Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Dust Busters - Making the Legacy of Yesterday the Sound of Today

The Dust Busters are Eli Smith, Walker Shepard, and Craig Judelman.  They are young men, but the music they play is 80 to 100 years old, sometimes more.  American old time:  fiddle tunes, ballads, breakdowns, rags, blues, early country, minstrel songs.  If you lived in the South in the early part of the 20th century and played music for your own enjoyment, as a lot of folks did back then, you probably made music like this.

The Dust Busters performing at the Raccoon County Music Festival
Using old 78's, field recordings, and commercial recordings from a bygone era as their guide, The Dust Busters tackle these diverse American folk music styles as a string band.  They not only dust off these old tunes and songs, they inhabit them...time-traveling this music forward with as close to the original style as possible still intact.  As a contemporary band with an ardent focus on tradition, The Dust Busters create an opportunity for today's listeners to discover music that they might not have sought out otherwise.

On their new album Old Man Below, released on the prestigious Smithsonian Folkways label, the Dust Busters collaborated with their mentor and elder John Cohen, co-founder of the New Lost City Ramblers.  Back in the 1960's, when this music was not quite as much of a distant memory, The New Lost City Ramblers were the original musical archeologists – approaching folk music from an intellectual standpoint in an attempt to highlight and preserve its stylistic integrity.  The Dust Busters’ own interpretations of this music carries on that legacy.
Old Man Below was recorded in accordance with modern day standards of fidelity, but it still has a natural sound:  there is no over-dubbing and no reverb; everything was done live.  The 20 tracks come from a number of different sources, as shown in the track list information below.  The Dust Busters manage to honor the various individual styles of the sources while simultaneously bringing a sense of uniformity to the album as a whole.  All that aside, it’s just plain fun to listen to!  Old Man Below is definitely one of the most refreshing, and, ironically, original releases to come out this year in the world of old-time, folk or Americana music.

Track List:  The Dust Busters with John Cohen - Old Man Below
1.      The Honest Farmer
·         Source: John Carson, OKEH 40411 (1925). Vocals- Walker Shepard.
2.      Arkansas Traveler
·         Instrumental. Source: Various.
3.      Black Jack Daisy
·         Source: Dillard Chandler: The End of an Old Song, Folkways 2418 (1975); Vocals- John Cohen.
4.      Roving Gambler
·         Source: Rufus Crisp, unissued library of congress recording. Vocal Influence: Doug & Jack Wallin, Family Songs and Stories from the North Carolina Mountains, Smithsonian Folkways 40013 (1995). Vocals: Eli Smith.
5.      The Old Man Below
·         Source: Gaither Carlton on The Doc Watson Family, Smithsonian Folkways 40012 (1990). Vocals- Walker Shepard.
6.      Wimbush Rag
·         Instrumental. Source: Theo & Gus Clark, OKEH 45339 (1929).
7.      Because He Loved Her So
·         Source: Georgia Crackers, Okeh unissued, 1929; Released on Marimac 9110 (1986). Lead vocals- Craig Judelman. Harmony Vocals- Eli Smith.
8.      Barnyard Medley
·         Instrumental. Source: Hobart Smith, “What did the Buzzard say to the Crow,” In Sacred Trust, Smithsonian Folkways 40141 (2005); Doc Roberts & Asa Martin, “Rye Straw,” Gennett 7721 (1930); and WALKER’S VERSION’S OF “Old Hen Cackled.”
9.      Waltz of Roses
·         Source: Prince Albert Hunt, OREN 45375 (1929); Jimmie Rodgers. Vocals, Walker Shepard.
10. Cotton Pickers Drag
·         Instrumental. Source: The Grinnell Giggers, VICTOR 23632 (1930).
11. Combination Rag
·         Instrumental. Source: East Texas Serenaders, Columbia 15229 (1928).
12. A Lazy Farmer Boy
·         Source: Buster Carter and Preston Young, Columbia 15702D (1931). Vocals- John Cohen.
13. Free Little Bird
·         Source: The Lost Recording of Banjo Bill Cornett, FRC304 (2002); Dykes Magic Trio, Brunswick 129 (1927); Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley, 1960-1962, Smithsonian Folkways 40029 (1994). Vocals- Walker Shepard.
14. Arthritis Blues
·         Source: Butch Hawes on Lonesome Valley: A collection of American Folk Music, Folkways 2010 (1951). Lead Vocals- Eli Smith. Harmony Vocals- Walker Shepard.
15. Fort Smith Breakdown
·         Instrumental. Source: Luke Highnight and His Ozark Strutters, Vocalion 5339 (1928).
16. Johnny Booker (Old johnny booker wouldn’t do)
·         Source: Jerry Jordan, Supertone (SEARS) 9407 (1929). Vocals- John Cohen.
17. Two Soldiers
·         Source: Munroe Gevedon, Library of Congress field recordings 1556B/1557A (1937), Issued on The music of Kentucky, Vol. 2: Early American Rural Classics, 1927-37, Yazoo 2014 (1995). Vocals- Craig Judelman.
18. Baby, Your Time Ain’t Long
·         Source: Al Hopkins and his Buckle Busters, Brunkswick 183 (1927). Lead Vocals- Eli Smith. Tenor Vocals- Walker Shepard. Bass Vocals- Craig Judelman.
19. Yellow Rose of Texas
·         Source: Da Costa Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters, Gennett 6143. (1927) Vocals- Walker Shepard.
20. Saturday Night Waltz
·         Instrumental. Source: Fiddlin’ Bob Larkin and his Music Makers, OKEH 45229 (1928).

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