Monday, November 14, 2022

Oldtime & folk music on Mastodon?

I've just joined that new social networking federation of servers called Mastodon, mostly because of my old friends who are journalists deserting Twitter. But I am curious whether the Mastodon network will also develop a music presence so I'm linking my Mastodon ID here... trying to do this at first with my blogger app on android, but I may have to come back with a web browser to actually edit the code of the page and make this link work to confirm that this site and my Mastodon ID are the same person.

Meanwhile, I've found a list of Mastodon servers that identify with specific topics. Granted most were about technical topics this early in the Mastodon game, but I was still sad that out of 59 on that list only two gave music as a main interest... One for metalheads, and one for rave/electronic fans.

But it's early yet... "Regional" was another option, but only nine of 59 chose that designation, and none was about Virginia or Appalachia. Instead, we have San Francisco Bay, Ireland, Canada, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, two for Scotland, and one for the U.K. in general.

Friday, October 07, 2022

1960s Folk: Greenwich Village, Harry Smith, Oscar Brand, and Joe Rubin

Compulsively wrote this on Facebook around 4 a.m. this morning, but thought I'd share it here too so that I can point non-Facebook friends to it.

Woke up in the middle of the night remembering the name of a song that eluded me at the jam session 10 hours earlier, so went looking for the song on YouTube -- and found this documentary about 20 years of a music-and-progressive-politics culture that was transmitted to me through the early-1960s record bins labelled "folk" and "blues" at the record shop a few blocks from my house... Joe Rubin, a white-haired gentleman I assumed was more into classical music and maybe jazz, ran the place and let me hang out in the back and play LPs that I couldn't afford. (While wondering if I ever thanked Mr. Rubin enough for putting so much music in my life, it just dawned on me that I may have first gone into his store to thank him -- for sponsoring a high school duckpin bowling team I was on!)

I read about the folks and songs on their LP liner notes, and in books by Alan Lomax, Carl Sandburg & Oscar Brand from the library, as well as the great booklet inside the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music record set, mentioned in the documentary as source material for many of the Greenwich Village folkies I admired... And I picked up an Oscar Brand folksong-guitar instruction book, a guitar, and a harmonica or two from an instrument store I'd walk by on my way home from school. (Nice clip of Oscar and the Simon Sisters in the film, along with so many others whose records were in those bins at Joe Rubin's record store.)

Before I went back to sleep I also found the song that I'd originally gone looking for, sometimes titled "Coffee Grows on Wild Oak Trees," and sometimes "Hello Susan Brown," including this recording, which was the first place I heard it about sixty years ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Fox Hollow memories

 I've just discovered this University of Albany archive of music recordings thanks to a friend or stranger on Facebook... 

I was lucky enough to attend two or three of the Fox Hollow festivals in the 1970s, possibly including the last or next-to-last one.  Located on the Beers Family property near the New York, Vermont and Massachusetts state lines, they were very special. 

The donated tapes and archival notes on the website don't always match, but I'm having fun recognizing voices I haven't heard in years, sometimes piecing together the who-was-who from mentions of single names .... The fragmentary concert and workshop tapes don't always include emcees clearly announcing performers' names, so they're a bit like a blindfolded "seventies folk scene" trivia contest. Fun!

Archive page at

Meanwhile, browsing through the recordings brought me enough flashbacks to Michael Cooney concerts around the same time that I went off on a "What ever happened to...?" search and found his website up in the great state of Maine: 

He opens with an observation that is true here, too...

<<I’m TRYING to re-learn how to do this website stuff.>>

Wishing him all the best! And thanking him for inspiring me to put these links out here on the old music blog that I neglect most of the year because all the bells and whistles usually have moved around since the last time I used it.

I also discovered that Michael is a presence in some YouTube archives too... Including this VERY early episode of Sesame Street, around the same time as some of those Fox Hollow performances! I'm going to share it with a family across the way that I'd like to get strumming ukuleles and singing along... 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

When the blues hit the mountains...

 Oldtime music crossover...

While looking for the words to a less-often-heard "shindig in the barn" verse to "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," I found several "discography" lists, including the two recordings as "Blue Ridge Blues" below... George Reneau's was apparently the first recording of the song. And Lulu Jackson's version gets left out of some of the "country music" or "oldtime music" lists, maybe because it crossed boundaries, but I'd love to read a history about how she wound up recording the song! Her "recitation" of the "There'll be a shindig in the barn" verse is, well, very special. 🙂
The song (credited to Cliff Hess under the alias Roy B. Carson at certainly was popular. Other 1920s recordings were by Riley Puckett, Ernest V. Stoneman, The Blue Ridge Duo (Gene Austin and George Reneau), Vernon Dalhart and more. (Hess was a prolific songwriter and pianist who had played on Mississippi riverboats, wrote songs with "blues" in the title as early as 1916, and eventually collaborated with Irving Berlin.) The song also mentions an even older "oldie," "Where is My (Wandering) Boy Tonight," published in 1877 and recorded by many artists from the dawn of cylinder and disc recordings.
"Blue Ridge Blues"
George Reneau , guitar and harmonica, from April '24 and again with Reneau and Gene Austin:
Al Hopkins' Bucklebusters / The Hill Billies, 1926 or '28 (including fiddle, guitar, banjo & banjo-ukulele!, and 3-or-4-part harmony singing!)
Also as "Blue Ridge Blues"
Lulu Jackson (vcl/gtr) and piano.
December 21, 1928, rec. in Chicago, Vocalion 1242
Enough computer for today... but tomorrow (or someday soon) I'm going looking for more about Lulu! ❤
I'm afraid she gets left out on both sides of the recording-industry color line, even by scholars. I just found a blues discography note from a major reference book: "This artist was of African-American ancestry, but her recordings are essentially in the hillbilly idiom and of little blues interest." (Blues and gospel records 1890-1943 (1997), p. 430) Her versions of "Little Rosewood Casket" and "Careless Love Blues" are very nice too, and available on YouTube. Apparently enough of her 78s have been collected to be reissued in compilations like this one found at the discography website, discogs:
Screen image of discogs song list for Lulu