Sunday, April 20, 2008

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



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.

18 comments:

Chris in Flux said...

These songs take me back to the late 80's when I was living in Upcountry SC and dating a lovely Tarheel girl. Thanks for the musical meander.

Noel M. said...

Great music, and terrific writing. I'm from Atlanta and have such a strong affection for the American South. thanks for the musical journey to go with it.

And, I have a son and one more on the way in 4 weeks, and can agree with everything you wrote about your girls getting too old too soon. It tears me up every time my son steps out, and farther from me! Glad to know I'm also not the only loving Dad who gets left behind for Mom sometimes too. Thanks man!

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