New Dangerfield reignites the black string band tradition

A new band has hit the scene this year that is reviving the tradition of black string bands. They go by the name New Dangerfield, in honor of Dangerfield Newby, a free black abolitionist who took part in John Brown’s historic raid in Harper’s Ferry, VA in 1859. Newby was one of five black raiders, and he lost his life in the attack on the federal arsenal, launched in hopes of instigating a slave revolt.

It’s been a shame for several generations now that few black Americans even know about the important participation of their ancestors in old time music, much less check out the sounds. That is starting to change now through the efforts of artists like Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, who played together in the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and the members of New Dangerfield themselves. The IBMA Foundation is also working this educational angle with their Arnold Shultz Fund.

The group is made up of artists who also perform with other acts, or on their own, so their performance dates will be somewhat limited, at least at this point. But what they have created so far is highly energetic and forward looking, as opposed to trying to recreate something from the past.

Members include fiddler and vocalist Jake Blount, banjo player Tray Wellington, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kaia Kater, and bass player Nelson Williams. Jake and Tray front their own groups, Kaia tours as a solo artist, and Nelson performs with Chris Jones & The Night Drivers.

They have released a debut single with Free Dirt Records, which they call Dangerfield Newby, a reimagining of the old time tune, Dangerfield, also known as Old Sport. It’s a cool combination of old time fiddle and three finger banjo on this familiar melody.

Have a listen…

Dangerfield Newby is available now from popular download and streaming services online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.