San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
notloB Music Presents...
Jayme Stone Lomax Project
Jayme Stone (banjo) | Margaret Glaspy (voice) | Brittany Haas (fiddle) | Eli West (guitar, voice) | Joe Phillips (bass)
Focusing on songs collected by folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax, this collaboratory brings together some of North America's most distinctive and creative roots musicians to revive, recycle and re-imagine traditional music. The repertoire includes Bahamian sea chanties, African-American acappella singing from the Georgia Sea Islands, ancient Appalachian ballads, fiddle tunes and work songs collected from both well-known musicians and everyday folk: sea captains, cowhands, fishermen, prisoners and homemakers. The new album will be out on Borealis Records on March 3, 2015.
An acetate disc-cutter and cactus needle stylus. The rutted roads of eastern Kentucky and the Georgia Sea Island coastline. Kitchen din and street noise. Songs everyone has come to know—and the storied singers nearly everyone has forgotten. These snapshots guided banjo innovator and musical instigator Jayme Stoneand his collaborators—Grammy-winning songsmith Tim O’Brien, Bruce Molsky, Margaret Glaspy, Moira Smiley, Brittany Haas, Julian Lage, and more—on a years’ long journey to research and recast nineteen carefully chosen songs collected by iconic American folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax. “I’m not a preservationist,” Stone emphasizes. “We’re here to renew this material.” The material in question—sea shanties, cowboy ballads, ox-driving songs, Southern spirituals—helped shape the mid-century folk revival and more recent Americana. Stone, by virtue of his instrument, has long studied traditional music but it has remained underexplored in his award-winning albums. Stone traveled to Mali (and made field recordings of his own) to engage with the banjo’s long-lost cousins. He composed original pieces that edged far closer to contemporary classical sounds than traditional folk ones. Now it’s time for his homecoming. Stone and company have delved into the vast, worldwide trove of Lomax recordings and found a deeply emotional access to these tunes and songs on Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project (Borealis Records; release: March 3, 2015). Just in time for the Lomax centenary this year, the release includes a 54-page booklet with song notes by Stone, an introduction by Grammy-winning music scholar Stephen Wade, and a photo essay by longtime Nonesuch photographer Michael Wilson. The songs hail from sea captains, cowhands, fishermen, homemakers, prisoners and farmers: “extraordinary, everyday folks making homemade, handmade music,” Stone notes. Homemade does not mean quaint or precious, however. This is intense music, drawing on sometimes harsh, sometimes bittersweet experience. From Appalachia to Trinidad, rural communities to juke joints, the musicians we have forgotten reverberate in Stone and company’s beautiful renditions. “This project is what I like to call a collaboratory: a community of like-minded musicians brought together to seek understudied sounds, to dust off old songs and reimagine them,” Stone says. “My aim is to create a process that taps each of our musical trees, harnesses the unexpected chemistry of collaboration and makes music that’s informed by tradition but not bound to it.” Jayme Stone's Lomax Project Video “Alan Lomax was a folklorist, ethnomusicologist, archivist, writer, scholar, political activist, oral historian, and film-maker,” wrote Anna Lomax Wood, in tribute to her father. “He is most famous for his work in the penitentiaries, plantations, and lonely farms of the Mississippi Delta, where he returned no less than seven times between 1933 and 1985 to listen, observe, fraternize, and record night after night, year after year; but he repeated this feat with astounding results in hundreds of obscure places in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe, and North Africa. Jelly Roll Morton, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, and the Reverend Gary Davis were only a few of the many geniuses, famous and obscure, who were in reality telling us the true story of our country over Alan’s microphone.” Alan Lomax’s work influenced a great deal of American music-making, from Dylan to Feist, movie soundtracks to campfire sing-alongs. Yet there is more to these recordings, as Stone discovered. It was only when he visited the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress in Washington when one underappreciated aspect of Lomax’s collections struck him: What the original recordings sounded like. “We think of old field recordings as rough-hewn and scratchy. Hearing them in a quiet room, in all their analog glory was a whole other experience. They just come alive,” muses Stone. “You hear life teeming in