The Trials and Tribulations of the Banjo Player

January 17th, 2011, 10:37 am by Greg

From Bowtie, the Ramblin Jug Stompers’ banjo player:

“OK – I know it is very annoying when people send you YouTube video links and say you gotta watch this and that, but I promise this is the most improbable representation of a banjo player but, in all honesty, is a true depiction of how we banjo players overcome impossible adversity and always get the girl in the end (void where prohibited by law).

Just go here…

And, yes, I too have jammed with Lee Van Cleef. He plays a mean hammer dulcimer.”

Ramblin Jug Stompers celebrate their fifth anniversary at 7pm tonight at McGeary’s in Albany. Admission is free.


LIVE: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 10/20/09

October 23rd, 2009, 10:04 am by Greg

Steve Martin – comedian, actor, author, star of TV and movies – is also a really good 5-string banjo player. For reasons not fully explained, he has recorded a CD, “The Crow,” of original songs and instrumentals, and he’s touring with the established bluegrass quintet the Steep Canyon Rangers as his backup band.

Now let’s give him some credit here: this is not some rich guy hiring gunslingers and trying to play the big shot rock star – this is an acoustic string band. There is no stretch limo, and the M&Ms are only brown.

Read the rest of this entry »

All About Pete Seeger’s Banjo

October 2nd, 2009, 1:09 pm by Greg

banjoChances are that you know Tom Lindsay and Michael Eck as musicians. They play together as the Lost Radio Rounders, formerly the Gospel Train. (Mister Eck also commands the jug/mandolin chair in Ramblin Jug Stompers and performs solo, as well). And recently, LRR have been performing their new themed program, “American Favorite Ballads: The Songs of Pete Seeger,” around Nippertown at such venues as The Linda in Albany and Old Songs in Voorheesville.

And the two definitely know what they’re talking about when it comes to the legendary Seeger. You’ll know what I mean if you pick up a copy of the new issue of The Fretboard Journal, a prestigious quarterly magazine that’s actually more like a book.

Lindsay and Eck contributed a marvelous feature story about Seeger’s iconic longneck banjo to the Fall 2009 issue of the journal. Lindsay (who teaches a course in American music history) took the photos and Eck (a nationally recognized music writer) penned the text.

The story is titled “To Great Lengths: The Far Reach of Pete Seeger and His Longneck Five-String Banjo,” and it’s chockful of great full-color photographs, plenty of detailed history and insights from Seeger himself. In addition, the story is accompanied by additional in-depth stories about Seeger’s 12-string guitar and his famous instuctional book, “How to Play the 5-String Banjo.” Altogether, Lindsay and Eck’s contributions total up to 16 full pages.

The issue of Fretboard Journal (number 15, if you’re counting) features Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on the cover. Also included in the magazine are a look at the guitars of the Lawson Bros., a peek into the guitar workshop of Rick Kelly and an fascinating interview with Alison Brown conducted by Abigail Washburn.

The magazine is available locally at Guitar Center, Borders and Barnes & Noble.

Song of the Week: In Bb 2.0 – Remixable Video Music

July 2nd, 2009, 2:45 pm by Sara

My friend Jeff Sampson sent this link – a set of Youtube videos (including a banjo played with an ebow!!) that create infinite permutations of a collaborative musical creation. The results are enchanting, and it’s amazing to me how all of these disparate tracks manage to work together to create these endless soundscapes.

In Bb 2.0


Here’s an excerpt from Darren Solomon’s FAQ:

Q. How did you come up with the idea for In Bb?

A. I was making a site with embedded YouTube videos (as a complement to this blog post) when I realized that YouTube doesn’t stop the user from running more than one video at a time. I was curious to see if there was a musical way to explore that concept, so I recorded some instrumental videos and eventually came up with In Bb v1.

Q. Who wrote the music of In Bb?

A. Interesting question! I think the traditional concept of authorship doesn’t really apply here. You wrote it, the participants wrote it, I wrote it. For lack of a better idea, if you need to credit the music, it would probably be best to say “by”.

Q. Is In Bb a tribute to Terry Riley?

A. Absolutely. Terry Riley is one of my favorite composers. Songs For The Ten Voices Of The Two Prophets is a desert island disc for me.

Oh but wait there’s more (apologies to the late Billy Mays) Darren Solomon, the creator of in Bb, is also the producer and writer behind Science For Girls, a melange of jazz, electronica and Brazillian that is waaaaaaay cool, well produced, fantastic vocals, catchy…

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