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Carolina Coverfolk, 2009: The Carolina Chocolate Drops
An African American String Band recreates the original Piedmont blues

April 22nd, 2009 — 01:36 am





Last year’s trip to the American south provided an opportunity to explore the works of Elizabeth Cotten and Doc Watson, two pre-War progenitors of style who, by taking the music of their own communities and reinventing it for the masses, helped define the scope and breadth of modern folk music. I quite enjoyed the research, and though the tracks are long gone, I think the features stand on their own as some of our better work since the blog began.

As I noted earlier this week, this year finds us once again on the outer banks of North Carolina. Rather than mess with a successful formula, our trip occasions a look at some modern inheritors of those traditions. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Carolina Chocolate Drops.


There are two ways to learn music, really: by formal study and by direct transmission. The vast majority of musicians these days learn through the former method, a mixed bag of training, recorded music and noodling, balancing their books on a combination of heart and chords, songbook and soul.

There’s nothing wrong with this, per se: originality, after all, comes of such ownership, coupled with a sense of creation. Indeed, the folkworld thrives on such evolution, depending as it does on a connection to an everchanging culture. Those of us who love modern confessional and coffeehouse folk, not to mention the myriad hybrid forms which have emerged over the last few decades, appreciate the way music stretches and evolves in the hands of such practitioners.

But the transmissionary model isn’t dead. Just as there are audiophiles who insist on the scratchy authenticity of their original 78s, there are still folk musicians who believe that to truly become part of an authentic tradition of music, one must learn the trade authentically, too. From blueswoman Rory Block to Kentucky Appalachian Brett Ratliff, such modern followers of the folkways eschew records and scales, and look to the older ways, seeking out the ancient progenitors of their forms to listen and play along, learning the scratchy, earthy sounds and songs from their elders as if through osmosis.

The result isn’t generally polished, but that’s the point. Instead, such performers tend towards a raw sound, rich in feeling but often sparse in instrumentation, which favors emotional impact over consistent tempo. There’s no gloss here, only timelessness. And folk needs such old blood, too, lest it evolve so far it becomes unrecognizable; lest we lose touch with our origins, and forget that without the old ways to refer to, we cannot have them to reinvent.


Writ large, the Piedmont or “East Coast” blues emanates from a vast swath of rural East Coast America; popular in the early days of recorded music, from the twenties to the forties, its most famous tracks, such as Blind Boy Fuller’s 1940 recording of “Step It Up & Go”, sold as many as half a million copies to blacks and whites alike. Generally, the ragtime-based fingerpicking style which characterizes the once-popular African-American dance music is located as far North as Richmond, VA, and as far south as Atlanta, though of course the emergence of records helped spread the sound much farther in its heyday.

The rediscovery of acoustic blues by folk fans in the sixties brought the music back into the mainstream, bringing many artists out of hiding and into the festival circuit, where they began to trade licks. Today, the Piedmont style and its repertoire can be found in the modern playing of many formally trained folk musicians, from Leo Kottke to Paul Simon.


Modern inheritors of the Piedmont sound, the “African American string band” Carolina Chocolate Drops may have found each other through the newest technology — two of the three met in a listserv and chatspace for Black banjo fans and players — but they picked up their music the old way, seeking out the oldest surviving members of the Piedmont style, learning at the feet of fellow North Carolinans Algia Mae Hinton and Etta Baker, who passed just before the ‘Drops released their debut albums Heritage and Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind in 2007.

Learning from North Carolina musicians magnifies the Carolinan connection in this particular incarnation. Fans of Baker, Hinton, and Carolina Chocolate Drops mentor Joe Thompson of Mebane, NC, said to be the last black traditional string band player, will hear the mannerisms of each in their playing. Even their name, which recalls that of 1920s fiddle-led band the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, pays tribute to the combination of form and geography.

Mountain strings — the banjo, guitar, and fiddle — feature heavily in the Piedmont sound, though not all at the same time; these, plus a smorgasbord of washboards, jugs, combs, and other household instruments round out the Carolina Chocolate Drops performance. But in the end, the instrumentation and the process are subservient to the madcap, heartfelt, almost desperately gleeful energy of the Piedmont style itself, as reincarnated here. It’s dance music, designed to get you jumping, appealing to your basest instincts, your wildest primal hopes and fears.

Here’s a short set of samplers — a modern cover done up old style, a video link to a great version of an old classic learned from Etta Baker, a handful of traditional tracks from their albums, soundtracks, and live appearances — which, in their timelessness and raw beauty, prove the value of the osmotic process, even as they celebrate the eternal spirit of the music itself.