the background: a dog barking, someone in the kitchen, kids out back, roosters in the yard. You hear the repartee, the breathing, the pauses. Alan’s coaxing and coaching. The stories.” These stories flowed from remarkable people like Georgia Sea Islands singer and raconteuse Bessie Jones, African American cowhand Jess Morris (who learned “Goodbye Old Paint” as a boy in the 1880s), Scottish Traveler Jeannie Robertson (an expert in that community’s oral traditions), Trinidadian flyweight prizefighter Neville Marcano (aka The Growing Tiger, “Bury Boula for Me”). Though steeped in the long lineage of song, these artists were not passive conduits of a static tradition. They were actively shaping and putting their stamp on their communities’ sounds. “A parallel process of inheritance and invention animates Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project,” says Stephen Wade. “For Jayme and his collaborators, they, too, heard prior versions, used whatever means they had to remember those sources, and brought their own to the music.” What they brought were distinct voices and musical visions. “The most striking thing about each person involved in the project is the degree to which they’ve committed to their own voice as artists,” states Stone. “They each have a singular sound which you can hear the moment they play a note or open their mouths. Everyone shares that sensibility, that striving for a personally authentic aesthetic. At the same time, we all have our own relationship with folk music.” Stone’s own approach is a case in point. Few of the source recordings include banjo. As Stone contemplated “I Want To Hear Somebody Pray,” sung by Edith Hector and chorus from the Caribbean island of Carriacou, he heard resonances from his past work in West Africa. To evoke a West African feel, Stone slipped a piece of foam by the bridge, bringing the timbre closer to the Malian ngoni. On that piece and throughout the project’s work, the wide timbral palette of his playing adds tangible emotional heft to the arrangements. “I developed more of an appreciation for the music’s history, the provenance of the songs and different approaches to playing the banjo,” Stone says. This balance of appreciation and innovation forged a bond between the project’s collaborators, and with the material. Singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy, whose ethereal yet penetrating voice renders many of the songs on the Lomax Project with wrenching intensity, was fascinated by one of Alan Lomax’s favorite singers, Vera Hall (the woman who sang “What Is the Soul of Man?”). She had cut out her photo and saved it not long before Stone asked her to participate in the project. Other musical colleagues—a cappella composer and body percussion powerhouse Moira Smiley; American roots legend Tim O’Brien; Appalachian music expert Bruce Molsky—had similarly poignant attraction to the musicians featured in Lomax’s work. A lively back-and-forth unfurled between Stone and his invited collaborators, and they exchanged favorite songs and ideas in anticipation of the meeting that helped truly gel the project’s sound. The Lomax Project collaborators tap into the full range of the Alan and John Lomax’s huge collection, embracing commercial releases and two-inch tape archives, gems and rarities, while highlighting some of the collectors’ less familiar, non-US-based recordings (the rollicking calypso of “Bury Boula for Me,” featuring Kobo Town’s Drew Gonsalves). Classics like “Shenandoah” and “Now Your Man Done Gone” sit comfortably beside unknown songs like “T-I-M-O-T-H-Y,” from the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius. While the songs and tunes may vary in origins, the project finds a unified sound, a potent feeling that ties the diverse material together. It’s a harmonious congregation of bold artists. And like their sources, these nineteen pieces aren’t a finished body of work, either. The collaboratory, as Stone sees it, is an ongoing process, which is why the project focuses not merely on a series of performances, but on educational work, residencies, and public presentations. “It’s very much a process-oriented project,” he emphasizes. “Collaborating, creating and unearthing old songs is an ongoing process.” “Before this project I thought of the characters and places involved in this material in an imaginative, romantic way. Now, I want to emphasize the performers in these recordings, after decades of focus on the collectors, as if the people were just the portals. But they were more than that. They were extraordinary artists.”
Online ticket sales end at noon, day of the performance.
When & Where
Since 2007, notloB Music has presented over 200 folk, old-time, bluegrass, progressive string band, Celtic and country blues concerts in unique listening environments throughout the greater Boston area.
"Pining for the fijords"