Saturday, October 21, 2023

AntiViral OldTime Music

I let writing a "get well soon" email to a Blacksburg, Va., friend get out of hand, after hearing she had to cancel her monthly porch-picking jam session because of covid... The result, a couple of therapeutic listening suggestions for any others facing the 2023-24 season of flu-plus-covid:

The last time I was stuck inside with covid I discovered these two online "oldtime" musical phenomena ... Here they are in case any of you (knock on wood) wind up at home recuperating, and are tired of TV.

The first is clawhammer banjo virtuoso Cameron DeWhitt's audio podcast -- recorded as he travels the music festival circuit playing with and interviewing elders and others who are part of "old time music" scenes all over the country. 

He calls it "Get Up in the Cool," after an old tune, and in various episodes he's even "gotten up" with my banjo and guitar teachers (and Ithaca-based banjo-ukulele inspiration Jeff Claus), all of whom I met at Pinewoods Camp in Massachusetts 40 to 45 years ago. 

My teachers back then were, for banjo, Paul Brown, and for guitar (since I hadn't touched a mandolin or fiddle yet) Seattle's Hank Bradley,  who plays every instrument (as does Paul) and Hank's conversation with Cameron includes a wonderful story about hanging out with Doc Watson and blind mandolin and fiddle player Kenny Hall in the 1960s, along with the interesting geography of Hank's career in old time music.

Along with the audio programs , searchable and streaming from his website or subscribable as a podcast, Cameron does have a few video clips available to anyone searching YouTube for his name or the series title, as well as some extra features for people who donate to help him pay the bills. For example, audio-only doesn't do justice to fiddler-singer-and-dancer Sophie Wellington... but her GUitC interview last summer was fascinating too...

The second show is a different sort of "old time" -- ragtime, pop songs and blues from the 1890s to the 1930s, streamed live from their San Francisco kitchen by guitarists (and more!) Meredith Axelrod and Craig Ventresco -- for more than 1,100 pandemic and post-pandemic shows. The live stream is on both Facebook and YouTube, but I used the YouTube archive most of the time, since it straightens out the webcam image and doesn't make them look left handed. Skimming back through the archives you will even find programs with guests, including cartoonist/mandolinist etc. R. Crumb.

Craig plays guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and 12 and 4-string guitars as well as singing part of the time, and Meredith plays baritone and standard tuning guitars, ukulele, cello and vibraphone and has a lovely soprano voice that sometimes sounds like it is in a Time Warp from 1920. 

This is just the most recent episode... a Sunday show starting appropriately with Craig's vocal on  "Sing you Sinners," then a fancy ragtime duet. (Meredith doesn't sing for 15 minutes or so into the 50 minute episode) ..

(The livecasts on both Facebook and YouTube include live comments and requests from fans -- Pacific time 8p.m MTWThS, noon Sundays; they take Fridays off. The city of San Francisco passed a resolution in their honor when they hit 1,000 programs last spring. They kept going.)

Both "Get up in the cool" and Meredith-and-Craig have archives of hundreds of hours of music and conversation... and tip-jars to make a living out of oldtime tunes and new media...

Drop me a comment below if you'd like me to link to more-specific suggestions from their archives!

Best healthy musical autumn wishes!


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