Like what you hear? Carolina Chocolate Drops will be appearing at Merlefest this weekend, way on the other end of the state, but there’s more than one way to support the old ways; musicians can’t survive without fans who buy records, and though they’re not due for a new disk until early 2010, the Carolina Chocolate Drops catalog is well worth owning. Buy direct from the artists, or head out to your local record store; both strategies help spread the word and warm the heart while keeping music small and local.


Today’s Bonus Tracks feature a few more covers learned by and from harmonica player Sonny Terry and blues picker Etta Baker, both members of the older generation of North Carolinan-based Piedmont blues musicians.



Previously on Cover Lay Down:

  • On Race and the Folk Community
  • Carolina Coverfolk, Redux: Songs of the South
  • 1,537 comments » | Blues, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Regional Folk

    Carolina Coverfolk, Redux: Songs of the South
    from Red Molly, Steve Forbert, Cris Williamson and more!

    April 18th, 2009 — 09:12 pm



    I’m down in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina once again, just like last year, on the cusp of a whole week of for what is fast becoming an annual gathering of extended family and friends.

    We left just after school on Friday, and I did the lion’s share of the driving, just over twelve hours of overnight while the kids and spouse napped in the car; since we hit the sandy soil of Kitty Hawk just before sunup this morning, we’ve hit up sand and surf, sucked down breakfast barbecue and beer, eaten sweet frozen custard and bought new floppy hats on the tourist walkways, and stared at enough ocean to resalinate a nation’s saltcellars.

    Unfortunately, what with the overnight drive and a wee bit too much time in the sun this afternoon, I’m feeling far too loopy to cope with anything new. So here’s last year’s set — a host of coverfolk which celebrates the Carolinas, heavy on the southern appalachian sound — with the promise of something slightly more original when my brain recovers. Hope no one minds the reposted material. After all, this is a vacation.

    • Mud Acres: Carolina in My Mind (orig. James Taylor)
      Another song by a native son, this one reinvented as a ragged hootenanny by Happy Traum, banjoist Bill Keith, bass player Roly Salley (who penned the oft-covered Killin’ The Blues) and others from the mid-seventies Woodstock, NY Mud Acres music collective.

    Cover Lay Down publishes every Sunday, Wednesday, and the occasional otherday, regardless of stress or relaxation. Stay tuned later this week for a feature on at least one regionally-relevant folk band…plus more tales of sunburn and surf!

    1,069 comments » | reposts

    (Re)Covered VI: More Covers of and from Freak Folk, Gillian Welch, James Taylor, and Boxing Songs

    July 2nd, 2008 — 05:43 pm

    A long weekend of solo parenting while my wife headed off to Sonoma County for a long-overdue vacation has left me too exhausted for deep thought. Happily, thanks to reader emails, new releases and new discoveries, I’ve got plenty of material for yet another installment of our popular (Re)Covered series, wherein we recover songs that dropped through the cracks too late to make it into the posts where they belonged.

    A few weeks back, when my laptop went kablooie, Jamie — host of the ever-miraculous coverblog Fong Songs — stepped in to save the day with a fascinating guest themepost on Boxing coversongs. Jamie is one of the good guys, and he’s been a great friend since we started Cover Lay Down, giving me an open invitation to share the occasional non-folk set of covers over at his place, and even encouraging his own readers to take advantage of our great promotion for artist-friendly music source Amie Street. So I was thrilled when his guest post turned out to be one of the most popular posts we’ve had here at Cover Lay Down. You guys have good taste.

    As a tip of the hat to this fine coverblogging peer, here’s two more covers of that most obvious Simon and Garfunkel classic from a few great women on the edge of the folkworld: the slow but bright post-country popfolk of Deana Carter (with vocals from Paul Simon’s eldest son), and a surprisingly old-timey take from Emmylou Harris just dripping with tight countryfolk harmony.

    Though our Subgenre Coverfolk feature on Freak Folk is long past, I continue to struggle with Freak Folk and its relationship to folk music writ large. I called it a subgenre when I blogged about it, but the lines around it remain fuzzy, and the question of whether this counts as folk or not remains too entwined with the new indie usurpation of the term “folk” for me to feel totally confident, even now, that I got it right.

