Sunday, 17 August 2014
The Secret Of The Banjo’s Twang Revealed By Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist
Acoustic experts have long puzzled over the origin of the banjo’s distinctive metallic timbre. Now a leading theoretical physicist has figured it out
The banjo is a stringed instrument that produces a distinctive metallic sound often associated with country, folk and bluegrass music. One of the most famous examples is the duelling banjos scene in the film Deliverance which clearly shows the difference in the sound produced by a banjo and a guitar.
Saturday, 16 August 2014
Bill Keith's Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association deserves a separate post of its own, I think.
Bill is best known for developing the “melodic style” of banjo playing, the most important and widely used extension of Earl Scruggs’ three-finger banjo technique. Melodic banjo playing uses ingeniously coordinated right- and left-hand fingerings to allow the player to execute fast scales and scale-based passages smoothly and efficiently. Fifty years later, banjo pickers are still playing licks that Bill devised, and melodic banjo playing is still referred to as “Keith style.” I think it’s fair to say that without Bill to show the way, we would not have the music of Ben Eldridge, Courtney Johnson, John Hartford, Alan Munde, Tony Trischka, Béla Fleck, Scott Vestal, Jens Kruger, Alison Brown, Noam Pikelny, and many others. Bluegrass music would be much the poorer without Bill’s contributions and musical legacy.
Saturday, 16 August 2014
In the liner notes to Standing Tall and Tough, Paul Williams notes “How amazing is it that three guys on Medicare can still be onstage performing this great American music called bluegrass?” It’s a comment, at least on the face of it, on the fact that they’re still standing, or some variant of that, and able to play remarkably well. But while he may not have intended it that way, it’s also a comment on the audience: isn’t it great that there are still so many people who want to see them up there on stage, or to hear them in recording? Williams and Crowe have been playing professionally for more than 60 years, and Lawson isn’t all that far behind them. All three got their start with Jimmy Martin, and that commonality is one of the things that has brought them together over the years.
Thursday, 14 August 2014
Michael Barnett is a fiddler who, while young, has done a lot. He’s a prodigy, more or less, becoming a sought after teacher and session musician at a very young age. He was a member of the David Grisman Sextet, and otherwise has turned the ear of a who’s who of acoustic music. The album is packed with some of them, including Aoife O’Donovan, David Grier, Sarah Jarosz, Tim O’Brien, Noam Pikelny, Maeve Gilchrist, Chris Eldridge … anyway, there is enough talent here to make your head spin.