Turkey in the Straw – harmonica fiddle duet

Seth Shumate is one of a small handful of great oldtime harmonica players. What he can do few others can. Here Seth and Ben Smith (fiddle) sit down to play the iconic "Turkey in...

Is oldtime out of tune?

Whether we admit it or not, almost all of us have had that moment of listening to an oldtime fiddler – it's almost always the fiddler – and cringing. "Oh good Lord Almighty, that...

A Reasoned Defense of Notation in Oldtime Music

There is some controversy in oldtime communities around the use of musical notation – both tablature and standard notation – in learning tunes. What role does notation have? Is it ok to learn a...

Oldtime in the Golden Age of Instagram

When fiddler George Jackson first saw a banjo player post an Instagram video of themselves playing “Dorrigo”, an original tune off Jackson’s new record, he was flattered. He didn’t expect that three weeks later...

Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky’s Forgotten Ballad Collector

Congratulations on publishing your new book, “Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky’s Forgotten Ballad Collector” (University Press of Kentucky). Who was Katherine Jackson French? Katherine Jackson French was a remarkable woman. She was born in London, Kentucky in...

Clawhammer Banjo and the Great Fingernail Dilemma

There are some fine clawhammer banjo players who have unbelievably short fingernails, trimmed or bitten to the nub. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how they manage to get anything like a...
The Mountain Minor film poster

“The Mountain Minor” Movie Review and Interview

The Mountain Minor is a fictional film to be released in October 2019 that tells the interrelated stories of oldtime music, family, place, and history in the Appalachians. The plot of the film is...

Banjo Roots and Branches: Exploring the African Roots

This is post 1 of 4 in the series Banjo Roots and Branches. When I started learning how to play the banjo in 2006, I was unaware of the rich and complex history of the instrument....

Gimme that Old-Time Rhythm

At first, as I was coming to love oldtime music as an adult, I found it curious that percussion and rhythm instruments seemed to play such a minor role. Having played the drums while...

Strum Machine or How to Have Fun Practicing

For most of us, the best part about playing oldtime is playing music with other people. It is a rare joy of human existence to connect with others as we sound together, recall old...