Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia

Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia


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The banjo, which originated in Africa, is a key -- but frequently missing -- link between African music and the blues. The four-and-five-stringed wonder was generally abandoned by black musicians not long after white men in blackface appropriated it for the minstrel stage. This record offers a rare opportunity to study the instrument's earlier days. It captures several elderly black southern songsters picking and rambling through fascinating, fragmentary tunes situated at a forgotten crossroads between string band music and country blues. Banjo strings may not resonate enough to sustain the note-bending microtones that would come to characterize blues musicianship, but the banjo's capacity for syncopation is unrivaled among stringed instruments, and these proto-bluesmen make the most of it. When John Snipes clawhammers his way through "Going Where I've Never Been Before," we are hearing what the first traveling blues must have sounded like. Desolation can wait on down the road a piece for the falsetto heartbreakers and string-benders; the banjo blues just struts, cocky and drunk and hungry.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/17/1998
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
UPC: 0093074007921
catalogNumber: 40079

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Etta Baker   Banjo,Track Performer
John H. Jackson   Track Performer
John Snipes   Vocals,Track Performer,Claw Hammer Banjo
Cora Phillips   Guitar,Track Performer
Joe Thompson   Fiddle,Track Performer
Odell Thompson   Banjo,Vocals,Track Performer,Claw Hammer Banjo
Tommy Thompson   Guitar,Track Performer,Claw Hammer Banjo
Dink Roberts   Banjo,Vocals,Track Performer,Claw Hammer Banjo
John Tyree   Bass,Track Performer
Uncle Homer Walker   Vocals,Track Performer,Claw Hammer Banjo
Leonard Bowles   Fiddle,Claw Hammer Banjo
Irvin Cook   Banjo,Vocals
Lewis "Big Sweet" Hairston   Banjo,Vocals,Track Performer
Rufus Kasey   Vocals,Claw Hammer Banjo
James Roberts   Banjo,Track Performer

Technical Credits

John H. Jackson   Contributor
Charly Weber   Engineer
Anthony Seeger   Contributor
Jim Clark   Composer
Traditional   Composer

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