Music Maker Relief Foundation is a 501(c)3 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.

Diggin’: Robert Belfour – White Lightning

Robert Belfour, lesser known than his fellow Mississippi Hill Country contemporaries like R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Jesse Mae Hemphill, was a powerful guitar player with an intense attack. When he plays, it sounds like the guitar and its strings might explode under the pressure of his taut fingers, pinching, pulling, bending, his thumb slamming on the bass string. Belfour passed away in February of 2015. He left behind scant recordings, two great records on Fat Possum and a few unreleased tracks living in Music Maker’s archive. Here is a wonderful track entitled “White Lightnin'”. This is Belfour and an acoustic guitar.


— Aaron Greenhood

The Branchettes Head to the Eaux Claires Festival with Phil Cook’s “Southland Revue”

Phil Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger/Megafuan) has partnered with Music Maker partner artists, The Branchettes for his Southland Revue project. They will be playing at the Eaux Claires Festival in in Wisconsin on August 12th + 13th. 


I moved to North Carolina from Wisconsin back in 2005 – I needed to be closer to the music that I loved. The music that lit me up and sent me home felt like it was calling me to leave the wintry farm-scape where I grew up and drive south.  I ended up in the city of Durham, a city with a very interesting history, inspiring and unique at times, complicated and bleak at others.  It took half a decade before my body gave a little ease to the sultry summers and the barrage of downpours. My speech cadence has relaxed some – I can tell during phone conversations with cousins back up north.

In 2011, Heather and I were blessed with a son. We called him Ellis.  Stepping through that portal of parenthood brings a host of awareness around us.  Awareness of the fragility of life, how fleeting our time is on this planet, and awareness of the towering responsibility whose shadow we now stand underneath.  As I reckoned with these truths, some deeper feelings began to appear on the horizon, and with them came some distant melodies and rhythms.  A few years went by and I had stumbled and gathered my way into what was apparently my first batch of original songs.  Objectively, they seemed to be a collective love letters to the music of the south. That music that I long to hear and play so deeply in my soul.  I made the record with good friends and good intentions, with laughter, teary smiles and lots of hard work.


Around this time, I became aware of Music Maker and their mission – and reached out to them to put me in touch with some musicians.  Specifically looking for gospel singers, I was introduced to The Branchettes by production manager Aaron Greenhood.  I sat in Sister Lena Mae’s living room with Wilbur Tharpe at her old piano and they both taught me the harmony parts sung by former Branchettes since passed on.  “Sister Mae”, as Wilbur calls her, beckoned me to pay close attention to her always, as she was liable to change verses and songs as she feels it.  I felt nothing but honor to add a third harmony to their 43 years as bandmates, but I won’t pretend that I sounded anything beyond functional.  However, the rehearsal went and it was full of joyful laughter and meaningful sidebars. I smiled the whole drive home.

In the last year, we’ve performed a number of times together, including at the 43rd Annual Branchettes Singing Anniversary weekend in Newton Grove. This event introduced me to several of Sister Mae’s oldest friends and fellow gospel singing veterans, as well as her grown children who cooked and served up some fine southern food plates.  Sister Mae ran a southern restaurant for years, taking in troubled neighborhood kids and using the kitchen as her platform to lift them up and send them on a dignified path.  To listen to her speak about the exact way one must perform a recipe always brings a smile to my face.  My own late grandmother, whom I adored, spoke in this same manner about recipes, using the word “must” before every directive.  How else would the recipe survive?

— Phil Cook

Diggin’: Skeeter Brandon – Cold World

In a late Summer stupor, the heat soaking your clothes on the short trip from the office to the car, what you really need is a little more “cold.” Probably not the kind of cold Skeeter is referring to on this track. Either way, the band is hot with Skeeter at keys and lead vocals. This track was recorded in Pinnacle, NC back in 1996.
— Aaron Greenhood

Diggin’: Carl Rutherford – Shasta Delight

Carl Rutherford was a coal miner from West Virginia that played deep country music and gospel. Carl’s guitar pickin’ is some of the finest around and with Cool John Ferguson backing him up on lead electric guitar you get a rockin’ country band. Shasta Delight – from Carl’s only release with Music Maker is one of the more upbeat tunes on the album. If you love country and upbeat rhythms you should love this one!

