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Classic Banjo


Smithsonian Folkways (SFWCD40209)

Pete Seeger, Hobart Smith, Wade Ward, Dink Roberts, Dock Boggs, Bill Cornett, Ken Perlman, Tony Trischka With Bill Evans, Snuffy Jenkins, Ola Belle Reed, Doc Watson and more...

Following hot on the heels of ‘Classic Harmonica Blues' in the last catalogue (see SFWCD40204) comes yet another impressive collection drawn from the wealth of historic and high quality music the label has in their extensive vaults.

This time the focus of attention is on the banjo and the extent to which it has proven to be a highly flexible and creative instrument in the evolution of various musical forms in America and beyond.

Compiled by banjo connoisseurs Greg Adams and Jeff Place, this collection draws together 30 examples of the banjo in play, starting with excellent examples of the old-timey mountain music of Virginia and North Carolina from Hobart Smith and Frank Proffitt, before moving on to some fabulous blues (Coo Coo by Dink Roberts is simply sensational), New Orleans jazz (Don Vappie on Gut Bucket Blues), bluegrass (Snuffy Jenkins on Sally Ann), Irish tunes (Mick Maloney on Skylark/Roaring Mary) and re-discovery period folk (Roger Sprung on Smokey Mokes).

And some of it I just wouldn't want to even try to classify, but who cares when its as good as Roscoe Holcomb's Black Eye Susie or Elizabeth Cotten's Georgia Buck. Fortunately, this is where the impressive 44 page booklet comes into its own, providing a wealth of helpful detail on each artist, song and superb essay on the banjo's history.

At the risk of repeating myself from the review of the ‘Classic Harmonica Blues' release, this label's archive is so extensive and of such high quality that tracks could probably be plucked from the archive at random and we would still end up with a tremendous collection. As always however there is nothing randomly chosen here and it is a sheer delight from start to finish.

This review first posted to this website in August 2013

Review Date: April 2018

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