    Looking back, I think I agree that Iron and Wine probably doesn’t belong in the roster, despite critical clumping, though I continue to believe that Sufjan shares more sensibility with Devendra Banhart, both as a performer and as a composer, than, say, Vetiver, who tend towards the electronic end of things. But looking at my ever-growing roster of song, I would have no problem including both “chamber pop” singer Antony and the Johnsons and “dream-folk” singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler in any feature on Freak Folk as a subgenre of folk music if I was to post it today. In addition to sharing Banhart’s peculiar wavery lyrical delicacy, both go for a swim of sound which is mystical and grand and personal all at once. It’s eminently folk, and eminently authentic. Freak Folk may be hard to describe, but this music matches my sense of what it is.

    In the comments section of what was otherwise a pretty thorough exploration-through-covers of the songs of Gillian Welch way back in January, several folks mentioned that Over the Rhine covers Orphan Girl live in concert. Having just become a fan of these post-folkers after hearing (and reviewing) their holiday album, I spent the next few months gathering in bootlegs, and — though the piano is a little heavy in spots — have come to the conclusion that the “official” version from their Live from Nowhere, Vol. 2 album remains the best recording of a great, fleshed-out anthemic approach to this song.

    While we’re on the subject, how about another couple of covers of and from the mistress of the new “American Primitive” movement? It’s a little to the left of center, as folk goes, but I just love this americana/ alt-country cover of Look at Miss Ohio from newcomers The New Frontiers. And I’ve been looking for an excuse to post Welch’s dreamy cover of Townes Van Zandt’s Pancho and Lefty for ages, since it combines one of my favorite songs with one of my absolute famous performers. (PS: Gillian Welch’s entire catalog is newly available at Amie Street, too…)

    Finally, we’ve been slamming the feedreaders this week over at collaborative music blog Star Maker Machine with our Fifty States theme: I missed the Massachusetts connection, but was happy to provide a few great songs (originals and covers) for the likes of Rhode Island (Erin McKeown, Blossom Dearie, Jennifer O’Connor), North Dakota (Lyle Lovett), New Jersey (John Gorka, Cliff Eberhardt), and Virginia (Johnny Cash, Dave Alvin, and Crooked Still).

    The planning process took me back to our Carolina Coverfolk series week; while I was there, I found I had missed a few great songs. I ended up choosing a favorite John Hartford song about North Carolina for Star Maker Machine. But since we’re looking back, here’s an old kidsong from North Carolina tradsong savior Doc Watson, and one more Sam Cooke cover from North Carolina emigrant James Taylor, that really shouldn’t have been missed….plus a bonus pair: local singer-songwriter and labor activist Tom Juravich with a true campfire folk cover of James Taylor’s Millworker, and a cover of Fire and Rain by alt-rock/pop/folk artist Dido, just because it made me totally rethink her musicianship.

    Cover Lay Down is proud to support music through raising awareness, but musicians can’t eat awareness. As such, all artist links above lead to websites and stores where you can buy music without having to support corporate cash cows that pay suits better than musicians. And if you’re planning on going digital, remember, folks: Amie Street is not only cheaper than most download sources, it gives back 70% of all profits to artists. Use the code coverlaydown when you sign up for Amie Street, and you’ll get three bucks towards your music purchase absolutely free!

    Coming soon on Cover Lay Down: more folk covers of plenty more popstars, a tribute to my elder child (who turns six in a week and a half), something vaguely patriotic, and a few more single-track cover featurettes from some great new albums and artists which I just can’t seem to shake, and wouldn’t want to. And it’s only two more weeks until Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival!


    Still here? Then P.S. and FYI, coverfans:

    1. I don’t usually promote upcoming radio shows/podcasts, but the folks at The Waiting Room, a radio show out of Cardiff, Wales (UK), will feature three hours of Tom Waits covers on tonight’s broadcast. Their Drunk Covers series is generally good, with vast genre influences, and there’s been a spate of Waits covers around this year…so expect to hear some Tom Waits covertracks you’ve heard here in the last few months…and a whole bunch more you haven’t. The show is broadcast on ErrorFM, which can be heard everywhere; podcast available here on Thursday!

