Music Maker Relief Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of the Blues gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs. Our blog is dedicated to keeping the conversation about these artists alive & thriving.
Monthly archive October, 2013

This year in Tintypes

Two weeks ago, Captain Luke came down to Music Maker with his daughter Theresa for a tintype photo shoot. It was a chilly rainy day, so we set up the shoot inside the studio. As head chemist, having the entire shoot take place in the studio is not my first choice. The studio is the very place where the darkroom is set up, where the plates are coated, sensitized and eventually developed and fixed. The process is very sensitive to dust and as one might assume, more people equals more dust.

On the other hand, when the shoot is in the studio, the process becomes a collaboration with the subject at every step. We all sit together in the dark as we load the plate from the silver bath to the plate holder and again while the plate is being developed and we all huddle together over the sink to watch the image appear  . Conversation passes freely and often we’ll put some music on. 15 plates can take a number of hours and it is a great opportunity for Tim and I to connect with artists we haven’t seen in a while and make lasting memories along with photos that are distinct and eye catching.

When Captain and Theresa sat for their portrait taken together, I could see a pride and satisfaction in Theresa’s eyes that gave me a shudder. She told Tim and I later that this was the first time in her life that she had a picture taken with her father, Captain Luke. It was truly an honor to be a part of that significant moment.

What follows is a portfolio of some highlights from our past sessions. Coming up, we have sessions scheduled with Ben Payton, Ironing Board Sam, Cary Morin, Captain Luke, Dom Flemons and Dr. Dixon.

Need something special for your holidays?

Sam at JazzfestIt’s hard to believe we’re heading into the Holiday season (wasn’t it just summer?) This is the time of year when I’m able to slow down a little and reflect on what Music Maker does for our artists, and for Roots music in general. While we’re ramping up outreach in the fall and we’re constantly hearing from members and supporters around the globe, for some of our artists it can be a lonely time. Gigs slow down as the weather turns colder; just as energy costs start to rise. Life gets harder in the winter, but it’s especially difficult if your income is sporadic. The great thing about Music Maker is that we’re here for the artists even if there isn’t a gig for them. We strive diligently to get them work, but if it just isn’t there, they won’t go cold or hungry. This year we’re helping Boo Hanks purchase heating oil, and many artists receive a monthly sustenance check to help them meet their basic needs.

Festivals may be few and far between during the winter months, but there are a lot of holiday parties going on out there. We hope you’ll consider hiring an artist for your gathering – not only will your party be unique, spectacular and guaranteed to be talked about for many years, you’ll be giving work to an artist, helping them earn an income and live in safety and comfort. Without Music Maker, and without you, these musicians and their art would be lost to the passing of time.

To book an artist for your party, contact Aaron Greenhood at aaron@musicmaker.org or 919-643-2456. Thank you!

As Dr Burt’s health declines, Tim reminisces

dr. burt gregg rothYears ago, Adolphus Bell, the Worlds Greatest One Man Band, drove up from Birmingham, Alabama to do a recording session with us. While here he delivered a cassette and promo photo of Dr. GB Burt, a fellow that had helped him fix his broken down van. Listening to the cassette later that week, I was blown away. It was the worst sounding demo I had heard in my life, recorded on the cheapest cassette, which had been recorded on over and over, the guitar was blaring and distorted, the vocals we muted and clear as a bell at the same time. The incredible purity and talent somehow transcended the medium. I had to meet this guy.

The next month Adolphus drove Dr. Burt up to Music Maker to record. My first question was how did he get his incredible raunchy guitar sound. He smiled and showed me his beautiful electric 12-string guitar. I asked what amps he used and he smiled again, I used two Marshall Stacks (these are the most powerful amps that were designed by Pete Townshend of The Who). I asked him where did you do that? He smiled, and said “In my kitchen.”

We tried to recreate that sound on his first record; we got close but not all the way.

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Cary Morin Wetplate

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Over the weekend, Music Maker artist Cary Morin visited us at the Music Maker Grotto to have Aaron and I do a Tin Type session with him. We were fortunate to have interns Swathi and Thomas on hand to help!

Cary is of the Crow Nation of Wyoming. He has toured since he was in his early 20s with different bands. With his last kid off to college, Cary and his wife got rid of most of their possessions, bought a small Winnebago, rented out their house and have hit the road, touring throughout the States going town to town, state to state, show to show.

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Rhiannon Giddens at “Another Day, Another Time”

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Last month T-Bone Burnett called up Rhiannon Giddens and asked her to be part of a special concert at The Town Hall in NYC to be filmed by Joel and Ethan Coen that will be aired on Showtime in December. This concert special is in support of their incredible film “Inside Llewyn Davis.” I had the privilege to go a preview of this film earlier in the year at the GRAMMYs. It is a remarkable film on the often underlooked era of the folk music movement before Bob Dylan came around. Justin Timberlake, who plays Jim Berkey in the film, looks like Paul Clayton, one of my favorite performers of this era. Paul was the man that first recorded Etta Baker, so I have always been intrigued by this man. I could talk on and on about this film.

Rhiannon had just finished months of touring and was back in Ireland with her husband where her daughter has just started school. She flew back to NYC specifically for the show. The rehearsals were amazing, with such incredible talent hanging around. Sitting around with Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, the Punch Brothers, Gillian Welsh and so many others.

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