It's Nice To Be Understood

A well written review from AmericanaUK of Wild Bill Jones:

  • The Quiet American is a duo consisting of husband and wife Aaron and Nicole Keim, and together they have created in "Wild Bill Jones" something pretty special. For you can count 'em on the fingers of one hand - the true American folk concept albums. This is one of them - not just a themed album or a set of vaguely connected songs, but a proper story telling session over fifteen tracks.

  • It narrates, through songs and tunes, that old story of boy meets girl meets different boy who gets girl pregnant and is then shot by jealous first boy. First boy is then hung; girl is left alone to mourn. It's an old story, and it's told in a very traditional way with the "old-timey" principal instruments of clawhammer banjo, guitar and fiddle with blended male and female vocals.

    The songs are a mix of roughly half and half traditional and new songs - although it would take a fine ear indeed to separate the one from the other. Opener "Apple in the Fall" is a perfect example - telling of a girl becoming an adult, with the men starting to come to call - the mix of banjo, handclaps and the chorus sung as a round all work to portray a song at least a hundred years old, but no, it's a new one. "Come walkin' with me" similarly pulls off the appearance of age, but on this occasion by "borrowing" a tune from "Take a whiff on me" and minstrelising it - there's a really fine swooping fiddle break from Greg Canote and a sweet bit of jogging harmonica added by Jere Canote.

    It's the natural flow of the album from end to end that is so impressive, there is a superb central section starting with "Wild Bill Jones" which depicts the murderer's courtroom defiance, that flows into the night before the hanging jaunty repentance of "Keys to the Kingdom" followed up by the restless sleep and disturbed final dreams of the instrumental "Crooked Tree Waltz" which segues straight into the white-rope terror of "Gallows Pole". Here the traditional pleading for family and friends to buy the condemned man's freedom is greeted with the lyrical twist "you ain't pure like silver / you don't shine like gold / I just came to watch you hang / hanging from the Gallows Pole". With its insistent drumming beat and edgy banjo playing it performs the minor miracle of polishing up this well-worn song into something new.

    The last third of the album closes out events by following young Posey's path from the murder of her lover and the hanging of her impassioned would-be suitor. Sorrow and acceptance and the hope for a new love, though that be as yet unfound, are played out in a series of songs that showcase Nicole Keim's sweet and clear voice. A beautiful duet, on Daniel Johnston's bitter-sweet "True Love Will Find You In The End", makes a fitting closing track. This is a superb album in concept and in execution. The playing is perfect, and the vocals are to die for. What I need to do here is throw in a generous handful of adjectives caught up from the box of superlatives, but let’s save a little time - if you like old-timey / American folk / good music then run to the record store (or the internet if you must) and get hold of this album.

Two Videos With Martin Gilmore

Martin spent four days with us learning new music, jamming with the locals, playing gigs and drinking wine.  Very productive.  Also, we went out to Paul Lestock's shop and he picked up an Arrow octave mandolin, which you can hear on both of these vids.  It was inspiring for us to have someone around who really plays the same style as us.  Most of our friends in the Gorge lean towards jazz and swing more than we do.  So, it was nice to just play some old time stuff for once.

A nice writeup from the Utne Reader!

One of the most exciting things about folk music is how often it changes. Dozens of singers have worked and reworked old legends like “John Henry” and “Stackalee,” freely blending fact, fiction, and myth. At every step in the process, the story moves a little further from real history, but then also comes to express deeper truths about where it’s been and where it’s going. The Quiet American’s Wild Bill Jones project, a concept album about the legendary man’s life, has a similar feel. Mixing gorgeous original compositions with traditional and contemporary ballads about love, betrayal, and death, Wild Bill Jones adds rich perspective to the familiar story, while also adding a new layer of myth to the legend. The traditional “Keys to the Kingdom” is not a boast by Jones’ defiant killer, and Daniel Johnston didn’t write “True Love Will Find You in the End” about Jones’ onetime lover Posey. But, together with stunning original works by the husband and wife duo, the selections give a remarkable subtly and complexity to an already haunting legend. As with earlier folk legends, myth and fiction can express a greater truth.Wild Bill Jones is available now through CD Baby.    

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My #1 Musical Influence- Mike Seeger

Historian, musicologist, teacher, folky, traveler, hot picker, etc....His records and scholarship have been my guiding light for 10 years now.  I met him once and took a lesson at his home in Virginia in 2006.  The formal dining room of his old "plantation" house was full of instrument cases!  We went on the back porch and spent the afternoon picking banjo together.  He wouldn't take any money from me, cause the people who taught him wouldn't either.  (gulp, shrug, gasp, Dock Boggs, Tom Ashley, Tommy Jarrell, etc...)  In hindsight, I should have broke up my band, quit grad school and moved into his guest room with no hesitation.  (would he have had room for Nicole too?) 

But that didn't happen and here we are, still missing his presence, RIP.  Here are some great vids of him:  


Clawhammer Playlist

I finally got around to organizing all the clawhammer ukulele videos on to one playlist.  I hope this will be helpful to all of you who recently ordered the clawhammer ukulele book.  Enjoy!