Friday, November 25
A Tribute to Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
featuring Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, Kevin Barrans & Friends, Ben Fisher, RedDog, Folichon Cajun Band, Pacific NW Sacred Harp Singers, Norman Baker, Virgin of the Birds, Jeremy Burk, Sokai Stilhed, Colin J Nelson, and special animation by Drew Christie
Free Harry Smith Compilation CD with Entry (courtesy of Ball of Wax)
Columbia City Theater
4916 Rainier Ave S.
Tickets $10 adv/$15 door
Show at 9pm
The gnomish genius and Bellingham native Harry Smith was renowned for his psychedelic paintings, mad knowledge of the most arcane corners of human lore, and frightening intensity. But mostly he's known for his seminal "Anthology of American Folk Music." Originally released as three volumes of LPs, the music on the "mixtapes" was a loving ode to the weird, dark recesses of American roots music. Culled from his collection of 78rpm records, the Anthology introduced America to lost artists like Dock Boggs, Charlie Poole, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, and entire genres of Americana, like Cajun music or Sacred Harp singing. The influence of Harry Smith's Anthology is still felt today, and on November 25, Seattle's Columbia City Theater will host multiple generations of Northwest artists who've been inspired by the Anthology.
Levi Fuller's Ball of Wax is co-presenting this show along with American Standard Time and Hearth Music. Levi's kind of like a modern Harry Smith, minus Smith's bizarre habits and strange hygiene. For years he's been compiling albums of Northwest musicians, digging deep into our local scene to move beyond the usual list of "accepted" bands in town. His musical tastes roam all over the map, and we've been working together to develop a lineup that can do some kind of justice to the mystical eclecticism of Smith's masterpiece. For this show, Levi's put together a compilation of Northwest artists covering songs from Smith's Anthology. This CD comes free with entry to the show!
We're very proud to present Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, one of the best roots music songwriters around and an artist who really gets the heart and soul of Smith's old-timey music collection. Kevin Barrans of the Maldives will be joining us as well, a NW banjo player and Sacred Harp singer who will also bring along the Pacific NW Sacred Harp Singers. If you've never experience live sacred harp singing, it's a hair-raising experience, full of harmonies eerie enough to echo back from the depths of a sin-ridden hell. Seattle's favorite old-time stringband RedDog will contribute some songs, featuring Doug Yule of the Velvet Underground on voice and fiddle, Folichon Cajun Band will plumb the depths of Smith's Cajun collection, and Levi's got a whole host of surprising guests from the indie roots scene, like Virgin of the Birds, Ben Fisher, Sokai Stilhed and more.
As a very special treat, Seattle animator and mad genius Drew Christie will premier a new animation based on John Cohen's (New Lost City Ramblers) meeting with Harry Smith. You can check out Christie's previous film on Cohen here:
10/25/2011 | comments (0)
Each year, the massive behemoth of festival anarchy that is the Northwest Folklife Festival releases a compilation album of live recordings drawn from their huge pool of festival performances. I used to work on these when I was at Folklife, so I know how hard it is to search through the many recordings. In fact, you can listen to a lot of these recordings yourself, if you're interested. Folklife maintains a page on their website of recorded performances from the last festival. There's a ton of listening there! Check it out:
Listen to past Folklife recordings
The best things about the annual Northwest Folklife Festival are the crazy juxtapositions of music genres. No other festival can give you reggae, taiko drumming, old-time stringbands, indie rock, Zimbabwean marimba, and underground hip-hop on the same stage on the same day, one after the other. And that's the best thing about Folklife's new compilation album, Roots & Branches Vol. 3 - Live from the 2011 Festival. As in the making of any good mixtape, the tracks meld together despite the wildly disparate genres. You wouldn't think that the barn-burning bluegrass of Nell Robinson with John Reischman & The Jaybirds could segue into the bagpipe/fiddle music of renowned Celtic band Molly's Revenge, or that the drunken-master surf guitars of The Corespondents could switch over to the Latin-funk of Picoso. Balkan accordion from Mary Sherhart & Michael Lawson finds an unlikely friend in the old-time picking and clogging of Squirrel Butter, and old-school funk masters Wheedle's Groove segue perfectly into the sleepy electric blues of The Jelly Rollers. It's a wild ride, and like the festival itself, you never know where this album is going to take you next.
