Album Details

September 15, 1998
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Folk, String Bands, Traditional Folk, Old-Timey, Traditional Country

Album Review

With this collection, Mike Seeger's intention is to illustrate the wide variety of banjo sounds heard in the rural South before 1950. Each of the 26 tracks employs a different style, using a range of techniques, many in the clawhammer, two-finger, and three-finger style; "Come My Little Pink," for instance, specifically emulates Earl Scruggs' playing. The repertoire of the songs chosen covers a similarly wide range, from blues and bluegrass to 19th century African-American banjo and traditional folk. As icing on the cake, no less than 23 separate banjos were used in the recording (photos of each model are in the liner notes). As you might gather from such a carefully assembled disc, the presentation tends toward the academic and preservationist, rather than the original and artistic; Seeger is a fine and versatile player, though only adequate as a singer. It's of most use to banjo players and scholarly types looking for a handy reference to Southern banjo styles, and it's a successful project when judged by those standards, embellished by lengthy and readable liner notes from Seeger, including a brief history of the American banjo and details about each track. The most unusual item is "Down South Blues" (which Seeger learned from Dock Boggs), on which he achieves a slide banjo-like effect.
Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Soon in the Morning Babe
  2. Josh Thomas's Roustabout
  3. Jim Crack Corn
  4. Darling Cora
  5. Devil's Dream
  6. Little Birdie
  7. Around the World
  8. Whoopin' Up Cattle
  9. Flop Eared Mule
  10. Lost Gander
  11. The Sailor and the Soldier
  12. American Spanish Fandango
  13. Got No Silver Nor Gold Blues
  14. We're Up Against It Now
  15. That's What the Old Bachelor's Made Out Of
  16. The Last of Callahan
  17. Lady Gay
  18. Down South Blues
  19. Last Night When My Willie Come Home
  20. Wabash Blues
  21. Bright Sunny South
  22. Roll on John
  23. Needlecase
  24. Come My Little Pink
  25. Battle in the Horseshoe
  26. I'm Head Over Heels in Love
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