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  • Black Banjo Songsters of N Carolina & Virginia
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Black Banjo Songsters of N Carolina & Virginia


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Audio CD, February 17, 1998
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Frequently Bought Together

Black Banjo Songsters of N Carolina & Virginia + African Banjo Echoes In Appalachia: Study Folk Traditions (Publications of the American Folklore Society)
Price for both: $40.25

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 17, 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • ASIN: B000001DJP
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,185 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Coo Coo - John Snipes
2. Coo Coo - Dink Roberts
3. Old Rattler (Fox Chase) - John Snipes
4. Georgia Buck - Dink Roberts
5. Georgia Buck - Joe Thompson & Odell Thompson
6. John Henry - James Roberts
7. High Sheriff - Dink Roberts
8. John Hardy - Dink Roberts
9. Garfield - Dink Roberts
10. Old Corn Liquor - Dink Roberts
11. Old Corn Liquor - Joe Thompson & Odell Thompson
12. John Henry - Joe Thompson & Odell Thompson
13. Love Somebody - Joe Thompson & Tommy Thompson
14. Long Tail Blue - John Snipes
15. Ain't Gonna Rain No More - John Snipes & Tommy Thompson
16. Going Where I've Never Been Before - John Snipes
17. Black Annie - Dink Roberts
18. Old Blue - Dink Roberts
19. Going Away From Home - John Snipes
20. You Don't Know My Darling - John Snipes
See all 32 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Amazon.com

This is more than just another excellently researched, heavily-annotated, and well-recorded Smithsonian Folkways disc of archival old-time sound. Like recordings of fife and drum music, this collection documents a rich African American musical tradition that was all but lost by the 1970s. The textbooks tell us that the banjo was brought to America by enslaved Africans, but the majority of musicians who've recorded with that instrument are white. While many of these modal, story-based folk songs will be familiar--"Coo Coo," "John Henry," "Shortnin' Bread"--there's an edge to these versions that's firmly rooted in the blues. Black Banjo Songsters is an essential compilation of claw-hammer-style banjo playing and deep, Appalachian singing. It happens to redress a historical wrong, but it's also a grand recording of deep, raw folk. --Mike McGonigal

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
I am enjoying this music from the past.
Shirley Ambrose
Their music has inspired a new generation of Black banjoists that keep the banjo ringing.
Tony Thomas
Archival, yes, but the music contained on this CD is more vital than you can imagine.
B. BEATTY

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By B. BEATTY on February 15, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Archival, yes, but the music contained on this CD is more vital than you can imagine. It must be heard to be believed. Listening to the likes of John Snipes and Dink Roberts changed my life. This is banjo music to calm the weary soul...and give it just the bit of thrill we all deserve. Plus, buying CDs on the Smithsonian/Folkways label is a way to help them continue their valuable work.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Scott on April 2, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Only two of the tunes on this CD, "Going Where..." and "Going Away...," are closely related to blues music, in both cases very early blues music. The other thirty tracks are honest-to-goodness 19th-century-style, pre-blues, non-blues folk music -- a whole earlier animal than blues music, which didn't arise until about 1900. For instance, "John Hardy" is about a real West Virginian who was hanged in 1894 (coincidentally the year Dink Roberts was born); "John Hardy" isn't a blues song, and no one has ever found evidence of _any_ blues song existing as early as 1894.
For 19th-century-style banjo, by musicians who were immersed in it during the 1900s to 1930s when they were young and it was still very well-known in some rural areas, you can't do better than this remarkable CD. Many of these banjoists learned their tunes first-hand from banjoists who were born around the 1870s.
If this is your cup of tea, some other wonderful banjoists who recorded similar pre-blues, non-blues folk music, all born in the late 19th century, would be Belton Reese, Jake Staggers, Nathan Frazier, Sidney Stripling, Bill Cornett, Will Slayden, and H.N. Dickens.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By LK on September 19, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Wonderful CD--some bizarre song content that makes you glad that is in an unedited collection of songs. Free form thoughts just pouring out--you really feel like you are there sitting next to these people. This is authentic old music--not for people who sort-of like old stuff. I recommend this CD, it is one that I've passed around to 5 or 6 friends. Stuff most people haven't heard unless they listen to esoteric public radio broadcasts in the back woods at 6 AM.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Pharoah S. Wail VINE VOICE on March 12, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Historically and musically speaking, this is an excellent disc. Aside from doing its part to help fill in this gap in America's musical picture, it also delivers some stellar performances.

This disc gives us not only a glimpse into the nearly forgotten world of African American banjo playing, but also snapshots of varying personal and regional styles.

Of the artists captured on this disc, Dink Roberts, his son James, John Snipes' instrumental pieces, and Rufus Kasey would get my votes for the top musicians on the disc, with Dink being the pinnacle. With as many banjo styles, playing styles, and personal styles as there are in the world, there are times during this disc when I feel like Dink has one of the ultimate, definitive tones and styles. His CooCoo is almost unrecognizeable from the tune you most likely know from Clarence Ashley, Hobart Smith, etc... yet it is every bit as interesting.

This is an essential disc for anyone even partially interested in banjo music and history, but purchasing it alone won't quite give you the full picture. To really maximize this disc, I recommend that you buy it in tandem with the excellent book, African Banjo Echoes In Appalachia (which is also available at this website). They are companion pieces written and recorded by the same woman and should be considered inseparable.

From the various CooCoos to the 2 excellent but differing versions of Shortnin' Bread, John Hardy to Georgie Buck, there are many stand-out performances in this collection.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Myra Hill on October 12, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I'm African American and learning how to play the banjo. I tried this CD out from the library and I was very impressed with the old time style banjo music from blacks. And I didn't know that Etta James played the banjo. The song Jaybird played by Ms. Jamess was so beautiful.
It's unfortunate that we don't see many African American playing banjos today and how they contributed the banjo to American culture.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on September 8, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The pickers and players on these recordings are not only preserving the history of the African American origins of the Banjo, of the African American origins of both frailing/clawhammer/knocking/rapping or whatever you want to call down picking, as well as Carolina two finger pikcing. Moreover, by issuing these recordings Scott Oddell and Cece Conway, helped these pickers to light the torch to pass the flame on. From all over the country and beyond, Black banjoists are reviving, extending and enriching what our elders here have done.

Today, one of the most dramatic innovative Blues performers, like Taj Mahal, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Otis Taylor have picked up the banjo. Otis will be coming out with a recording including Kep Mo, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Corey Harris, and New Orleans tenor and six string banjo master Don Vappie that seeks to recapture the banjo for Black folk in February 2008. The last several years has seen the resurgence of several African American string bands playing this music including the Carolina Chocolate Drops and New York's Ebony Hillbillies.

April 7-10 2005 at Appalachian State University with the able and friendly assistance of Dr. Cece Conway, we will be held the first Black Banjo Then and Now Conference. We united elder Black banjoists and fiddlers like those on these recordings as their virtual descendants among younger generations of Black folk from middle schoolers on up with t national and international scholars of the banjo, unblack banjo pickers and fiddlers.

While this music sounds bluesy, exhibiting their common African American heritage, this music is different from the Blues.
Read more ›
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