The Corespondents: Massive Choosits
The Jelly Rollers: Reno Factory
NW Friends: TONIGHT (Friday, Oct 21), Northwest Folklife is hosting a CD Release Party at Columbia City Theater! Spoonshine, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, The Corespondents, Mary Sherhart, and Chris Cunningham of Ravenna Woods, will be performing. It will be great fun!
10/21/2011 | comments (0)
We're always happy to host a guest blog from our resident accordion expert, Dr. Squeeze. Here he writes about the new album from two Irish master musicians: Jackie Daly (accordion) & Matt Cranitch (fiddle).
Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch's Irish Roots
by Dr. Squeeze
I have always been a huge fan of Jackie Daly. I admired an early photo of him with his gentle elfish looks and macho tattoo from his early days in the Merchant Marine. He had the look of a gnarly box-playing seaman who had knocked around the far-away ports of the world, picking up tunes and bar fights. I was impressed that he was a master of not only the C#/D box, but the B/C box, the Melodeon, and the Concertina. His first CD set the tone for the rest of his repertoire – the seminal, unaccompanied Music From Sliabh Luachra that came out in 1977 and featured the famous tattoo photo along with never before heard tunes from an unknown region of Ireland. After a diet of Sligo and Clare tunes, Jackie’s introduction to the music of his home was authentic and refreshing. He then became the first of the De Danann accordionists, appearing on their CD’s from 1980 to 1985. Some critics think that it’s thanks to his playing that the accordion went from a dance band instrument (think Jimmy Shand) to a concert-stage instrument. Jackie Daly has played with many of the great Irish fiddlers, including Seamus Creagh (Jackie Daly agus Séamus Creagh 1977), Kevin Burke (If the Cap Fits 1978 and Eavesdropper 1981) and later in Patrick Street until 2007. He played with Séamus and Manus McGuire in Button and Bows.
Finally, in 2010 Jackie has teamed up with Matt Cranitch to return to his Sliabh Luachra roots in The Living Stream. In Gaelic, Sliabh Luachra means ‘the mountain of rushes.' It is a region of Munster, Ireland bordering the counties of Cork, Kerry, and Limerick. The music features many polkas and slides and the region boasts such legendary musicians as Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, Paddy Cronin, Padraig O’Keefe and Donal Murphy. In The Living Stream we have two great authorities, promoters, and performers of the Sliabh Luachra repertoire. Fiddler Matt Cranitch had already teamed up with Dónal Murphy on accordion in 1995 to produce a CD of music from Sliabh Luachra called Sliabh Notes (pronounced sleeve notes). [ed. -This album is one of our favorite Irish trad albums and is sadly out of print.] On The Living Stream Cranitch joins Jackie Daly to pay tribute to the great musicians and rich heritage of their home turf. They go back to their roots to present us the jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, barndances, slides and slow airs that are still played at set dances in their native counties. We hear tunes from Julia Clifford (The Tenpenny Bit and Art O’Keefe’s), from the collections of O’Neil’s and Breandán Breathnach (The Heather Breeze/Tap the Barrel/The New Mown Meadow), a hornpipe from Denis Murphy (An Trí is a Rian), some of Jackie’s compositions (The Kanturk Jig and An Ghlaise Bheo-The Living Stream). These are just a few of the gems to be found on this recording.
For more information on the music of Sliabh Luachra, here is an excellent and very comprehensive article by Terry Talarek King.
Matt Cranitch & Jackie Daly: The Tenpenny Bit/Art O'Keeffe's
Matt Cranitch & Jackie Daly: The Gullane Polka/The Blackwater Polkas
10/16/2011 | comments (0)
Next Gen Folk Column
Victory Music Review October 2011
Note: The Next Gen Folk column is intended to be more than just a perspective on roots musicians from a younger generation. The goal of the column is to show positive ways that different generations work together in roots music. The goal is to show how music is passed on and celebrated from generation to generation. The Congolese band Staff Benda Bilili is a powerful example of this kind of work.
Staff Benda Bilili. Très Très Fort.
2009. Crammed Discs.
When writing about music from Africa, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the stories behind the music. Africa has traditionally excited Western imaginations (and stereotypes) more than any other place. And sometimes the story is so powerful that you can’t ignore it, which gives the music a special meaning. This is the case with the Congolese ensemble Staff Benda Bilili. You just can’t make up a story like this.
