If you follow national music news, you don’t need me to tell you that world-renowned bluegrass banjo artist Earl Scruggs passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88. If you’re a bluegrass or country music fan, you don’t need me to describe for you his style of banjo picking and the resulting sound. But I thought I would pull together some of the articles I read while looking for more about the life of this performer I used to watch occasionally on my parents’ country music television picks.
So here they are: The Tennessean, with its story (my personal favorite) of the man who brought people of all music styles together by simply playing music right along with them; The New York Times; the Los Angeles Times; celebrity tributes on CBS; and NPR’s The Record, including the accompanying radio clip.
Rest in peace, Earl. Rest in peace.
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For those of you who celebrate Christmas, does folk music play a part in your Christmas celebration? What’s on your folk Christmas wish list? I’ve been looking around for Christmas music in various folk styles. If you’re doing the same, About.com has a Christmas folk music series that might give you some ideas. Richard Gillmann’s Seattle Folk Music Page lists Christmas music you may not have thought of as folk music — for instance, Ernest Tubb’s version of “Blue Christmas!” Even Amazon.com has a Christmas folk music list all put together. It’s fairly short, but convenient for a busy shopper. At the top of the list is the Seeger family’s collection, American Folk Songs for Christmas, a 2-disc set containing 53 songs in all.
My Christmas folk collection is tiny but growing. Light of the Stable, by Emmylou Harris, was the first folk Christmas album I acquired. I’ve had it for quite a few years now and enjoy listening to it every time. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas is a warm, beautiful, low-key mixture of original and traditional Christmas songs. Odetta’s Christmas Spirituals CD is a joy to listen to. And the child’s reading of the Christmas story in “Dickens’ Dublin” on Loreena McKennitt’s Parallel Dreams album was a pleasant surprise. This year I added the mostly instrumental Christmas Grass CD, by various artists including several name performers. It’s calming for my long work commute and it has a lively version of Joy to the World.
If you enjoy listener-supported folk music radio, Folk Alley is holding its holiday contribution drive. What better way to make folk music an important part of your Christmas?
If you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas for folk-related books rather than music, what about Ralph Stanley’s autobiography, now in paperback? Reviews can be found in the Bluegrass Journal and USA Today. Or Lawrence Epstein’s Political Folk Music in America from Its Origins to Bob Dylan, released earlier this year?
Folk music is alive and well in many forms. Enjoy your choice of folk music this Christmas.Read More Add a Comment
In case you haven’t already seen it, there is a series in progress over at the Open Salon site about Bob Dylan and the musicians who influenced him. Three posts so far, all thought-provoking for anyone interested in early folk music and blues. The author plans to take this through ten posts in all over a period of several months. If you start with the introductory post it contains links to the others.Read More Add a Comment
The Larry Stephenson Band recently released a 20th Anniversary CD commemorating the band’s twenty years in business. Stephenson, a mandolinist and award-winning vocalist, has been a professional musician for over thirty years but his current band was formed in 1989. The numerous guest performers on the album include country artists Connie Smith, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs and bluegrass musicians Del McCoury and Kristin Scott Benson.
Listening to sound clips, I immediately begin to imagine an old cabin floor with all the chairs pushed back, dancers twirling each other around and lots of laughter going on….Read More Add a Comment
The White House hosted two special events Tuesday in honor of Black History Month: a high school workshop in the afternoon and a concert Tuesday evening. Both featured performances by noted folklorist and musician Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon. Concert artists included, among others, Yolanda Adams, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Smokey Robinson, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. An article in The Root has a thoughtful analysis of Dylan’s role in the civil rights movement.
PBS will broadcast the concert at 8:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, February 11. Beginning Thursday, February 12, the performance will be available online.Read More Add a Comment
Todd B. loves his ukulele. Or make that ukuleles. He has gone so far as to write a song about his collection, which you can see in this video. Todd, an enterprising musical moonlighter nicknamed “Brother Sonny” who does not disclose his last name on his web site, has written several original contemporary folk songs and has performed the work of various folk artists including Burl Ives and Bascom Lamar Lunsford.Read More Add a Comment
In case you missed it, last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle carried an article by Joel Selvin on his recent interview with Pete Seeger, giving some personal insight into the everyday life of the man behind the legend. Seeger was in town for an appearance with the Guthrie Family Tour.Read More Add a Comment