September.

Interest and attendance have slowly dwindled since peaking in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Every year there was talk of having to drop the festival all together. In 2008, with the economy completely in the gutter, attendance was down... way down. Immediately it became difficult to finance the operation through gate admissions.

Aside from gate admissions, a big source of revenue for the festival has been to rent a space to artists and crafters. In the past, festivals like the Jubilee were the best place to get those handmade traditional products. Now, with gas expensive and attendance at festivals down, it's more worth it for a crafter to stay home and sell on sites like Etsy or other web stores. For those same reasons, it's more worth it for consumers to stay at home and just order online.

As if those two financial difficulties were not enough, the traditional financier, WVU-Extension, has also had to make budget adjustments, and we all know how the arts tend to fare during budget discussions.

These three blows, all related to the recession in their own way, finally took the Jubilee down this year. As the Weston Democrat reports:
In an emergency session Monday night, the board of directors of the Stonewall Jackson Heritage Arts and Crafts Jubilee made a difficult decision. Following a lengthy and sad and sober discussion, they overwhelmingly voted to cancel this year’s Jubilee, an event which has been held over Labor Day weekend at WVU-Jackson’s Mill for the past 35 years. The decision came five days after Jubilee president Debra Walker received a letter from David Miller, Associate Provost, West Virginia University Extension, saying that they would be bowing out of the event. After contacting his office two more times, they found out that the $50,000-$75,000 financial sponsorship of the Jubilee as promised by him in a meeting in January would not be forthcoming.
Most of the recession stories I've read thus far have not pertained to me. I don't own property or a house. I don't have investments. I don't work in the financial industry. It's hard to put into words, but this one stings. This disrupts a significant cultural heritage event, it means family and friends won't be getting together, and it could speed up the decline of traditional culture in Appalachia.

On the one hand, my post here is a personal story about the recession... something that almost everybody has. On the other hand, I think there is something here that people beyond my personal sphere can appreciate.

While we celebrate how the web decentralizes and democratizes the arts, how it opens up shops to more customers for more crafters, we also need to be aware of what we're giving up. People getting together means something. Being able to do a custom search on Etsy is nice, but not if it comes at the expense of actual craft shows. Being able to download music and see videos online about old-time music is nice, but not if it means the death of festivals.

I realize that the closure of the Jubilee has more to do with the recession than with the internet. But the internet does play an undeniable role in the revenue generated from the crafters. Some people paid admission just for that. When then crafters stopped coming, rents went down, and so did admissions.

In reality, Etsy and actual craft shows will co-exist, they may even bolster each other. But the benefits will likely accrue in particular places. The Portlands of the world, the Bostons, the Albuquerques, they'll be fine. People live there already, they don't have to go out their way; in academic terms, they benefit from agglomeration effects. The Westons of the world, the places that are harder and more expensive to get to, the small towns... they will likely suffer. It's good for the customer, it's good for the seller, but it's not good for the community in those instances.

That's why geography will continue to matter in the digital age. Instead of the internet bringing about the "death of distance" like many people expected, the internet increases the relevance of place. Paradoxically, since some communication and economic activity can be diffused by using the web, some communities will be left out. Geographic differences will be more pronounced. When it comes to communal experiences, distance will matter even more.

We need to ask ourselves if a "flat world" is what we truly want. Part of the beauty of art is being able to interact with the artist. The joy of music is best appreciated live; this is especially true of old-time music, which is an experience that cannot be downloaded. As I've said many times on here, I love the internet, I'm not one to denounce change just because it's different. I do think, however, that the way we think about the digital age needs to be more grounded in reality. That reality should include places that are left out; god knows there are lots of them.

The music and arts in Weston will survive, no doubt, but they will take a severe blow this year. It's been hard news to take. Hopefully next year it will be back, and hopefully it will be able to pick up where it left off.

