Feb 222017
 
Peregrino

Today, the old bluegrass song “O’Death” is probably best known for the Ralph Stanley a cappella version prominently featured in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Stanley even sang it at the Oscars that year). But the song goes back a century or more, first recorded by Dock Boggs in 1920. That is where Mexico City rock band Peregrino first heard it, and they include a fantastic cover on their debut EP A Younger Man’s Game.

“That version, for me, is just as haunting as the Ralph Stanley version, if not more so,” singer Jairus McDonald says. “I messed around with it for a while on banjo trying to learn his version, but then I decided to make it a little bit more rock/pop-friendly in terms of structure while still maintaining the folk style. Lyrically there are quite a few verses depending on the version, but I cut it down to a simple back-and-forth with one more line from Death to sort of signify the narrator losing. I left a couple Boggs pronunciations in there as a cheeky little tip of the hat to him.” Continue reading »

Aug 102016
 
BowThayer

If you haven’t heard of an instrument called the “bojotar,” don’t feel bad. Only one person in the world plays it: Bow Thayer, an Americana musician up in Vermont. It’s a custom-built combination of the banjo, electric guitar, and dobro. He’s trying to spread the word though, and got a tip from banjo master Béla Fleck. “Béla told me the best way to sell people on the thing is to become a master of it myself,” Thayer said, “to find out what it can really do and blow people away.”

He’s done just that, and his latest demonstration of the bojotar’s prowess comes on a new tribute album to two early American musicians: Dock Boggs and Mississippi Fred McDowell, two obscure rural singers brought to wider attention when recorded by field musicologist Alan Lomax in the ’50s. Thayer titled his tribute The Source and the Servant and has posted his cover of the Boggs song “Sugar Baby” (an excellent demonstration of the bojotar in action) and a note: Continue reading »