Archive for the ‘Folk/Tradition’ Category

Sorry if that headline is misleading — no Trombone Shorty/Carl Sandburg mashup is in the offing. (That I know of.)

But two quick noteworthy links:

1. Trombone Shorty was on Sound Opinions (great show) recently. The interview was fine (nothing revelatory to anyone who has been paying attention to New Orleans music  in the last, say, decade), but the performances are really excellent. Listen to the entire show here, or just check out the Trombone Shorty portion here.

2. Leading “SJI” blogger and writer Robert W. Harwood has a nice surprise over I Went Down to St. James Infirmary: The first of a batch of monologues recorded for an “SJI” radio documentary includes some great details about Sandburg and early variations on the song. And he even breaks out his guitar! eally cool… Give it a listen here. And if you want to hear more, tell Mr. Harwood so, he’s looking for feedback!



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I was listening to Sound Opinions’ recent episode of “scary” songs (Halloween-connected and otherwise), and was interested to hear a Willie Dixon/Koko Taylor tune, “Insane Asylum.” Check the opening lyrics:

I went out to the insane asylum
And I found my baby out there
I said please come back to me darlin’
What in the world are you doin’ here?

Then the little girl raised up her head
Tears was streamin’ down from her eyes
And these are the things
That the little girl said ….

Full lyrics after the jump, or you can hear it here:

The hosts made no mention of “SJI,” and of course it isn’t really a cover, but I think the reference point is pretty clear.

The Detroit Cobras also covered it:

Those lyrics in full: (more…)

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This Atlantic item by Hua Hsu points to some very good resources mulling the thorny questions of tradition, folk, authenticity, and experties. What follows is a very long post, written more for my own future reference than anything else. So … you’ve been warned.


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Whose song is that?

As you know, this site is interested, however indirectly, in the intersection of folk/traditional musical culture with the legal system that had come into place by the time “Joe Primrose” claimed to have written “St. James Infirmary.” So Without additional comment, I pass along this item from The Awl:

In 1966, the Beach Boys enjoyed a top ten pop hit with “Sloop John B,” their version of a West Indies folk song that the poet Carl Sandberg included in his 1927 book, The American Songbag, and that producer Alan Lomax recorded the Cleveland Simmons Group singing in the Bahamas in 1935, and that the Kingston Trio had covered in 1958.

In 2010, representatives of the Beach Boys are threatening to sue Katy Perry for the inclusion of one line from one of their own songs, 1965’s “California Girls,” in her song, “California Gurls,” which has sold three million copies this summer. (The line is, “I wish they all could be California Girls,” which was not sung by Perry, but rapped in a guest verse by Snoop Dogg.) 1965 was 45 years ago.

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Views differ on whether “SJI” ought properly be traced quite so far back as “The Unfortunate Rake.” My take remains that there’s somewhat of a connection there, so I read with interest today this entry on NineBullets.net. It’s about “The Cowboy’s Lament”/”Streets of Laredo” a song cycle with a connection to “The Unfortunate Rake” that seems more obvious. But:

While it appears to have descended from “The Unfortunate Rake,” the origins go a little deeper all the way back to an Irish ballad “Bard of Armaugh” which later mutated into “A Handful of Laurel” which is the work “The Unfortunate Rake” was based on.

Read (and listen to) more on this subject, here.

“Bard of Armaugh”? I admit, that’s a new one on me. I’ll investigate as time allows, though comments and tips in the meantime are obviously welcome.

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This fascinating, brilliant 20-minute video narrates the history of the “Amen Break,” a six-second drum sample from the b-side of a chart-topping single from 1969. This sample was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music — a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures. Nate Harrison’s 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.

Via Retro Thing.

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What makes American music American?

Leonard Bernstein gives his answer to the question, in introducing a performance of Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” (conducted by Copeland himself, no less) in 1958. In short, he says it’s the nation’s “many-sidedness,” “all the races and personalities from all over the globe that make up our country.”

When we think of that, we can understand why our own folk music is so complicated. We’ve taken it all in … and learned it from one another. Borrowed it, stolen it, cooked it all up in a melting pot….

His full introduction and articulation of this goes on for a couple of minutes, and is worth checking out.

Via BoingBoing.

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