Here I can show you what you're missing, but it's just a crude facsimile. This is more of an experience than it is a audio/visual exercise. Nonetheless, here's a taste from the 2008 Jubilee. In what I hope was not their last performance there, here's my in-laws playing through their set.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons license "attribution-noncommercial-no derivative works" from Flickr user SpoiltCat

YPM Edition 4C: Old-Time in Canada

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 4C: Old-Time in Canada

Erynn Marshall, from Victoria BC, is one of the most highly regarded old-time fiddlers in North America.

You can hear more of her stuff on MySpace, here streaming MP3s and read press releases here, and hear samples of her with the Haints here.

She is also very involved in many West Virgina old-time music festivals has a tremendous wealth of knowledge of music from that area.

Here she is playing in a West Virginia festival (Clifftop) and playing a West Virginia tune (from French Carpenter).

Credits: Video from YouTuber YewPineyMountain

May 23, 2009

YPM Edition 2a: Carolina Chocolate Drops

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain: Edition 2a

Taking a look at my post from earlier in the week, I didn't really like it. It's too big. I'd rather just put up frequent short posts. But I do like the Ira Glass idea: each week we bring you a theme, and bring you a number of variations on that theme.

So this week, I'm going to explore Western North Carolina and the Piedmont Region.

First up, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Few people have been more successful at reviving traditional old-time music from the Carolina Piedmont region. The group is also one of only a few that highlights the tremendous African-American influence in US old-time music.
Here they are in documentary-style promotional video produced for UNC-TV's Our State:

Our State - The Carolina Chocolate Drops from Pete Bell on Vimeo.

May 14, 2009

Thinking About New Format

Hello Everybody:
I've been thinking about making a couple of changes to the blog here. Instead of posting everyday or every other day, I thinking of making it like a weekly webzine. I'll still post the same number of tunes and videos, but I might do some research on the tunes and add more of my own commentary. I also just ordered a high-quality recorder so if I'm brave, I'll post some of my own versions of tunes.

Just letting you know, in case you check here frequently, that if you don't see any updates for a few days at a time, I'm still maintaining everything here, just less often. I'll put out an "edition" either on Saturdays or Sundays. Now don't go burning through all the content in one day!

May 09, 2009

Tunes I'm working on

One thing I like about the old-time music scene is that it's such a communal experience. Anyone can get together with friends and family and listen or play tunes. Everybody has their own way of playing and people tend to be very happy to share nuances and learn new things.

I'm in the process of learning some new tunes now, which I will do by combining the MP3s posted here with input from other players I know locally. If you're reading this and play, you likely do the same thing.

Anyway, in case you're interested, right now I'm learning these tunes, each of which you can search for and find on here:
  • Gray Eagle
  • Frost Morning
  • Dinah
  • Old Time Liza Jane (aka Liza Jane, Little Liza Jane, not to be confused with the Liza Jane the Samples Brothers do, that's a different tune.)
  • I'm polishing up Whiskey Before Breakfast.
What are you learning?

April 28, 2009

Say, Darling, Say

When I saw the Fox Hunt the other day they played this tune. It sounds really familiar but I actually haven't heard any of the old timers do it in West Virginia. I'm sure they do, or have done it in the past, I just haven't heard it much.

Just the same, here's a really nice version. Great fiddling.

April 27, 2009

West Virginia All-Stars

Stumbled across this video today. It's kind of like an all-star compilation of some of West Virginia's best old-time players, including Dave Bing and John Morris. I'm sure there are others there that I just don't recognize. Always interesting to see these candid shots.

One of the tunes in there is a personal favorite, Girl I Left Behind Me.

April 26, 2009

French-Canadian Tunes

Came across these tunes today and loved them. There's a lot of great fiddle music out Quebec and these are two of them. I'm less familiar with this whole genre so I can't really offer any clever insights except to look more French-Canadian tunes up. Genticorum is perhaps the best modern recorded example of French-Canadian tradition. Enjoy.

April 24, 2009

Adam Hurt: New River Train

One of the best banjo players I've heard is Adam Hurt. Here he is with New River Train. I have an old-timey recording of this somewhere that I'll post later to compare. I like his playing better though because it's so clean and precise and he's not in a hurry.

