Old Time Banjo player Nora Brown Previews Her Upcoming Parlor Room show 1/30

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.

Source: Old Time Banjo player Nora Brown Previews Her Upcoming Parlor Room show 1/30

Gwenifer Raymond On The Art Of Primitive Guitar

To hear Gwenifer Raymond perform is to be swept up into near-orchestral tapestries of noise.

It’s remarkable, then, to step back and fully realise that those cyclones of melody are being generated by one person, and one instrument.

Predominantly a guitarist – although she’s also a noted banjo player – Gwenifer Raymond is a phenomenal instrumentalist, someone who is able to blend different traditions and techniques into a highly personal landscape.

Releasing two albums along the way, Gwenifer Raymond is one of this country’s most-noted guitarists working in a so-called Primitive Style.

Ahead of her set at EFG London Jazz Festival this weekend, the Welsh-born, Brighton-based artist breaks down what Primitive Guitar actually entails – and why it’s moniker belies the open-ended, highly complex artistry underneath.

The first player I ever heard that could be inarguably categorized as ‘Primitive Guitar’ was John Fahey – inarguable because, as a man at a loss for a genre, he came up with the term ‘American Primitive’ to describe his own instrumental fingerstyle compositions. Prior to this he’d been regarded as a ‘jazz guitarist’, but the term ‘primitive’ seemed to apply more accurately given his strong influences from pre-war blues and Appalachian folk music and how that could tie in more generally to the art primitivism movement.

I entered the world of Primitive Guitar on a tangent from youth playing in punk and grunge bands. Alongside this healthy appreciation of a racket I was also brought up with the records of Dylan, Young, The Velvet Underground etc blaring through the house. At some point I discovered that a common influence that threaded through these seemingly disparate musics were the early American blues players. I bought a bunch of cheap compilation CDs, and from about one verse into Mississippi John Hurt’s ‘Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me’ I was a goner.

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Having taken up the acoustic guitar for a few years I became especially obsessed with the alternating thumb technique popular with country blues pickers of the pre-war period. Being very impatient at learning other people’s songs and having a vocal talent in the category of ‘burning sack of caterwauling cats’, I had resigned myself to composing solo fingerstyle blues guitar instrumentals. I didn’t know that was a thing that might interest other people until another Cardiff guitar player played me my first Fahey record. It was at that point I became ‘American Primitive’.

More recently the term ‘American Primitive’ has become increasingly contentious due to the problematic connotations the word ‘Primitive’ may have in the context of predominantly black and/or poor musicians. It seems quite reductive to describe the sophisticated and adept finger-dancing of blues players like Blind Boy Fuller as ‘primitive’. It also limits the scope of the associated guitar soli movement to ‘Americana’, whereas in reality it draws influence from pretty much every nation imaginable (and some unimaginable – just to make matters even more complicated psychedelic also has a strong presence in a lot of Primitive Guitar music). That said, we all need a section on the record shelves, and the differentiation between primitive and folk art often seems mostly driven by whatever’s popular at the time. So I find myself quite happy to ascribe my own through-line from punk-rock to psychedelic-blues-jazz as a Primitive journey of the guitar.

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My first album ‘You Never Were Much Of A Dancer’ is definitely an American Primitive record in that it is very heavily drawn from the traditions of American blues and folk music. However, I think my second (most recent) album, ‘Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain’ is a departure from the strict Americana labelling. I’d been listening to more avant-garde works while I was writing it, which somehow put me in mind of the strange land and folklore of my childhood in the south Wales valleys. Dark forest misted in low sun, breath in the air and wild roots grabbing at my feet. From that pervasive landscape I think I formed something a little more my own; a Welsh Primitive sound.

On that I’m going to leave with a list of four guitarists that influenced me, in the order that I first heard them. Within each of them is a mish-mash of what in my opinion define the four humours of great guitar: Minimalism, racket, dissonance and scandalously catchy hooks.

Joey Santiago

Blind Boy Fuller

John Fahey

Master Wilburm Burchette

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Catch Gwenifer Raymond at Kings Place, London on November 12th as part of EFG London Jazz Festival // full ticket information.

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Source: Gwenifer Raymond On The Art Of Primitive Guitar

Tributes paid to prolific singer-songwriter Michael Chapman, who has died aged 80

The announcement was made earlier today (September 11), informing fans that Chapman died at his home at age 80.

Folk singer-songwriter Michael Chapman has died at the age of 80.

The announcement was made via Chapman’s Instagram page earlier today (September 11). No cause of death was revealed, but the social media post stated that Chapman died in his home.

“Please raise a glass or two to a gentleman, a musician, a husband, a force of nature, a legend and the most fully qualified survivor,” it reads.

His label Paradise of Bachelors also issued a statement on the platform.

“Michael Chapman was a hero and friend to so many, including us,” they wrote, “moving with unmatched grace, vigor, and gruff humor within and beyond his songs and those he inspired from others. We are devastated to hear of his passing today.”

Born in Leeds in 1941, Chapman released his debut album, ‘Rainmaker’, in 1969. Since then, he has issued over 40 full-length albums. His final recorded effort, ‘True North’, was released in 2019 via Paradise of Bachelors.

In his work, Chapman explored roots music, such as blues and folk, through acoustic and electric instruments, issuing multiple instrumental efforts and collaborations over the decades. His work has also been influential to various artists ever since, including Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore.

In 2017, Chapman told The Guardian that he had dinner with Moore in 1998, who confessed to him that his 1973 album, ‘Millstone Grit’, helped spark the genesis of Sonic Youth. “He blames the feedback extravaganzas on there for them forming,” Chapman said.

On Instagram, Moore shared a clip from a fireside performance by Chapman via Ecstatic Peace Library. “And this is the last time we saw you by the fire,” he wrote. “We got to know England when (and because) we got to know you. Thank you hero.”

A 2012 compilation album, titled ‘Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman’, featured covers of his songs by Moore, Lucinda Williams, Hiss Golden Messenger, and William Tyler, among others.

Chapman also spent his time in recent decades touring with younger contemporaries such as Bill Callahan, Ryley Walker, Daniel Bachman, and the late Jack Rose.

Singer-songwriter Steve Gunn, who went on to produce ‘True North’ for Chapman, told The Guardian that his 1970s albums “were so ahead of their time”. Upon news of his death, the musician tweeted pictures of Chapman, one taken with Gunn.

US label Light in the Attic, who reissued his first four albums in the 2010s, called Chapman “a rare human”.

“Immensely talented, honest, supportive, funny, and always zero bullshit,” they wrote.

Source: Tributes paid to prolific singer-songwriter Michael Chapman, who has died aged 80