Saturday, November 27, 2010

The State of Old Time Music in the Midwest

This blog is approaching it's one year anniversary and it seems appropriate to address the past year in what I have found out there and what kind of state the music scene is in these days.

I want to provide a kind of a summary of what and who is out there to help you plug into this broad "community" of Old Time music folk.

My goal for this blog was always to be a resource for others in this area of the midwest. That goal remains my primary motivation. I can provide no great expertise in musicianship nor can I claim to be a trained musicologist in this area.
I am a simple man who likes to (try) to play this music, I buy this music and I occasionally attend performances of this music. I listen to this music a great deal but not exclusively.

So my point of view is that of an enthusiastic consumer and participant. An eyewitness to what I find. Nothing more or less. There are others nearby that know a great deal more but they have not stepped forward to provide this service for the midwest.

Most others are more broadly based and not limited to the midwest. Some focus on an instrument. Some on a tradition or geographic area.
I am trying to bring this all together for you so it becomes a handy resource. I am still hoping to reorganize this blog better with more pages available and I need to spend the time to do that.

So having said all that here is my summary of resources and people out there that you should know about. It's not an exhaustive list but certainly a good starting point for you.


If your interested in learning about Fiddling and it's history in Missouri and the Missouri Valley (includes Neb and Mo and Iowa.) then the starting place is Charlie "Possum" Walden and his websites. Charlie has done a wonderful job of preserving the history of the tunes and fiddlers in our area. He deserves high praise and accolades for his efforts. There is no other place with so much information that I know of concerning fiddling in Missouri on the web.
Charlie is himself a particularly fine fiddler and has several recording which are well worth your owning. My own personal goal is to have each and every one of his albums eventually.
Charlie knows what he is talking about because he was born and raised in Missouri and learned his fiddling there. He personally knew and played with many of the fine old fiddlers of the past and competed in many fiddling contests in the past throughout Missouri. Unfortunately for us, he no longer lives in Missouri and seeing him play live is a rare treat for those who can attend certain festivals he attends each year. None of those are in Missouri.
Here are his websites. Do yourself a favor and drink deeply. The first website is called Missouri Fiddling Dot Com.
This should be your starting point for discovery. Recently he has updated the site and it looks even better than before.
An easily found link is found there of his Blog Missouri Fiddling Blog
If your a Facebook person, Charlie can be found on Facebook as well.!/profile.php?id=1129066495
Another easily found link there is to his Missouri Fiddling Traditions pages
If you have not heard "Possum" play, here is a great example. Perhaps my favorite clip of him playing.

Your next stop should be Banjo Billy Matthews. Banjo Billy is from the Northern Arkansas Southern Missouri area and has been at it since the late sixties or early seventies. A transplant from Colorado, he came to Arkansas as a kind of back to the lander and integrated himself into Ozark society and culture. He took up the fiddle and banjo has become one of the more important musicians that are preserving the old fiddle tunes as found in the Ozarks. It is a genuine treat to be able to attend a Banjo Billy concert. Especially if Colin Blair is sitting in like in this clip.

I will never forget that concert with Colin Blair and Banjo Billy at the old Mountain Music Shoppe in Shawnee ks several years ago.
Banjo Billy is an important living link to the living past that you need to check out for yourself. His recordings are like Moonshine right out of the still. It's potent stuff. No filters. It's the hard stuff uncut.

Gordon McCann is the one we all owe the most to when it comes to preservation of the Old Time Music as found in the Ozarks of Missouri. He spent decades recording fiddlers throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
To add to this, he played backup guitar with Art Galbraith for many years and is himself a particularly fine example of a back up.
I have been told by those who know that his style is a bit unusual and maybe so. In any case it is my favorite style. I will also add that he plays a really nice old triple ought Martin.
We get to enjoy the fruits of his labor through several recordings available to us today. The most important is the Rounder three disk series, "Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks". This is a must have for fiddle music aficionados.

Gordon McCann also is responsible for helping preserve the recordings of Lonnie Robertson which are also still available. One at least. Lonnies Breakdown.

A good article from the Musical Traditions magazine website from Great Britain, is found here. This is about three recordings by Lonnie Robertson, Fred Stoneking and Cyril Stinnett. They are helpful reviews well worth reading. There is a link to a nice article by Fred Stoneking himself with his reminiscences of Fiddling.

This is probably as good a place as any to mention the Musical Traditions website of Great Britain which has lots of good old timey info.
Only a small part of the data there is about Missouri or Ozark or Arkansas Old Time but what is there is good stuff. That's why it gets included here.

This will have to be a multi part posting as I am getting this done in slow motion and I feel I should post something soon.

I will expand on this for the next post. Stand by for part two. I expect several parts if I remain true to the inspiration I received.

Part two will focus on certain musicians and their links and info. I have posted about all of these folks previously and most of the info is already here if you dig into it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish to extend a Happy Thankgiving to all of you readers of this humble blog no matter where you are. Times are hard and hard things are happening but I can still say I have much to be thankful for. Who knows what next year will be in light of what has happened? It could get even worse. Still, I am thankful for what I have.
I will enjoy gathering around the table with family to enjoy a wonderful meal.
I hope you will find yourself with family as well or what serves as family and that your day will be a pleasant one.
I hope to begin blogging again later this weekend.
Thanks for coming here. I hope I have provided something good for you worth reading.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Slow blogging

I apologize for the slow blogging these days. My heart is just not in it at this moment in time. These spells seem to be getting longer in duration. I hope to return to posting pretty soon. I have the idea that a little retrenching into the core material would be called for. I have an idea for a post that is a kind of summation of what's out there for us here in the midwest. I will probably do that later this week. Sorry for the navel contemplation.