April 19, 2009

Haste to the Wedding: Irish Pub Style

Here's a more fiddle-friendly version from an Irish pub. It comes complete with people in the background humming the melody. I'll post a scratchy old-time version of this tune tomorrow.

In the meantime... I found a slightly more professional version of the tune by the Corrs, who actually do play well. Remind too much of Wilson Phillips for comfort... don't know why, but it keeps me from being a fan. Nonetheless, here you go.

April 18, 2009

Ragtime Annie

Thank you sizefam4, great version of Ragtime Annie. See also sizefam1, 2, and 3 for alternate versions... ok that's a joke. But seriously, I like this tune.

April 17, 2009

Jimmy Johnson w/ commentary

Many I'm really grateful Old Time Music for posted a link to this guy originally. In this post he's talking about the Carpenter family, which I alluded to earlier in reference to Elsick's Farewell. Enjoy the tunes and the commentary.

By the way, I'm going to see the Fox Hunt here on Tuesday. That should be a good time. If I can I'll try to get a tune or two from there.

April 12, 2009

Who Broke the Lock: Little Brown Jug Band

This has become one of my favorite old-time bands. They have all kinds of stuff on YouTube, and their website is here:

I'm going to be in Lincoln this summer, where this was filmed, hopefully they'll be there again.

April 10, 2009

North Carolina Breakdown: West Virginia style

These guys are family friends. I stumbled across them on the internet the other day. In fact John Preston, the bass in the back there, played at my wedding. Dave Odell, the banjo, is one of the better musicians in West Virginia. Here they are with North Carolina Breakdown.

Mark Campbell

I have a feeling I'm going to go through a Mark Campbell phase now that I've run into his stuff on the internet. I discovered it via Old Time Music on Typepad.

This tune is Ducks on the Millpond. I like this video because it's really clear how they are bowing and easy to follow along.

Here's the MP3 for this tune if you'd like to download it, put it on your iPod or website or whatever.

Ducks on the Millpond MP3

April 07, 2009

Elsick's Farewell

This tune has a story behind that I'm not sure I'm sold on, but I haven't heard otherwise either. My father-in-law's family is from the county line between Kanawha County and Clay County, WV. One of his brother's told me that this tune originated during the time of the Civil War by a family near them that is still around, the Carpenter's (of Ernie Carpenter).

He told me that when brother Elsick Carpenter was going off to fight for the Union (I believe he told me it was the Union) one of his relative's wrote him this tune, and that's why it's called Elsick's Farewell.

He could have told me that just to mess with me, I don't know, but it seemed legit.

Or if you prefer, here's the fiddle version by the very talented John Morris, who I believe is from Clay County, WV.

Live Jam in Harper's Ferry

Surprisingly good sound for a band this big. You can hear the banjo really well.

April 05, 2009


I heard this tune today on WDVX, a local radio station that plays decent old-time sets on Sundays, and it was killing me because I'd heard it before but couldn't place it. The video above unfortunately cuts the playing short, but it's from Elkins, WV so I had to include.

If you're interested in learning the tune or hearing a longer version, click here to go to another video that has embedding disabled.

April 03, 2009

Walnut Gap and Ducks on a Millpond

Always nice to see the young kids learning the tunes.

Here's the same instructor playing Ducks on a Millpond, which is a very nice old-time tune.

April 02, 2009

Live from Purple Fiddle

This tune isn't especially old-time, but I kind of like it. Plus it's from the Purple Fiddle in Thomas WV.

March 21, 2009

Louisville Breakdown

I stumbled across this in my YouTube subscriptions and realized that this fiddler also keeps a blog about sustainable farming as well as old-time music if you're interested.

This second video is the same tune just played in a different setting with more instruments. The first is good as kind of an instructional video.

March 17, 2009

Four Leaf Peat: Post Game

I saw Four Leaf Peat tonight (and made it home to watch my somewhat embarrassing UK Wildcats play) and it was worth it. They are seriously talented.