Freeman Vines’ Guitars Get a New Life: Part 1

One evening last fall, Tim Duffy, my wife and I were chatting at an event featuring bluesman John Dee Holeman. I mentioned that I liked to build, troubleshoot and repair electric guitars, and Tim told me about Freeman Vines, a self-taught luthier from Eastern, NC, who had come to the attention of Music Makers in the past year. They were helping him out with his rent and diabetes medication and he had a treasure trove of guitars that he had built or was in the process of building, but that he had been unable to maintain or complete due to his illness. Tim told me that they were falling into disrepair and that he and Freeman were interested in seeing them restored to playable condition.


For me, this was something of a dream come true, to be a guitar tech to traditional musicians who represented the blues and roots music heritage of the South. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to help out and the following week drove up to Hillsborough to see what I could do. Well, Tim took me down into the “Grotto,” a cavernous storage building that could easily have served as a wine cave. He started taking guitars down off the racks and pointing out others that were leaning against the wall, showing me some of the unique things that Freeman had done, both in the design of the body shapes and in the collection of parts and materials. You see, Freeman is not just a creative and independent luthier, he is a repurposer and scavenger extraordinaire. There were Fender parts, Danelectro parts, 1960’s-vintage Teisco pickups, Gibson bridges, bodies made from table tops and things I could not identify without further research. And he had mixed and matched these objects to create his own unique sights and sounds. Before I knew if, I was driving home with some dozen or so instruments to start work on.

I started disassembling these puppies one at a time, inspecting and cleaning as I went. It quickly occurred to me that in replacing nonfunctional or missing parts, it would not do for me to start purchasing new parts that would stand out like a sore thumb and would violate one of the basic principles of Freeman’s method. After consulting with Tim, we decided I should try to find and install used parts wherever possible to be faithful to Freeman’s legacy. Well, have you ever tried to find 2 saddles to replace the missing ones on a vintage Accutune tremolo bridge (which Freeman had locked in place in his own unique fashion)? Or find a 1966 double rocker switch from a Teisco Spectrum guitar? Tuners for the various guitar necks were less of an issue, as Freeman had mixed and matched them with all manner of parts. Still, I had to try to do this with reliable used parts at low cost.



With all of these guitars, my first steps were to disassemble and inspect them, cleaning the switches, volume and tone controls and treating the moving parts, such as tuners, with dry silicone or Teflon lubricants. I tested each of the controls and the pickups for electrical continuity and measured the outputs to see whether they were fully functional and how they matched up with one another. After replacing missing or broken parts and repairing others, fixing or replacing broken wiring, I strung each one up, adjusted the string height and intonation, and fired them up on my amplifier to see if they worked and how they sounded. While I cleaned up each instrument as best I could and removed rust and dirt where I could, we agreed that it was important not to change the appearance or original function of any of these guitars, so as to preserve Freeman’s original designs and execution. In searching for parts to repair or complete the instruments, I would sometimes strike gold, as when I found a sack of Fender-style volume and control knobs (many of the guitars were missing knobs and switch tips) for about 15 cents apiece. Other times, I had to search high and low for a direct replacement or something that would approximate one.


Each of these guitars has its own distinctive voice and playing characteristics and it has been a learning experience for me to see how he has assembled, set up and wired these various guitars in unusual but fully functional ways.

— Eric Ginsburg

Diggin’: Sam Frazier, Jr. – Cabbage Man

When we first met Sam Frazier, Jr. and recording some of his songs he told us that one of his favorite Country Music tunes he wrote is about cabbage. We asked him to explain and he started to told that one of his favorite meals was a fried cabbage sandwich and that makes him a Cabbage Man. In the song Sam acknowledges that his love for cabbage was due to being born into poverty, a cabbage sandwich being one of the cheapest meals you could get. For years, Sam was a Charlie Pride impersonator in Las Vegas. You can surely hear that country twang from those years on Cabbage Man!

This is from our recent food themed release Biscuits For Your Outside Man.

Physical –

iTunes –

Bandcamp –


— Corn Lewis

Eddie Tigner Needs Your Help!


