Smithsonian Folkways releases Classic Banjo

Classic Banjo from Smithsonian FolkwaysSmithsonian Folkways has announced the release of the 30-track Classic Banjo (SFW 40209), a compilation that captures the great versatility of the banjo and its part in shaping American musical identity, including the instrument’s vital role in the 1960s folk revival.

Compiled by ethnomusicologist Greg Adams and archivist Jeff Place from over 300 albums is the 22nd release in the acclaimed Classic Series.

The banjo is a “bigger than life” instrument, a symbol of deep southern American heritage. At the same time, beneath its veneer as an old-time icon, the story of the banjo is one of enormous creativity and adaptation to many musical traditions around the world – from Africa, to the Caribbean, to North America, to Europe and beyond.

Accompanying the 30 deep and varied gems of banjo artistry taken from the Folkways archives, extending to 64 minutes of music, is a 44-page booklet with extensive notes that offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection, and several photographs.

The collection offers an introduction to some of the many faces behind the music of the banjo, such as a recording of a young Pete Seeger performing a rapid-fire banjo medley as well as Doc Watson’s 1976 rendition of Rambling Hobo, the first banjo tune Watson, better known for his guitar playing, ever learned. Other featured performers include Elizabeth Cotten, Bill Evans, Snuffy Jenkins, Bill Keith, Dink Roberts, Roni Stoneman, Tony Trischka, and Don Vappie.

The full track list is as follows …

  1. Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Girl / Cripple Creek / Ida Red / Old Joe Clark – Pete Seeger (2:35)
  2. Banging Breakdown – Hobart Smith (1:17)
  3. Johnson Boys – Frank Proffitt (1:41)
  4. Peachbottom Creek – Wade Ward (1:24)
  5. Coo Coo – Dink Roberts (2:10)
Josh Thomas’s Roustabout – Mike Seeger (2:38)
  7. Jaw Bone – Willie Chapman (0:52)
Bright Sunny South – Dock Boggs (3:36)
  9. Coal Creek March – Pete Steele (1:52)
  10. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues – Josh Thomas (3:37)
  11. Walk Light Ladies – Rufus Crisp (1:28)
  12. Buck Creek Girls – Bill Cornett (1:00)
  13. Gut Bucket Blues – Don Vappie (4:15)
  14. Skylark / Roaring Mary – Mick Moloney (3:24)
  15. St. Anne’s Reel / La Renfleuse Gorbeil – Ken Perlman (2:50)
  16. Smokey Mokes – Roger Sprung (2:21)
  17. Golden Bell Polka – A.L. Camp (2:25)
  18. Banjoland – Tony Trischka with Bill Evans (3:00)
  19. Sally Ann – Snuffy Jenkins (1:10)
  20. Lonesome Road Blues – Roni Stoneman (1:12)
  21. Fox Chase – Lee Sexton (0:56)
  22. Hop Along Lou – John Tyree (1:08)
Cotton Eyed Joe – “Big Sweet” Lewis Hairston (1:23)
  24. Foggy Mountain Top – Ola Belle Reed (2:29)
  25. Rambling Hobo – Doc Watson (1:37)
  26. Old Rattler – John Snipes (2:46)
Georgia Buck – Elizabeth Cotten (1:42)
  28. I Wish to the Lord I’d Never Been Born – Irvin Cook (3:07)
Black Eye Susie – Roscoe Holcomb (1:24)
  30. Bluegrass Breakdown – Bill Keith with Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys (3:09)

To listen to three selections from Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways, visit the Smithsonian Folkways preview page.

Visit Classic Banjo at Smithsonian Folkways for a free download sample, ordering and more information.

Classic Banjo was compiled by ethnomusicologist Greg Adams and archivist Jeff Place. Adams is also currently an archivist at Rinzler Archives and has been playing banjo and studying its history since 1994, working closely with scholars, musicians and collectors to raise awareness of the banjo’s broader multicultural significance. Place, archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Rinzler Archives, has produced more than 50 Smithsonian Folkways recordings, including the Grammy award-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.