    2. If you haven’t been to Covering the Mouse recently, now’s the time: friend and occasional reciprocal guest-poster Kurtis will be celebrating his one year bloggiversary this month, and to honor the occasion, he’s collecting votes on your favorite past posts for a midsummer review of the best and worst Disney covers. Make your mark: vote now!
    3. I’m not thrilled about Doveman’s cover of the entire soundtrack to Footloose, but My Old Kentucky Blog seems okay with it. Maybe you’ll like it. It’s free…

    934 comments » | (Re)Covered, Antony and the Johnsons, Deana Carter, Dido, Doc Watson, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, James Taylor, Marissa Nadler, Over The Rhine, The New Frontiers, Tom Juravich

    Carolina Coverfolk, Vol. 3: The Traditional Folksongs of Doc Watson

    April 25th, 2008 — 02:57 am

    Elizabeth Cotten and Arthel “Doc” Watson share more than just a connection to the state of North Carolina. Both were culturally disadvantaged — Cotten due to her skin color, and Doc due to a lifelong blindness. Each started performing in childhood, but became truly famous in the great folk revival of the sixties. Both are known for songs which celebrate the hard life and trials of their beloved rural south while addressing universal themes of loss, change, and heartache. And, most importantly, though no one could confuse Cotten’s rural bluesfolk for Doc’s country swing style, each is ranked among the best acoustic fingerpickers of their generation.

    But the differences between the two are great, as well. In fact, presenting Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotten side by side makes for an interesting exercise in folk history, one which allows us to see the great diversity of the strands and influences which came together to make modern folk music in America.


    Unlike Elizabeth Cotton, who came back to folk in the sixties after a long hiatus, Doc Watson (b. 1923) was always a musician, busking with his brother for pennies as a child, supporting himself and his family with his work as a piano tuner to pay the bills when he could not find paid work as a sideman. Though he worked through much of the fifties as an electric guitar player with a country and western swing band, when the modern folk scene began to crystalize in the early sixties, Doc switched over to acoustic guitar and banjo exclusively, making a name for himself as one of the best fingerpickers in the business, and finding himself in high demand on the burgeoning folk circuit.

    Where Cotten is primarily known for her original songs and original rhythmic style, Doc Watson’s greatest contributions to folk music came from his source material and lightning speed. His ability to blow the socks off every other picker in the room is well known, and his work as a songwriter is honest and respectable. But as folk, his repertoire is most significant for its use of songs from the oral tradition which might otherwise have been lost. We might say that while it was Mike Seeger’s recordings of Elizabeth Cotten which saved her authentic voice, Doc Watson’s recordings and performance of the mountain ballads from the areas around his home of Deep Gap, North Carolina allow us to consider Doc a Seeger to his own people.

    This is not to say that the tradsongs of Doc Watson sound anything like Cotten’s originals, stylistically-speaking. While Cotten’s fingerpicking style comes from applying banjo style to the guitar, Watson’s quickfingered picking style is the successful result of moving songs that were traditionally fiddle tunes to the acoustic guitar. Where Cotton was self-taught, Watson learned his trade through the traditional country songs of the south, and the songs of early country greats like the Louvin and Monroe Brothers.

    Where Cotton ended up finding a style that sounded more like early blues musicians, Watson’s different approach and experience, plus his apprenticeship in the country and western genres, left him with a wail and a sense of rhythm that call to the same acoustic old-timey country sound that you might hear in the rougher, hippier corners of bluegrass and country festivals today.

    Another way of saying this might be to point out that where Cotten shows the blues influence on folk music, Doc Watson shows the country — an influence which, despite its significance, is often the elephant in the room when it comes to folk music. His style and his “mountain music” sound hark to a time back before country and folk music had truly split off from each other, and long before alt-country bands like Uncle Tupelo, newgrass bands like Yonder Mountain String Band, old timey bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, and modern western swing folk musicians like Eilen Jewell went spelunking in the deep well of potential that lies between true country music and the post-sixties folk (and rock) music scenes.

    Today, both country and folk music claim Doc Watson as one of their own, and rightfully so. Doc holds multiple Grammy awards in both the Traditional Folk and the Country Instrumental categories; Merlefest — the festival named after Doc’s son and long-time musical partner, who died in a tractor accident in 1985 — is known for attracting the best music and musicians from the intersection of folk, bluegrass, and country. But no matter what you call it, Doc Watson’s sound is instantly recognizable, powerful, and no less potent today, eighty years after it could be heard on the streets of his beloved North Carolina.

    Today’s collection is a bit heavier on the tradfolk than cover lovers might ordinarily prefer. But this is no loss. Focusing primarily on the traditional folksongs Watson interpreted allows us to celebrate one of his greatest contributions to American folk music. Though the pickin’s are slim, thanks to some of the great bloggers that have come before me and the luck of a grab-and-go draw before we hit the road last Friday, what follows includes some great and representative tradfolk from a fifty year career, from old live recordings with Merle to Doc’s haunting baritone lead vocals on a beautiful back-porch version of Gershwin’s faux spiritual Summertime.

