Thursday, October 4, 2007

the elusive banjitar

So you play the guitar (or at least know a few chords) and always loved the sound of the banjo, but just didn’t want to learn that crazy thing? Well I found this; it’s called a banjitar and is the hybrid of the two. Basically it’s a banjo with six strings tuned like a guitar. You can pick or strum, play familiar chords and have a whole new sound. I don’t think it’s my kind of thing but I wouldn’t turn one away if someone gave it to me. Regardless it sure looks pretty and probably sounds wonderful.

you can buy one here at banjohut

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

they look good together

Idaho winters are long. A lot of nights you aren't driving anywhere. Last winter I took on the fiddle. It was the pefect snowday activity in a farmhouse without television or the internet. This winter, I'll wrangle a banjo and do the same. Right now I've just started the planning phase, which is listening to clawhammer (old time style I want to learn) recordings and reading intro books. When the snow starts falling I'll order a mountain banjo, and it'll be a grand time.

shady grove

I’m back from a weekend in Tennessee. I was down there to meet up with old friends and play some mountain music at the Old Timer’s Festival in Townsend. During the festival I wore my fiddle on my back in a scrappy backpack I made from some old hiking straps and an old canvas messenger bag. I mention this because when people see you have a fiddle on hand, they request you play for them, even at meals. I was sitting down at a picnic table (Arkansas!) with Taylor and Heather - and a couple of older folks asked if I’d play for them. The lady next to me said “I know you know, shady grove...” (which I do, but hadn’t memorized and messed up) But I was able to play some other fine tunes and then settle back down to eat. We all talked about Tennessee and music for a bit and then the three of us packed up to head over to the cemetery jam. As we walked away Heather heard the older man say “mountain women…” under their breath. I suppose that was our explanation.

What I love about Old Time music is there are only about fifty songs of the Southern Mountains, and those fifty songs have been passed down for generations and can be played a million different ways (and have been). But no matter who you are you can sing along, or improvise something ancient as those songs and make new friends. I was playing in the visitor’s center (upon request of a worker there) and an old lady on a cane walked up to me and whispered “Cluck old Hen” which was the random song I was playing. She knew it and wanted me to know she did. That single little exchange made my weekend.