In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s a post about women who play old-time music. There’s a perception that old-time is a genre mainly for and by old white men. I’ll grant that the old-time scenes I’m aware of are awfully white, but a lot of musicians I respect are women. Here are some of them, with the only selection criteria being that they’re living and they’re the ones I thought of during my commute this morning:
Sandy Bradley was a real presence for me, growing up in Seattle in the ’80s and ’90s. She was a big part of Seattle’s square dance revival in the 70s, and her “Potluck” variety show on the radio informed a lot of my musical tastes (and I hear a lot of the Canotes, who were the house band, in my playing now). My first fiddle and bass were bought at the instrument auction she ran at Folklife. She dropped out of the scene around the late 90s, and recordings are hard to find now. Finding a used copy of Hollow Rock Legacy is probably your best bet. Here’s the first part of a more recent three part interview with her:
I’m thinking of including this tune in the Slower Than Dirt core repertoire. It’s a lovely tune which sounds good slow, and it has a predictable structure without being boring. I think I first heard it on the podcast Get Up In The Cool, in the episode with Adam Hurt. That’s where the audio below comes from, at any rate. The podcast is hosted by Cameron DeWhitt, and he’s the other banjo player in this recording:
(OMG, DeWhitt’s chords around 3:30 are tasty.)
If you search, you can find a source recording from Luther Davis. I personally find some of them kind of painful to listen to, as they must have been recorded when he was in his 90s, past his prime playing years. But if you don’t mind that sort of thing, there’s a fairly listenable recording starting at 23 minutes into this tape. (I disagree with the chords the guitar player’s using, though.)
I’ve written a tool to display opportunities for participation at Northwest Folklife — their schedule browser (which provides all the information on my page) isn’t great at grouping things like that together, and I thought it might be nice to have all the workshops, dances, jams, and sing-alongs on the same page.
Huh! Looks like I forgot to write up the March tunes last month. Sorry about that! It was a somewhat abbreviated session, due to another group having the room booked; thanks to all who made it out! Here’s what we played:
This jam was officially canceled due to high winds, but I figured the room would be open and there would probably be folks who didn’t see the Facebook post announcing the cancellation, so I headed down. It was interesting to see who showed up when it was people who had heard there was a jam, but who weren’t following Sarah on Facebook or on the email list the note went out to. For a couple folks, it was their first old-time jam! Here’s what we played:
Golden Slippers (G)
Turkey in the Straw (G)
Chicken Reel (D)
Soldier’s Joy (D)
Banks of the Ohio (A)
Jambalaya (on the Bayou)
Sandy River Belle (G)
The Girl I Left Behind Me (G)
Red-Haired Boy (A)
(Ballydesmond Polka) Matt’s Polka
Pig Ankle Rag
Lost Highway (C)
And that’s where my recorder ran out of battery, alas. There were three or four more songs and tunes played, but the only one I remember now is Jeff City/Bill Caton’s.
I’ll come back and fill in the missing key information a bit later, when I’m near an instrument I can check my guesses against.