Rhiannon Giddens for Mike Seeger and Smithsonian Folkways

Not long before he passed in 2009, noted folklorist and archivist Mike Seeger embarked on what was to be his final trip collecting songs and tunes among the Appalachian mountains he called his home. Mike had dedicated his entire professional life to traditional mountain music, and the people who played it, and had a documentary film crew along on this last journey collecting recordings of regional banjo styles across North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Now this film is set to be released on September 20, along with a new tribute album by many of his friends and admirers as a 2-CD and DVD set called Just Around The Bend: Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Styles – Mike Seeger’s Last Documentary. Artists featured on the audio recording include Riley Bagus, Rhiannon Giddens, Leroy Troy, Peter Gott, Joe Ayers, George Gibson, and many more

This 2009 foray found Mike with his wife, Alexia Smith, and filmmaker Yasha Aginsky, visiting a number of banjo players to film and record them and their music. Smithsonian Folkways, who is releasing the project, shared a video taken from the film which features Mike recording Rhiannon Giddens on Georgia Buck.

Alexia also shared a few words about the visit with Giddens:

“After his own decades-long immersion in old-time music, Mike set out on this documentary journey to explore the ‘revival and survival’ of tradition banjo music in the South. It was wonderful to take part in his exchange with Rhiannon, the young African-American woman who had only recently discovered old-time music and realized that ‘it’s my party, too,’ and who was bringing the music to new audiences and with a fresh perspective. The trip onward led to visits with banjo players of all ages and experiences and styles of playing. I’m especially glad that the video shows Mike’s warm relationship with them all!”

The label also released this video preview of the documentary, with narration by Yasha Aginsky.

Pre-orders for this package are available at the Smithsonian Folkways site, which includes the 2 CDs, a DVD of the film, and an 80 page booklet containing extensive song and performance notes. It would seem an excellent tribute to a man who gave his life to mountain music.

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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.