Meanwhile, it's time for one last cup of coffee and then off to finish my project.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Shape note singing for the soul

I'm going through a time when I see the need to be close to our Lord. Times are hard and I can feel Gods comforting presence more and more. I thought it would be good to hear some real old timey Shape note singing for this blog. It has a message from the past to you today if you can hear it.
The people who sang this was were people who lost babies routinely, were devastated by drought and crop failure and had no safety net to catch them.
So they learned to lean on the Lord. Just like me. I hope like you too. The Lord is a loving Father who is there for you. No matter what.
Enjoy these selections




Saturday, November 13, 2010

Standing in history and streams of consciousness

Forgive me this liberty to ramble a bit. I would like to offer a few meditations with a "slightly" broader perspective. Somehow I will relate this to music. Old Time music. Today I took my aging Pointer on her final hunt for the wiley Quail in N.E. Kansas. Coincidentally, this favored spot I return to again and again is located on the Oregon/California Trail in Nemaha County, NW of Seneca.
This branch of the trail was used during the Gold Rush phase in 49 and begins in St Joe Mo and extends to Marysville Ks.
I actually trod over ruts that remain from those wagons trudging up a hill and then eroding a permanent print upon the land. The Quail I shot was just a few feet from these ruts.
I know that out of the thousands of Argonauts that passed that way, a few of them had fiddles. It would be the lucky "train" that had a fiddler to entertain them on this long long journey. I actually do know that fiddles were present and you should not be surprised to know that we still play some of the same tunes they played then.
You might be amazed to learn that nearly everyone walked the whole distance. Only the most infirm elderly folks rode. Even very young children walked.
These folk were hardy. Much more so than us. They had a patience we lack.
We are piled on with distractions to a degree that it's a wonder we accomplish anything at all. Like learning new songs and how to play that instrument you bought or the new one sitting in your corner waiting for your attention. The old folks had only the basic concerns, like food, shelter. Us? Ipods, brainy cell phones that allow you to interact with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.
If that's not enough, the TV, Computer, video games, world news,politics and pending economic disaster and collapse compete with draining the last drop of blood from your soul.
Listen to the old folks who were more in tune (horrible pun) with life in the nitty gritty. Find out what's really important. I mean really important and act it.Cast off these impediments to your life and embrace the real.
I listened to Lonnie Robertson on the way out of town this morning and every time I hear him I am reminded how much I really really enjoy his playing.
Then I listened to the "Old and in the Way" Cd and their versions of the old Stanley Brothers 'hits' from the past.
Music really is a balm to the soul.
I knew I would end up taking a couple days to work this thread out here.
To further elaborate, I am talking about resuming some pattern of simplicity in our lives in a manner not unlike what our ancestors had.
The benefits are that we will provide a much clearer focus to the things we love and cherish. Like our music. Our families. Our faith. Our conscience.
When I pick up my guitar I have to fight the barrage of worry and concern that my experience in this world evokes. Hence, getting into it is hard and getting harder.
I have always had a tremendous sympathy with the Amish/Mennonites way. I just thought they took it too far and was too severe. At this point in my life I am re-evaluating that. The self imposed limitations of a simple life reap benefits that might be worth that but I am still not ready to go that far.
One big step I took was to find complete satisfaction in what I had for musical instruments. I had pushed hard and got my 'good' Martin guitar bought at some sacrifice and also got my backup rosewood dred bought too.
I used to have constant gas for other new "killer" guitars as well but I got over that.
I am lucky to have what I have and enjoy it a great deal. I am still not worthy of my Martin but in another year or two I think I will be.
I will just not give up on my learning the guitar. Yes,I know I have a long way to go. I am long long past the early days of the neophytes enthusiasm.
I don't post many long winded things like this. I hope I did not waste your time here. Kind of a ramble huh?
Oh yes! Time to reread Zen Guitar. Good book I recommend highly. Good ideas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There is more out there than you or me know

I am always amazed at the new players and folks I discover out there in this region of Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas and Nebraska and Iowa. There are a lot more folks out there playing this Old Time Music than we can see. The well is deeper than we think but admittedly we are scattered around some.
I hope you continue to share this journey of discovery with me some more. I know I am hooked. I hope you have learned some things you did not know before. I know I have.

"Sprout Wings and Fly" movie clip

I don't think I posted this before but if I did you probably don't remember anyway.
I love Tommy Jerrell. A lot.

I don't know if this movie is still available. Anyone know?

Who is Kathy Summers?

Dunno but she can play the fiddle.

Missouri State Fiddling Championships 2009

Junior Marriott Beats Prozac

I was having a bad day today. Just one of those days where you feel like your scrapping bottom and you lost the map to the ladder.
This evening I was checking in on Facebook and Fiddlin Arkansas posted a clip on Junior Marriott.
Honestly, I had failed to listen to him before and it was like shot of prozac when I heard him play. Seemingly effortless and smooth. Soothing to the soul. I know he has no idea how medicinal his playing can be.

Take a shot for your self.

This last one is a bit short. Too bad

I believe he is an Arkansawyer. I really don't know enough about him. Yet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Interesting Radio program here in KC metro

I just caught an interesting radio program that's on Saturday mornings at 10 am. on KCXL. Believers and Bluegrass. Today they had a square dance caller join them while fiddle tunes were played. Benny Martin was the fiddler on many of the tunes but these tunes were more generally true to Old Time than Bluegrass. Certainly some had a Bluegrass tinge but not so much.
Check it out. I will try to make it my habit to listen in every Saturday.
The host is strictly old school rural Missouri which in my humble opinion makes it all the more interesting.
We just don't have any Bluegrass on the Radio channels here locally as far as I know. I will have to research this some more. At least there is an hours worth on Saturdays. Give this a listen.