    I’m no expert on the works of Doc Watson, and as you can see from the diverse source albums listed above, his catalog is especially prolific. But if you’re new to his sound, and want to begin a collection, purists tell me the best place to start is Smithsonian Folkways for the older stuff, and Doc Watson and David Holt’s page for his most recent Grammy-winning work. Also recommended, since we missed Record Store Day last Saturday: head to your local record store and, after searching fruitlessly for sections labeled “Traditional Folk” or “Traditional Country”, ask for any of the above-mentioned disks by name.

    Cover Lay Down will be heading from North Carolina to Massachusetts on Saturday, and will return Sunday evening with a feature on an artist who made the same transition. Keep pickin’ and grinnin’, and we’ll see you then.

    857 comments » | David Grisman, Doc Watson, Merle Watson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Chieftains, Tradfolk

    Carolina Coverfolk, Vol. 2: The Songs of Elizabeth Cotten

    April 22nd, 2008 — 02:57 am


    North Carolina is rich in history and broad in geography, stretching from warm beachfront majesty to the base of Appalachia. That it holds a dominant place in the history of folk music is due in part to its cultural diversity, and in part to its situation midway up the coast, along the route that folk strands might have once traveled from North to South and back again. This combination of factors has made it an influential locus and crossroads for several southern folk movements of the last century, including branches of the blues, appalachian music, and strains of bluegrass, and other early rural folk forms.

    Rather than give the musicians and musical forms of this diverse region shorter shrift than they deserve, instead of our typical biweekly megaposts, this week we offer several shorter features on the coversongs of and from a few North Carolinan songwriters who made their mark on folk music long before the sixties transformed American folk from cultural phenomenon to a true genre. It is a tribute to their indelible influence and stellar songwriting that that these songs are still treasured in performance today.

    Today, we begin our journey with the songs of Elizabeth Cotten (1896? – 1987; born Carrboro, North Carolina).


    Like many early folk musicians born at the turn of the century, Elizabeth Cotten had two careers: one in her early years, as a self-taught blues folk prodigy, and one later in life, when the folk revival of the fifties and sixties drove a desperate effort to recover and record the authentic sounds of early American folk forms before they could be lost to the ages. Cotten’s story of rediscovery is especially notable for its serendipity: though a few of her songs had taken on a life of their own in the hands of other blues and folk musicians during the forties, Cotten herself had quit making music for twenty five years, only to be rediscovered in the sixties while working as a housekeeper for the Seeger family.

    Cotten’s strong songwriting and original upside-down “Cotten picking” guitar style, with its signature banjo-like low-string drone and alternating fingerpicking bass, would eventually result in a star turn on seminal disks and collections from the Smithsonian Folkways label, many culled from home recordings made under the reel-to-reel direction of Mike Seeger in the nineteen fifties. The support of the Seegers and others, and the subsequent success of her first album, the 1957 release Folksongs and Instrumentals, brought her onto the folk circuit, where her unique sound influenced the burgeoning folk movement, and where her songs would be heard, recorded, and passed along by the likes of Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

    In the end, though only four albums of her original material were ever released, Cotten remained a celebrated member of the folk touring scene into her late eighties, winning a Grammy in 1985 for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for Elizabeth Cotten Live! a year after being named a “living treasure” by the Smithsonian. Her music continues to be celebrated today for its timeless and distinctive qualities, and for the way it speaks to a childhood among the simple folkways of the rural North Carolina south. And her influence as a songwriter, a guitarist, and an artist echoes in the work of generations.

    Today, a few covers each of two of Cotten’s most familiar songs: two fragile kidfolk versions of Freight Train, which was written when Cotten was eleven, and a full set of folkvariants on the timeless Shake Sugaree, from the hearty tones of folk blues legends Chris Smither and Taj Mahal to the delicate second-wave folk field recordings of indie newcomer Laura Gibson and the previously-featured grunge-folk goddess Mary Lou Lord.

    As always, artist and album links above lead to the most authentic, the most honest, and the most local places to buy music: from the artists and labels themselves. The Elizabeth Cotten originals, especially, are core must-haves for any true tradfolk collector; pick up her three solo albums at Smithsonian Folkways.