The best moment of the show for me was when they played James Scott Skinner's "Hector the Hero" and dedicated to recently passed loved ones. Any time you get to hear a Skinner tune out it's a treat, and under those circumstances it was even nicer.

Here's a collection of reels, but I encourage you to also buy the cd here.

The Green Fields of Miltown/The Long Drop/Callaghan's MP3

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm watching some Irish music tonight. In the meantime, here's Ashley MacIsaac playing celtic tunes with Quinn Banchand.

March 16, 2009

Cigar Box Fiddle

I have to get one of these someday... right after I spend that other money I don't have.

Girl I Left Behind Me

I've generally had a hard time on YouTube finding this tune, so this is one of the better versions I could find. It's followed by Red Wing. Generally I want a little more grit out of my old-time music, but this will do.

Ida Red

Here's Lester McCumbers again playing Ida Red. This was filmed at the Glenville Festival of 2006.

March 15, 2009

John Brown's Dream

This is quite interesting. There are whole series of videos on YouTube that feature old-time music in Japan, and this one has what appears to be a Japanese clogger.

March 14, 2009

Hangman's Reel

This is a fun four-part tune to play. This was recorded out at Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV.

New Cut Road

People that frequent West Virginia festivals will no doubt recognize these guys (Frank George on Fiddle, David O'Dell on banjo, Jimmy Costa on guitar). The tune is cut off, but I like the way these guys play.

March 13, 2009

Battle of New Orleans

This is a really nice version of Battle of New Orleans (aka 8th of January) by Little Brown Jug Band. The tempo on this is just right. A lot of people play this tune too fast.

Four Leaf Peat in Concert

Going to see Four Leaf Peat (see my previous post about them) this Tuesday at the Square Room in Knoxville. If you're in the area you should go. I got my tickets from here. After that it's off to freezing Snowshoe, WV, for a little family visiting.

March 12, 2009

Live from Clifftop

Not 100% certain, but this tune sounds a lot like Cumberland Gap to me. Anybody know any different? Wonderful tune whatever it is.

March 11, 2009

North Carolina Breakdown

This is a video I stumbled upon a while ago but it's still my favorite version of this tune that I've heard yet. It features Erynn Marshall among many others.

March 10, 2009

Temperance Reel

Here's Joe Dobbs playing Temperance Reel at the 2007 Jackson's Mill. I have a photo of him wearing that same shirt.... from 2008. Coincidence? Probably.

March 09, 2009

Pictures from Jackson's Mill

These are a little old, from the Summer of 2008. I took these at Jackson's Mill in West Virginia. Many of them are of the Samples Brothers, but there's a few others in there as well, including Dave Bing and Buddy Griffin.

March 06, 2009

Seneca Square Dance: Instructional

I always like this guy's instructional videos. Here's "that guy" playing Seneca Square Dance.

The Fox Hunt

I saw this band (The Fox Hunt) over on Fiddle Freak and when I learned they were from West Virginia I couldn't resist talking about it here. Go over there and check out some of their MP3s.

Here's an excerpt from Stuart Mason of Fiddle Freak:
This just in… West by-God Virginia has spawned another band of bad boys with an outlaw attitude that play real-deal oldtime mountain music. The Fox Hunt have released their second record, titled America’s Working So We Don’t Have To, on Skull City Records.

March 04, 2009

Lester McCumbers Plays Yew Piney Mountain

How could I not post this tune? This video is mostly the story of Lester McCumbers, which is worth watching, but if you just want to hear the tune it starts at 4:34. For what it's worth, the two people playing with him are regulars at Jackson's Mill in West Virginia and both are fantastic players in their own right.

March 03, 2009

Bill Bailey

Here's my in-laws (Samples Brothers) playing a fun tune called Bill Bailey. It was recorded live with friends back in the 1970s.

Bill Bailey MP3

March 02, 2009

Booth Shot Lincoln

This is one of my favorite old-time tunes, Booth Shot Lincoln. I really like the tempo these guys play at here. If you're trying to follow along, this tune is a little easier to play in cross tuning, either AEAE or GDGD.

