Nora Brown is a poised and talented teenager from Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Not the usual bio from a solo banjo and unaccompanied ballad singer specializing in the music of Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. Her sound is amazingly authentic having gone to sit and learn from the masters of old-time music like the late Lee Sexton. Her latest EP, “Sidetrack My Engine”, released recently on Jalopy Records was recorded in her basement; not your average basement mind you. Her parents distribute cheese that they age in the century-old lagering tunnels beneath their building. This cave-like structure is the setting for the latest recording. Recorded on an ancient Ampex reel to reel with old RCA ribbon mics, the songs sound timeless. Our segment begins with the old time tune, “Wedding Dress” which she learned from one of her mentors, John Cohen, of the New Lost City Ramblers.
Our conversation touches on many subjects including her love for the mournful ballads of the South, her collaboration with Alice Gerrard, pioneering bluegrass performer, who produced her first release, “Cinnamon Tree”. We talk about the unusual sonic qualities of the cheese/beer lagering tunnel, her work with Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton who plays the bones on a few tracks.
Of course, we ask Nora to tell us about her trio of banjos and their unique styles they give her music. The release is only seven cuts because of the tunnel/analog equipment used there is another release in the works recorded in St Ann’s church, the site of the Brooklyn Folk Festival.
Nora Brown will be appearing at Northampton’s newly-reopened Parlor Room on January 30th. Tickets are on sale.