On August 11, Music Maker’s longtime partner artist and original Inkspot, Eddie Tigner turns 90.

In a recent discussion with Eddie we asked him about how his house was doing. When we got down to it, there was a significant list of concerns that need to be addressed: safety railings for the bathroom, a wiring issue has left several rooms without working light fixtures, undergirding needs repair causing a roach problem, and bad pipes are making the bathtub inoperable.

This is all too common for many seniors, who are trying to maintain their sense of pride and independence against mounting obstacles. Dealing with health issues while living on a limited and fixed income makes home ownership a sizable and taxing responsibility for aging seniors. The average senior adult receiving Social Security Income gets just $433 each month – hardly enough to get by. Often they are forced to choose between feeding themselves, making it to the doctor, or making much needed home repairs.

Music Maker is currently working with Eddie to address his housing needs.Your support allows Music Maker to partner with artists like Eddie and work though complex issues on a case-by-case basis, making sure that Eddie can keep playing the music that we all love to hear.

Make Your Tax Deductible Contribution Today!


Diggin’: Alabama Slim – I Love My Guitar


Alabama Slim plays Deep Blues. Originally from Vance, AL but Slim has lived in New Orleans since the late 60s. Standing tall at around 6’7″ and always wearing a pinstripe suit, Slim’s guitar style is influenced by his slender build. Sparse lead guitar on top of a walking bass line sets the tone for I Love My Guitar. The tune is about the love a musician can have for one’s instrument and the need to play. This need is so great that Alabama Slim warns women not to get too caught up their relationship because he can really only love one thing – his guitar.

Diggin’: Pat Sky – Many A Mile

Last week we introduced new Music Maker Recipient artist, Pat Sky. So this week we are Diggin’ on his classic “traveling” song, Many A Mile. Many A Mile was covered in many of the most prominent folk clubs during the 60s and 70s, and if you listen to the song you can hear why. His constant fingerpicking accompanied by a lilting lonely voice makes for one amazing folk song.


— Corn Lewis

Artist Spotlight: Albert White

Albert White began playing guitar in the late ‘50s with his legendary uncle, Piano Red, and his group “Dr. Feelgood & the Interns. Since then, Albert has performed with Joe Tex, The Tams, Ray Charles and many such artists during his 50 year tenure as a Blues and R&B musician. Albert still devotes himself to music, performing with his old band member Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and recording Music Maker CDs, including his solo album, The Soul of the Blues.


Support Artists Like Albert White Today!

UPDATE: Ironing Board Sam Is On the Mend!


In October 2015, just as Big Legal Mess was set to release Ironing Board Sam’s “Super Spirit,” Sam suffered a stroke that left him hospitalized for the better part of the following two months. He began rehab and moved to Montgomery, AL to be closer to his daughter who has been managing his care. The stroke was a difficult set back at a time when his career reprise was demonstrating its fullest potential. Sam heard the completed record from his hospital bed. Even through the heartbreaking set back he was able to muster a smile and feel the satisfaction of a vision seen to its completion.

Last week, Sam called in to report that his progress is steady, he is walking with the assistance of a cane, looking like a blues statesman. He was also thrilled to report that he would soon be getting his license back and would be able to drive himself to his outpatient therapy sessions he attends three times a week. He said he is grateful for Music Maker’s support which has been helping him stay up on his bills and expenses and hopes to soon return to his music. His optimism and courage are trademarks of his personality and his offbeat, remarkable career in music and entertainment. He is truly an inspiration and we hope you join us is wishing him a speedy and full recovery.

You can help support artist like Ironing Board Sam today!

Diggin’: Harvey Arnold – Love Her With a Feeling


Harvey Dalton Arnold is one of the musicians that we are lucky to have local to the Music Maker office, so we see him often! Harvey is a part of the Music Maker Blues Revue, often playing electric bass alongside drummer Bubba Norwood to form an indomitable rhythm section.

At our recent Freight Train Blues series in Carrboro, our headlining artist suddenly became ill. While Harvey was only expecting to play bass that night, he stepped in as the front man and delivered an amazing performance without skipping a beat. I was completely wowed by the show! Here is a short little tune from Harvey’s solo album, Outlaw.

— Jessica


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September 2016
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