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Southern Banjo Sounds

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Album Review

With this collection, Mike Seeger's intention is to illustrate the wide variety of banjo sounds heard in the rural South before 1950. Each of the 26 tracks employs a different style, using a range of techniques, many in the clawhammer, two-finger, and three-finger style; "Come My Little Pink," for instance, specifically emulates Earl Scruggs' playing. The repertoire of the songs chosen covers a similarly wide range, from blues and bluegrass to 19th century African-American banjo and traditional folk. As icing on the cake, no less than 23 separate banjos were used in the recording (photos of each model are in the liner notes). As you might gather from such a carefully assembled disc, the presentation tends toward the academic and preservationist, rather than the original and artistic; Seeger is a fine and versatile player, though only adequate as a singer. It's of most use to banjo players and scholarly types looking for a handy reference to Southern banjo styles, and it's a successful project when judged by those standards, embellished by lengthy and readable liner notes from Seeger, including a brief history of the American banjo and details about each track. The most unusual item is "Down South Blues" (which Seeger learned from Dock Boggs), on which he achieves a slide banjo-like effect.


Born: 15 August 1933 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Born into one of the first families of American folk music, it was probably inevitable that Mike Seeger would become a musician and folklorist. His father and mother, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, assisted John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of Folk Song in the Library of Congress. Mike's half-brother, Pete Seeger, performed in both the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, while his sister Peggy Seeger was highly regarded in traditional music circles. There was little surprise, then, when Mike Seeger,...
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