    Assuming the weather doesn’t keep knocking out the network, stay tuned throughout the week for a short half-feature on Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, and a piece on the work of Doc Watson, yet another North Carolina fingerpicker. Meanwhile, I’l be sitting on the back porch, local brew in hand, watching the sun set over the sound and the North Carolina mainland, while the wild deer and the goslings root for grub in the low grass below. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

    [UPDATE 4/27: Great minds think alike: head on over to For The Sake of the Song for an almost-simultaneous post on Shake Sugaree that includes the seminal Fred Neil cover and the Elizabeth Cotten original!]

    1,022 comments » | Chris Smither, David Grisman, Elizabeth Cotten, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jerry Garcia, Laura Gibson, Mary Lou Lord, Taj Mahal

    Carolina Coverfolk, Volume 1: Songs of the South (Red Molly, Steve Forbert, Cris Williamson, Mike Seeger)

    April 20th, 2008 — 12:56 am


    It’s school vacation, and we really needed a change of scene. So we headed down south to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, just me, the wife and kids, and a whole host of other relatives from both sides of the gene pool: my father, my wife’s parents, siblings on both sides, even a few great-aunts and grandparent-in-laws. None of us live here, but it’s as good a neutral midpoint as any; we’ve rented two houses down the street from each other just to fit everyone comfortably, and the trip promises to be memorable no matter what transpires.

    So far, other than a long overnight drive down the coast, a quick dip of the toes in the ocean, a wonderful barbecue breakfast and a late-night hamburger cook-out, we’ve done little besides meet, greet, and settle in. Plans from here include a moment of awe on the beach where the Wright brothers made aviation history, as much rest and relaxation as possible, plenty of late night hot-tubbing and game room pool-playing, and a rare opportunity to spend some time with the wife sans kids.

    But I’m also keeping my eyes open, trying to soak in as much of the culture and folkways as I can. I’ve driven through North Carolina before on my way north from Florida, and I have vague memories of a very short middle school chorus trip to the Winston-Salem area involving long rehearsals and a midnight sneak-out to a waffle house. But though I was born in Georgia, we moved before my first birthday; I’ve lived North of Connecticut all my conscious life. I’ve read plenty, and I know on paper the ways and means of the Southern experience, but other than this hazy history, and a few New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival exceptions, I’m a newbie when it comes to experiencing the American South.

    Still, as regular readers know, I’m a sucker for an excuse to delve deeply into subgenre and theme. So, in honor of the locale, this week will mark our first location-specific set of posts. Wednesday we’ll feature some coverwork of and from homegrown old-school tradfolk luminaries Elizabeth Cotten, Doc Watson, and Earl Scruggs; later, as we look towards home again, we’ll feature covers of the songs of James Taylor, an artist who was born in North Carolina, but now spends his days up north in Massachusetts, not so far from where we call home. And today, to kick things off, we present some coversongs which celebrate the Carolinas — a short set heavy on the appalachian instrumentation and southern sound.

    • Red Molly, Oh My Sweet Carolina (orig. Ryan Adams)
      Previously-featured sweet-voiced femme folk trio Red Molly covers this bittersweet tribute from North Carolina native son Ryan Adams with dobro, guitar, and harmony on their sole full-length album, the live Never Been To Vegas.
    • Mud Acres, Carolina in My Mind (orig. James Taylor)
      Another song by a native son, this one reinvented as a ragged hootenanny by Happy Traum, banjoist Bill Keith, bass player Roly Salley (who penned the oft-covered Killin’ The Blues) and others from the mid-seventies Woodstock, NY Mud Acres music collective.

    • Cris Williamson and Tret Fure, Carolina Pines (orig. Kate Wolf)
      A languid, mournful country ballad of loss and emptiness from Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf. One of Kate’s best, and the harmonica and slide on this powerful cut from Cris Williamson and Tret Fure make it that much better.
    • Mike Seeger and Paul Brown, Way Down in North Carolina (trad.)
      The title cut from Way Down in North Carolina, lovingly gathered and performed by collector of traditional song Mike Seeger and pal Paul Brown, is a fiddle tune at heart, true appalachian music from the old school. Timeless, true, and perfect for the back porch or the back country.
    • Steve Forbert, My Carolina Sunshine Girl (orig. Jimmie Rodgers)
      Singer-songwriter Steve Forbert swings this short but sweet old tune with a wry touch and his signature vocal strangle. Off Any Old Time, Forbert’s tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, king of the cowboy yodel.

    176 comments » | Cris Williamson, Mud Acres, Red Molly, Steve Forbert, Tret Fure