I never got the chance to meet Etta Baker but was a long time fan of her music even before I started to work at the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Her style of guitar playing is the most eloquent and parred down that I have ever heard. Only after listening after many years of listening to Etta did I truly grasp the complexity of her playing. Most have heard of the Piedmont Blues Guitar style but non one played it quite like Etta Baker did.
- Corn Lewis
J.C. McCool composed the fiddle standard “the Black Mountain rag.” he began his career when he was just 10 years old playing with Walter Davis and Clarence Greene, who recorded in the 1930s as the Blue Ridge Mountain entertainers. When I first came to Swannanoa, NC in 1981 to go to college, I was introduced to Walt Davis, Ray Greene and J.C. by my new fiddler friend Jeff Robbins. We went out to ray’s on the weekends and helped him build a cinderblock building in his backyard. there, ray hosted a pickin’ party for old time musicians to get together and play every Monday night ever since, for more than 20 years. after I started Music Maker, I visited J.C. and found him crippled with arthritis and nearly blind. he told us his fixed income was too little to afford groceries. We offered him a monthly stipend to help out. While he accepted the checks, he admitted being uncomfortable accepting money from an organization that primarily supported African American musicians. Several years later on another visit, he spoke his heart – that after a lifetime of being prejudiced he had an awakening and changed churches to one that embraces all people. J.C. thanked us for being part of his enlightenment.
Photo by Jimmy Williams
Listen: Dr. Feelgood
This track was on our Listener’s Circle #6, which I was listening to the other day as we were printing this month’s Listener’s Circle CDs. Albert White is a Music Maker artist I have seen many times live – the first time, I saw him perform in London, which was the first time I’d seen the MMRF Blues Revue show. It was just after I started at Music Maker, and my husband and I headed overseas to visit our Goddaughter. The Blues Revue was touring Europe, and it coincided with our trip dates, so we headed to Shepherd’s Green to see them! We got well and truly lost attempting to find the venue, but it was worth it (of course.) The show was wonderful, and Albert White was one of the many highlights – hosting the show, introducing each artist and getting everyone out of their seats each number.
Listen to Black Mattie
Even if you are not a fan of Hip-Hop music you can still appreciate the deep grooves of this song. Robert “Wolfman” Belfour’s unmistakable moaning voice on top of raunchy acoustic guitar lick and a sharp drumbeat makes for an incredible fusion of Blues and it’s much younger step child, Hip-Hop. (more…)
Listen: Lucy’s Voodoo
When you see images of Lee Gates around the Music Maker office, you know you’re looking at a real deal, tried and true bluesman. The guy is over six feet tall, yolked up, and usually dressed in overalls. Granted, I’ve only seen photos of Lee, but I’ve heard he’s a real character in person.
Listen: Bring It On Down to My House Honey
Little Pink Anderson’s “Bring It On Down to My House Honey” is a song that popped out at me from our new jukebox. I’m so excited to finally meet Pink, who I’ve talked to so many times on the phone, at Music Maker’s upcoming Homecoming weekend. He lives up in South Dakota, so it’s very special that he’s able to travel to Hillsborough, NC – thanks to generous Artist Sponsor!
I’m hoping he’ll perform this jaunty tune, which I love for its fun lyrics and lively rhythm. It matches the festive atmosphere in the air here as we count down to the Homecoming and page through Tim’s book that we’ve all worked so hard on for the past year! But I’m not picky, I know whatever Pink plays at our Homecoming will be wonderful.
Listen: Today I Started Loving You Again
Ironing Board Sam is a relentless and prolific creator. Whenever I call him or go by his house to discuss business, I have almost always interrupted a brainstorming session, home recording or invention.
When Sam went down to Huntsville, Alabama to record Double Bang! a few years ago, they recorded another album in their free time. The release is forthcoming but all of it was recorded live and features Ardie Dean on drums and Ironing Board Sam on vocals and keyboard.
The songs are classic and this particular song is a favorite, “Today I Started Loving You Again”
Listen: Get It
I was speaking to George Stancell on the phone yesterday morning. We were chatting about the fantastic CD he sent me, a compilation of recordings he has personally written, performed and produced over the past 45 years.
George is one of a few exceptional musicians we have just recently been introduced to from Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. To pay the bills, George, 75, worked as a welder on the railroad and ran a nightclub, but he has been a musician all his life, playing guitar, piano and singing. As he was telling me his history, I asked him where he found the time to do all of this. As a nightclub proprietor and railroad worker, he literally worked night and day.
George grew up sickly and small. When the men left the house to go work in the foundries, he was left at home. The shame he felt during that time instilled in him a tenacious desire to work. When he finally got big enough to do the work, there was no stopping him. Day and night, it was his joy in life.
“You know Aaron, right now I’m talking to you from this bar where I’m working as a bartender. I just love to be busy, put me on the road.”
This track, “Get It” is a truly inspiring mantra. George wrote and recorded it in the late ‘60s. It’s fresh and funky, so go ahead and get it! Meet George Stancell.
Listen: Sing It Louder
Cary Morin’s playful tune Sing it Louder can lift you up from the darkest of moods. Somehow Cary manages to make the blues lively and upbeat while still reaching deeply into the musical well. With finger-style guitar playing that I have yet to hear matched by any other guitarist and a soothing voice, Sing It Louder is also impressive in a technical sense.
Read more about Cary Morin here.
You can check out Cary’s video here!
Listen: Why Don’t These Young People Understand?
I’ve been so excited about the new Jukebox, and have been listening to the general playlist we have up right now. (Soon to come – curated playlists!) I love this track from Lee Gates, “Why Don’t These Young People Understand?” Lee is one whose wailing vocals I don’t often listen to, mostly because I don’t have any of his albums uploaded to my iTunes, and because Aaron (who is in charge of office music) hasn’t put him on in awhile. I do, however, talk to Lee on the phone frequently. So, when I was immersed in writing the other day and this song came on, I knew immediately it was Lee.
Lee’s pleading vocals accompany some pretty great guitar; I think you should give this a listen and find out what Lee’s question is about. Then, you can tell him what you think at the Music Maker Homecoming!
Here at the Music Maker Relief Foundation our passion is MUSIC and the people who make it. We are always looking for ways to share the incredible history that Music Maker artists continue to make through their music with YOU, and now this just got easier. We are super excited to announce that Music Maker will be getting a new jukebox!
Listen: “Greasy Greens”
“Well, way down South where I was born
Didn’t raise nothin’ but cotton and corn
Green tomatoes and black-eyed peas
Man, good Lord, them greasy greens…”
This groovy ode to collard greens is one of my favorites! Originally, I thought that “Greasy Greens” featured two artists, one singing and another playing harmonica. However, while the voice and harmonica do exchange the melody in a flawless call-and-response pattern, George Higgs is in fact playing both instruments at once! Despite the virtuosic nature of “Greasy Greens,” the mood remains laid-back as Higgs expresses his love for his favorite vegetable at a steady, unhurried pace. Try to resist tapping your foot along to the irresistible chugging of Higgs’ fine Piedmont-style harmonica playing—I dare you!
This is one of the tracks that will be featured on the Listener’s Circle CD I created this summer. All of the songs involve one of my favorite topics: food! That’s all for now, though– I’m getting hungry.