Archive for September 2008

Songs of the Great Depression

Monday, September 29th, 2008
(Poster for the National Recovery Administration known as the Blue Eagle, an early New Deal program)

Well, what with the bank failures and giant government bailout of Wall Street, I thought it was time to do an episode featuring the songs of the Great Depression. A lot of great music was composed in response to the collapse of the economy and the hard times of the Great Depression. I’m just scratching the surface on today’s program! But if things keep on the way they are I’m sure I’ll be doing another episode. On today’s show we hear songs about bank failures, New Deal programs, FDR, hard times, inflation, the Union Movement and more. See below for a list of the tracks played on today’s show, plus links and some good articles about the economy.

Article I wrote for the Music for Democracy website on music and politics.

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Here’s an article that I wrote for the Music For Democracy website on the interchange between music and politics. I tried to isolate different approaches to the question of music and politics and then pick one musician that exemplified each approach.

How Musicians Have Responded to Politics: A Brief Historical Overview

Music creates and fosters community by speaking to people’s needs, hopes, fears, and intimate lives — and so does politics. Musicians have responded to this connection in a variety of ways over time. As the host of Down Home Radio, I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a brief survey of how certain musicians, each in a particular way, chose to explore the realm of politics. Obviously, I have only touched on a few musicians here, so please respond with amendments, qualifications, additions and corrections.

Pete Seeger (b. 1919)

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger has worked it from almost every angle over his long career. He started out in the 1930s playing at union meetings, and in 1948, hit the road with Progressive party presidential candidate Henry Wallace to sing songs at campaign rallies. Since the era of the civil rights and peace movements, Seeger has appeared at demonstrations large and small, using his unique celebrity in conjunction with grassroots activism to draw crowds and attention to a wide range of issues, from war and racism, to nuclear power, to ecological awareness. (more…)

Some New Folks Part 1

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Blind Boy Paxton by you.
Blind Boy Paxton at the Jalopy Theater 9/17/08 (Photo by E. Smith)

Today’s show features recordings by some exciting young performers I have encountered.  These are people that I met in my travels and field recorded or who heard about the show and sent in their recordings.  Great stuff!  These artists are operating for the present at an underground and basically local level and I heard about them in a grass roots manner.  Certainly in terms of folk or roots type of music that’s pretty much where its at- no major media attention.  With some exceptions, the only bands in the folk/roots/”obsolete” music field that I’ve thought are any good are ones I’ve heard about in the most grass roots, grapevine, personal encounter type of way.  So I’m happy to share some of these people with the Down Home Radio audience.  The “Some New Folks” episodes of Down Home will be a continuing series on the program, airing every time I amass a critical number of recordings by underground artists that I really like and want to share.  I hope to do interviews with all of the people on today’s show real soon!

On the show today we hear from 6 performers/bands:

1. Clifton Hicks – An excellent singer and old-time banjo player from North Carolina
2. Blind Boy Paxton – Originally from LA but going to school near NYC, plays blues and old time on guitar, piano and banjo and is a great singer too!
3. The Cangelosi Cards – Great New York New Orleans style jazz/swing band.
4. The Squirrelly String Band – Great old-time string band from Berkeley, CA
5. Elizabeth Butters – Dulcimer and guitarist from Cambridge, MA.  An excellent singer of songs and ballads.
6. Frank Hoier – New York folk musician and songwriter writing some really good songs.

Links: (more…)

Some Favorite Videos

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Hello everybody, thought I’d post up a bunch of my favorite videos I’ve found over the last period.  To all those people who have posted these videos – I salute you.


Videos below:

“March of Time” newsreel footage about Leadbelly and John Lomax –
A reenactment where they play the parts of themselves! This is unbelievable footage. It is also pretty spooky and haunted. (more…)

Interview with Brett Ratliff & Sylvia Ryerson

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Brett Ratliff at Jalopy
On today’s show I speak with Eastern Kentucky banjo player, fiddler and singer Brett Ratliff and with Cambridge fiddler Sylvia Ryerson.  Brett and Sylvia were en route through New York and stopped in to play a set at the Roots ‘n’ Ruckus show at the Jalopy Theater in Redhook, Brooklyn.  I recorded their set and interviewed them out on the street afterwords (you will hear some trucks going by).  Sylvia, a student at Wesleyan University in CT, spent the summer working at the radio station of the Appal Shop, a community arts organization in Whitesburg, KY that preserves and promotes old time music, the indigenous music of the area.  Brett lives in Whitesburg and has just released a CD of banjo and fiddle tunes and ballads called “Cold Icy Mountain,” on June Appal records, the Appal Shop label.  We’ll hear about all this in the interview, plus a few songs from the new CD and Brett & Sylvia’s live show that night.

Brett Ratliff is returning to Brooklyn on October 3rd to play a show at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, and a square dance the next night up in Greenpoint.  Be sure to check that out, should be awesome!  I’m definitely gonna go. (more…)