The musicians of Staff Benda Bilili are handicapped and live on the streets outside the Jardins Zoologique in Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Riding around on motorized tricycles all day (local kids push them when the tricycles run out of gas),they hustle a living from the city streets. They’re surrounded by, and have taken in, street children, or sheges. One of these former street kids, Roger Landu, is also a stunning virtuoso in the band. A mere 17 years old, he built his own instrument: a one-string lute he calls a satonge. It’s got a tinny sound from the homemade materials (a coffee can), but despite its humble origins and single string, he blazes through guitar riffs that would stun any six-string instrumentalist. I can’t imagine the ingenuity and creativity it would take to rise above a life in the streets with an entirely hand-made, self-taught talent like that. All the members of Staff Benda Bilili have hard-won stories like this. One example is Bandleader Ricky Likabu who works many odd jobs, hustles alcohol and cigarettes from his tricycle outside clubs, and, according to the liner notes, still sleeps on cardboard in the streets.
But despite the hard-luck exterior image of the group, handicapped people in Kinshasa occupy a key role in the city (at least according to the album’s liner notes) running goods back and forth across the border (due to an exemption on customs taxes), and enjoying a reputation as fearless, well-educated, outspoken advocates for themselves and others less fortunate (the sheges, or street kids, whom they protect). This is reflected in the lyrics of Staff Benda Bilili, as they sing about the importance of polio vaccinations (their handicaps stem from polio afflictions as children), speak out against corporate control of food, present a call to action for Africans “Black man, get up, stand up, Africa is being destroyed./If Africans don’t unite they’re going nowhere/Africa belongs to Africans/Let us love and help each other,” and admonish those who would judge them, “Don’t judge the life of a man/one doesn’t choose one’s life.” The songs are sung in Lingala, and are heavily informed by Congolese music traditions which were themselves originally inspired by Cuban music that had traveled back to Africa. The more you look into the modern history of music, the more you see music turning in circles, traveling away from and returning to the source endlessly.
On the one hand the music of Staff Benda Bilili is a powerful testament to overcoming adversity, but on the other hand, it’s a more positive vision of life in the Congo. A sign that life goes on, no matter where you are or what your circumstances, and that hope unifies us all. Staff Benda Bilili are now touring internationally and have a critically acclaimed documentary of them making the festival rounds. In the song “Tonkara,” Staff Benda Bilili sing about chance, and how it can strike anyone at any time. “I once slept on cardboard/Good luck hit me, I bought myself a mattress/It can happen to you, to him, to them/A man is never finished/Chance can hit you without warning/It’s never too late in life/Someday I’ll make it too.” Think about the kind of chance that brought these street performers across the world and landed them brand-new careers as international stars. Now that’s an inspiring story.
Staff Benda Bilili: Moziki
Staff Benda Bilili Documentary
Roger Landu on the santonge
NOTE: This article first appeared in the Victory Music Review, a monthly publication for acoustic music lovers in the Pacific Northwest.
10/10/2011 | comments (0)
Note: This review originally appeared in Driftwood Magazine.
Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra vs. Fanfare Ciocarlia. Balkan Brass Battle.
2011. Asphalt Tango.
By now, Balkan brass is an accepted and much-loved part of the “world music” industry. Give thanks to Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica for this. His hallucinatory, rabidly-exciting scenes of gypsy life in the Balkans, though rife with stereotypes, are also so much fun that they sparked a huge love for this music in the West. Think a mix between O Brother Where Art Thou if it was set in Eastern Europe and the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie), and you have an idea of what his films are like. Classic Kusturica films include Underground, Time of the Gypsies, and Black Cat, White Cat. If you haven’t heard of Kusturica, drop what you’re doing right now and add Underground to the top of your Netflix queue. Seriously. It will blow your mind. Or if you’ve already seen his movies, drop everything and add Arizona Dream to your queue. It’s his foray into American film, and it’s totally insane. Starring Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, and Jerry Lewis, it’s a psychedelic romp through Southern Americana. Pure mad genius.