March 01, 2009

Four Leaf Peat

This band is from Knoxville. They play a lot of Irish and Celtic traditional tunes. I heard on an interview that they met first at Patrick Sullivan's, a local bar that offers free Celtic music on Thursday nights.

Check out their MySpace page here for some of their tunes.

Old Mother Flanagan: Lester McCumbers

A lot of people are familiar with Lester McCumbers. He's kind of a legend in West Virginia. Here's a good example of why.

February 28, 2009

Genticorum in WV

I've put stuff about this band on here before. Genticorum is from Quebec, and their sound is really enjoyable. The fiddle player is excellent.

February 26, 2009


Here's the same guy as in "Jordan Am A Hard Road to Travel" doing another hard to find tune, Boatman. Well done AppalachianNoir.

Jordan am a Hard Road to Travel

Man this tune is hard to find. This guy does a great job with it. It was also redone later, during or following the Civil War, as "Richmond Am A Hard to Travel."

Benton Flippen: Soldier's Joy

I love seeing the old timers play. I've probably put a lot of posts on here with Soldier's Joy already, but it's such a good tune.

Train on the Island

This is an interesting video of OCMS playing Train on the Island about 100x too fast.

February 24, 2009

One-Armed Playing

Does this video really need any commentary?....

Wild Goose Chase

Ever wanted to punch a guy in the face for a video? You will:

Here's a way less annoying video, same tune with no bowing instructions.

February 15, 2009

Jig Bowing

This video is from Expert Village, which is a great resource for free fiddle instruction. This video is something I want to work on, Jig Bowing. This is what I really love about fiddle and old-time music in particular... you can do it yourself. You don't need expensive lessons, you just need to want to do it.

February 13, 2009

Johnny Don't Get Drunk

This guy's stuff is always great if you're trying to learn new tunes.

February 10, 2009

What's on my iPod: Part 3

Here are five random tunes on my iPod:

"Old Bunch Keys" by Uncle Earl, on She Waits for Night
"Sweethearts" by Camper Van Beethoven, on Key Lime Pie
"Lost Indian" by John Hartford, on Speed of the Old Bow
"Western Country" by The Iron Mountain String Band, on Iron Mountain String Band
"Motion Picture Soundtrack" by Radiohead, on Kid A

February 09, 2009

Yes We Can


February 07, 2009

What's on my iPod: Part 2

I did this yesterday, and I'll do it again today. Here are the five tunes that come up randomly on my iPod today.

"Morehead" by Dirk Powell, from If I Go Ten Thousand Miles
"Sourwood Mountain" by the Iron Mountain String Band, from Someday We'll Meet Again
"Dramamine" covered by Sun Kil Moon, from Tiny Cities
"Fair Morning Hornpipe" by Adam Hurt, from Insight
"Susannah Gal" by Frank Bode/Tommy Jarrell, from Smithsonian Folkways Classic Old-Time Music

February 06, 2009

James Scott Skinner Tunes

If you want to feel bad about your playing, watch this guy play some James Scott Skinner. There isn't enough Skinner out there on YouTube... must find other sources.

What's on my iPod: Part 1

I have a modest collection of music in my iPod, around 500 tunes. Here are the five tunes that randomly come up using the shuffle feature:

"Stony Point" by Jim Taylor, from The Civil War Collection
"Kamera" by Wilco, from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
"Down Home Girl" by OCMS, from Big Iron World
"Kid A" by Radiohead, from Kid A
"Bill Cheatam" by Kentucky Foothill Ramblers, from a field recording (which I will link to eventually)

February 05, 2009

OCMS - Soldier's Joy

Another old standard from OCMS.

OCMS - Old Molly Hare

When OCMS plays from the old-timey repertoire, it's about double break neck speed. This is not the best recording, but I like to see them do old standards

Dusty Miller

I recommend this guy's YouTube profile... lots of good tunes, some of them are tutorials on how to play certain tunes.