Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bamalong Blues

Last weekend Amy and I went to the 2nd annual Stringband Festival of Gordon County Georgia. The festival is held in the little town of Calhoun and pays tribute to the Georgia Yellow Hammers and Andrew & Jim Baxter.

For those of you not familiar, the Georgia Yellow Hammers and the Baxter's were stringbands during the 1920's and 1930's, back when Gordon County was a hotbed for stringband music.

Andrew & Jim Baxter were a father and son duo. Andrew, the father, played the fiddle, Jim played guitar. Like many stringbands of the time, the Baxter's could play many different styles of music. I believe that Andrew & Jim Baxter released seven 78's, and of these only four have surfaced (don't quote me on that). They are one of my all time favorite stringbands. Check out their song Bamalong here.

The Georgia Yellow Hammers began in the wake of Gid Tanner and his Skillet Licker's popularity in particular, and the popularity of "hillbilly" music in general. The Yellow Hammers had a hit in 1928 with the song Picture on the Wall, which sold 60,000 copies in the first year.

The Baxter's and the Yellow Hammer's played together occasionally, and in 1927 the two groups travelled to Charlotte, N.C. for a recording session. This session resulted in the release of the song G Rag, making the Baxter's and the Georgia Yellow Hammers one of the first recorded integrated stringbands.

Amy and I left Northport at about 7:00 am, so we didn't arrive in Calhoun until around 1:00pm or so. The small town of Calhoun was pretty busy with stringbands, jams and vendors. We watched the Bow Weevils, from Atlanta, Ga, play in front of a row of shops. We talked to Dean & Judy from the group. Dean was playing a very nice banjo that he built himself.

I happened to meet Art Rosenbaum, field collector, banjo player, oral historian and artist. He's the real deal. It was a pleasure meeting him.

As dusk fell it was time for everyone to pack up and move indoors.

Marshall Wyatt, owner of Old Hat Records sponsored the festival.

After a presentation on the history of stringband music by scholar and musician Joyce Cauthen, we watched the Jake Leg Stompers perform. You've heard of twin fiddles, how about twin washboards? The Jake Leg Stompers are my favorite band at the moment. I would highly recommend getting their newest cd.

After the Jake Leg Stompers we were off to the main event, the North Georgia Buggy Riders, Red Mountain Band, and the Skillet Lickers II. I've seen the Red Mountain Band quite a few times, and every time I've seen them they have been great, but this time they were on fire!! I can't even begin to describe how locked in and intense they were.

And after all that great music, it was time to gas up and head back home.
As Promised:
Reading: Ubuntu Hacks & the Official Ubuntu Book
Listening: Jake Leg Stompers - Hot Feet
Watching: Because of my deep and intense love of Godzilla films since I was about 9 years old, I rented Cloverfield. Should have known better. I'm kinda glad that I watched it, though.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mushroom Banjo

Here's a banjo that I recently finished.

Banjo Details:

Ebony Fretboard & Peghead
Scooped Fingerboard
Position Markers on side of fingerboard
Maple Pot
Figured Maple Neck
African Rosewood Cap & Heel
Pearl Mushroom Inlay
Binding around Pot
Vintage Bone Nut
No Knot Tailpiece
Custom Bridge
Brass Tonering

OF HATS AND MEN: or how I wrote myself a letter

I know that it is Spring because I awoke this morning with the intention of shaving my beard. Last night when I went to bed I had no thoughts of shaving, but this morning it was time. I was a little nervous as to what I would find underneath six months of beard. We bearded men develop a Sampson complex after a few months without the blade. I was relieved to find, in the end, that I was indeed still there. I thought that I looked just a little older than I remembered, perhaps. I looked no wiser, unfortunately. Still the same ol' me.

I am writing this blog installment while sitting on a rock by a stream. I decided to celebrate Spring renewal by going for a hike on one of my favorite trails, the cliffs and dam of Lake Harris.

It is spring. It is a time of renewal and the evidence is all around. I walk among wild ferns and moss growing around the base of trees. The leaves are bright green. I saw my first Monarch butterfly of the season. I cautiously stepped over a snakeskin on the way to the rock, never can be too careful.

I haven't been out here for a couple of years, but I used to come out here often.
My good friend Sonya introduced me to this trail at least 15 years ago. At one time it was a pretty popular swimming hole, although it looks as though most people have forgotten about it now. I enjoyed hiking out here then. To this day I still hear songs from Pink Floyd's album More in my mind when I come out here. I also hear Movietone, Gong and Tarwater from other periods of my life coming out here. It's my personal soundtrack to this place, I guess. I just thought of my reflection in the mirror this morning. I sure didn't look like the thin, long haired kid that first hiked this trail with my friend Sonya. What's the title of the blues song? "I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter?"

And Here's a photograph of my hat. Most guys, weather they admit it or not, have a lucky hat, and I'm no exception. I've had this hat for, let's see now, I guess about 12 years, give or take. It used to be green, by the way. I got that hat before I returned to school, and I bet I've worn that hat to every test I've ever taken. If you look closely you can detect a red tint to the bill. I used to throw pottery. The red southern clay dyed the bill of my hat slightly after removing my hat with clay on my hands repeatedly.

It's too beat up and nasty to wear in public now, but I can't just get rid of a hat that's been with me for so long, and, hey, remember that it's lucky, so now I just wear it hiking.

When I returned to school, I took a challenging science class taught by Dr. John Hall. It was a great class and, in many ways, a life changing experience as well. I've taken many great classes, especially through the New College program at the University of Alabama, but Dr. Hall's class was my first challenging class.

After Dr. Hall's class I would often come out here, either to hike the trail or ride my bike nearby. It would give me an opportunity to think obout that days class, or not think about it, depending on how that day went. My lucky hat and I would slowly walk through the trails looking at the rocks and plants and animals and think about how this planet was formed.

My mom passed away two years ago this week (April 5th), so I guess that's why I've been thinking so much about renewal, rebirth, and how I take so much in life for granted. Coming out here with the bright green leaves and the snakeskin, walking among the wild ferns and listening to the cool stream drift lazily by, gives me the feeling that everything is as it should be in the world, and it makes me want to sit right down and write myself a letter. I would recommend it
to anyone.

Reading: The Man Who Planted Trees - Jean Giono
Listening to: Bert Jansch - Dazzling stranger
Watching: Darjeeling Express