A key to Kusturica’s movies is his use of intense Balkan brass, and his integration of the brass bands into his film (see the Youtube clip from Underground). There’s something innate in Balkan brass; I think it’s a music you have to be born into. You can hear the desperation and anger of Eastern Europe’s Roma (not Gypsy, please) people in every note. This isn’t music to relax to; this is music to make your walls bounce. It’s frenetic and weird and overwhelming. And it’s infused with the party-or-die attitude of Eastern Europe. Balkan brass bands in concert put out a colossal amount of energy; I once saw someone fall into a canal, they were dancing so hard to the music. So the thought of bringing two Roma brass bands together, and two of the very best, is kind of staggering. And true enough, this battle between top ranked bands Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra (known for their playing in Kusturica’s movies) and Fanfare Ciocarlia (one of the best Balkan brass bands) is every bit as house-shaking as imagined.
Recorded in 48 hours in a Transylvanian hotel outside Castle Dracula (according to the press release), the ensuing album, Balkan Brass Battle, brings together these two giants of Balkan brass to cover such unusual material as the James Bond theme and the Gummy Bear song. And they produce stunning renditions of both, which may surprise you when you realize just how silly the Gummy Bear song is. On the Western covers, the beats are extra funky, channeling an almost funkadelic sound, and helping to tilt the axis away from the insanely frenetic sounds of Balkan brass. But the album really shines when the groups tear up traditional Balkan folk music. “Devla” is a hallucinatory romp through Balkan rhythms, with each group blasting back and forth. And tracks like “Topdzijsko Kolo” and “Dances from the Monestary Hills” give the listener a great intro to the true sounds of Balkan brass. Each band gets their time to shine with their own tracks on the album, and you can compare and contrast the bands via their alternate takes on Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.”
Many of the tracks have the oom-pa oom-pa beat usually associated with Oktoberfest polkas, but the rhythm is so jacked up that you’d probably injure yourself trying to dance to this music with a belly full of German beer. In fact, Roma brass music is so intense that injuries on the dance floor are not uncommon. These are the kind of bands that close out the night at an all-night Balkan dance party, probably breaking half the chairs in the place with their hard-partying dance music. Now you have a chance to bring home your own party with this collaborative album of Balkan brass.
Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra vs. Fanfare Ciocarlia: Devla
Opening Scene from Emir Kusturica's Underground
Trailer for Balkan Brass Battle
10/05/2011 | comments (0)
If you've been to Seattle's Dusty Strings Music Shop, you've likely met Molly Bauckham. She's a wispy elf of a lady who specializes in harps and friendly smiles. She's part of the Dusty Strings that I love, the open and caring music store that caters to our homey community of roots musicians. She's also a stellar Celtic harpist.
Her new album, Maid on the Shore, just came out. Recorded at Empty Sea Studios, the album features traditional and original Celtic tunes and songs. Molly's got a lovely, light touch on the harp and her voice rides a great line between classically trained and folk-informed. From what I've heard, the album is quite beautiful.
This Friday, Molly has a CD Release Party at Dusty Strings for her brand-new album of original and traditional Celtic music. She'll be joined by guests from Seattle's Celtic scene: John Peekstok (guitar/cittern), Sarah Bost (flute), and Richard Hill (backing vocals). Show up and support one of Seattle's friendliest folk musicians!
Friday, September 30
Molly Bauckham's CD Release Concert
Dusty Strings Music Shop
$15.00 (children under 12 $7.50)
Doors open @ 7:00 PM
Call 206-634-1662 (or toll-free 866-634-1662) to purchase tickets (or stop by
Molly Bauckham: Sheba's Bellybutton
Molly Bauckham: I Know My Love
ALSO: Dang, decisions decisions. Empty Sea Studios is holding an excellent concert Friday night as well. Cahalen Morrison, who you'll remember from the Hearth Music blogs (and Listening Lounge) will be soloing at the studios. This is a great chance to catch his powerful songwriting, at once informed by the deep undercurrents of old-time ballads and the lone, empty spaces of his childhood in New Mexico. PLUS Portland bard Huck Notari will be opening with Karin Nystrom. Together they sing beautiful, mellow, whispery dream folk music that we've found quite enchanting.
Cahalen Morrison & Huck Notari
Friday, September 30th, 8.00 PM
Empty Sea Studios
Tickets: $10 advance, $14 at the door.
Cahalen Morrison: Sweet Little Cob of Yellow Corn